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November 12, 2008

Grady-White Chesapeake 290

The Grady-White Chesapeake 290 is ready for overnight jaunts to the canyons or islands.

If a company plans to stay in business for any length of time, it has to produce a quality product. But being successful year after year also requires a commitment to customer satisfaction, new-product development and brand loyalty. Grady-White Boats has followed this formula quite well for the past 50 years. So to celebrate, it did more of the same by launching the Chesapeake 290.

Inspired by customer feedback, this new walkaround is bigger, roomier and has more amenities than the 28-footer it replaced, all without sacrificing fishability. To prove that point, I gladly accepted an invitation to join Team Grady during the Barta Boys & Girls Club Offshore Tournament last summer in Beaufort, North Carolina. Based on that test - and the favorable public reaction at the docks afterward - I'd say that the company is off to a great start for the next 50 years.

After clearing the inlet just as the sun peeked over the horizon, we settled into a comfortable cruise despite the sizable swells offshore. The sharp bow entry and 9'11" beam gave our backs and knees a welcome respite. This heavy boat is no speed demon, but it's no slouch either. It'll push the speedometer to nearly 48 miles per hour at 6,000 rpm. With a normal cruising speed of 29.5 miles per hour and a fuel burn of 17.7 gallons per hour though, it wasn't long before we reached our starting point near the Big Rock just before Tournament Control called for "Lines In."

Two things were instantly apparent as I took the starboard helm while the crew readied the spread: The extra-high wraparound windshield offered excellent visibility to spot weed lines or fish activity from either a standing or seated position, and the digital controls of the twin Yamaha F250 outboards were so smooth that shifting gears was effortless. Add hydraulic tilt steering, the ergonomic console with easy-to-read instrumentation, flush-mount electronics and the thick-padded helm/bolster seat all neatly protected from the elements by the beefy fiberglass hardtop, and you're really set for extended trolling duty.