Whittley Sea Legend 26Back to Listing
Whittley has been one of the most popular fiber glass ranges on the Australian boating scene for many years. Quite literally, it was an exemplar to the boating industry until it ran into problems last year with the GFC (Global Financial Crisis). Fortunately, the goodwill of this popular Victorian brand has helped it stay afloat. With the strong support of suppliers and dealers it has been able to trade on, and work towards recovery. All of which is good news because I’ve been looking for an excuse to test the Whittley model that’s driving the company recovery – the Whittley Sea Legend 26.
Whittley first launched the Whittley Sea Legend 26 as a sub-range some years ago. However, more recently, the brand has been given a total revamp in both design and styling. Basically, the idea of the Sea Legend was to offer buyers a craft of high build-quality (like the Whittley) but with more emphasis on cockpit space and fishing. In essence, the Sea Legend is a ‘serious’ fishing machine, though still with comfortable features to keep the family happy. And the styling is certainly more eye-catching than most fishbone craft with dramatic two-tone black and white color scheme. You can have navy or dark green too, however, the overall idea is to give you an eye-catching craft from all angles.
There’s more than a touch of luxury sports boat about the Whittley Sea Legend 26, and this is what finally drew us to test it in Melbourne. It’s an impressive craft and features a lot of the same quality finish you see in Whittley. We weren’t as impressed by the cold, unfriendly weather that greeted us, yet the Sea Legend 26 certainly protected us from the elements. The optional hardtop nicely cocooned us from the worst of the weather and made the trip over the grey-green stormy waters quite bearable. Indeed, it made us thankful to be aboard a Whittley Sea Legend 26 with cabin and sheltered helm station. It really makes a difference on these occasions.
Our test boat was provided by JV Marine, one of Melbourne’s best-known marine dealerships and long-term supporter of the Whittley brand. Some of these boats are rigged with twin 140hp motors, however, our rig sported a single Suzuki 225hp four-stroke that gave us pretty good overall performance.
The revamped Sea Legend range encompasses four basic hull models, the Whittley Sea Legend 26 being the largest and available in both outboard and stern drive versions. Our test boat was also the hardtop version featuring a fiber glass targa arch, incorporating a molded fiber glass roof. This is a sensible feature, especially for colder, southern zones where crews do need extra protection from the weather.
The boat itself features attractive lines with steeply raked bows matching a fastback style stern. The hull is also designed for rough water with sharp entry flowing to a classic 23-degree dead rise hull. The Whittley Sea Legend 26 measures 7.3m overall with 2.46m beam, keeping it comfortably within the highway trailing limit. However at around 2,775kg dry road weight it’s no lightweight and will require larger sized four-wheel drive tow vehicles. I’m thinking here of the Nissan Patrol or Land rover Discovery 3. The latest Nissan Pathfinder also fills the bill for three-tonne tow capacity.
Stepping aboard you notice the complex cockpit and cabin moldings. These are designed by CAD CAM computer so you get really good panel fit and a clean, quality finish. It goes without saying Whittley Sea Legend 26 is built for the job of offshore work and certainly feels strong and sturdy underfoot. Hull warranty is five years. Externally, the hull features a modern, vee-bottom with sharp bottom strakes and a distinct runner plank along the bottom keel edge. There’s also small but effective chine flats to help get the boat up on the plane as you power up.
Also right at the stern, a semi-pod helps support the motor and give more cockpit room. Coming aboard via the folding stainless steel ladder (starboard side) you find a landing platform and step-though door into cockpit. From here you step into a roomy cockpit that has small, foldable quarter seats so the space is kept clear for fishing. The cockpit is designed to self-drain and incorporates a large lifting hatch in the rear section. The latter looks like it match the engine box of the stern drive version – clever engineering.
It wasn't the best day to be hitting the water as we pulled up at the boat ramp not far off the West Gate Bridge. In fact, it was darn right cold and unfriendly with low scudding rain squalls. However, there’s a wild beauty to these days and the industrial backdrop of the giant Port Melbourne seemed appropriate. It’s a funny thing, but after 35 years of boat testing you do remember these test days a lot more than the sunny ones. Perhaps it’s the relief of surviving the cold, or just the pleasure of the hot meal and rum shot afterwards.
So what did we learn? Yet again we found how good big, deep-vee fiber glass boats are at handling rough water. Perhaps the fiber glass is a better insulator too because we also felt quite comfy in the cabin below. Whittley Sea Legend 26 is now offering a full windscreen version of the Sea Legend 26 since our test. This gives a single armour-glass windscreen at the front with sliding windows at the side. Especially on a cold day it makes sense! Driving the boat over the choppy waters of Hobson’s Bay I started to feel quite at home with the Sea Legend's handling. The Sea Legend tracked nicely through the rough stuff and only occasionally did I resort to the electric trim tabs provided.
