There are wahoo 40 miles out, but the weatherman has us spooked. He's calling for 15-to-20-mph winds and 4'-to-6' seas, so we decide to play it safe and head for the kingfish grounds a few miles off the beach. Two miles from the inlet, we run into those 4-to-6-footers he was predicting-and damn, I'm disappointed I was such a chicken. Transitioning from crest to trough to crest to trough, I'm staying dry and comfy aboard Grady-White's Express 305.
WEIGHTY DECISIONS. Being able to slug through nasty seas while running 20-plus mph was a piece of cake. But no surprise there - Grady-White's Ray Hunt - designed variable degree deadrise hulls, which start off sharp and taper back to the transom, are known for their seakeeping abilities. And like other Grady-Whites I've tested, I experienced no rattling or vibrations aboard this boat. But there's another piece to this puzzle. The Express 305 is built in traditional Grady-White fashion, with stringers built from marine-grade (read: no-rot, with a lifetime guarantee) plywood encapsulated in fiberglass. This gives the boat some serious heft, and consequently it weighs in at 8,850 pounds. Compare that to Stamas' 290 Express (about $170,000 with twin F-250s), which is a foot longer, 3" narrower, and weighs 2,350 pounds less. And Boston Whaler's 305 Conquest (just under 200K with comparable powerplants) weighs 350 pounds less, even though it's 7" longer with the same beam.
Other contributors to the heft include 316-grade stainless-steel hardware, oversize rails and stanchions, a beefy fiberglass hardtop sporting half a dozen rocket launchers, spreader lights, and life jacket stowage, and…drum roll, please…Grady-White's commitment to your comfort.
Huh? What does comfort have to do with weight? Grabrails provide a perfect example. Most boats in this class will have one placed at the passenger's seat and maybe one more at the cabin entry. But the Express 305 has five grabrails placed strategically throughout the cockpit. Wherever you may be, there's always stainless steel within reach. There are even grabrails in the cabin, three of 'em; competitors almost never place dedicated grabrails belowdecks. For another example, check out that forward freshwater sprayer. You know what a pain it is to stretch the transom shower hose across the deck, to spritz off something in the forward cockpit? On the Express 305, there's a second freshwater sprayer just behind the passenger's seat. Toerails, fishbox freezer plates, remote seacocks, the list goes on and on - if it'll make your day on the water more pleasurable, Grady-White put it on the boat, and all that stuff adds heft.
YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOSE. The concept behind making a 30' express instead of a 30' walkaround is to regain the interior space lost to recessed sidedecks, and this boat makes great use of that space. The cabin feels airy and usable, especially due to the V-berth design. More accurately, it should be called a horseshoe berth. This area of the boat was redesigned to make it more usable as living space, as opposed to sleeping space. If you want maximum berth size, stick with the V. But by rounding the peak, expanding the seating area aft, and mounting a round table in the middle, this slice of the boat is much more comfortable for those people who are upright and conscious. Four can easily sit around the dinette, and when it's collapsed and capped with the filler cushions, there's plenty of room for a couple to snooze at anchor.
Got kids? Throw them in the midcabin. There's not much headroom under the helm, but Grady-White thoughtfully mounted a set of rodracks in the overhead, so you can safely stow four Internationals. Good thinking; in my experience, midcabins are usually used for stowing more than sleeping, and with those racks in place and eight more rigs lying on the cushions, your entire arsenal will fit down here.
SWITCH HITTER. How many times have you heard "Yo, cap, turn on the raw water, will ya?" Why do boatbuilders put that switch at the helm, considering that when the captain's at the helm, he won't be using the washdown? Because no one thought of a better place to put it - until now. Following the make-life-easier theme, the Express 305 has a switch panel behind the passenger's seat that controls the raw- and freshwater washdowns, the livewell, and the spreader lights. All can now be operated by your crew in the cockpit where they belong.
One more thing you must check out back there: If you opt for the 4kW diesel genset, you'll notice the fill is on the back of the transom. The fuel fills for your gasoline powerplants, meanwhile, are up forward. Smart - with the fills far apart, there's much less chance you'll accidentally put gas in the diesel fill or vice versa. It's one more way that Grady-White works to make life easier, whether you're charging through six-footers or hanging out at the dock. A