Boat Test: 2023 Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless

The 280 Dauntless is a high-quality fishing platform packed with family-friendly creature comforts.
Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless running in the ocean
The 280 Dauntless serves up a stable ride. Courtesy Boston Whaler

Special deliverySign up for the free Boating email newsletter. Subscribe to Boating magazine for $14 for 1 year and receive 4 bonus digital issues.

Overview

The 280 Dauntless is the flagship of Boston Whaler’s Dauntless bay-boat lineup, and it delivers a high-quality fishing platform adorned with family-friendly creature comforts. Designed with a 9-foot beam and a shallow deadrise that tapers to 18 degrees at the transom, the 280 Dauntless is meant to be a stable casting platform that floats in skinny water. ­Despite its 28-foot length, ­Boston ­Whaler claims it can float with the engines trimmed up in just 1 foot, 6 inches of water. With the flatter running surface, it’s not going to be a tippy boat when anglers drop lines or cast from one side or the other.

Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless helm
You can digitally control systems thanks to the C-Zone software. Courtesy Boston Whaler

Interior and Accessories

While the 280 ­Dauntless has plenty of fishy bona ­fides, including the 19-gallon transom livewell, seven ­total rod holders, and recessed grab rails and cleats to reduce snags, what really sets it apart is the spacious seating. The ­doublewide helm seat has flip-down armrests and flip-up bolsters, so you can sit or stand while driving the boat. It can be electrically actuated to convert to a simple leaning post at the helm while creating two plush aft-facing seats for the crew. Combine those with the cushioned transom bench that lifts out of the aft casting deck, and you’ve created a cockpit conversation pit. 

Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless bow seating
Spacious seating is found throughout. Courtesy Boston Whaler

The creature comforts extend to the bow with the spacious forward-facing sun lounge complete with flip-up armrests that sits forward of the center console. The hatches on the opposing raised stowage lockers in the bow have removable cushions to create another conversation pit forward.

Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless swim patio
The “swim patio” makes water entry much easier. Courtesy Boston Whaler

The 280 Dauntless has several great options, from a Seakeeper 1 gyrostabilizer to a hardtop to a sunshade. I’d opt for the “swim patio” built into the port gunwale. It lowers to the water on gas struts to create a mini swim platform, moving the swimming access completely away from the propellers. Boston Whaler builds in an ­automatic engine cutoff sensor, so the outboard(s) cannot start when it’s deployed.

Read Next: Boston Whaler 250 Dauntless

Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless cockpit seating
There’s cushioned bench seating found at the transom. Courtesy Boston Whaler

Engine

The boat can be powered with a single Mercury 350 or 400 Verado, or with twin 250s or 300s. We tested the boat in New York Harbor with twin 300s and topped 50 mph in tough conditions spurred by heavy ferry traffic. Mercury’s own test data shows the 280 Dauntless can hit close to 60 mph with the twin 300s.

Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless console seating
Tackle storage can be found in the leaning post. Courtesy Boston Whaler
Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless console seating spun aft
With the push of a button the doublewide helm seats can rotate to face abaft. Courtesy Boston Whaler

How We Tested

  • Engine: Twin 300 hp Mercury Verado FourStroke outboards
  • Drive/Props: Outboard/15 1/4″ x 19″ 4-blade stainless steel
  • Gear Ratio: 1.85:1 Fuel Load: 100 gal. Water on Board: 0 gal. Crew Weight: 380 lb.

High Points

  • Standard helm seat electrically converts to a leaning post with aft-facing bench seats at the push of a button.
  • C-Zone software in the flush-mounted Simrad touchscreen displays lets you digitally control the ship’s systems and switches.
  • Wireless charger on top of the helm console has a grippy pad so you can juice up your phone while running.

Low Points

  • Shallower 18-degree transom deadrise means you will have to pick your days to run out to the blue water.
  • No undergunwale rod racks.

Toughest Competitor

Scout’s 281XSS is another flagship bay boat with tons of family features that starts at $238,069.

Pricing and Specs

Price:$232,885 (base)
LOA:28’8″
Beam:9’0″
Draft (max):1’6″
Displacement (approx.):7,410 lb.
Transom Deadrise:18 degrees
Bridge Clearance:8’4″
Fuel Capacity:160 gal.
Water Capacity:18 gal.
Max Horsepower:600
Available Power:Single or twin Mercury gasoline outboards to 600 hp

Speed, Efficiency, Operation

Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless performance data chart
Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless Certified Test Results Boating Magazine

Boston Whaler – Edgewater, Florida; 877-294-5645; bostonwhaler.com

Email Newsletters and Special Offers

Sign up for Boating emails to receive features on travel destinations, event listings and product reviews as well as special offers on behalf of Boating’s partners.

By signing up you agree to receive communications from Boating and select partners in accordance with our Privacy Policy. You may opt out of email messages/withdraw consent at any time.