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.
Stepping from the helm deck to the 44-square-foot cockpit, you pass between twin aft-facing crew seats, the lids to a 132-quart fish box located on the starboard side, and a 35-gallon livewell to port, which is fed by a 1,100 gallon per hour raw-water pump. The monster 265-quart fish box on the transom has a removable divider to separate baits from the catch, if needed. All boxes are insulated and drain overboard.
The standard hardtop comes with four side-mounted rod holders, and a topside rocket launcher can be added. This supplements a brace of rod holders in the gunwales with more racks underneath. Cockpit coaming pads and toe rails are also included on the list of standard features, along with spreader lights and LED cockpit lighting. A two-drawer tackle center is located adjacent to the port crew seat, while another tackle cabinet is underneath the helm seat. In fact, there are so many cubbyholes, nets and usable compartments for a boat of this size that most crews will have trouble filling them all.
Taking cues from their larger express models, Grady engineers tweaked the walkaround design they first introduced 34 years ago when they launched this latest model. For starters, the expanded length allowed room for an optional 4 kW diesel generator, a convenience requested by canvassed Grady owners. It comes with a 12-gallon tank that should provide ample juice for a long weekend on the hook.
The hull is also taller on the 290 than it was on Grady’s previous 28-footer. This didn’t change the walkaround space topside. It’s still easy to walk to the bow for anchoring, docking or fighting a stubborn fish. But that extra height did raise the cabin headroom (at 6’3″ tall, I had room to spare) and gives it a spacious feeling.
Starting with an 81-inch long forward V-berth, the cabin is arranged with a private head to starboard that includes a sink, standup shower, marine head with macerator and 10-gallon holding tank. The freshwater capacity is 32 gallons with a 6-gallon hot-water heater. A roomy aft berth is located below the helm deck.
The port galley features Corian countertops, a sink, microwave, refrigerator and electric stove with touch-pad controls. Classic accents include a teak dinette table, plus a teak and holly sole. A stereo/CD system and flat-screen TV/DVD player are available entertainment options.
As you’d expect from a company with this much longevity, the Chesapeake 290 is built to handle whatever Mother Nature cares to dish out. To say it’s overbuilt is an understatement. The hull and deck are all hand-laid, and quality components like through-bolted 316- grade stainless-steel deck hardware are used throughout. Other examples of quality construction – like hatches that fit snugly without rubbing and organized wiring harnesses and rigging – are more reasons why the company consistently earns high customer-satisfaction ratings.
If you’re in the market for a well-designed cabin boat that’s built by folks who love to fish themselves, check out the 290 Chesapeake. Your family will thank you for it.
Grady-White Chesapeake 290
w/ twin Yamaha F250 four-stroke outboards
Grady-White Boats ? 252.752.2111 ? www.gradywhite.com