The original whaler was a narrow double-ended boat propelled by half a dozen sweating oarsmen. While the modern incarnation has little resemblance to the original the word “whaler” is still highly evocative in the mind of many a boatie. The Ocean Whaler has a similar effect although there are two significant differences: it is made in Australia, and it’s not a pricey boat per metre. Near indestructibleness is there, as are extravagant flotation properties, simplicity and the great practicality.
A FISHERMAN’S FRIEND
While the Ocean Whaler is a fisherman’s friend, a considerable proportion of its home state market in WA is as a replacement for pontoon boats on Mandurah’s Peel Inlet, the local equivalent of the Broadwater. Its modest dimensions command heaps of stability and room, allowing for a large family to swan around the sheltered waters. Up to four people could use it as a camping cruiser although its ocean-coping capabilities make it equally suitable for taking smaller groups fishing offshore or travelling to the islands.
This 5.5m whaler is attractively priced in WA from a touch under $37,000. This is possible in part due to a simple construction that uses no sub-floor structure. Basically, the inner and outer hulls are bonded together and the void is filled with foamed-in-place flotation. This carries right up the sides, meaning the Ocean Whaler has level flotation and is of high enough strength to make an effective and thick GRP-foam sandwich. The result is an extremely strong boat with a hull weighing just 600kg. Amongst other things this makes single-handed launching and recovery a breeze, and with a trailing weight of only around 1000kg it can be towed by almost anything on four wheels.
The Ocean Whaler also has a touch of the Tardis about it in the way it appears to be a lot smaller from the outside than it does once you’re aboard. I suspect that the somewhat rectangular plan form has something to do with this. In addition, the cathedral hull design provides maximum deck area combined with outstanding stability. We tested this first hand by positioning three chunky men (to be kind to them) on one coaming.
The only real shortcoming in layout were the slow sides. The boat has a pretty low profile anyway and this is compounded with a self-draining deck, an unusual quality in a fibreglass boat of this size. This could be fixed by specifying higher side railings, as was done with some Ocean Whalers that were built to USL 2C survey for use as fishing tenders to a Coral Sea tourist fishing operation.
Mind you, you wouldn’t be standing on here unless this was your unchangeable fishing style, and there are plenty of places to park backsides. At the centre console you’ll find a reversible double seat, a large area of upholstered platform forward, and a pair of removable quarter seats with padded backs.
Boat Land in Mandurah, WA will fit a 60hp Mercury four-stroke as a standard package. This probably sounds a bit on the gentle side for an 18 footer but it’s an easily driven boat and you’re unlikely to want a huge amount of performance. However, for those who want it their Ocean Whaler can take motors up to 115hp. The test boat, the builder’s own, was on the middle road with a 90hp Suzuki on the back. We easily held 33 knots in seas that were far anything from flat, unlike most boats of comparable size.
Indeed, the ocean we encountered during the test was mostly jagged rather than rough, with lots of short and steep little seas that shake the insides out of the people who travel across them in tinnies. You meet this kind of stuff all the time and the Ocean Whaler lapped it up. Move at a cautious tinnie speed, however, and you feel every wrinkle in the water, so the trick is to get the speed right.
Builder Nigel Johnson demonstrated correct speed by opening the throttle wide. Air rammed into the hull’s two partial tunnels, the boat lifted, and we ran over those waves on tiptoe. It was an impressive performance that was helped further by playing with trim. Fine tuning seemed less important than with a conventional hull.
Adding to this impression of insensitivity was the hull’s relative indifference to where the passenger weight was situated. When turning to take the seas at different angles – and Nigel did not bother slowing when he did – the boat took on the reassuring heel into the turn of a mono hull rather than the outward destroyer-type roll adopted by some exotic hull shapes.
Further offshore we found some genuinely lumpy water where the swell rolled over the reef and the offshore wind blew off the tops. These are places where you normally don’t play with a boat, let alone charge straight ahead, but that is exactly what Nigel did. Overtaking a swell that’s thinking about breaking, with a big margin of speed, means you are probably going to get airborne. And that is just what we did! And while airborne is fine, it’s what happens when you land that counts.
Nose first is really bad. Tail first is not much better. Thankfully, the Ocean Whaler did it just slightly on the tail-heavy side of flat. Waiting for Armageddon and then not experiencing it is the kind of letdown I can cope with and we can safely say that this boat will easily cope in any conditions in which most sane people would feel comfortable.
The test boat had been fitted with some universally worthwhile extra luxuries and some others that will vary according to taste. Besides the large esky ahead of the console, the locker under the helmsman’s seat had been insulated to convert into an icebox. Lots of dry storage space was to be found under the fore platform.
For cruisy days, both iceboxes would be enough to keep passengers happy. You would also wish that the boat had the standard canopy that had been deleted from the boat but alas, Nigel is a fishing purist who wants nothing to limit his access to the ocean. Fortunately he did retain the standard carpet and added a stereo system, quite possibly as a fish-charming device.
Besides the iceboxes and the stability, there is plenty in an Ocean Whaler to charm the fisherman himself. Although the console is wide enough to shelter both occupants of the double seat, it actually allows you to properly fish rather than squeeze access alongside it. You will need to remove any rods from the folding racks before you do this. Combine all the elbow room with the stability and you probably have more anglers per dollar of boat than on any other.
Ocean Whaler is a small company that previously serviced only the WA market. Steve Shore of Powercat Marine in Caboolture is the Queensland agent. He builds boats and had originally taken on Ocean Whalers to fill a gap in his lineup. He says that he was impressed by the performance of this modest-sized boat.
Specifications - Ocean Whaler 565
Price as tested: $43,000
Options fitted: 90HP motor, stereo, VHF, icebox, insulated seat locker
Priced from: $36,990
Type: Centre console cathedral hull
Material: Fibreglass twin skin, foam filled
Length overall: 5.65m
Hull length: 5.5m
Weight: 600kg (hull only)
People: 4 (recommended) on ocean
Make/model: Suzuki 90
Type: Four-cylinder four-stroke outboard
Rated HP: 90
Gearbox ratio: 2.59:1
Boat Land (WA agents)
7B Panton Road
Mandurah, WA, 6210
Phone: (08) 9582 0992
Powercat Marine (East Coast agents)
Unit 2, 2B Cessna Drive
Caboolture, QLD, 4510
Phone: (07) 5428 0043