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  OUTRAGE 270: Helm Design: Detroit Boat Show

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Author Topic:   OUTRAGE 270: Helm Design: Detroit Boat Show
jimh posted 02-20-2006 11:56 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
I had a chance to go aboard a Boston Whaler 270 OUTRAGE at the Detroit Boat Show. I noticed for the first time that the helm has the steering wheel axis oriented almost vertically. I also admired the seating, which had a leaning post with a very nice pivoting cushion. The seat could be configured for sitting or standing. When sitting, the position of the console and foot rest was very nice. In general, I thought the helm layout was very good, and it would qualify for the buzz-word "ergonomic" with no reservations.

Several years ago I came across an old book published by MOTORBOATING magazine (if I recall correctly), which contained about 100 reprints of articles from the magazine originally published back in the 1940's or earlier. Most of the articles were authored by an editor of the magazine, a noted boating writer (whose name escapes me). His assertion was that for a small power boat steered with a wheel the proper orientation of the steering wheel axis was vertical. I took this advice to heart and have looked for such installations in current boats. The 270 OUTRAGE is one of the few places I have found it. Although I did not operate the boat underway--it was an indoor boat show--the feel of the helm was just right.

The layout of the console was also well designed. Expensive electronics can be kept protected in a locking enclosure. Behind the hinged cover there is a large panel into which navigation electronics and their displays can be flush mounted.

The Mercury Digital Throttle and Shift top-mounting controls were positioned just to the right of the wheel. All of the engine gauges were incorporated into a SmartCraft display. I took the protective cover off to see if this was the new color VESSEL VIEW display, but it was not.

I personally would not have ordered the audio reproduction system, but perhaps the new Verado motors are so quiet that one can listen to recorded stereophonic music while underway. But does it scare the fish? I would have moved the trim tab controls down to the position of the audio controls. They were mounted farther forward on the gently sloping dashboard, but I consider them to take priority over the radio remote.

Photograph: Boston Whaler 270 OUTRAGE helm; vertical orientation of the steering colum is shown.

Caption: The vertical orientation of the wheel at the helm of the Boston Whaler 270 OUTRAGE is a very effective design.

I also bumped into the factory area sales manager, Dennis Tilden. He was quite busy showing boats to real prospects, and we did not have too much time to chat. I observed he was wearing some new apparel, a handsome shirt with a Brunswick Saltwater Boat Group logotype embroidered above the pocket. The new Brunswick brands of Sea-Pro, Sea Boss, and Palmetto have been taken under the wing of Boston Whaler, and all are now in the corporate organization chart under this new division's name. A number of senior people at Whaler have had their duties extended to include participation in the management of these new-to-Brunswick brands.

The local dealer, SeaRay mega-seller Colony Marine, also had several Sea-Pro boats on display. Dennis read right from the corporate script when he told me these less expensive alternatives "fill in the white space" in the dealer's line-up.

By the way, almost all the larger boats which could support the weight on the transom were shown with Verado motors.

As you will see from the winter coats being worn by the boat buyers in the picture below, the weather was rather inhospitable for boating, with temperatures in the low teens. I teased Dennis that he must have drawn the short straw to have to fly up to Detroit while the rest of the factory was heading south to Miami for the bigger show there, but he explained this was his sales territory, so duty had called him north into the frozen tundra of February in Michigan, at least for the weekend.

Photo: Boston Whaler Sales Manager Dennis Tilden shows the 270 OUTRAGE to some prospective buyers at the Detroit Boat Show, February 19,2006

Caption: Dennis Tilden of Boston Whaler explains the features of a 270 OUTRAGE to prospective buyers. Note the wife's strong interest in the price sheet.

jimh posted 02-20-2006 12:14 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I meant to go on a bit more about the seating.

The seating on the 270 OUTRAGE was very nicely designed. With the hinged cushion swung up, the pilot can stand at the helm console and lean against the leaning post. The rim of the vertical wheel does not extend much past the console base, so the pilot can be very close to the console and controls.

If the hinged cushion is swung down, the leaning post becomes a seat. The position is still good for access to the wheel, and you can reach the outer edge of the rim without having to lean forward much at all. The engine controls are also still close and accessible.

The base of the console is made concave and slopes inward to provide a recess for a foot rest. This is also in a good location for most adults. Of course, it cannot fit everyone perfectly, but for me, at just under 6-feet tall, the foot rest position was very comfortable.

In the cockpit there is another seat across the transom, and this is also a hinged design. It folds up and stows against the cockpit bulwark.

The seating components appear to all be custom designed and fabricated by Whaler, and they are not off-the-shelf products you will find on other boats.

I did not take note of the price. These are rather expensive boats, about two-thirds the price of a nice resort condominium on a lake in Northern Michigan these days, and I am not seriously in that market. But for those that are, I think you will find the layout of the 270 OUTRAGE helm area is very well designed.

LHG posted 02-20-2006 12:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for LHG    
It appears the console of the 270 has been redesigned.
Since the 240 and 270 have the same console, I can tell by looking at the console of the 240 on Cetacea Page 78 that this new one is different. One thing I am having a hard time getting used to it the very tall helm pump profile of the Verado steering. Just don't like that look, and I think it would look better if was partially recessed.

Am I correct in assuming the grey cover in the center of the instrument panel is the Mercury "system view" screen in lieu of the 3 Smartcraft analog/digital readout gauges.

