Pros: Great ride, outstanding build quality, versatile, unsinkable
Cons: Expensive compared to many competitors in this size range
The 160 Dauntless is a fine, high-quality boat that feels larger than its small 16-foot size. I've used my 2003 Dauntless for one season mostly on the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay, and I couldn't be happier. I use the boat mostly for general cruising, with some occasional tubing and skiing. Although I don't fish, most Boston Whalers are fishing boats at heart, and are set up to do that job well.
Like most Boston Whaler boats, the 160 Dauntless is a center-console fisherman, having an open deck that's relatively uncluttered. There's a seat suitable for two with an anchor locker below in the bow, a cooler seat with space for one (two if you're *real* cozy) immediately in front of the console, a reversible seat and leaning post for two behind the console, and a seat in each aft quarter. All seats are reasonably cushioned, although the aft quarter seats have very low backrests. The bow seat is not really usable in choppy water. The stern uses the love-it-or-hate-it "Euro" design, which places a short 6" platform aft of the rear seats. On the one hand that makes the cockpit 6" shorter than it could have otherwise been, but the stern platform and transom-mounted boarding ladder makes it a breeze to get in and out of the water.
The boat is USCG-approved for 6 people, which it can hold comfortably in good weather. There is ample space to walk around, and the boat has enough beam that you don't need to squeeze between the gunwales and the center console to get forward. The hull is 16'3" long with a 7'1" beam and 11" draft, hull weight is 1500 pounds. It's slightly shorter, wider, and heavier than the fairly similar Boston Whaler 170 Montauk. The hull shape is a moderate V, deeper than the Montauk, with pronounced reverse chines to provide a smooth ride and effectively minimize spray. One of the very nice features is a reserve bouyancy of 4200 pounds -- swamp the boat and it will still keep you afloat with enough extra capacity to load on a big old Buick, while keeping the outboard powerhead clear of the water. The 45 gallon internal fuel tank, another advantage over the Montauk, goes a long long way between fill-ups.
The boat handles very well on flat water and in chop, and with the 115 HP 4-stroke has plenty of power (and a top speed of 44 MPH) while keeping excellent fuel economy (about 2.2 GPH overall in mixed use). The boat is currently sold only as a package with an engine; available engines are Mercury 90 HP 2-stroke, 90 4-stroke, 115 2-stroke, and my 115 4-stroke. The rated horsepower range is 50 to 115. Other owners with 90 HP engines report good overall performance with a top speed of about 39 MPH. The hull is exceptionally solid, and the build quality is excellent, with nice gelcoat and top-quality stainless components. And, or course, it's truly unsinkable.
There's much more storage available on the Dauntless than on the Montauk, with a very usable anchor locker, a fairly roomy center console (I keep the mooring cover and 6+ PFDs in there with no trouble), a huge enclosed space beneath the pilot's seat, and storage space beneath the aft quarter seats. The pilot seat storage can be replaced with an optional livewell. There are built-in rod holders beneath each gunwale; they fold out of the way when not in use, but can be ankle-biters when you hang a rod or two on them.
Electronics are available as (expensive) dealer options, I added a Garmin GPSMap 76S, Garmin FishFinder 80, and a Standard Horizon Quest VHF myself. The existing wiring is nicely done, and it was easy to install a new bus bar inside the console to power the new accessories. Although the hull is foam-filled between the outer shell and inner liner, a rigging tunnel runs from beneath the console to the stern allowing relatively easy installation of the fishfinder transducer.
With fuel and gear, the boat weighs in at about 2600 pounds. Add a trailer, and you need at least a 3000 pound towing limit. I tow the boat with a Volvo V70 wagon without any problem, though on wet launch ramps I often wish I had the AWD version of the car instead of the FWD. Because the towed weight is fairly close to the V70's 3300 pound limit, I spent extra for a trailer with brakes. Trailer brakes make the whole package much easier to stop, and much less exciting in an emergency. Consider trailer brakes unless your tow vehicle has a much higher weight rating. The boat is relatively easy to launch and recover, and I often do the job single-handedly. A keel-roller trailer would be ideal (and is recommended by Boston Whaler), but my bunk trailer works fine too. Avoid traditional all-roller trailers with all Boston Whalers, as they may pucker or otherwise damage the outer skin.
The 160 Dauntless does seem to be a bit stern-heavy, and with a full tank and a few adults in the stern seats it can be a struggle to get up on plane. This hasn't been a really big problem for me, but I plan to add a hydrofoil next season to help out there. The earlier versions before 2002 had a notched transom which made this minor problem somewhat worse.
All-in-all, there's a lot to like about this boat, and not much to not like. It's more feature-rich than the Montauk, but in return requires more power for similar performance and is more expensive.
For pictures of my boat "Golden Daze", visit http://f2.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/marlinsail/album?.dir=/GoldenDaze
For lots of terrific Boston Whaler information, visit http://www.continuouswave.com!