Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless: The Biggest Boston Whaler Bay Boat Ever

Inshore anglers who fish on bay boats know that these shallow draft, low-slung, speedy fishing machines are ideal for a number of fisheries, and the Boston Whaler Dauntless models have long been contenders in this niche. But historically most bay boats, including those made by Boston Whaler, topped out at around 25 or 26 feet of LOA. And since many bay boat anglers want the ability to run through the inlet and fish the ocean when the weather cooperates, this size limit means your options to do so are limited. In the past couple of years, however, “hybrid” models bridging the gap between inshore and offshore have begun popping up. And the all-new Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless, the largest Dauntless to hit the water yet, blazes down this trail.

boston whaler 280 dauntless bay boat
The Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless can hit the backwater one day, and punch through the inlet the next. Photo via Native Marine.

Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless Design

Like many bay boats the 280 Dauntless has gunwales slung a bit lower than the dedicated offshore center console boats the builder offers. They aren’t as low as those found on many bay boats, though, and the 22.5-inch-deep cockpit still has sides high enough to be kid-friendly. There are elevated casting positions, but unlike many bay boats the 280 Dauntless has seats to either side in the bow with the full cockpit depth running forward to the anchor locker. On fishing days you’ll want to leave the cushions at home, and stand on top of the seats to gain some casting distance. Aft there’s an elevated casting deck with a centered fold-down bench seat and a 19-gallon insulated and lighted livewell to port.

boston whaler 280 dauntless overhead
The Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless offers casting positions from stem to stern. Photo via MarineMax Palm Beach.

At 18 degrees the hull has more V to it than many bay boats so it can smooth out the ride on those long runs to the fishing grounds. But it can still sneak into skinny water, and drafts just 18 inches. Yes, that’s a couple inches more than some bay boats, but most also don’t have the beef nor the range to make runs 100 miles from the inlet. With 160 gallons of fuel in its belly, the 280 Dauntless most certainly does.

It should come as no surprise that the 280 Dauntless is built with the same unsinkable attitude as other Boston Whalers. The hull and deck are laid up separately, then are placed into a mold that’s bolted together while liquid foam gets pumped in-between the two at high pressure. All the voids get foam-filled and the foam also bonds to the fiberglass surfaces to create one solid glass-foam-glass sandwich.

Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless Fishing Features

Along with the one in the aft deck, there’s an option for a second 30-gallon livewell in the upgraded leaning post. Getting that post also nets you a pair of rodholders, a sink, and three tackle stowage drawers, so we’d certainly say getting it is the smart move. There are three standard-issue rodholders in the stern deck as well as a pair mounted in the aft gunwales and another pair in the bow, and the hard top sports four rocket launchers.

boston whaler 280 dauntless leaning post
The upgraded leaning post on the 280 Dauntless is slick – and adds to your fishing abilities. Photo via MarineMax Palm Beach.

Fish will get stowed on ice in a box integrated into the bowdeck. Remember that glass-foam-glass sandwich? As a rule, the fishboxes on Boston Whalers hold ice better than just about any other production boat we’re aware of, and it’s thanks to all that foam.

Options to be aware of? The expected bow-mount trolling motor and aft pole anchor are on the list. Get the dinette table, and you can set it at the height of the bow seating to turn those casting positions into a true casting deck. A jack plate and outriggers are also on the options list.

Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless Family Features

We get bay boats because we enjoy fishing, but many of us also get boats because they’re a great way to spend family time together. And the 280 Dauntless goes a lot farther than most boats of this genre to keep the entire family comfortable and happy. Sure, there’s a head inside the console. Absolutely, there’s plenty of seating. But there are also a number of extra perks. A freshwater system comes standard, and includes a shower by the swim platform and telescopic ladder. A wireless cell phone charger sits at the helm. The hard top has a tow bit for pulling wake boards and water toys. And the forward console lounger is huge, comfortable, and houses a bulk stowage area that can be fitted out with dive tank racks.

boston whaler 280 dauntless bow lounger
A big giant lounger in front of the console? Yes, please! Photo via Hampton Watercraft and Marine.

All of those family features are over and above the norm for bay boats, but the clincher is found in the stern cockpit. You can get an optional “swim patio,” which essentially lets you swing a portion of the port hullside down to water level. It comes with a dive ladder, and makes getting in and out of the boat, even with gear on, a piece of cake.

boston whaler dauntless 280
Swing that gunwale down and enjoy easy access from the 280 Dauntless to the water. Photo via MarineMax Palm Beach.

Oh yes, and did we mention that Boston Whaler designed the 280 Dauntless to house an optional Seakeeper gyroscopic stabilizer?

Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless Performance

An unusual trait of the 280 Dauntless is that it can be rigged with either a single Mercury Marine outboard or twins up to 600 hp, total. What’s even more surprising is how efficient it runs with two outboards rather than one. Rig it with a single 400 hp Verado and you’ll be getting around 2.4 mpg at 30 mph. Swap that out for a pair of 300s, and cruise efficiency at 30 mph drops by a mere 0.3 to 2.1 mpg. Meanwhile, top-end jumps from 49.5 mph to a blistering 58.5 mph, and you get the peace of mind only redundant powerplants can provide when heading outside of the inlet. Plus, with the twin screw rig you can run at 4500 rpm and run in the low- to mid-40s, putting a very reasonable load on the outboards to get a rather exceptional cruising speed.

single engine 280 dauntless
The 280 Dauntless is one of the few bay boats that allows you to choose between a single outboard or twins. Photo via Chesapeake Boat Basin.

Remember that earlier comment about range? These efficiency numbers are where those 160 gallons of gas really bear some noticeable fruit. Figuring in a 10-percent fuel reserve, the 30-mph cruise gets you a 345-mile range with the single 400, or a 302-mile range with the twins. Any way you cut it, that’s more than enough for a full day of offshore angling.

Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless Specifications

Length Overall: 27’9”

Beam: 9’0”

Weight: 5,495 lbs.

Draft: 1’6”

Transom Deadrise: 18 degrees

Max HP: 600

Fuel Capacity: 160 gal.

Water Capacity: 18 gal.

You say you’ve been looking at bay boats, but most were a hair too small for your liking? You wish that more boats of this style had gunwales high enough to be kid-friendly? And, it would be nice if the builder paid more attention to family features and comfort in general? Take a look at the new Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless. It checks all of these boxes, and then some.

See Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless boats for sale on Boat Trader.

Written by: Lenny Rudow

With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to publications including YachtWorld, boats.com, Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and he has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.

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