Whittley Sea Legend 26 Boat Test

Whittley might be best known for its high-end trailerable family cruisers, but this iconic Melbourne boat manufacturer also has a strong line-up of fishing/family cross-over models called the Sea Legends. For this review, we secured the outboard-powered SL26, a superbly-appointed trailerable fishing cruiser with a spacious cabin, soft-riding deep-vee hull and a functional fishing cockpit.

Whittley Sea Legend 26 Boat Test

Boat Test Whittley Sea Legend 26: FAMILY GAMEFISHER
Author and photography: Jeff Webster

This boat test ran in ISSUE 124 of BlueWater magazine –  JUNE-JULY 2017

For the complete feature, including all photos and information captions, you can purchase back-issues here

Melbourne’s Whittley Marine Group needs little introduction to experienced boaters in Australia. This family owned and operated company was founded in 1953 and has been manufacturing fine-quality, fibreglass trailerboats since the late 1960s. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of their superbly-crafted cuddy and half-cabin cruisers have been sold over the years. In fact, the Whittley brand is so popular that owner clubs have been established in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Whittley has traditionally concentrated on manufacturing family boats, leaving the fishing market to rival fibreglass brands. However, that changed in the 1990s following a joint venture agreement with popular New Zealand brand Rayglass. The agreement made it possible for Whittley to produce the Rayglass-designed Sea Legend models in Australia. The rest, as they say, is history. The Sea Legends have been built in Melbourne alongside Whittley’s regular cruiser range ever since.

There are four different models in the Sea Legend range, including the SL22, SL24, SL26 and the flagship SL28. The boats are available with a soft-top bimini, hardtop and drop curtains, as well as a hardtop with full-height windscreen and glass sliding windows. Most models are rigged with single petrol or diesel Volvo Penta sterndrives, although outboard-powered models are becoming more popular.

The Whittley Sea Legend 26 is a 7.3m long fibreglass cruiser with a two-berth forward cabin, 23-degree deep-vee hull and a beam close to the maximum local trailerable width of 2.46m. It comes standard with a single Volvo Penta 200hp V6 petrol sterndrive, but is available with petrol and diesel sterndrives to a maximum of 380hp. The SL26 is also available with single extra-longshaft outboards to 350hp. Brisbane’s Northside Marine supplied our test boat with a 4.2L Yamaha V6 300hp 4-stroke outboard and this engine proved more than powerful enough for most applications.

Good Cabin Space

With trailerable craft to around 6m in length you usually have to compromise the size of the cabin to retain a cockpit large enough for sport and gamefishing. However, that’s not the case once you exceed 7m, as the extra metre of length allows for a full-size cabin and a decent-sized cockpit – as is the case with the Whittley SL26.

The SL26 has been cleverly designed to maximise the available cabin space. Below decks, two steps down from the helm, you’ll find a forward vee-berth arrangement with individual, cloth-covered, 2m long berths which convert into a double bed with the addition of an infill cushion.

The berths also transform into a dinette seating area, featuring a pedestal-mounted cocktail table. Light meals and snacks can be prepared in the nearby galley on the port side, which comes complete with a 12-volt fridge/freezer, pull-out two burner stove and a sink with running freshwater fed by a 100-litre water tank.

Opposite the galley is an enclosed head compartment with full standing headroom, chemical toilet and freshwater shower. The boat can also be optioned with a flush toilet with holding tank, or with a flush toilet with external discharge and macerator.

Other cabin features include vinyl upholstered side panels, felt/carpet-lined ceiling and surrounds, full-length side storage pockets, shallow under-berth lockers, cupboard space, wide cabin windows and a clear overhead ventilation hatch.

Although there is no access to the foredeck from the cabin, there is foot-space around the cabin sides and sturdy hardtop grab rails, so you can climb forward quite securely. In truth, if you option the boat with the electric anchor winch you will rarely need to go forward.

Full Weather Protection

For offshore sport and gamefishing, the full hardtop, all-weather version of the Sea Legend 26 is definitely the way to go. The helm is fully enclosed with a full-height, curved and toughened-glass windscreen and sliding side windows. It is also worth noting that the side windows open front to back for maximum airflow and ventilation.

