Grady-White's new 33-foot express model makes a big and bold statement about what we can expect from an outboard boat. It's obviously large, but it also has beautiful lines, Grady's usual level of fit-and-finish, and a surprising level of performance at many varied tasks.
The 330 was styled after the company's successful 265 Express, introduced a couple of years ago. Both boats feature classic express boat styling, very spacious cockpits and roomy cabins down below that can actually accommodate families on real overnight missions. The 330, however, takes this concept to a scale that's unusual in the world of outboard boats.
The cockpit, for example, boasts 80 square feet of usable fishing room, and it comes with standard features like a transom door, coaming pads and lots of storage. The transom bulkhead contains a cavernous 270-quart fishbox that drains overboard and has a handy cutting board on top of its lid. A drop-in storage box to port holds loose stuff and lifts out for access to the oil tanks, which reside below it. The transom gate is to starboard, and the bulkhead features Grady's innovative fold-up passenger seat along its forward edge.
Molded boxes at the forward end of the cockpit hold a 45-gallon live well to starboard, with a tackle-storage center beneath it. To port there's an insulated drink box with storage below, as well as a fresh water sink. These types of units are not usually found on outboard boats.
The raised bridgedeck features a centerline helm station with Grady's electronically operated electronics box that raises and lowers on electric rams. The gauges are arrayed above the box, and are visible at all times, since you can adjust the electronics to whatever height suits you. There are passenger seats to port and starboard, with a drink cooler located beneath the port seat. The 330 sports a large, wraparound windshield with side vents for fresh air, and a center windshield wiper with fresh water washers to clear away salt spray.
The cabin companionway is located to port of the helm, and leads to the galley. The galley has a stainless sink and Corian countertops, plus a microwave oven, refrigerator, an electric stove and lots of storage. The head is to starboard, and features a VacuFlush head, a sink and a shower. The cabin has teak and holly flooring, and a teak dinette table, once again items normally found on larger, inboard boats.
The 330 sleeps four with ease, two in the spacious vee-berth forward and two more in the aft double berth located beneath the bridgedeck. This innovative use of space is showing up on more and more boats these days, and the aft berth also excels as a storage space when you're traveling, or if you don't need the room for guests.
We attempted to take the 330 to the Bahamas from Palm Beach, Florida, for our test, but relentless 25-knot winds and ten-foot seas convinced us to alter our plans. Instead, we headed south to Islamorada, in the Keys, traveling along the South Florida coast in nasty, six- to eight-foot quartering seas. These were great, real-world test conditions, and the 330 rode through the slop with remarkable ease. It never pounded, kept spray to a minimum, and handled predictably and smoothly. It was a surprisingly comfortable ride, given the conditions.
The only problem we encountered was some prop slippage when climbing up the faces of particularly large waves at low planing speeds. Outboard props don't have much diameter and break loose easily when trying to push a heavy boat uphill. We were using three-blade props, and my bet is that four blades would solve the problem.
When the boat is up on top, it is faster than you would expect. In smooth water we got a 28.5 mph cruise speed at 4000 rpm. Wide-open, the 330 hit 41.6 mph with its twin 250-hp Yamaha outboards at 5600 rpm. That's excellent performance, considering the test boat sported a hardtop.
The 330 comes with an incredible standard-equipment list. Here are just a few of the standard items: a 5 kW Kohler generator, air conditioning, an anchor windlass, a battery charger and the hardtop. The only options listed in the brochure are two different sizes of outriggers and a helm-station cover. The 330 comes ready to fish.
Grady-White has successfully shown the world that outboard power will work well on a boat of this size. The simplicity and reliability that today's outboards provide reassures many people, and the Express 330 will enable them to venture farther offshore in more style and comfort than many folks ever thought possible.
Grady White Boats. Greenville, NC; (252) 752-2111; www.gradywhite.com.