This boat not only represents a unique new design for Grady, but it's also radically different from any 26-footer anyone has ever built. From the unique hard-top design to the wide beam and genuine express features, this Grady sets a new standard for 26-foot fishing boats.
Our trip took us almost 30 miles southeast of Islamorada to the Marathon "Humps," where blackfin tuna had been snapping for a week. The object was not only to evaluate the boat but to go high-speed kite fishing as well. As the day wore on, the morning's calm seas picked up in the afternoon winds, allowing us to evaluate the 265 in everything from flat-calm to 2- to 4-foot seas. The 265 proved to be an exceptionally dry boat with spray fairly blasting out to the sides. Twin Yamaha 250-hp Ox66 Saltwater Series outboards boosted the 265 to 48 mph at 5,300 rpm running out over the reef in the morning. Top speed consumed 47.5 gph. A pretty comfortable cruising speed of 41 mph at 4,600 rpm using 36 gph still got us to the fishing grounds quickly. Dropping back to a stately 30 mph at 3,800 rpm won't get you where you're going quite as fast, but the fuel consumption drops to a more affordable 24 gph.
However, the most significant difference between this boat and any other Grady is its new running-surface design. Grady still uses the SeaV2 concept of a constantly variable deadrise, but the vee is considerably deeper throughout. I had the opportunity to run two Gradys - one with the new hull design and one with older technology. Driving one immediately after the other points out the difference in ride in a head sea quite dramatically. The newer design provided a noticeably smoother ride in the 2- to 4-foot seas. Additionally, some boats have an idiosyncrasy that makes them run more smoothly in rough seas when you go faster rather than slower. The 265 is one of these. Because it has wide shoulders above the entry to maximize interior space, slow speeds tend to make the boat hit a head sea harder. However, speed up and get the bow up out of the water more and the entry carves into the head seas much more comfortably.
Most 26-footers have no problem with multiple anglers. The Grady 265, with its full-length cockpit, is exceptional. With five lively tuna on at once, we fished without stepping on anyone's toes. This large cockpit can be attributed to the fact that there's no transom baitwell or elongated bracket overhang. Grady has gone back to a simple transom-mounted engine and well with a splash board (that automatically pops open if you inadvertently tilt the engines up too far). Grady has put the baitwell in a cockpit module at the aft end of the helm deck with a mirror-image module to starboard containing a rigging station. And lest you think Grady shortchanged the 265 on rod storage with space just for six on the cabin overhead, another three fit under each gunwale, and six more across the back of the T-top augment the two (standard) in each gunwale. That's a total of 22 rods. The fish boxes deserve mention as well. We could have stored another 20 tuna besides the five we kept with no problem in the various insulated boxes both fore and aft.
For a short while, Grady-White's pendulum swung toward family-oriented boats, with concessions like aft seating and a fancier cabin. With this year's model line, Grady moves back to hard-core fishing focus in its boats, though Mama and the kids certainly have not been forgotten. For them you'll find a large double berth below with a stand-up head and shower. But Grady brought back overhead rod storage for six rods.
Despite being a 26-footer, the 265 sports a centerline helm just like on the bigger express boats - including a very large space for flush-mounting electronics on the dashboard.
Grady has outdone itself and everyone else on this boat in use of dead space. Everywhere you turn that you'd expect a blank bulkhead, you find added storage. The 265 also offers terrific ergonomics at the helm. While seated, you can see perfectly over the bow. On the other hand, you're still able to look through the windshield rather than through the support bar at its top when standing.
The 265 offers a good safety feature for those who like to bottom fish offshore. You can handle the anchor cleat on the bow by standing on the forward berth and reaching out through the cabin's overhead hatch. It makes for a much more secure feeling in a sea than walking along the outboard rail to the bow.
Though it sounds trite, my impression of the 265 was that of a larger boat than 26 feet. Besides an almost 10-foot beam, the unusual hardtop design incorporates a hump which provides more headroom, plus space for a zippered life jacket compartment.