The earliest version of the Whaler 25 Outrage Super Console (early 80's) also had an almost horizontal wheel. Then they re-designed it to be almost vertical! So this idea seems to go back and forth over the years.

jimh posted 02-20-2006 01:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The instrumentation was the SC5000 System View component. I think this is now complemented (or superseded) by the just-introduced VESSEL VIEW color display. I opened the electronics locker expecting to find Northstar or Navman instuments, but there was just a cardboard cut-out of a Raymarine display. How'd that slip by?

I really liked the vertical wheel, and it allows you to "belly-up" to the console when standing. In fact, as you can just see in my photograph, the clearance between the console and the leaning post is quite tight, and this layout will probably not be appealing to folks whose girth resembles a nose-tackle in the National Football League. At my current weight, am about the size of a outside linebacker in NCAA II-A competition, and I could fit in there without trouble.

The second picture shows the rear cockpit, after the seat has been stowed, I think. As you can see, there is not a huge amount of room behind the leaning post.

The steering wheel itself is still a special design of the now-popular "racy" steering wheel and spinner knob; Whaler has an exclusive on this one from the manufacturer, although you can get a similar model off-the-shelf.

(I had to drag the image gamma way up compensate for the lighting, and the base of the steering wheel pedestal is black or very dark gray, not the lighter shade seen here.)

26Out99 posted 02-27-2006 09:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for 26Out99    
JimH,

You are correct about the flip down bolster seat; it is wonderful for longer rides as one can sit versus lean. When you need to lean, a quick flip of the front pad and it is great for leaning, with port side not hooked to the starboard side it is easy on the mate who doesn't like to lean!

Anyone with a bigger Whaler wanting the option should hunt around for one from a salvage, or bite the bullet and order one from the factory (through dealer). Install was easy and you gain another shower head, live well (that doubles as a beverage cooler) and some extra storage. Luck was with me when I found one out of a salvage 270 and changed out the standard leaning post on my 26.

Garelick also has some nice bolster seats that could be fab'd into a leaning post frame if someone had a design savvy pipe welder. Those seats work much the same way as the flip up on the 270 and are similar to what is standard on the Outrage 320.

I had been intrigued by the new Whalers at the 2005 NY show which is indoors as well. Got a chance this fall for in the water demo of the Outrage 320. Steering was fantastic with the power assist. Throttle package was nice with the auto sync. Verados are quiet (so don't discount the audio reproduction!). SmartCraft panel was a disappointment and the mpg was abysmal compared to the 26.

Obviously a heavier boat, with more beam and greater displacement but it was 1 mpg versus 2 mpg on the 26 at comparable cruise. Didn't leave me thirsting to take the plunge on an upgrade (sorry Texaco).

Dr Don posted 02-28-2006 08:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dr Don  Send Email to Dr Don     
I had a chance to really check out the bigger Outrages last Sun. at a dealer that was closed near my home. I sure agree the seating , console, and access/fishing/comfort features seem to keep getting nicer and show high quality. I noticed the usable interior room sure seems to getting smaller compared to previous similar sized Whalers. Example being the 24 seemed much smaller in terms of interior room than my '96 24' Outrage and the new 27 seemed very similar to mine inside. The 27 I looked at had a price of 107,000 with twin 225 Optimax.
prm1177 posted 02-28-2006 08:59 PM ET (US)     Profile for prm1177  Send Email to prm1177     
Jim,

I have a tilt wheel on my 23 Conquest. I actually like to occasionally angle it down, so the hub is horizontal and the wheel vertical (a la some setups you see in trawlers). I find this gives me more control at low speed and in docking where you might have a lot of wheel movement. When I get to open water, I'll bring it up as far as I can to make high speed steering easier. Not sure if I'd like the 270 helm design.

blavid posted 02-28-2006 10:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for blavid  Send Email to blavid     
Hi all, it's been awhile since I've posted.

I live in Florida, but was up in Detroit visiting some buddies and went to see the Whalers at the Detroit boat show as well. I was already looking at the 270 Outrage as an upgrade from my 210 Ventura....

....long story short, I came back to Florida and just bought a 2006 270 Outrage with twin 225 Verados! I also got the fiberglass hardtop with outriggers and the deluxe leaning console as mentioned in the article. I received a good deal on the Northstar 6000i plotter and VHF, and will add radar at a later date. Whaler as running a $5000 winter promotion, and I also received a 3 year extended warranty on both Verado engines for free. That means a 6 year warranty worth a little over $3000 thrown in the deal at no extra cost.

I have some rigging and painting to do, so it will be a couple of weeks before delivery. Also, I am currently an owner of 2 Boston Whalers (though I don't want to be). I have to sell the 210 Ventura! I listed it on BoatTraderOnline, too.

Anyway, will post pics and performance in a couple of weeks after delivery!

glen e posted 03-01-2006 05:47 AM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
Blavid - congrats on the new boat. I would strongly suggest you see if you can up the battery capcity/type of batts on a new boat. Verados like big batteries and the normal flooded batts that some dealers install are OK, but not optimal - see the document for details.
Backlash posted 03-01-2006 10:06 AM ET (US)     Profile for Backlash  Send Email to Backlash     
Jim,
Glad to see Boston Whaler is finally addressing the ergonomics in their latest offerings. Not to mince words with you, but I would consider the steering wheel in the 270 Outrage to be in a horizontal plane, not vertical. It appears to be in an ideal position for maneuvering dockside - especially with the suicide knob.

These new flip up bolster seats are to die for! Very, very comfortable seated or standing. I see several aftermarket manufacturers offer them at prices ranging from $600 to $1200 - ouch!

I agree with you that the trim tab controls should be just to the left of the throttle in place of the audio controls - what were they thinking?

Steve

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