In today’s marketplace, with the investment offshore anglers make in their vessels, it’s not enough to simply lay all the accouterments of a fisher’s battlewagon on the keel as in the days of Islands in the Stream. Today, the fishing boat must tickle many palates, and no matter the angler’s gender or fire for fishing, an express-style boat must be fitted with more than state-of-the-art fish boxes, livewells, strategically mounted rod holders and a bait prep station. Such a boat must nearly drip luxury and comfort, because who, after all, wants to go out for hours or days on the high seas, back braced against a hard bench or unpadded coaming, eating soggy subs and using a bucket for … well, let’s just say the less genteel necessities? Nobody.
So Grady-White looked at the line drawings for this express and found beautiful ways to make it more fishable, while offering greater comfort than on the no more manly but far less featured vessels of the storied times of Ernest Hemingway or Zane Grey.
The Express 330 is among the most opulent, yet fishable, express boats we’ve tested. The new 330 lacks nothing for adventurous anglers, boasting an optional refrigerated fish box at the transom among other improvements. An optional Fischer Panda 4,200 kW genset below deck keeps refrigeration both for fish and refreshments fired up. It also can power an air-conditioner with vents in the cockpit (optional at $5,115) and the standard AC in the living quarters below for taking the steam out of a Gulf Stream day.
The cockpit provides a broad playing field for bringing big fish aboard. The sole is beautifully diamond-plated with fiberglass nonskid. Under-gunwale rod holders boast downrigger cannonball holders. Integrated toe rails styled into the rod and downrigger racks speak to superior planning for function and beauty. For long-range fishing, a transom seat extends into the cockpit and stows instantly and easily with a flick of the arm.
And stable at rest? Oh, my. Grady’s building experience spans 50 years — and that in creating vessels for the most robust fishing conditions, nasty inlets, long offshore runs and changeable sea conditions. The Express 330 boasts the expected high bows of a Carolina-built boat, sure. But in mixed seas it has to be credited for giving solid footing that exceeds the expectations raised by its wide beam.
Grady-White’s livewells are unsurpassable in proper aeration, thanks to a plenum that supplies water flow evenly from bottom to top, as in the one located in the starboard mezzanine. Its portside mezzanine rigging station provides a freshwater sink and three drawers for easy access to gear. For added durability, stainless-steel gas struts hold the lids open while in use.
Luxury continues in the command deck. Grady positioned the helm at the center, surrounding the skipper with luxury seating for his guests. The effect keeps the social nature of boating at the heart of any cruise and the skipper at the center of that. In a blend of luxurious bling and secure practicality, the electronics panel pops up electrically, giving ample space for dual chart plotters and VHF radio. If you run it down in port, the gear is secure, out of sight, to survive the nuisance of nefarious dock rats.
Luxury below deck is almost astonishingly elegant in simplicity. A portside galley sink is set in a cast granitelike surface surrounded with a fiddle rail to keep kitchenware from sliding off. Lighting is ample but soft, and the mother-of-pearl backsplash is a 24-carat touch. The V-berth is easily accessed via a wraparound couch. Below it, to port, is another simple touch — a compartment ideally sized for three stowage containers. To starboard, the dinette settee converts quickly to a single berth. An aft cabin is so easy to access, the skipper might claim that and not the traditional forward berth as his own. A roomy fiberglass head compartment with shower, sink and china toilet adds the final touch to the luxury and comfort that enhance the extreme fishability of this opulent cruiser.
Boston Whaler makes a rugged, fishable express that vies for the same boaters Grady seeks. While Grady powers with Yamaha, Whaler’s 345 Conquest ($441,000 with triple 250s) boasts Mercury Verado outboards. You’ll find Whaler factory-rigs Raymarine navigation systems, and, while comfortable cruising features are firmly in place, you won’t find mother-of-pearl on the galley backsplash. (I liked it, but you’ll have to decide if that does it for you.)
Ease of operation is the mantra of Grady-White, and so it makes special effort to give unobstructed access to livewell pumps through hull hatches and fuel filters. The only surprises we found in bilge access were seacocks located inconveniently below the aft berth rather than under the cockpit deck hatch. To be fair, that awkwardness could’ve been due to the addition of the genset. If you opt for that, and you’d need it to power the air-conditioner and refrigerated fish boxes while at sea, you’ll find checking oil and other routine maintenance can be easily done, without hiring a washout from the Cirque du Soleil. Would Hemingway approve? Well, I’m sure he’d say, “Having ice for the whiskey is a damned good start.”
Comparable model: Boston Whaler 345 Conquest