BOAT TEST: GRADY-WHITE TOURNAMENT 185

By: Geoff Middleton, Photography by: Geoff Middleton


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Grady-White boats are not well known by mainstream boaters in this country. But go to the US and they are revered as one of the premium boats on the market — and so they should be, as Geoff Middleton found out…

BOAT TEST: GRADY-WHITE TOURNAMENT 185
GRADY-WHITE TOURNAMENT 185

STEPPING UP


As many diehard anglers will attest, when you step into a Grady-White boat, you are generally stepping up a class. These hardy Americans have enjoyed a great reputation for strength and seakeeping abilities for decades. In fact, this year, the company is celebrating its 50th anniversary. But to truly understand these superb boats we have to step back in time for a while to see what makes a Grady-White an aspirational purchase for many family boaters and fishermen.
Started in 1959, by Glenn "Bud" Grady and Don White, the company began by making clinker-built wooden runabouts. However, from the outset, these boats were considered to be one of the best quality boats of the era.
The company began in Greenville, North Carolina (where it still is today) and by 1963 Grady and White had 13 models and were a successful company.
By 1968, the duo were still making wooden boats, whereas the market wanted fibreglass and Grady and White were ready to sell. They soon found a keen buyer in Eddie Smith who came from a background in the hosiery industry. Eddie actually turned the company around and soon had it turning out high-quality fibreglass boats for an eager market.
The company went from strength-to-strength under Eddie's enthusiastic leadership.
"Built by fishermen" became a company slogan. The love for bluewater fish and fishing evolved into Grady-Whites achieving top rank among small sportsfishing boats. Eddie Smith, Wiley Corbett and their team were not always the innovators of design, but they were very often the ones who perfected the designs. Through the notes and scribbles they brought back from boat shows and fishing trips, Grady-White's products did become the first to put the right combination of features and materials on the boats they built.
They were the first to put the focus on family fishing boats. And they were the first to really focus on making customers exceedingly happy. That focus has built arguably the best customer-company relationships in the industry.
"The '80s and '90s were interesting. The demand was so high we literally could have grown 300 to 400 per cent," recalls Smith. "But instead, we stayed true to our deliberate decision to limit production. We felt this was the only way to maintain our high quality and customer satisfaction."
In 1989, Grady-White reached a milestone with the Marlin 28. The Marlin introduced the C. Raymond Hunt and Associates/Grady-White exclusive SeaV² hull, a new design with a "continuously-variable" vee shape that provides a very soft, dry ride while the boat is cruising or running and stability when the boat is trolling, or at the dock.
The hull was a natural evolution for customers going farther offshore who desired a softer, more comfortable ride for their families. By the early '90s, all Grady models sported a SeaV² hull.
The Tournament boats began in 2003, with the 225 Tournament, which was designed with not only fishing in mind, but family cruising and fun as well. This was followed by the 306 and then the 185, the subject of this article, among others. Obviously, the boat has been refined along the way, but remains basically the same as the one launched four years ago.

 

 

FEATURES ABOUND


Stepping aboard a Grady-White is like walking into a treasure trove of features that you don't find on many other boats of
this size.
And they're not gimmicky features either. They are well thought-out features that really benefit the boating experience for the owners and their crews.
Take the cleats for example. Six strong, stainless steel (316 grade) mooring cleats, which are through-bolted to the hull. Quite often on a boat this size you might find one cleat on the bow and two aft, but here there's two on the bow, two hefty spring cleats and two aft. Nice.
What about a wiper for the skipper? Not many 18-footers have a wiper on the windscreen, but the Grady has one and it's not just for show. It really does help when the going gets a bit rough.
There are four rodholders in the gunwales as well, plus storage along the sides and under the gunwales for another four or more rods, in purpose-built racks.
If skiing is more to your liking, the storage locker under the portside console continues under the bench seat in the bow to accommodate skis, or even a wakeboard, keeping the cockpit free of clutter.
Other features include two insulated-cooler bins that drain over the side, a DC outlet for charging your phone or iPod and two lockable-storage compartments, so you can leave valuables onboard when you
go ashore.
The skipper certainly isn't forgotten with an adjustable helm seat, full instrumentation and illuminated-rocker switches for the electrical systems on the boat.

