In spite of its “collector’s item” pedigree, Matt Porter’s 1986 Boston Whaler 13 is no museum piece. The boat has been used heavily ever since Porter, who is Boat Outfitters’ Sales and Customer Service Manager, bought it in 2007 as a high school student in South Florida.

Until he graduated from college in Orlando in 2013, Porter didn’t do much work on the boat — just ran it as it was, with its original, bulletproof 1984 Evinrude 30, homemade side console, and single thwart for seating. After that, though, the refitting started.

Function Over Form

When Porter bought his ’86 Whaler 13 back in 2007, its interior consisted of only a single thwart and a small, homemade side console. Porter had always liked the 13 Super Sport layout that was produced from 1984 through 1994. The steering wheel was mounted at a more comfortable angle, the driver seat was a few inches higher and, most importantly, the aft bench design offered some much-needed enclosed storage.

13 foot Boston Whaler before upgrading the interior

Because the interiors of many small Whalers are readily removable and largely interchangeable, aftermarket kits are available for owners who want to replace a weathered or damaged interior or even convert their hull to the interior layout of a different Whaler model.

The Drawbacks of Varnished Mahogany

The problem was that all the kits available at the time were made from the varnished mahogany that is a distinguishing feature of older Whalers. The wood is beautiful, of course, but also high-maintenance and easily damaged — not ideal for somebody like Porter, who uses his boat heavily for fishing and diving and frequently has dogs aboard.

On top of that, Porter’s new job at the time just happened to be with the world’s leading fabricator of King Starboard HDPE, affording him the unique opportunity to develop a whole new interior built from Starboard, which is impervious to sun and moisture. In the end, the classic look of varnished mahogany lost out to the maintenance-free practicality of high-density polyethylene.

Boston Whaler 13 Super Sport
Boston Whaler 13 foot anchored at the sandbar

Working with Boat Outfitters

The first step in the refit was completely derigging and stripping the hull, painting the outside, and applying Tuff Coat to the decks. 

After completely de-rigging the boat, painting the hull and painting the decks with Tuff Coat nonskid, Porter started working with the Boat Outfitters engineering team on the new Super Sport-style interior, methodically recreating each part in Starboard while also making several strategic improvements along the way.

13 foot Boston Whaler stored out of the water

The Final Design

The final design raised the aft bench seat two inches and replaced the original storage box on the back of the bench with six vertical rod holders and slots for two Plano-style 3700-series tackle trays. The bulk storage lost from the back of the bench was more than made up for with a large bulk-storage area underneath the seat, extending nearly to the floor. Anti-skid Starboard was used for the anchor hatch to provide better traction. The removable forward thwart from the original Super Sport design was left unchanged.

new starboard interior kit installed on a 13 foot Boston Whaler

The final design Porter and the Boat Outfitters team arrived at closely resembles the Super Sport design but features a raised aft bench with bulk storage beneath, rod holders and tackle trays on the seat back and a nonskid anchor hatch forward. 

The whole kit can be moved forward or aft in the hull, according to the owner’s wishes before it is screwed in place. Porter, for example, slid his interior forward roughly three inches from the factory mounting location so that he could fit a larger fuel tank behind the aft bench. He also reasoned that moving the interior itself as well as the occupants forward in the boat would help offset the weight of a planned repower with a heavier engine.

convenient bench storage on a 13ft Boston Whaler with the upgraded interior kit

Porter’s bulk storage under the driver bench has been modified with speaker boxes.

Boston Whaler interior kit upgrade with convenient stern storage

Porter mounted his forward to make room for a larger fuel tank and more gear behind the bench. 

Trouble-free Service

Nearly a decade later, Porter is still happy with his decision. There’s no question that a classic mahogany interior (assuming it’s well maintained) is prettier than white Starboard, but in virtually every category aside from aesthetics, Starboard is the clear winner. It requires no maintenance beyond cleaning, is far more  resistant to scratches and impacts, and provides better traction.

13 foot Boston Whaler Interior Kit loaded and on the water

The only downside, Porter says, is that Starboard is less rigid than wood and somewhat heavier. Powder-coated aluminum stiffeners on the underside of the forward thwart, though, counteract the added flex, and the weight difference is small relative to the weight of people, fuel and gear.

After almost 10 years of heavy use and no maintenance beyond cleaning, the Starboard interior in Porter’s boat looks about the same as it did when it was first installed.

Availability & Compatability 

The up-front cost for the Starboard interior is also significantly higher than for a wood kit, but that difference is offset over time by reduced maintenance costs. Keeping that wood beautiful takes more than time and elbow grease, after all; it also takes products like spar varnish, which costs upwards of $60/quart. The Starboard kit is compatible with all 13’ Whalers from ’79 through ’94 and is available in three different colors of Starboard. The console face is delivered blank, with no cutouts for the helm, gauges or other controls.

The Starboard kit is compatible with all 13’ Whalers from ’79 through ’94.

Although not shown on the Boat Outfitters website, individual pieces from the kit — including the aft bench assembly, forward thwart, anchor hatch and console — can be purchased “a la carte.” Just call the company to order.

Likewise, Boat Outfitters can customize the kit to your specifications. Non-anglers, for example, can delete the rod and tackle storage, while extras like glove boxes and speaker cutouts can be added.

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