by Peter Jung •
The Whittley CR2800 is the largest Australian-made towable boat in its class. At Fishing Monthly we usually take no longer than a day to test a boat, but with the CR2800 we decided to go about it in a slightly different way. Beautiful Lake Eildon in central Victoria was the venue for the test, and the idea was to spend a couple of days using the boat, as we would expect a consumer to do. Stay on board as we explore everything that Eildon and the CR2800 has to offer.
I can imagine that people would have concerns about towing a boat this big, and fair enough too. The size of the boat is daunting, however being under 3.5 ton and having a 2.5m beam means all you have to worry about is having the correct set-up and vehicle, not whether you need lights, signage and permits any time you want to go somewhere.
Alan Whittley and his family have been towing these boats for many years, and here is his advice.
The car you tow with can make all the difference. Alan uses a 200 series LandCruiser for all his larger boat towing, and says it has been the best option for the business over the years. However, these days there’s a number of other cars that are suitable.
All Whittley Cruiser models come on a custom Mackay trailer, and in the case of the 2800 it’s a dual-axle trailer with electric brakes. Electric brakes are an essential component of safe towing with a boat this size.
The Mackay is also a drive on, drive off trailer; winching this boat by hand would not be ideal. We had no difficulty driving it on and off, it’s just a matter of taking your time. The supplied trailer made that easier.
Alan’s biggest tip for towing the 2800 was to ‘think long’. It is a big boat and you need to give yourself room to turn or turn around. You should also give yourself a little extra space from vehicles in front. Although the trailer has assisted breaking, you still have over three ton behind you, so stopping on a dime is not going to happen.
LAUNCH AND RETRIEVE
As with the towing, some care and a little practice is required when getting the 2800 on and off the water. It is by no means difficult, however. We launched at the Jerusalem Creek ramp at Lake Eildon, and at around 64% capacity this ramp is safe but not very steep. Other than needing to have the vehicle in the water (there were plenty of smaller craft needing to do the same), getting the boat on and off the trailer was a simple two-person job. Once off the trailer, front bow thrusters assist with maneuverability. Who would have thought it could be so hassle-free?
A CRUISER WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS
Whittley Marine has been at the forefront of building cruisers since their inception, and the CR2800 is the culmination of many years of boat-building experience. This boat combines a sleek, modern look with a clever use of space, and because the designers understand what boaters want, they provide features and options to fulfil those needs. And feature packed it is.
Above the deck
Ladders are situated at the front and rear of the craft. The forward ladder is optional to provide assistance getting to and from the shore if you are parked on the bank, and the rear ladder gives easy access into and out of the water.
Complementing this is full walk-around side decks with rails at the bow of the boat, and a large marlin board with rails at the rear. The rails provide some peace of mind for anyone who’s not accustomed to scampering around a vessel.
Above the cabin there is a pack rack for additional storage of larger items, and it’s a great place for any towable products or inflatables to keep them out of the way.
The marlin board was most probably the most used area of the boat over the couple of days we were at Eildon. We cooked meals on the BBQ, we cast lures and soaked baits from it, and with the weather as good as it was on the first day, we spent plenty of time swimming from the back of it. The addition of the bait station adds to the fishing component. It has some rod storage and keeps the bait preparation out of the main cabin and away from your food and living area.
The rear cabin is a wonderful space to sit, relax and enjoy your surroundings. The seating is comfortable and has a couple of table options. The main dining table is stored in the roof of the cabin, which is a fantastic solution for an item that would be very difficult to store otherwise. There is plenty of storage under all the seating and throughout the cabin area, keeping it clear to be the social space it is meant to be.
The lounge and table come together to create a double bed. Full clears can be put in place to keep insects at bay or to keep the weather out.
Galley and amenities
If the rear cabin and marlin board are the social areas of the boat, then the galley provides the practical component of spending time on the boat. There is a food preparation area with a sink, a two burner mentholated spirits stove and a fridge. There is an esky under the skipper’s seat for drinks, so the fridge can be used for food items. Cooking utensils also have a place to be stored as well as cutlery etc. The remaining space at the back of the skipper’s seat has a bar in it storing glasses and on this trip a nice bottle of single malt whiskey. This was to be the reward if you caught a Murray cod over the weekend. Unfortunately it went untouched.