 

 

BIG AND STRONG


The Grady-White 185 is no lightweight. The handlaid hull weighs in at 1021kg without the engine. Add the donk and the impressive standard fuel capacity of 227lt and you have a boat that will tip the scales at somewhere around 1500kg without passengers. It translates to a boat that feels solid on the water and inspires confidence through the chop.
The variable deadrise hull has a fine deep-vee at the bow that flattens out as it goes aft offering a smooth ride and stable platform at rest. Grady-White builds a hull that is both strong and rigid due to its no-rot rib system that is glassed in and offer a limited-lifetime warranty on it.
Although the Tournament 185 has positive floatation, it shouldn't be needed. The cockpit is self-draining through two big scuppers and there's a 4164lt/h bilgepump as standard for added safety.

 

 

ON THE WATER


Our boat test day was perfect for the Grady-White. It was sunny and mild with
a northerly gusting up to about 15kts and
ruffling the top of Port Phillip Bay. The boat came on a swish, multi-roller Mackay trailer and she slipped off effortlessly.
Our crew consisted of myself, Andrew Shirt from Central Marine at Hastings and TrailerBoat's Assistant Editor John Panozzo - three hefty blokes. We hit the key and the 150hp Yamaha four-stroke came to life with barely a murmur. These motors are so quiet you can hardly hear them at idle.
We slipped out of the marina, out into the Bay where we opened her up and were soon planing away at 3500rpm doing 34kmh (18.3kts) at an economical 22lt/h.
I noted how comfortable and supportive the helm seat was - almost like a custom seat. I also noted how easy to read the digital gauges were even in direct sunlight.
Our test boat was fitted with the optional hydraulic steering, which was light and very direct. John was in the bow and made mention of how comfortable the lounges were even when we were pushing into the chop upwind. There are also handy rails around the bow section of the boat which are great if the going gets a bit rough.
But the big tick that I'd give the 185 is how dry it is. The flare of the bow and the strakes and chines knock the spray down and make for a particularly dry boat.
Similarly, the SeaV² hull design with its variable deadrise and deep-vee forward make the boat soft in its ride and also makes it track very straight - even with a quartering sea.
The boat was easy to manoeuvre and felt extremely well-mannered when I started to throw it around a bit. It doesn't slam into a head sea and it corners like it's on rails - very nice.
Trimmed out and opened up we recorded 38kts (70kmh) at 5500rpm using 63lt/h. However, I don't think many owners would be scooting along at wide open throttle and I found that at 4000rpm we were comfortable at 27kts (50kmh) and only using around 26lt/h.
Overall, I enjoyed the Grady-White. It's easy to see why they enjoy such a good reputation in the US and among fishermen here. They are a strong and comfortable boat that, although expensive initially, should last a lifetime and hold their value on the second-hand market.

 

 

 


Specifications: Grady-White Tournament 185

 

 

WHAT WE LIKED


Soft-riding hull
Excellent build quality
Attention to detail
Strong-feeling boat that inspires confidence

 

 

NOT SO MUCH


Expensive purchase price
Heavy boat for its size means it needs a bit of extra horsepower to get going

 

 

HOW MUCH?


Price as tested: $82,290
Options fitted: Hydraulic steering, skipole, bimini and covers, raw water livewell, cockpit shower, washdown pump, and more
Priced from:  $69,718

 

 

GENERAL


Type: Monohull bowrider
Material: GRP
Length overall: 6.44m
Beam: 2.26m
Weight: Approx 1500kg;
1713kg (BMT)
Deadrise: Variable

 

 

CAPACITIES


Fuel: 227lt
People: Seven

 

 

ENGINE


Make/model: Yamaha F150AETL
Type: Four-stroke outboard
Rated HP: 150hp
Displacement: 2.67lt
Weight: Approx 220kg
Gearbox ratio: 2:1
Prop: 17x19 three-blade s/s

 

 

SUPPLIED BY


Central Marine Hastings,
1911 Frankston-Flinders Road,
Hastings, Vic, 3915 
Phone: (03) 5979 4167,
Email: newsales@centralmarine.com.au
Web: www.centralmarine.com.au; www.gradywhite.com.au

Find Grady-White boats for sale.

 


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