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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Grady White 360 Express

In the spring of 2001, I spent two days fishing and testing the Grady-White 330 Express on a tempestuous ocean off Ocracoke, North Carolina. Grady's then-flagship boat ran impressively in the slop, and I was even more impressed that we were able to comfortably fish in the six- to eight-foot-plus seas. Shortly after I returned, a PMY reader wrote and asked me what I thought about the 330. I wrote him back my thoughts, and he eventually bought one. Moreover, he came from my neck of the woods in Long Island, New York, and invited me out fishing. (You don't have to ask me twice.) I've crewed on Blinky II ever since.

So having spent four years and 500-plus hours onboard the 330, I felt I had the background to see what her big sister, the 360 Express, had to offer when I ran her out Morehead City, North Carolina, last May.

A quick two-foot ocean chop greeted her five-man fishing crew and me as we exited the inlet on our way to capitalize on a reported hot tuna bite some 40-plus miles offshore. Grady-White's Joey Weller firewalled the two single-lever Teleflex electronic controls, bringing the standard triple 250-hp Yamaha four-strokes to 4500 rpm, then tabbed down the 360's nose, allowing the fine entry to dispatch the chop with authority. (During testing on flat water later in the day, my test boat made an average cruise speed of about 32.5 mph while burning 31.5 gph, which equates to 1.03 mpg based on her 370-gallon fuel capacity. Anytime you can get a one-to-one ratio (one gallon burned for one mile traveled) or better on the water, it's a great thing. At WOT, the 360 hit an average of 45.5 mph while burning 61.5 gph and earning 0.74 mpg.)

Such performance can be attributed, in part, to four-stroke power, but also to the 360's C. Raymond Hunt-designed SeaV2 hull, which has a continually varying deadrise from bow to stern, a sharp entry, and modified aft sections that provide lift and allow this boat to get up and go.

The 360's hull is also built tough, comprised of solid hand-laid fiberglass below the waterline and Baltek balsa core in the hull sides, which adds rigidity but not excessive weight.

While our solid boat boogied offshore, I got caught up in those single-lever Teleflex controls and how two of them managed three engines, particularly pondering their effectiveness at slow speeds and in close quarters. It turns out the controls' computer detects when the levers are opposed a certain number of degrees from each other at slow speeds and automatically cuts out the center engine, which makes for easier maneuvering in close quarters. With plenty of horsepower, she handles just like an inboard and spins easily by opposing the controls. Her Teleflex SeaStar hydraulic power-assist steering is equally smooth, letting her turn on the proverbial dime at cruise speed. The optional Lewmar bow thruster should only be needed on really windy days, in big currents, or both.

By the time we reached the fishing grounds, the wind had diminished to nil, and the ocean was checkerboard-flat. It was now time to fish.

We deployed the optional 24-foot Lee outriggers, using the four standard in-gunwale rod holders to set up two flat lines and two short-'rigger lines with skirted ballyhoo baits and set the long 'rigger baits into the lowest rocket launchers on the side of the 360's hardtop piping. (There are three per side, and both the hardtop and rocket launchers are standard.) The 'riggers and flat lines made for an attractive six-line spread, enhanced by our ability to cut the outboard motors and troll on just the center engine. The advantage? Consistently clean water where your baits are, making it much easier to see fish coming up (and a 5-gph fuel burn didn't hurt). Our test boat was also fitted with an optional Release bolster in the center of the 96-square-foot cockpit, which allows for running a way-way-back (WWB) bait down the center or a place for pitch baits.

The lines were out, and within five minutes the left flat line started screaming. In short order PMY assistant editor Jeff Moser had his first 40-pound-class yellowfin tuna. We then placed it into the standard digitally climate-controlled, 269-quart, in-transom fishbox, a Grady-White first and a big improvement over the 360's little sister, which requires a lot of ice in her insulated transom fishbox to keep fish cool. I remember nights on the 330 when we had tuna bags and extra coolers onboard to hold fish. The new design doesn't require you to carry superfluous coolers or bags and therefore saves valuable cockpit space. All we had to do was put in some salt water from the standard washdown and set the temperature on the control panel just inside the companionway steps in the saloon. We were able to keep our catch, which also included a couple of nice dolphin and a wahoo, as fresh as when we caught them.

With the fishing-friendly open layout and an abundance of standard angling amenities, the 360 is a sportfisherman first and foremost, but she also features a comfortable, open saloon/cabin/galley offering 6'8" headroom, complete with a forward berth that is more than six feet long and six feet wide, an aft berth that's the length of a full and the width of a queen, and a port-side dinette table that can convert to a double berth for kids. The below-decks area is accented with a warm teak interior and teak-and-holly sole, both standard.

Add to this the fully equipped galley (see specifications), 16,000 Btus of standard air conditioning, and a generously sized shower with 6'6" headroom, and nights spent either at the canyon with your buddies or on the hook with your family should feel just like home. Except that you can—and will—take this home fishing.

So if anyone out there is looking at the 360 Express and needs a deckhand, I'm available.

Grady-White Boats
(252) 752-2111

This article originally appeared in the August 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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