The windscreen has a starboard side wiper for those rough weather trips to and from the wide fishing grounds, although due to its height and width, forward visibility is likely to be pretty good regardless. There is some glare and reflection off the dash at certain angles in direct sunshine, but generally the skipper’s view is unimpeded.

The SL26 has a contemporary-looking dash with a split-level fascia designed to accept a row of engine instruments. This includes a single 38 to 40cm multi-function display – such as the Garmin 7410 XSV GPS/fish finder fitted to our test boat. There is also provision for switch panels and a flush-fitted radio, although there is also a dedicated radio box under the hardtop.

From the helm, the sports steering wheel and side-mount throttle lever are within comfortable reach, whether you are seated or standing up. The two helm chairs swivel and slide fore and aft so you can set them up for maximum personal comfort.

The helm chairs are mounted on pedestals above moulded storage boxes with built-in, aft-facing padded seats. These comfortable rear-facing seats are broad and well cushioned for long trips out to the fishing grounds, and for sitting and watching your spread of lures or baits while trolling. The large storage lockers beneath these aft-facing seats are perfect for stowing life jackets and the safety gear for quick access in an emergency.

Cockpit And Fishing Features

There is a lot to like about the self-draining cockpit in the Sea Legend 26. It is long, wide and deep, with toe-rails under the slightly elevated side storage pockets to help with a secure footing while standing at the gunnel.

You’ll also find horizontal rod/gaff racks, four standard stainless-steel rodholders, recessed coaming rails and stern cleats, as well as padded coaming bolsters for comfortable knee and thigh support when fishing in rough weather.

The cockpit has an overall length aft of the cabin bulkhead of 2.94m and behind the aft-facing seat box mouldings there is 1.56m of space by 2.12m across. Although this doesn’t sound like a lot, there is sufficient room for three or four anglers to work without impeding each other.

Clip-down cockpit carpet is included in the standard inventory and can be easily removed when you want to hose the boat out or access the large in-floor hatch, beneath which is a very handy lift-out poly plastic fishbox.

This large underfloor compartment would normally house the inboard engine with sterndrive variants of the SL26. In outboard-powered models this space is allocated to general storage and to provide access to the bilge compartment, dual batteries, fuel filters, steering gear and associated plumbing.

You don’t have to fold back the large hatch to drop fish into the fishbox as there is a separate, smaller hatch built into the larger hatch for this purpose. There’s also another small sub-floor locker just aft of the rear-facing helm seats.

The livebait tank is a standard inclusion, although it is a bit oddly shaped and awkward to access as the opening is out on the port side boarding platform. That said, it is reasonably sized and has a clear front viewing window, so you can easily monitor the health of your livebaits.

An option fitted to the test boat was the moulded baitboard/rigging station. Although it sits up quite high and might get in the way of lines, for some fishing it’s a very helpful addition as it adds two stainless-steel rodholders, a cutting surface, cup/sinker holders and utensil storage. It’s also removable, so you can leave it at home if preferred.

Other fishing and general features include the hardtop rocket launcher rod rack (with six rodholders), a pull-out transom shower, removable corner jump seats and a starboard side transom storage locker located behind a So-Pac hatch.

Towing And Launching

On the included Whittley tandem-axle multi-roller trailer (built by Mackay) the Sea Legend 26 is a big rig. While the Yamaha outboard-powered model is not as heavy as the Volvo sterndrive-powered variants, it still has a dry highway towing weight of around 2800kg. You will certainly feel it behind your tow vehicle, even if that vehicle is a 4WD or light truck rated for three tonnes or more. However, the boat/motor/trailer package is less than 2.5m wide, so it can be towed on roads throughout Australia without the need for special permits or over-width flags.

Big trailerboats like this Whittley are also quite easy to launch and retrieve, providing you arecomfortable with driving the boat on and off the trailer. The length of the boat is actually an asset here as the stern of the boat is likely to be out in reasonably deep water, making it possible to drive the boat onto the trailer without tilting the engine – and with minimal risk of banging the prop or skeg on the boat ramp.

Outboard Or Sterndrive

The single petrol or diesel sterndrive models have traditionally been the most popular of the Whittley Sea Legend 26 options, but many customers are now considering outboard-powered boats like our test rig.

