What do you do when you’re at the top of your game and want to take it to the next level? Professional athletes spend more hours exercising and training, while accomplished musicians will practice for days on end. But if you’re a top-of-the-line boat manufacturer like Grady-White, you go back to your customers and see what you’ve done right and what you can improve. Then it’s back to the drawing boards, literally.
Case in point is the Marlin 300, the highly successful model that’s been in the Grady-White lineup since 1989. While I’d read about her redesign, I was skeptical until Joey Weller, Grady’s marketing manager, invited me out for a day of fishing aboard a new Marlin 300 and visiting the company’s new 46,000-square-foot plant in Greenville, North Carolina. Also along on the excursion was Jim Hardin, Grady’s compliance manager, and PMY’s Mid-Atlantic sales rep, Dave McGee.
When we arrived Weller suggested that a plant tour would be a good way to begin, and as we strolled through the cavernous facility, he explained that this new $6-million building would not only provide 450 employees with more space but with added plant features such as 35-foot ceilings, an evaporative-cooling system to better control the lamination process, a pair of overhead cranes, seven specially designed grinding booths, and a powerful air-filtration system. The bottom line, he told me, was higher quality and better consistency. I also noted that the plant’s size would allow Grady to build significantly larger boats than its flagship Express 330.
Then he launched into why and how the company decided to redesign the 300. “Why change something that’s already a proven and well-received design?” I asked Weller. His answer was simple: After polling current and past Marlin 300 owners and gathering data from forums held at boat shows and dealer meetings, as well looking at the success of the new 330, the conclusion was obvious. “It’s what our customers wanted,” Weller said.
But getting to that better boat meant leaving some things alone. The 300 still rides on the SeaV2 hull that Grady and C. Raymond Hunt Associates collaborated on and introduced back in 1989 as a solution to softening the ride of smaller fiberglass boats in rough water. (It was the 300 that first launched the SeaV2 hull, again at the behest of customer input.) The hull accomplishes this by providing a running surface where no two places have the same deadrise: It’s 20 degrees at the transom and 30 degrees amidships. Grady left the original sharp entry and was satisfied with the way the strakes and chines knocked down spray. In addition, SeaV2 has a series of sea-cutting wedges that “also provide buoyancy as the boat moves through or up and over waves,” says Weller. I’d fished a Marlin 300 several years back during a Grady outing at Hawks Cay in the Florida Keys. On that trip I noted excellent seakeeping in both calm seas (straight and true tracking) and rough seas (little or no pounding once the proper rpm and speed were attained). During my time on the new design, I noted minimal yawing or wallowing in the heaving seas we had for most of the day.
Grady-White also continues to hand-lay the hull and deck and fabricate the stringer system from marine plywood that is guaranteed not to rot for the life of the boat. The plywood is encapsulated in heavy woven fabric and closed-cell foam and glassed to the hull. There is also end-grain balsa coring above the waterline and, as with all Grady boats, basic foam flotation.
The changes start at the integral pulpit, where the anchor is now dropped and retrieved through the center of the pulpit instead of off a roller at its tip. This is a typical big-boat feature and was so well received on the Express 330 that Grady incorporated it on the 300. I also noted 316 stainless steel latches and hardware that Weller informed me was an upgrade from the previous 306-grade stainless steel and plastic hardware.
The helm area has significantly more space for electronics, as Grady offers a newly designed, optional flush-mount kit. While the helm is slightly larger, this kit makes all the difference. It not only enhances the units’ visibility but also provides a cleaner look. There’s more space for gauges right above the 300’s wheel, an improvement over the previous design that clustered them there. To create the extra room, the design team simply moved several switches into the cabin.
And that’s where I found most of the changes, starting with a companionway door that used to be a bifold design but has evolved into one whose bottom edge folds up and then, along with the rest of the door, slides up and disappears underneath a ledge. A counterweighted safety latch slips into place, so there’s no way it can come loose. Inside I also found a teak-and-holly-sole replacing the long-standing white fiberglass and carpet insert, a table of teak instead of Formica, and teak accents on all stowage cabinets and bulkheads instead of just plain cabinets.
In order to provide more counter-space in the port-side galley for the Corian cutting surface, as well as more stowage, Grady pushed the interior bulkhead area up to the hull sides. Another change taken directly from the 330 is the fabrics and colors. The starboard head is unchanged, with ample headroom and space.
Weller also pointed out the transom. Where the old boat had a built-in seat, there is now a fold-down one that when secured allows easy access to the bilge through a hatch. The transom fishbox, borrowed from big sister 330’s design, is also a welcome addition, especially as our trip produced a rather hefty wahoo.
Hardin hooked it and, being the gracious Southern gentleman that he is, promptly handed the rod over to McGee, who managed to get it close enough for us to gaff. I wasn’t as lucky as them. While I was able to quickly hook another wahoo and get it to the transom, it broke free. And with the transom seat folded down and out of the way, well, it was a lot easier to deal with this skittish fish that it would have been with the old fixed seat design.
Back at the dock, as Hardin dressed out our fish, the rest of us pitched in to clean the boat, during which I noticed considerable exhaust residue from the optional 5-kW Fischer Panda diesel genset. Besides the necessity of carrying a separate tank of fuel for the genset, keeping the port side near the stern clean was the only drawback I saw to this setup.
Seeing the new plant, fishing the redesigned Marlin 300 offshore, and being able to compare it to the old 300 I’d fished allowed me to see how one company turned a good boat into a better one. According to Weller, the 300 is already a hit, as is the Express 330. With these two boats under its belt, Grady-White’s next variation on a theme just might be a larger one.
VacuFlush MSD; 6/rod stowage racks; teak-and-holly cabin sole; teak forepeak table; 6-gal. water heater; freshwater cockpit shower; fighting-chair reinforcement in cockpit; hardtop w/radio box and stowage net; spreader lights; 4/side-mounted rod holders; 290-quart insulated fishbox; hardtop drop curtain w/front and side enclosures; 32-gal. insulated livewell w/1,100-gph pump; rigging station w/freshwater sink; fold-away aft seat; raw-water washdown
2/19' Lee Jr. outriggers; 5-kW Fischer Panda diesel genset; 13" Sharp Aquos flat-panel TV w/DVD; Simpson Lawrence Horizon 500 windlass; flush-mount electronics kit; 7,000-Btu Marine Air A/C; companion benchseat; Sidepower SP55S 4-hp
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/225-hp Yamaha Saltwater Series four-stroke outboard engines
- Props: 151?2 x 17 Yamaha s/s Saltwater Series
- Price as Tested: $205,670
This article originally appeared in the March 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.