Polished performer

David Toyer | VOLUME 23, ISSUE 1

A solid, well-designed hull and plenty of power add up to an impressive fishing package in Grady-White’s Express 305.

Grady-White was founded in Greenville, North Carolina in 1959 by Glenn Grady and Don White. Initially, the company built traditional, hand-crafted timber pleasure craft that were designed tough to withstand coastal seas and the tough US east coast weather. But by 1968, Grady-White was struggling to come to grips with moulded GRP technology.

The company needed new designs and a different approach to production that were compatible with moulded construction processes and a changing boat market.

Despite no previous boat-building experience, but heaps of sales and management skills, Eddie Smith Jnr purchased the company and, by inspiring his workers to provide customers with the best quality, reliability, safety and performance in offshore sports fishing boats, and driving a policy of developing a close relationship with customers and dealers, Smith developed Grady-White into one of the most respected boat-building companies in the US.

OUTBOARDS ONLY

Today, Grady-White is somewhat unique in that all models – the range goes up to 11 metres in length – are built and pre-rigged for outboard propulsion. Making a commitment to exclusive outboard power does not appear to have alienated customers and is helped, no doubt, by the massive strides in outboard engine development in recent years. With increased horsepower and torque from light, compact and quiet V6 and V8 engines, and a far superior reliability in harsh saltwater environments, the outboard, in both two-and four-stroke variants, has ensured its future as a very real alternative for powering larger boats.

With no onboard or subfloor restrictions imposed by conventional shaft-or stern-drive engines, boats of around 8 to 11 metres using outboard propulsion make gains in usable cockpit area. In addition, lower cockpit floor levels are possible without losing self-draining capability, while larger fuel tanks increase cruising range. Grady-White’s 9.3-metre Express 305 incorporates all of these advantages.

The Express 305 is rated for a maximum of 700hp, precisely accommodating two of the new 5.2-litre, 350hp, V8 four-stroke Yamaha outboards. And with a “Continuously Variable Vee” hull designed by C Raymond Hunt & Associates, it also has all the ingredients of a high performing blue water hull.

VARIABLE VARIATION

The C Raymond Hunt Continuously Variable Vee hull differs from the variable deadrise used exclusively on the Australian-designed and built Haines Signature range. John Haines varies the angle of the deadrise at any given point, laterally from the keel out to the gunwale. Grady-White, on the other hand, varies the deadrise along the length of the boat such that at no two points along the keel is the angle of the deadrise the same. This means that a 20-degree deadrise at the transom gradually increases as you move forward so that, at around midships, the angle could be about 30 degrees.

Grady-White hulls are all built using hand-laid solid glass laminates, with a sub-floor framing grid of laser-cut waterproof ply stringers and cross frames. The framing is then glassed in and, except for the areas of the underfloor fuel tanks, foam filled. The foam filling provides positive flotation capable of supporting a fully-swamped boat, including the engines and specified passenger capacity. The foam also reduces hull noise and pounding, resulting in a softer, smoother ride.

The hull sides are stiffened with balsa core laminates.

Resin Transfer Moulding (RTM) is used for hatches, lids, hardtops and the like to reduce thickness and weight without sacrificing strength. It also provides a smooth, uniform finish to both sides of the item.

All the effort put into the design and construction of the hull certainly shows up out on the water. The twin 350hp Yamahas fitted to the test boat plane the hull very quickly and smoothly and can hold a good, near-level, planing trim almost as low as 2500rpm (a shade under 13 knots). Most fuel efficient cruising is within the 3500 to 4000rpm range, where the 25-to 30-knot speed results in an outstanding cruise range in excess of 350 nautical miles.

With the light, smooth and positive action of the binnacle-mounted electronic throttles and gear shifts, the Express 305 is a beautiful boat to drive. The hydraulic steering is very positive, without being over-direct. It is also firm, without being heavy, and the response of the boat to the wheel is excellent.

The 1100 litres of fuel seems to be well distributed via the two sub-floor tanks and the hull demonstrates a good balance, with a naturally level trim that sits the chines well down into the water at rest. Under power, the hull has a reasonably level trim attitude that doesn’t restrict visibility at any speed and though hydraulic electric trim tabs are fitted as standard, these weren’t used at all during our test run. Mind you, we didn’t have seas of any size to deal with.

The 730-kilo twin rig hanging off the back (which, incidentally, is lighter and more powerful than equivalent sterndrive packages) wasn’t an issue, as the boat didn’t bog down or drag its tail when moving off the mark. Likewise, when being reversed up hard and fast into the chop, it didn’t pull down, even with a lot of water coming over the outboard platform.

