Few 17-footers have been as coveted as Boston Whaler’s, first launched in 1976 as the classic 17 Montauk, a tough, no-nonsense center-console that quickly gained acclaim as a versatile and unsinkable boat and, thanks to timely updates and enhancements, has retained its popularity through the years.
In 2002, the original 17 got a major redesign and became the 170 Montauk. Then, after subsequent minor revisions over the years Whaler announced an array of updates and upgrades to its heralded skiff to coincide with the company’s 60th anniversary. The move proved a slam dunk, as the boat made new fans and rekindled the fervor of longtime Montauk admirers.
This latest version of the 170 incorporates performance-based enhancements, such as a reconfigured running surface with 6 more inches of beam and a sharper entry for a softer, drier ride and improved stability and handling, and combines a purposeful layout and masterful use of space to comfortably accommodate a crew of four and house a list of features that extends well beyond those usually encountered on a skiff this size.
Additions include an integrated 25-gallon fuel tank, overboard-draining forward fish box and a bow locker, four rod holders on the transom, dual aft storage compartments, fore and aft stainless recessed grab rails, 12-volt accessory outlet on the console, partitioned storage and three cup holders at the helm, four more cup holders at the bow, analog instrumentation on the dash, hydraulic steering, swim platform with grab rail and telescoping boarding ladder, and bow-and-stern lifting eyes. A galvanized trailer with swing tongue and disc brakes are standard equipment, affording prospective owners a well-appointed and cost-effective, turnkey alternative.
The optional fishing package adds a compass atop the center console, a removable 72-quart cooler — complete with cushion and backrest — to serve as a forward console seat, console rod rack for four rods, and a pair of tackle trays protected under a waterproof hatch to starboard. Other options sure to interest anglers include a 12-gallon livewell with calming blue interior inside the reversible pilot seat module, twin jump seats — with removable backrests — on the cockpit aft corners, bow trolling motor setup, and a removable forward pedestal seat.
Various Raymarine electronics packages include new RealVision 3D technology. And lovers of early Whalers who yearn for that vintage look appreciate the optional teak accent package, which includes boarding steps on the gunwales and swim ladder.
Still boasting the clean, classic lines synonymous with Boston Whaler, along with some extra room and a wealth of refinements, the new 170 Montauk successfully blends the time-honored and modern. When it comes to comfort and performance, it easily beats its predecessors. Perhaps one of the boat’s best attributes is its simplicity. It feels like all you need to do between fishing trips is hose it off.
As expected, the 17-footer proved quick, nimble and fun to drive. While the 1-footers we encountered in Sarasota Bay during our test didn’t exactly push the boat to its limits, the occasional passing boat’s wake enabled us to confirm the builder’s assertion about the soft ride.
With a Mercury 90 hp FourStroke on the transom, the skiff jumped on plane without excessive squatting, took 9.8 seconds to go from zero to 30 mph, and it quickly accelerated to 39.4 mph, our top speed at wide-open throttle. Mind you, the Montauk has a maximum power rating of 115 hp, so there’s room for improvement if you feel the need for more speed. Nevertheless, the 90 performed well and seemed an adequate match.
Using a line of crab-trap buoys as a makeshift slalom course, the Whaler easily and efficiently zigged and zagged between the Styrofoam balls with no need for oversteering or for touching the controls to drop or bump up the rpm.
Taking into account Boston Whaler’s quality construction and fit and finish, the brand’s superb resale value, and the affordable price of the complete package, anyone looking for a versatile, easy to own, run and trailer center-console should take a serious look at the new 170 Montauk.