Grady-White's 30-foot center-console, called the Bimini 306, may well be the finest boat Grady has ever built. And don't think that just because you know Gradys, you know this boat. Totally different from the usual Grady walk-around "family fisherman," this 306 Bimini is a hard-core fishing machine.
On our way out to the reef off Islamorada in the Florida Keys, we ran into the 2-foot close-set chop at about 20 degrees. The 20-knot breeze had little effect on us as the spray blew out away from the hull, and the boat rushed by before it had a chance to wet us. The Bimini qualifies as one of those boats that doesn't want you to be overly prudent. It prefers that you trim it correctly and let it run rather than going too slowly. The Bimini's attitude seems to be, "I'll take care of the ride - you take care of the fishing."
Loafing along at 35.7 mph at 4,000 rpm, the twin Yamaha 250 EFIs burned 24.8 total gph, according to the Yamaha gauge. A faster 41.4 mph (4,500 rpm) used 36 gph. When I was able to find some calm water, the Bimini charged ahead at a 50-mph top-end turning 5,300 rpm and impressed me as smooth, substantial-feeling and totally responsive. Trim is not overly sensitive, but when you lower the bow, any chop you may have been feeling just disappears. Interestingly, the 306 seems to like to lift its upwind side a bit in a strong beam wind. You can certainly trim it back level, but since I always trim up the windward side in a beam sea to smooth the ride and handle the spray better, this "automated" feature impressed me.
At lure-trolling speeds I found a solid white prop wash on centerline but very little surface turbulence trailing aft from the hull. Most single outboards idle too fast to troll live baits, but surprisingly, one engine in gear offered the perfect speed for live-baiting without any need to bump it in and out of gear - almost like having trolling valves. The Bimini 306 drifts in my preferred fashion, with a stern quarter to the wind, and is steerable without using power.
At the end of the day, the wind shifted and picked up. With the 3- to 4-foot seas close on the port bow, we raced home at 35 mph on a Rolls-smooth ride. Down-sea, the Bimini handles with hands-off control.
I can't remember a more productive fishing day - or one with greater variety. First thing in the morning, we ran out to 100 feet of water and for several hours caught more kingfish on live bait than we could ever use. We kept enough for dinner and released the rest. On our way out to look for sailfish, we did one drift over a wreck which produced an impressive 15-pound mutton snapper. Then just before lunch, we ran out five minutes farther and hooked a beautiful sailfish. During lunch the wind shifted to the west and picked up. So we headed 11 miles out to the famous "Hump," where we trolled horse ballyhoo beneath kites at 20 mph while the blackfin tuna burst out of the water to crash the bait.
Throughout an entire day's fishing, five anglers (plus captain) never once found a problem with room, stability or balance while leaning over the side. The 75-square-foot cockpit proved more than adequate. Look for downrigger ball holders to be built into future models. They had yet to be perfected for our boat, hull No. 1.
Grady provides lockable rod storage inside each gunwale bulwark. If you carry fly rods, the doors of these lockable compartments come off easily to accommodate the added rod length. Elsewhere, storage for 18 rods in holders come standard, making the Bimini a formidable fishing weapon. And you'll find space for even more on the T-top and alongside the console.
The wireman appreciated the sturdy toe rail around the cockpit of the 306 when he leaned over the side to gaff a smoker king. The ability to lock your feet into the boat increases your feeling of security, especially in rough conditions.
The hull, identical to the proven Hunt-designed Grady-White Marlin, boasts Grady's signature SeaV2 constantly variable deadrise. Indeed, it handles head seas magnificently. The 20-degree transom deadrise increases to a sharp 30 degrees in the console area on its way to the sharp-footed bow. The deadrise, combined with the 10-foot, 7-inch beam, makes the 306 incredibly stable, dry and soft-riding.
A huge deck on the bow accepts an optional set of cushions but, with the low bow rail, makes an ideal platform for throwing cast nets or casting a fly. Beneath the deck you'll find two 64-quart fish boxes as well as an 88-gallon box on centerline. Storage abounds throughout the 306, including 6 feet, 5 inches of headroom in the console.
Speaking of the console, James Bond would be proud. The entire instrument installation rises up out of the console on an electric ram - just like on the big custom convertibles. However, unlike many big center-console boats whose consoles average about 57 inches tall, the 306 offers a relatively low-profile console, making it easy for even the vertically challenged to see the bow clearly at all times. An overhead instrument box augments the large dash package.