When Grady-White develops a popular model, it capitalizes on the design. The new Grady X26 catamaran combines features of the company’s incredibly successful 306 Bimini center console with an all-new, catamaran hull design. The result is a brutish 26-foot center console on Grady’s best-riding cat hull yet.
Every cat is different, even among models of the same manufacturer. Each demands different trim and favors different speeds for a variety of conditions. In fact, that’s probably why they call them cats: Each has its own peculiar likes and dislikes.
The early-morning flat calm in the inlet of Morehead City, North Carolina, blessed our speed testing. But offshore, the calm eventually yielded to 20-knot winds and an ugly 3- to 4-foot chop. The X26 loves running on top, preferring to go faster rather than slower through messy seas.
Our speed tests using two GPS units determined that twin Yamaha 200s produced a 35-mph cruising speed at 4,000 rpm while burning 21.3 gph or 1.6 mpg for both engines combined. Obviously, new direct-injection engines will proffer better economy than our carbureted power. Top end at 5,400 rpm proved to be 48 mph using 42 gph or 1.2 mpg total.
The new X26 Tigercat carved a tight, high-speed turn, but only up to a point. When it bled off enough speed that the inside bow dropped and dug in, the stern broke loose and the boat pivoted. I consider this a great safety feature as it keeps passengers from flying over the side in a tight turn.
I prefer to chase fish bow-first in most outboard boats. But with the engines trimmed up about halfway, I was able to back down at over 6 mph in calm seas. At a 2 1/2-mph trolling speed with only one engine in gear, the wake remained perfectly clear – no turbulence whatsoever. Trolling at 8 mph, a modest amount of foam both on and under the surface developed, spreading out evenly with no clear channels. Slow-trolling into a head sea, the Tigercat provided just a slight compression thud when the bow dropped off a wave.
The slip where the X26 tied up suffers from powerful tidal currents, demanding some of the trickiest handling of anyplace on the East Coast when the tide is full ebb or flood. This real-world test showed the X26’s close-quarters handling to be outstanding with very predictable control response.
Slow-trolling dead cigar minnows for king mackerel on the “30-Minute Rock” off Morehead City with both engines in gear at 600 rpm gave us just the right speed – about 5 mph. At this speed in a beam sea, the roll motion felt about the same as that of a monohull.
I had little difficulty working all the way around the boat although the molded partitions between helm and bow make walking forward with a fish on harder than in a wide-open center console.
Our boat – hull number one – had outriggers in the gunwale. I know many people like them there for the ease of deployment. However, I prefer riggers through the T-top to avoid any conflict with a rod when fighting a fish and moving about the boat. As always, Grady-White has set up the X26 for serious fishing with four rod holders in-gunwale, six under-gunwale, space for more alongside the helm console and even the company’s signature downrigger ball holders in the deck corners under the gunwale.
Another feature never lacking on any Grady-White – bait and fish storage – comes well-represented on the X26. Besides ample storage in the bow and dual consoles, you’ll find a 73-gallon fish box on each side of the console to store the fish you’ve caught, thanks to the fresh bait kept lively in the 42-gallon, above-deck livewell. Other great fishing appointments found on the leaning post include built-in knife and pliers holders and rocket launchers matching the angle of the T-top launchers. They’re all angled vertically so as not to impede you when walking around the cockpit. Grady also provides my favorite solution for life jacket storage on small boats – a webbed layer under the T-top.
Surprisingly, Grady-White took an entirely new tack from its original 25-foot catamaran hull. Grady (and C. Raymond Hunt, Naval Architects) simply narrowed the beam of a standard 26-foot SeaV2 hull, put two together and connected them with a deck very similar to the 306 Bimini, complete with the pop-up electronics locker on an electric ram. It makes for a very clean profile. Each planing hull consists of a 22-degree deadrise at the transom and 55-degrees at the entry. Each contains four transverse bulkheads with the two hulls connected by additional Divinycell-cored bulkheads. Topsides contain balsa coring and act as their own stringers.
I’d like to see the footrest wrap around the side of the console a bit more. As designed, there’s room for your right foot, but the left foot gets left out in the cold with no resting spot. I’d also prefer pneumatic rams to hold doors and cabinets open rather than the bending springs that make closing doors a two-handed operation. But the electronics console couldn’t be better. Sleek and clean-looking when closed, it raises on an electric ram and features a shelf beneath the actual box where you can store spare fuses, manuals and the like.
Rather than a standard center-console layout, Grady’s X26 sports more of a deck-boat style with head and shower in the starboard compartment forward of the console.
The dual consoles forward of the helm console offer generous storage, and a seat on back side of each. Horseshoe-shaped seating in the bow contains plenty of storage area.
For more information, contact Grady-White Boats, PO Box 1527, Greenville, NC 27835-1527; 252-752-2111 or fax 252-752-4217.