Opposite the galley is a stand up shower and toilet with a privacy door. From a family perspective this offers privacy and the ability to clean up after a days activities. As far as our weekend was concerned, it kept five blokes looking and smelling sharp?
The haven that is the forward cabin has a true sense of luxury. The area has multiple configurations from a seated area with a table to a large bed. There is a lockable door for privacy for people to get changed or simply for someone to chill out and have some quiet time.
Practical things like storage under the seating and a hanging closet for your clothing ensure that the space is kept clear and tidy. There are plenty of windows for natural light during the day and a hatch that can open to allow airflow.
Overall it is a well planned space that like the rest of the boat begs to be used.
The hub of the CR2800 is the driver seating area. There is an oversized seat for the driver, which is positioned so everything is at your fingertips. The throttle is comfortably positioned and the skipper has great visibility through the cabin windows. Both side windows open to assist with airflow. You can also pop your head through the electric sunroof if you need to see more while launching or manoeuvring in tight spaces.
The truly impressive feature is the new dash configuration. Housing a 16” Garmin screen, part of the Whittley Pulse system. The Pulse system is a fully integrated digital switching system that at the touch of your finger, controls everything electronic in the boat from the lights and wipers to letting you know you are low on fuel. It has a number of modes that allow the user to set their craft up for what they want to use it for (cruise, tow, entertainment etc.). The menu includes the fuel management system, links to the Fusion sound system and the main screen can be customised to the users needs.
Other things housed on the dash are the Garmin VHF radio, the Zipwake automatic trim system (no more manual trimming), the battery management system and just to the side of it the toggle for the bow thrusters.
All in all a well thought out helm, that any skipper would be happy to in whether it is a short or long trip.
VOLVO PENTA V6 280HP WITH DUO PROP SYSTEM
Not surprisingly the Volvo Penta V6 motor in the CR2800 came up in conversation a number of times during our time at Eildon.
From a useable space perspective there are a number of advantages of an inboard motor. First and foremost is that your cabin and deck spaces are above the motor and with the design of the CR2800 (all of the Whittley Cruisers for that matter) they have used this space to the max. The comfort and functionality of the rear lounge area is a clear testament of this. Secondly only having the leg of the motor at the rear (not a big outboard) means the transom area is free of obstruction, so it can be used to cook on the BBQ, ski or swim from the back and it also provides an obstacle free fishing platform.
From a performance perspective, you get a lot of motor for your money and fuel economy that is comparable with any outboard motor.
What we found over the couple of days was that for what is a very powerful motor it also had a great deal of finesse about it. And no I haven’t gone crazy. The Duo Prop system provides an immense amount of grip to the water resulting in excellent trust, acceleration and top end speeds. However it also allows for lower planing speeds, which means you can cruise around all day with great fuel economy. Definitely something that you would want, if you plan to be on the water for an extended period of time. The motor is also beautifully quiet.
One final observation about the inboard motor set up is that lowers the centre of gravity of the boat. This improves the stability at rest and the performance of the hull underway.
The CR2800 is the flagship vessel of the Whittley fleet of boats. It is also a significant investment. This investment translates into a boat that offers a vehicle to explore this great country of ours both on land and from the water. The weekend at Eildon was not my first experience with the CR2800, my extended family in South Australia own one and I have spent a little bit of time with them over the years. They have traveled much of the East coast of Australia with the Whittley in tow. It has offered many years of memorable experiences and many more to come.
Ultimately that is what this boat is all about. It can be towed from A to B with no hassles, launching and retrieving is hassle free with a bit of practice and the fit out offers plenty of comfort and sophistication. Spending time on this boat for whatever reason is something you are bound to enjoy and something you will want to invite your friends to come along for the ride.
Available from just under $206,000 the CR2800 comes with many standard inclusions. Go to www.whittleymarinegroup.com.au and click on the Cruiser 2800 link. There is a build a boat option that has all the information, inclusions and optional extras that are available.
This boat is well worth experiencing for yourself and has left a lasting impression on me.
Overall length 9.0m
Length on trailer 10.10m
Height on trailer 3.30m
Width on trailer 2.49m
Fuel capacity 200L
Water capacity 100L
Dry towing weight approx. 3.35 ton
Standard engine Volvo Penta V6-280hp DPS
Max hp 380hp
Max people 9