“Unsinkable” Claim To Fame
Mention the boat brand Boston Whaler and many long-time mariners will say, “They’re unsinkable!”
Early fans remember a 1961 black-and-white photo of founder Richard "Dick" Fisher at the helm of a 13-foot (4.0 m) Boston Whaler model in Life magazine. The article reads, "Like a brave man resigned to his frightful fate, Richard Fisher sat unflinchingly in the back of his boat as a saw-toothed sea monster appeared to attack his vessel from below.”
As Fisher posed in his derby hat, suit jacket, and bowtie, engineers sawed the boat in half to demonstrate the vessel’s unsinkability. The next photo shows Fisher underway in half a boat, casting a wake, and towing the bow section around Wampatuck Pond in Hanson, Massachusetts.
Another advertisement for the Boston Whaler manufacturer, The Fisher-Pierce Co., illustrated stability with a Boston Whaler’s part in the rescue of a porpoise stranded in a landlocked Florida Everglades canal after Hurricane Donna. Photos show a rescue team’s capture and carry of the porpoise in a Boston Whaler boat across land to safety in the Florida Bay.
This theme is ongoing in today’s marketing campaigns - albeit with chainsaws - as the company continues to tout durability, performance, and a safe and smooth ride for the trademarked slogan, "the unsinkable legend."
Fisher Innovates With New Materials And Design
Founder Fisher graduated from Harvard University in 1936 and ran a company that built small, light boats made of balsa wood. Company videos by family members and executives tell stories of how Fisher changed course after reading an article in a 1950s-era Popular Mechanics magazine about new construction components - fiberglass and Styrofoam.
Fisher replaced balsa wood with these new materials in a sailboat design, similar to a Sunfish. But friend, naval architect C. Raymond Hunt, suggested Fisher focus on motorized boats instead, so the next boat was a Styrofoam and epoxy prototype based on Albert Hickman’s Sea Sled, an inverted vee planing hull. Fisher continued to tweak his designs and by 1956, the original Boston Whaler 13 was perfected as a lightweight and stable boat with lots of space and the ability to be powered by a lower horsepower engine. The first Boston Whaler boats were sold in 1958.
His ideas eventually grew into the formula used today - an outer hull and an inside mold clamped together with a special process weld and filled with stiff, lightweight, and buoyant polyurethane foam: A system that is known as Unibond construction.
Fisher was said to have come to the family with the Boston Whaler name one morning at breakfast. He reasoned that the factory was near Boston and that the boats plane much like a whale-harpooning dory. Business continued to build and the company built three boats a week in the beginning, with Fisher continually testing them in every challenging nautical situation.
“Unsinkable: The History of Boston Whaler” was written by author Matthew Plunkett and published for the company's 60th anniversary in 2018.
A Look At The Business End Of Boating
Originally produced in Rockland, Massachusetts, the current American boat manufacturing plant moved to Edgewater, Florida around 1987. The company is a subsidiary of the Brunswick Boat Group, a division of the Brunswick Corporation.
Back in 1969, the Boston Whaler division of Fisher-Pierce was sold to the CML Group. In 1989, the Boston Whaler division was sold to Reebok Corporation and sold again five years later to Meridian Sports. The current owners, Brunswick Corporation, purchased Boston Whaler for $27.4 million in 1996.
Despite leadership changes, the brand, construction, and reputation are considered to have remained consistent.
Boston Whaler recreational boat owners often keep boats through generations of family and many participate in a variety of events including a rendezvous in Captiva, Florida and the Bahamas in Bimini and the Abacos.
The boats are also popular commercially. Brunswick Boats sells Boston Whalers to a variety of coast guards and naval units, including the Bolivian Naval Force. The boats were also used by the United States Navy and Coast Guard during the Vietnam War for rescue and river patrols.
Boston Whaler Offers Diverse Models
Boston Whaler model types include skiffs, center consoles, and cuddy cabins with lengths ranging from 11.3 to 42.5 feet. Boats are sold complete with Mercury engines, as the parent company, Brunswick, owns Mercury Marine.