The helm is nicely weighted by the hydraulic assisted steering. And you sit comfortably in the swivel bucket seats provided. The combination of a high set seat position and raised footrest also allowed me to slide easily into the standing driving position when required. I did find a little bit of blind spot with the windscreen edge, however, that only happens on crappy days like these. Perhaps that’s a good reason to go for that full windscreen option. Then again, on a nice warm summer days I’d prefer to have the air-flow under the hardtop keeping me cool. Meanwhile, the big Whittley Sea Legend 26 sat well at lower revs and just punched away in the rougher patches of water. The 225hp Suzuki certainly delivered the power and felt more than adequate for the task. We also found the Whittley Sea Legend 26 is quite stable at-rest and gives her crew a lot of protection aboard thanks to the targa hardtop.
The Whittley Sea Legend 26 comes in two motor versions – outboard and stern drive versions. The outboard version is a touch lighter in weight, however, the stern drive has a higher horsepower capacity (320hp) and the option of going for a petrol or diesel motor. The outboard is rated to a maximum of 250hp so you could squeeze a bit more speed out of the boat than the following figures we achieved:
• 3500rpm 20 knots
• 4500rpm 29 knots
• 5500rpm 36 knots
These are pretty respectable speeds so don’t expect too many buyers to go for a bigger motor, unless they really want to pull a 40knot top speed. And if you’re going to pick a motor, the Suzuki 225hp is certainly an impressive unit, punching out a massive 3,614cc power. It’s a double overhead cam motor with multi-point, sequential electric fuel injection. It runs very smoothly right through the rev range and is very quiet. It might weigh 268kg but worth its weight in gold as far as I’m concerned.
Meanwhile, fuel tankage is 250-litres. This is quite adequate for day-to-day, however, a touch light on for long-range trips. I expect the factory could do a bigger tank if required. The Whittley Sea Legend 26 comes with all the ‘good stuff’ like dual batteries, master switch, navigation lights, interior lights, automatic bilge pump and courtesy foot lights in the cockpit for night work.
The Whittley Sea Legend 26 comes standard with proper anchoring gear at the bows – molded bowsprit with roller, anchor chaff pad and deep anchor locker. Our test boat was also fitted with optional electric anchor winch. Moving further back you find narrow side decks for crew access, a large glass-topped fore hatch for access to the cabin and molded cabin roof with side windows. The cockpit area is considerably more roomy and open than the traditional Whittley Sea Legend 26 craft. It also easy to hose out after a day’s fishing and comes with six stainless steel rod holders, coaming stowage pockets and molded live bait tank. The latter is fully plumbed and backed up by extra stowage in the recessed side pockets. By the way, the rear seat backrests provide cushion pads for angler comfort.
Up at the dash you find a central doorway for easy access to the cabin below. There are grab rails in front of the passenger seat plus on the driver side. The helm side of the dash provides a raised, curved instrument cluster plus compass. The helm dash also provides enough room to fit a dual sounder/chart plotter. Or you can have a single combo unit like the Navman 8084 color sounder/GPS chart plotter fitted to our test boat. The Whittley Sea Legend 26 is also fitted with a 27MHz marine band radio, Fusion CD Ipod sound system and cigarette lighter. Below decks is a proper cabin with galley, sink, and fridge and preparation area. On the opposite (starboard side) of the cabin is a separate toilet compartment with chemical WC.
Here too with a comfortable settee that converts to a double, or twin berths the interior looks very suitable for overnight cruising, or just a daytime snooze. All looking nice too with attractive charcoal upholstery in a soft velour fabric. From the fishing point of view the cockpit works well, you’ve got an six-pack rod rack, live bait well and big in-floor kill tank. We also had the optional cockpit spotlight. My only criticism is the lack of toe-under recess at the cockpit sides. That aside, there seems to be pretty good stern fishing access despite the fastback design.
Despite some recent hikes in outboard prices the Whittley Sea Legend 26 remains quite well priced. This particular model comes in at an entry level price of around $129,900 or about $135,000 as tested with dual axle Dunbier WT7 multi-roller trailer. For the boatie planning to do a fair bit of fishing, especially offshore and yet also spend time with the family, the Sea Legend 26 strikes a nice balance. It’s got the comforts below for enjoying popping below for a hot cuppa, or simply to relax out of weather. You may never actually stay overnight but can still appreciate that special sanctuary for daytime trips.
Had my Whittley SL26 for 3 months now and reckon its the best boat I have ever had. I use it mainly for fishing on a regular basis and it is the first boat I have had that the wife is comfortable with due to the creature comforts.
By - Terry Scully On - 1 Apr, 2012, 5:55 am