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Grady-White F-26 Tigercat Review

Watch the cats and the market take off.

October 26, 2001

Anglers in remote parts of the world have been using power catamarans for many years, but cats have been slow to gain acceptance in the United States. This incredible offshore technology has really needed a big, mainstream company with unimpeachable credibility to step up to the plate, to give the catamaran concept validity in the eyes of the masses. That’s exactly what Grady-White has done.

Performance
Although it’s always more pleasant to fish on a calm day, our Tigercat test fell on an ideal day to evaluate a catamaran – the first planing-hull cat we’ve ever tested, as well. We faced 4- to 6-foot waves in the wind-against-tide Morehead City harbor channel and 3- to 4-foot seas straight on the nose heading all the 30 miles out to the fishing grounds.

Our test boat, Hull No. 1, was powered by twin 150-hp Yamaha Saltwater Series II V-6 engines rather than the maximum-rated 200s. With the 200s, expect the Tigercat to be a 50-mph boat. With the 150s, the Magellan 3000 GPS registered a top speed of 43 mph. At 40 mph, the fuel-flow meter measured exactly 1 mpg, which translated into a range of about 180 miles (assuming 10 percent fuel hold-back).

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In slow-troll mode, the F-26 trails a stern wake about 3 feet long – virtually nonexistent – and no white water to speak of. At speeds above 7 mph, you’ll find two distinct prop-wash lines and a single line of white water on centerline from the outboards and tunnel.

Having the engines mounted on 60-inch centers (compared to the mono-hull Grady 263 Chase’s 28-inch centers) means when you put one engine in forward and the other in reverse, you can pivot like a dog chasing its tail.

Breaking with Grady-White’s constantly variable vee (no two points along the hull have the same deadrise) tradition, the Tigercat’s deadrise angle remains constant from the transom up to about the helm seat, at which point it starts to vary to a larger angle deep vee. That makes this F-26 Tigercat hull a deep-vee, planing hull. A displacement cat hull will be slower but will have a more fluid motion through the seas than a planing cat hull. A planing hull, like the Tigercat’s, is considerably faster but still provides some of the landing-off-a-wave thud we are all used to as the chines and flat surface hit the water. But make no mistake, this boat will take much more weather than any 26-foot mono-hull and do it in greater comfort.

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I found very minimal blow-back (spray coming out the front of the tunnel) and only when we were dead into the wind with the engines trimmed all the way down. And what little spray I noticed remained very low, close to the foredeck, never making it up over the windshield into the open enclosure. Rather, any “sneezing” the Grady does exits from the rear of the tunnel (no comments, please). Trim the engines up a bit and the bow sneezing disappears altogether.

Fishing
As you’d expect from Grady-White, every possible consideration is made for fishing ease. Straight from the factory, the Tigercat accommodates 26 rods. Add the optional T-top for a total of 30. The 11-gallon cooler box will keep your thirst slaked while you dip bait from the 45-gallon live well (big enough to hold two full scoops of “chovies” for you West Coast anglers), and load fresh fish into the 60-gallon insulated fish box. If that’s not enough room, a 72-gallon insulated fish box, a full 52 inches long, will handle all but the biggest pelagics.

I think the optional fold-down transom seat should be aboard even hard-core fishing versions. Right next to the cutting board, it makes both the ride more comfortable and chopping bait ever so much easier on your back since you can kneel on the seat while you work.

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Construction
Like the rest of the Grady line, the Tigercat uses solid fiberglass and polyester resins throughout. The walk-around provides plenty of room to access the bow, and the increased stability of the catamaran hull allowed us to work the anchor in total security even in the roughish seas.

Because of the tunnel, space utilization belowdecks on cats remains enigmatic – how to work around the big bump in the middle of the hull? While you get plenty of room for storage and sleeping, the tunnel on centerline forces some changes from traditional layouts. On the Tigercat, you step down into the fully enclosed shower and head to starboard. An extremely large berth forward provides such massive storage under it that you’ll want to evaluate what you put in there so as not to weigh the boat down and make it bow-heavy.
The 53-square-foot cockpit has a toe rail to hook your feet under while gaffing or reviving fish, and the centerline walk-through accesses the large, open transom bracket area, allowing you to reach a rod tip well out beyond the engines when necessary.

Even though the new Grady-White Tigercat has softer, more rounded lines, designer C. Raymond Hunt Associates managed to do one very important thing: Make the Tigercat look unmistakably like a Grady-White. Consequently, Grady has already gotten orders for about 100 boats. And I think all the other catamaran manufacturers will thank Grady for this introduction. Watch the cats and the market take off.

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