As a general rule, outboard-powered trailerboats are quicker, lighter and more agile than sterndrive models of similar power – and I believe this to also be true of the SL26. Our outboard-powered test boat certainly proved to be quite the rocket ship, accelerating to a top speed of 43.4 knots with Yamaha’s powerful 300hp V6 4-stroke on the transom. This boat/motor combination was equally impressive through the low and mid-range, confirming that 300hp is more than enough power for most applications.

The big V6 Yamaha proved most frugal while running at a comfortable 21.5-knot cruise at 3500rpm. At this speed, the Yamaha burns 33L/ph for a maximum range on 95% of the standard 250L fuel tank of just 154.73 nautical miles. Although this is not a big enough range for most offshore gamefishing, fortunately there is an option to replace the underfloor fishbox with an additional 71L auxiliary fuel tank.

Handling And Ride

The Sea Legend 26 is a very stylish boat with proven on-water performance. The deep-vee hull is a ripper, offering a soft ride with easy handling and a forgiving nature.

Underway in choppy Moreton Bay conditions, the Sea Legend carved up the waves with ease and remained very comfortable even at mid-20-knot cruise speeds. A bit more swell on top of the chop would likely slow the boat down a little, but it is certainly capable of maintaining quite a high cruise speed, which is exactly what you need when fishing the grounds wide offshore.

At rest the boat felt solid and was more stable than I anticipated given the hull was originally designed for heavier sterndrive engines. It will easily handle three or four big guys hanging over one side to look at a big fish.

Through slalom turns and high-speed figure-eights the SL26 felt nimble and responsive – at least within the constraints of what is undeniably a big, solid, trailerable cruiser.

With strong wind on the quarter, the high superstructure will catch the breeze and cause the boat to tilt slightly, but this is to be expected from a deep-vee hull and is easily countered with the included trim tabs.

A Versatile Rig

Although the Whittley Sea Legend 26 is not a hardcore sportfishing boat, it still ticks a lot of boxes. As I get older I certainly appreciate a few creature comforts, including full weather protection, an enclosed head compartment, seating and storage for the family, and a galley where I can brew up a cuppa while waiting for the next bite.

The SL26 has these niceties and more, along with a soft-riding deep-vee hull, a spacious, uncluttered cockpit and a decent array of fishing features and equipment – all of which make the Sea Legend 26 a pretty special and versatile trailerboat.

Highlights

  • Great styling with lockable cabin
  • Comfortable ride from deep-vee hull 
  • Functional cockpit with high freeboard
  • All-weather protection
  • Enclosed galley and head compartment
  • Smooth, powerful Yamaha V6 4-stroke

Capacities

  • Maximum power: 350hp
  • Fuel capacity: 250 litres
  • Freshwater: 100 litres
  • Maximum persons: 8

General

  • Type: Monohull half cabin hardtop
  • Material: Fibreglass
  • Length overall: 7.74m
  • Hull length: 7.3m
  • Beam: 2.46m
  • Deadrise: 23 degrees
  • Hull weight: Approx. 1700kg (dry)
  • Towing weight: Approx. 2800kg (dry)
  • Height on trailer: 3.4m
  • Flotation: Basic Standard

Engines

  • Make/model: Yamaha F300XCA
  • Type: V6 24-valve DOHC EFI 4-stroke outboard
  • Rated hp: 300
  • Displacement: 4.2 litres
  • No. cylinders: 6
  • Weight: 253kg (dry)
  • Shaft length: 63cm ultra-longshaft
  • Alternator/charging: 12-volt – 70 amps (55a at 1000rpm)
  • Gearbox ratio: 1.75:1

SPECIFICATIONS: Whittley Sea Legend 26
Options fitted: Fibreglass hardtop extension, Garmin 7410 XSV GPS/fishfinder with G2 Card, VHF radio upgrade (in lieu of 27Mhz radio) electric drum anchor winch, anchor, rope and chain, lockable cabin door, front hatch fly screen, removable cockpit carpet, two folding cockpit seats, deluxe baitboard with storage, two rear-facing LED lights, and docking kit with fenders and mooring lines.

Whittley Sea Legend 26 Boat Test

Boat Test Whittley Sea Legend 26: FAMILY GAMEFISHER
Author and photography: Jeff Webster
Supplied by: Northside Marine

This boat test ran in ISSUE 124 of BlueWater magazine –  JUNE-JULY 2017

For the complete feature, including all photos and information captions, you can purchase back-issues here