by Dom Wiseman

With half a century of boat building behind them, Whittley Marine Group have a loyal following and a unique position in the industry. While Whittley make a range of boats that cover recreational to fishing vessels, it’s the large road legal live-aboard cruisers that have put them on the map.

Whittley make the only road legal trailerable cruiser in Australia. The overseas models are simply too wide and require all manner of signage to tow legally. The Whittley is made to a 2.5m beam making it road legal and therefore, less of a hassle to tow.

Whittley CR2800 on trailer

Whittley occupy the equivalent space on the water of a modern caravan. Well before caravanning was trendy, the phrase ‘caravan on the water’ could be heard amid boating circles when referring to the venerable Whittley Cruisers. Owners sang Whittley’s praises when it came to room onboard, and the ease of use.

The team at Whittley has added new models, invested in computer aided design and now produce a range of fine looking boats that run the whole gamut from affordable up to the extravagant.

The Cruisers are still part of their DNA and we were lucky enough to step aboard the new CR 2800, after this year’s Sydney International Boat Show in August.

WHAT YOU GET

Whittley refer to the CR2800 as the ‘ultimate seaside resort’. It’s a large platform with everything you could need. Cabin space, safe deep cockpit, rear deck and power supplied by a Volvo Penta V6. Tow a tube, fish, relax, sleep over or entertain. It’s all here.

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The look of the older style Whittley boats has been softened but the CR2800 still leaves a little to be desired in the looks department. The look is a bit dated. The bulbous front deck takes the shine off the rest of the angles, but tall people will appreciate the headroom inside.

No significant changes have been made to the interior over the last few years. There are changes to timber joinery and upholstery, but on the whole, the internal layout remains consistent with the initial layout design. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Owners know exactly what they want and Whittley know exactly what they are doing. This boat is the culmination of years of R&D and individual builds.

Downstairs inside the cabin, is everything necessary for an overnight stay. To the port side there is a small galley, with tonnes of light, a safe twin burner metho stove top, sink, fridge and microwave. The headroom here is generous and enough for a person of 6feet. While many will use the stove, I would add the optional barbeque to the back deck for open air cooking.

2A1A1232At the bow, a large TV screen is mounted to the forward bulkhead. And below it sits a couch/dining area with a table that drops down to create a large bed. If you elect to eat outside and enjoy the views, you can leave the bed set up without getting in the way of the galley and toilet on the starboard side.

There is plenty of storage in both the galley and around the cabin. This front section can be used during inclement weather and can be shut off from the outside by a large sliding cabin door.

The cockpit is light and spacious. There is a large L shaped lounge running along the port side and across the transom. Whittley has not run the seating all the way across the back leaving a fold away entry point into the cockpit.

Around this lounge, you could easily fit six people. The table, often cumbersome and in the way when not in use, is stored neatly in a recess in the hardtop covering this area. It also doubles as a base turning this whole area into a second bed. For this reason, I would tick the full camper covers and insect screens options.

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Imagine yourself, A beer in hand, taking in the sun, with the sounds of the kids playing on the rear platform. The bar is located behind the helm seat and an esky in the floor at the helm. Whittley has  created storage spaces in every nook and cranny imaginable which means that you will never be tripping over things on the floor. Even in the cockpit there is a large ski locker on the starboard side.

Overhead is a large hardtop that also houses Whittley’s electric sunroof. The sunroof is a great addition to this craft. Above the sunroof is an optional roof rack system for your water toys. It doubles as a handy grab rail when walking either side of the boat to the bow sun pad. Ventilation of this area was not a problem with large sliding windows either side.

By opting for an inboard powered vessel, you are able to make maximum use of the transom of the boat with a large full width platform. The platform is surrounded by a large stainless-steel rail that makes it perfect for kids too. Fishing, swimming, launching water toys and cooking on the optional barbeque are all possible. Rod holders and the BBQ should be the first things on any owners wishlist. Once you climb back aboard, you can use the external shower to rinse off before turning the tunes on and kicking back.

The Whittley CR2800 runs a digital switch system where everything is plugged into the dash mounted 16-inch Garmin unit. From here you have full control of all onboard functions. You can even link this to your phone for on the go access. Should you ever have a battery problem, Whittley include a fail-safe with manual switches concealed in the floor at the helm.

POWER

Power was supplied by a V6 240hp Volvo Penta which is perfect for this vessel. It provides the perfect ratio of power both inshore and offshore.

The engine is a common-rail diesel, fully electronic engine running cooled jackets, doing away with risers and manifolds. The entire system is freshwater cooled and includes Volvo-Penta’s neutra salt flush system, which combined is sure to reduce maintenance costs over the duration of ownership.

The engine is linked to the dash via a large Garmin unit so all engine diagnostics are available at the press of a button.

The boat also has a battery management system keeping everything in working order from starting her up to the optional electric toilet, LED lighting, and LCD audio visual unit and DVD player, stereo and speakers.

ON THE WATER

Whittley has built this platform for years and know exactly what works and what does not. The deadrise on the hull is a comfortable 19 degrees. Over the years Whittley has settled on that as the best compromise between comfort and stability for a boat of this type.

What did impress, was the boat’s ability to feel and handle like a smaller more manoeuvrable package. It’s big at 9 metres in length but has a unique ability to bend into the turn and power through like a boat several metres shorter. It’s not awkward, nor does it feel bulky. I wouldn’t quite call it a sports-boat but certainly fits the sports-cruiser ethos.

2A1A1227Fitted with auto tabs, little more is needed than to push the throttles forward and get the boat onto the plane. Once there, it will sit comfortably inshore and offshore and easily pierce most waves. The pick-up is impressive, with water skiing a possibility. Tubing with the kids or wakeboarding are certainly also options.

The engine is happy to purr along at cruising speed and while the CR2800 feels sporty enough, most will be conservative with their driving which will give you the best range and most comfortable ride.

At this length, some owners may choose to add a bow thruster and while they do make parking a little easier, the bite from the duo-prop and some careful low speed driving will be more than enough in all but the windiest of conditions.

The driving position is great with full visibility all round. I did find that the controls were a little out of reach while standing, but the boat is more a ‘set and forget’ at cruising speeds, with the automatic trim tabs doing most of the work for you.

ON THE TRAILER

While you can tow this boat legally, it’s still going to be a massive package on the trailer. The boat, fully loaded with gear and fuel will come awfully close to the magic 3.5 tonne mark, so judicious packing will be essential if you are looking to tow long distances. Even a Landcruiser or Discovery may not quite be enough for this one.

OVERVIEW

The Whittley CR2800 isn’t cheap and as tested comes in at $239,645. What that does buy you however is a boat that you can take anywhere. No two views will ever be the same.

With caravan parks becoming clogged, I know that with a Whittley CR2800 behind me, it’s going to be a whole lot easier to find a little solitude on a river or estuary somewhere.

POSITIVES

Trailerable

Spacious

NEGATIVES

Appearance

NUMBERS THAT MATTER

Price: (as tested) $239,645

Construction: GRP

Length: 9.00m Beam: 2.49m

Height on trailer: 3.30m

Dry weight: 3,350kg

Maximum HP: 380

Fuel capacity: 200 litres

Deadrise: 19 degrees