HELPFUL HELM

In every department, this is a very pleasant boat to drive. The helm station is efficiently set out, with the controls, helm seat and hinged footrest all well-placed. The height-adjustable footrest for the helm seat is excellent and it can be easily folded flat and kept out of the way if you like to stand while driving. The gauges, electronics, switches and controls are conveniently set out on a multi-tiered console that includes a hinged module that rotates to lock away the main electronics when not in use. This avoids the need to use a custom clip-on cover to conceal the expensive electronic gear from prowling eyes.

The moulded hardtop and support frame with integrated rod holders is superb. Not only is the structure rigid, with no hint of vibration or rattling during the test, the injection-moulded hardtop incorporates a number of built-in features, including the pod for the radio, the sound system speakers, the opening hatch, spreader lights and a storage net slung from its underside. All of it is conveniently integrated into the structure. The storage net allows life jackets and wet weather gear to be placed in a position where they are both visible and convenient.

The diamond pattern, non-skid finish on the self-draining cockpit floor gives good grip under foot and is not too difficult to clean, particularly with the pressurised raw water wash-down hose. The rod holders recessed under the side decks are out of the way and are illuminated at night by cleverly placed LED lights in the cockpit floor. The padded coamings and transom provide good, soft thigh support and there is adequate toe space under the side racks for when the fight is on.

Built into the transom is a 300-litre insulated fish box. A 120-litre insulated raw water live bait well and 70-litre insulated cooler box are built into the rear of the forward seat mouldings, separating the raised helm area from the rear deck. Drainage from these tanks/boxes is directly overboard and not via the bilge or through a discharge or macerating pump.

While there is no question that the Express 305 is a serious blue water sports fishing boat, Grady-White does not neglect the family side of the equation. The deep cockpit naturally provides good onboard security for the kids and there is seating for up to eight people, consisting of the flush-folding upholstered rear lounge, upholstered surround seating to the starboard side of the helm chair and the passenger seat to port.

The cabin, compacted in its volume due to the width lost to the external side deck walkrounds, is not as large as you might find on, say, a 9-metre sports cruiser, but the finish is right up to standard.

It is a typical open layout with a dinette/lounge in the bow that converts to a double berth with a transverse double berth tucked back under the helm station. Because of the relatively low height of the helm deck, this aft berth is quite a tight fit.

The enclosed bathroom to starboard includes a stainless steel wash basin, shower head and VacuFlush toilet, all draining into the holding tank.

KITTED KITCHEN

The galley, despite the compacted space available at the base of the stairs from the cockpit, manages to squeeze in quite a deal. Resident chefs should be able to conjure up quite a feast using the stainless steel sink, electric cook top built into the Corian bench top, microwave oven and refrigerator, as well as a reasonable amount of storage shelves, lockers and drawers.

The Americans, be they designing boats or cars, seem to have a fixation for drink holders and throughout the Grady-White you will find no less than 14. With the built-in fridge and insulated boxes, a cooling drink should never be out of reach!

There is very little listed on the options sheet, as this is a very well-equipped boat from the factory. But of the few major options offered, there are some interesting items. A 7000BTU air-conditioning system for the cabin is a luxury I could not envisage too many fishos – at least those in our more southern latitudes – adding to their purchase list and a bow thruster is something that would make berthing a little easier. But then again, the dual, counter-rotating outboards and lightness of the electronic controls did give the 305 a high degree of manoeuvrability. A 4kW diesel generator is also available to support the AC system and this includes a separate 45-litre tank for fuel.

Reading through the list of standard inclusions, I find it difficult to identify anything that is missing. Though it doesn’t look all that much boat for the money at first glance, it’s when you get down inside and poke around that you discover just how much you are buying for $320,000.

It’s worth noting that, for the past six years, J D Power and Associates has ranked Grady-White “highest in customer satisfaction with coastal fishing boats”. Though initially only a US award, this rating has grown in prestige, both in the eyes of the industry and the public, around the world. Today, Eddie Smith’s manufacturing and sales principles, as applied to Grady-White, have certainly reaped their rewards.

SPECIFICATIONS: GRADY-WHITE EXPRESS 305

Length (overall): 9.93m

Length (centreline hull): 9.3m

Beam: 3.22m

Draft: 0.58m

Dry weight (excl engines): 3950kg

Total weight (engine plus fuel): 5300kg

Fuel: 1100lt

Water: 120lt

Holding tank: 38lt

Maximum power: 700hp

(outboards only)

Test power: 2 x 350hp V8 4-stroke Yamahas

Price: $320,000

Manufacturer: Grady-White, North Carolina USA

Test boat: G4 Marine, Melbourne (03) 9521 6850

PERFORMANCE

RPM Knots litre/hr (total)

1500 8.2

2000 9.5

2500 12.4 (planing)

3000 18.9

3500 24.7 79.7

4000 30.6 97.2

4500 34 127

5000 37.3 178

5800 43.6 256


Tags
Boat
Share
Subscribe
Previous
Next