Tour the yards building tournament-campaigning convertibles, and you’ll see most get launched with an enclosed bridge. So it’s fitting that a pocket battlewagon like Grady-White’s Express 330 is available with an integral hardtop enclosure ($22,400). The advantages are the same as enjoyed aboard the big boats: better visibility, climate control and an end to the hassles of canvas and Isinglass.
The Express 330 can run with the big boys too. My tester blasted through chop at 30 mph without shudder or slam. Any boat will ride wet in the right conditions, but aboard the Express 330, clearing the view is as simple as flipping on the wiper. Try that with canvas. Top speed averaged 43.9 mph with twin Yamaha F300 outboards. Grady claims twin F350s rocket the Express 330 to 50 mph. Power-assist steering is standard with either, though it costs $2,840 with the base F250s.
As on a big custom boat, you run from a centerline helm offering a commanding view of both the course and the 80 square feet of self-bailing, bolster-padded cockpit. Equipped for battle, the boat has a transom door with a hefty lever latch, and a plate in the cockpit sole facilitates installation of a fighting chair. Backing plates for outriggers are incorporated into the integral top. The illuminated livewell features full-column water distribution to ensure that baits stay lively en route to the grounds. Rod racks, rigging station and every box and well are engineered to drain overboard for safety and convenience.
Belowdecks, I discovered a V-berth, enclosed head and galley as suitable for family overnights as they are for berthing a tournament crew eager to clear the inlet at first light. With the optional helm heat and air conditioning installed ($5,115; cabin air standard), I imagined handing up fresh coffee through the companionway to my crew. Comfortably sprawled and noshing in climate-controlled comfort: It’s a great way to start your day afloat.
Comparable model: Boston Whaler 345 Conquest