What's not to say that Bryant is a custom boatbuilder? It takes 14 days of meticulous handcrafting for a new Bryant to exit an inconspicuous collection of tidy buildings nestled in the middle of Sweetwater, Tennessee.
We arrived just in time to test a Bryant 268, the newest and biggest boat in the company's lineup. Seeing the boat on a trailer, prior to towing it to the launch ramp, proved how Bryant's hand-laminating process and commitment to in-gelcoat colors give their exteriors a quality found in only a small sampling of boat brands.
It only got better on the water, where the 268 backed up its high-end appearance with the solid ride of a tough SUV. Tightly stitched, fit-formed seating made at the in-house shop impressed this tester, who's admittedly nitpicky about quality upholstery. But Bryant goes deeper than the eyes can see — much deeper — because buyers should be just as fussy as us. Not many builders bother to factory-tool fiberglass storage tubs fitted specifically for each compartment. Hatches are gas-loaded and stand firmly at attention when opened to make it as easy to stow gear as it is to put groceries in a kitchen cupboard.
We give a big nod to an aft compartment hidden beneath the sun pad, where wet items can be stored without bringing them into the cockpit. For extended trips, there's a generous head with sink that doubles as a changing room. And talk about deep seating. Our 6'4" tester sat through part of the test in the bow, supported at shoulder level.
A solid, one-piece fiberglass floor and integrated platform impressed us for its strength when we jumped up and down on it. The same type of rock-solid construction is evident through the entire deck, which is firm under foot, because it's secured to the hull with stainless-steel screws backed by aluminum plates and tightened by locking nuts, instead of pop rivets. These are details that go unseen and take Bryant a step or two above its competitors.
Behind the helm, the tall-guy tester had plenty of legroom and took note of how easy it was to adjust the beefy seat. A Kenwood Commander Remote Control is at arm's reach, controlling a six-speaker stereo with surround-sound quality.
The 268 is sharp on turns for a craft nudging the yacht class of boat. Circling back over its wakes, the boat's solid, hand-laid hull absorbed the shock and left us to look back and confirm that we'd crossed our path. Acceleration was quick and responsive with the 24-degree deadrise.
The strength of the 268 equates to confidence in knowing the boat can handle rough water on extended trips. Kudos to the all-hands-on approach of Bryant's homemade building process.
Key Note: Bryant is known for making the captain's experience hassle-free, and the rounded nonglare dash is a small example of a first-class touch.
• Full fiberglass liner with snap-out carpet makes it easy to hose down the entire boat.
• Head with sink and changing room fits the daylong agendas.
• Roomy, drained storage compartment beneath the sun pad is perfect for stashing wet gear.
• Fiberglass storage compartments are factory-tooled for a precise fit in all storage compartments.
• Retractable faucet folds into the sink, increasing galley counter space when covered.
* Length Overall(w/platform): 26'8"
* Beam: 8'6"
* Dry Weight: 5,720 lb.
* Fuel Capacity: 90 gal.
* Maximum HP: 425
* MSRP (base boat): $71,280
* MSRP(test boat): $83,196
* NMMA Certified: Yes
* Test Engine: MerCruiser 496
* Test Prop: 26" Pitch Mercury Bravo III
* Test Load: People (385 lb.); Fuel (23 gal.)
* Top Speed: 54 mph @ 5,400 rpm
* Time to Plane: 3.5 sec
* Time to 30 MPH: 6.9 sec.
* Minimum Planing Speed: 19 mph @ 2,200 rpm