The typical trailable boat labelled a cruiser might have a bigger cabin than the usual cuddy, a camping stove, a transom shower, and possibly a portable fridge; in other words, it is really a camping boat. And nothing wrong with that if you also want it to be a fishing or diving boat or family day boat. But for comfortable sleeping for a whole family or two couples, civilised cooking and ablution facilities and comfortable day space – that still feels comfortable after a long weekend – you need something like a Whittley. And there are not too many like it.
The 2600 makes no pretence of being an all-rounder: this is a boat for the owner who likes the gentler side of boating – deck chairs and gin and tonics in Thomson Bay; wandering up or down the coast inside the reefs; dropping into place like Mindarie and Mandurah. You can still drop a line or dive – the aft platform is big enough for that as well as for deck chairs – but you would not buy this boat if they were the main things you had in mind.
It is astonishing how much cruising ability Whittley fitted into an overall length of eight metres. The fore cabin is vast, dominated by a U-shaped lounge that converts into a monster double bed, using the dining table as an infill. For those who enjoy such things, a TV-DVD shares the space. The galley has a single burner stove, fridge and sink and abundant headroom for using them. The bathroom opposite has headroom too and plenty of lateral space. The toilet is an electric flushing model draining into a sullage tank, so is legal at Rottnest.
A lockable door links the cabin with the cockpit or, more accurately, with the day cabin. It is completely covered by the hardtop, has glass down most of each side, and has clears for the rest of them and for the rear. If you are keen on a breeze, raise the clears and slide open the roof hatch. You can convert the breeze into a gale by also opening the large clear fore hatch.
Two seats are in the usual place, although larger and more comfortable than usual. Behind them, a lounge takes up the whole perimeter, or it does when you lift the folded starboard side component. The forward end of the port side element curves up to make a relaxed spot for a skiing observer, or possibly for Roman-style reclined eating when the table is dropped into place. Storage space is under and behind practically everything.
Lowering the starboard settee gives access to the transom door and the rear platform. This is very much part of the living space. It really does have room for deck chairs (you can store them in the underdeck locker) or a barbecue; a rail across the rear gives security to a fisherman and provides sockets for his rods.
Side decks are narrow, but access forward is made safe by rails on the hardtop and along the fore cabin roof. The hardtop rails also form a roof rack for a small tender or surfboards, and the cabin’s rails are part of the restraining system for the removable sun bed (that has adjacent drink holders).
The standard motor is a five-litre Volvo V8 sterndrive putting out 270hp and, naturally, it delivers abundant performance. The 2600 was happy to be thrown around sports boat style, but went through all the manoeuvres in a Bentley rather than Porsche fashion. Not ponderous, but demonstrating presence. Very reassuring.
There are just two gauges on the dash: speedo and rev counter. Within the rev counter is an LCD that can show any other information at the turn of a dial, from engine hours to coolant temperature. There is room left over to take a large plotter and a serious number of switches. There is plenty for them to control including remote control spotlight, trim tabs, battery charger and windlass. The trim tabs are an option and a useful one. On this style of boat people tend to cluster on one side, and tabs will haul the boat back upright.
The 2600 is a complete cruiser. All you need to add is fuel, food and sleeping bags.
Price as reviewed $155,000
Length overall 8.05m
Hul length 6.75m
Boat weight 1850kg
Fuel capacity 200L
Fresh water 100L
Max power 320hp
Motor fitted 5L Volvo sterndrive, 270hp