Leaving the dock in Morehead City, North Carolina, at 0:dark:30, we headed to Big Rock, a deep ocean pinnacle some 50-plus miles south, in search of a reported tuna bite.
Nearshore conditions couldn’t have been more pleasant and lulled us into a false sense of security heading south. The northeast wind, at 15 with gusts over 20, had no effect close to shore. In fact, I thought it calm enough to give the settees and belowdecks berth the nap test. The verdict? Both work great. You can wedge yourself into either settee and be comfortable without holding on with your hands. Belowdecks berths offer plenty of room and secure comfort.
All Grady-White boats feel solid. You never hear creaks or groans running in a substantial sea, and landings when coming off waves don’t sound hollow. The new 330 exhibited all these favorable character traits and more. It feels and performs like the bigger, heavier boat it is. The odd part is that it feels like an inboard but performs like an outboard. Slow trolling at 5 mph used a total of 4 gph. Yamaha Ox66 Saltwater Series engines churning out 250 hp each cruised through the 2- to 4-foot seas well offshore at 28 mph, as if the 330 were a 50-footer.
It started with the SKA boats. They found that the most comfortable place aboard to sit when running fast and hard through big seas was in a beanbag chair right at the transom. But then they had to stow the bags somewhere while fishing. Grady-White wins the innovation award for the best transom-seat design ever conceived. Like most great inventions, it’s so stupidly simple, it took true genius to design. The pivotal part is a simple pair of metal slots into which pins on the aft corners of the seat slide and stop. Sturdy and unbreakable, it has no legs. A gentle tug deploys it. The seat also lifts up and out of the way for access to the generator in the lazzarette. There’s no physical way it could be easier.
As you’d expect from a 33-footer, the cockpit handles four anglers with plenty of room to spare. It holds a 45-gallon livewell to starboard. Grady’s fishermen have paid great attention to this well, imbuing it with molded-in water injectors from top to bottom (attached to an 1,150-gph pump) that provide cyclonic circulation throughout the well’s entire water column.
To port, an insulated drink box and sink boast an integrated tool rack. Grady also does an impeccable job of using dead space for storage. Though there’s space for only two rods under each gunwale, Grady mounts three rocket launchers on each hardtop leg. I’d put more across the back of the hardtop, as well.
Gaffing fish promises to be easier, thanks to the big kill box in the transom sporting cutting boards on top rather than in the deck. Another feature I wish every fishing boat used can be found portside outboard. A molded lift-out box (alongside the oil reservoir fills) fits the bill perfectly as a trash basket. I’m really tired of tying garbage bags to tower legs or using a bucket in the cockpit. Beneath the box, you’ll find the batteries.
The gunwales hit me right above the knee, providing excellent security and balance. I’d say the only things missing are molded-in downrigger-ball holders that Grady so conveniently puts in many of its other models.
Loads more innovation can be found aboard the Grady 330. For example, consider the removable seat backs on the aft ends of the L-shaped settees and the specially designed Pompanette helm seat that adjusts in normal ways as well as provides adjustable leg-support distance and back-support height. Oh, and though you may not think it critical, you’ll find drink holders placed everywhere you might want.
Not having engines under the deck frees up lots of room. Grady uses some of it to provide a midcabin with large double berth. Entry may be a touch tight for someone of my considerable bulk, but once in there, sleeping space abounds. I could stretch out with no problem and still leave room for another person.
Exiting the cabin, every step of the way finds a new and secure handhold. Security while moving about this boat is truly inspired.
Grady-White also incorporates some new construction techniques in the 330 in the form of Prisma-beam stringers. These consist of a layer of Trevira against the hull with precut foam beams laid atop and glassed to the hull. The entire stringer then gets tabbed and glassed in with Fabmat fiberglass.
Before you blanch at the price of this 33-foot, outboard-powered vessel, be aware that outriggers constitute the only available option. Everything else, except electronics, comes as standard gear: air conditioning, generator, hot water, TV, VCR, stereo and transom seat. Just turn the key and go fishing.