Aboard the 28 Whitewater

The Nikels family has a lifelong history of boating in the Bahamas, and their new vessel makes family excursions to the islands even better

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John Nikels out on the 28 Whitewater. Photo by George LaBonte
John Nikels out on the 28 Whitewater. Photo by George LaBonte

For John and Marnie Nikels of Tequesta, boating is synonymous with the Bahamas. John’s first crossing at age 3 cast a spell, and Marnie used to live on Andros Island. The area holds a special place in the couple’s hearts. They exchanged wedding vows in Freeport, Grand Bahama and spent a month island-hopping by boat for their honeymoon. When Marnie gave birth to their eldest child, now 10, they named her Lucaya (a suburb of Freeport). And their sons—Merritt, 8, and Keelson, 6—further illustrate the importance of boating in their lives.

The boat features a custom Birdsall Marine hardtop and helm station. Photo by George LaBonte
The boat features a custom Birdsall Marine hardtop and helm station. Photo by George LaBonte

John once owned a 31-foot Contender, but he sold it and got a smaller boat. Eventually, his young family started to outgrow the vessel, and the need for something large enough to resume island crossings was on his radar. Once the kids became old enough to cross and participate in fishing and spear-diving trips, he began the search for something in the 25-foot range (not unlike his old Contender).

After looking at numerous boats in this class, a chance encounter on a charter trip in the Keys on a 28 Whitewater made John shuffle the deck. This was an ideal boat for the family, he thought, but his search for a used model proved difficult since people who build these boats seem to hang on to them forever. Ultimately, he decided to order a custom build directly from Whitewater. The idea of building from the bottom up, to his own specs, meant every feature would be exactly what was needed for the Nikels’ personal boating style.

Twin Garmin units in the cockpit. Photo by George LaBonte
Twin Garmin units in the cockpit. Photo by George LaBonte

For starters, they wanted extended fuel range and the economy to match for long runs to the Abaco chain where they do a lot of their boating. A pair of 300-hp Suzuki outboards realizing 2.4 mpg affords them the ability to run to Green Turtle Cay. Three 75-gallon tanks provide well over 400 miles of range.

A custom Birdsall Marine hardtop and helm station with a built-in 45-gallon live well was moved forward on deck to allow more space in the cockpit while shifting weight forward to accommodate the larger engines. Custom color-matched SeaDek provides a stylish interior aesthetic and a soft pad for foot and back comfort. Twin Garmin units and a quality audio system along with 12-volt outlets for electric reels are included.

Custom SeaDek flooring. Photo by George LaBonte
Custom SeaDek flooring. Photo by George LaBonte

In addition to her classy lines and roomy deck configuration, this model is perhaps the ideal size. Easy trailering, interior space for the whole family, and a seaworthy platform for safe crossings join outstanding fuel economy and water sports functionality to make this serious fishing and spear-diving vessel a perfect fit for the family.

A built-in 45-gallon live well at the helm station. Photo by George LaBonte
A built-in 45-gallon live well at the helm station. Photo by George LaBonte

Power File

Length: 28 feet, 3 inches

Beam: 8 feet, 6 inches

Draft: 18 inches

Deadrise: 24 degrees

Fuel: 225 gallons

Max HP: 600

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