With 450 hp, the lightweight Cobia carried the most juice. No surprise, then, that it was the fastest boat in this competition at 54.5 mph-a speed that takes you from sea level to low-level flight quite often. Although the landings weren't as harsh as we expected, there was a lot of vertical motion. Yet the Cobia was so responsive and quick to execute commands that it gets points for a giggle factor. We couldn't keep from firewalling the throttles and launching off a wave. Just try to stop yourself from grinning-we couldn't. As with the Century, 30 mph seemed to be about the right cruising speed. But we caught a bit of spray, particularly when putting the beam to the seas.
The Grady-White, with its single 250, reached a respectable 39 mph with a level of comfort matched only by the Boston Whaler. The helm remained bone-dry throughout testing. We noted the tighter-than-usual fit of the Grady-White's canvas, which is secured on tracks and wraps the windshield frame inside and out. Hit it with a hose and it'll keep the water at bay.
Although the Pro-Line weighs less than the similarly powered Whaler, it reached only 40 mph. Its light weight doesn't hinder its ride, which fell somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of comfort. At full throttle, there was less noise and motion than on the Cobia and Century but more than on the Grady or Whaler. Note to anglers who go green while trolling: With its 19 degrees of deadrise and large, hard chines, the Pro-Line is exceptionally stable in a beam sea.
Nuts 'N Bolts
All of our contestants have construction features that used to be found only on select boats: 316L-grade stainless-steel fittings; brass, chrome-over-bronze, or stainless-steel through-hulls; hydraulic steering; strong backing plates for deck hardware; heavy-duty vinyl cushions; bolted and backed stanchions and cleats; nonbinding, recessed hinges; and waterproof electrical connections. But the similarities end there.
The Boston Whaler's construction is unique. It's built with inner and outer hulls that are latched together before they're cured. Foam is then pumped into the void between the hulls, forming a single, rigid structure. By virtue of this foam-rich construction, this boat has the most insulation around its fishboxes and is best at deadening sound. The fishbox hatches, however, slam noisily when dropped shut, and one creaked as we walked on it. A quiet hatch is a well-fitted hatch, one of many details that indicate careful building. The pump-share arrangement between the (optional) livewell and (optional) washdown didn't provide enough water pressure.