GRADY-WHITE FISHERMAN 180 REVIEW

By: JEFF STRANG, Photography by: JEFF STRANG


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Grady-White is renowned for its extravagant offshore battlewagons decked out in elegance and finery. In stark contrast, Trade-a-Boat editor Jeff Strang asked its diminutive Fisherman 180 to walk in some rather big shoes.

GRADY-WHITE FISHERMAN 180 REVIEW
GRADY-WHITE FISHERMAN 180 REVIEW

When in doubt, apply the rule of KISS: "keep it simple, stupid". Sage advice liberally applied to many of my grand and glamorous schemes over the years. One of the key complaints about the boating lifestyle is the amount of fuss that can be involved with owning, using and maintaining many vessels.

You’ve heard of a lock-up-and-leave apartment? Well, meet a hose-down-and-leave boat.

But if you think I’ve painted a picture of a drab and unexciting backyard draught horse, you would be very wrong. The Grady-White Fisherman 180 looks hot and rides like a racehorse — ears pinned back and full of gallop.

My point is that it is just so easy to own and use. And that blend of quality and simplicity is a very appealing package.

Above all else, boating, at a recreational level, has to be fun. Too often, however, it’s not. Smaller, cheaper boats usually come with a budget ride and a budget list of accessories. By the time you kit it out to be fit for purpose you no longer have a cheap boat, but you still have a budget ride. Larger, more glamorous vessels require considerably bigger budgets and often a reasonably elevated level of fuss to utilise. When boating gets too hard or uncomfortable, people can stop getting involved and that’s no good for any of us.

At TrailerBoat, and sister publication Trade-a-Boat, we usually hear these comments from two separate groups of boat owners: keen fishos who are semi-retired and looking to downsize for ease of handling and reduced costs; and current big-boat owners in search of a quality runabout for convenience and spur-of-the-moment adventures. Both are likely to find the Grady-White Fisherman 180 a near perfect fit.



SMALL PACKAGE, BIG HEART

The Fisherman 180 is the baby of the Grady-White family. With an overall length of 5.44m it looks like a smart, efficient and easily-managed package, tailor-fitted on its trailer ready for action. Prior to launching, proud owner "Cappy" mentioned he was keen to demonstrate the vessel’s easy one-person launching ability, so I stood out of the way while he deftly executed the procedure.

Once floating, and at the mercy of the wind and tide, it was soon clear that at 975kg (without engine) the Fisherman 180 is not what you would call the lightest of boats. It sits solidly in the water, resisting the moderate breeze’s attempts to gain control.

Most of the weight comes from the handlaid fibreglass laminate construction. Computerised measuring processes utilised at the Grady-White factory ensure precise glass-to-resin ratios are applied, which ensure the resulting product is neither brittle from having too much resin, or at risk of delamination from too little. The stringer and transom systems are built from a no-rot plywood product that carries a limited lifetime warranty. Some of these techniques could be considered somewhat old-school, but they have proven the test of time in thousands of hulls and across millions of sea miles, so who are we to argue?



LIKE A GLOVE

With a stiff breeze building and a worsening forecast (more than 45kts) predicted for the evening, we thought we’d better get moving, keen to test the hull rather than our bladder control.

Pulling up in the lee of a sandy bay gave Cappy the opportunity to offer a detailed walkthrough of the boat he describes as fitting him "like a glove".

The Grady-White Fisherman 180 is a classic pocket fisherman centre console. A sporty console sits more or less right in the middle of the hull, slightly further aft than you would expect on a conventional hull. Like an American car, it’s left-hand drive, with the wheel offset and the throttle control in the middle. This allows two to comfortably stand in the shelter behind the windscreen without having to bump shoulders. For me, the windscreen could be a bit higher, just to provide a little extra protection from spray on rougher runs at high speed (I have seen this modification added to a few other centre console boats I’ve fished on). It’s surrounded by a very sturdy grabrail, just one of many well-placed handholds around the boat.

The dash itself is well styled, with lines that give that touch of class often overlooked by lesser builders. Of course, there’s the obligatory stainless steel drinkholders below the wide dash, which on Cappy’s boat boasted a Garmin GPSmap 5012 supported by a Garmin digital readout for engine monitoring.

Comfort for the skipper and navigator is provided by a reversible bench seat. And although most prefer to stand when underway, it’s high enough to give good visibility over the helm if sitting, an issue many centre console boats fail to adequately address. Facing aft, the reversible seat offers the perfect perch to while away an afternoon, rod in hand.

Further seating for extra passengers is provided via a pair of very comfortable recliners either side of the transom, a shotgun seat forward of the console and another padded option in the bow covering an insulated cool box adjacent to the anchor well.

A deep well, no-step floor and the abundance of handholds make this boat very easy to negotiate, as it needs to be in order to seriously contend in the competitive American flats boat market.

Web research suggests Grady-White’s Fisherman range is very popular with professional salt-fly guides, a group renowned for expecting only the very best from their equipment.

Other features of the boat’s layout show the vessel has been designed with significant input from the pros. All of the boat’s cleats are recessed to ensure they don’t snag lines at inappropriate times, and custom-designed lockers on either side of the cockpit provide snug and secure storage for the wide range of tools a serious angler needs to keep handy. There is also a good range of rodholder options, but a few more would likely need to be shoehorned in to really cope. The essential livewell is housed under the shotgun seat and a tidy washdown hose is handy for ensuring the working deck is kept clean and tidy.



A TESTING TIDE

From an engineering point of view, Grady-White has wisely kept the Fisherman 180 as simple as possible. Tidy, quality wiring and battery supplies are correctly labelled and neatly secured inside the central console and under the twin seats aft. Both compartments look adequately sealed against water ingress.

More online research, mostly on American boat owners’ forums, suggests Grady-White boats have a reputation for longevity and reliability.

Power on this boat is supplied by a very tidy Suzuki 150 setup, which may explain the Garmin electronics — there is an existing relationship between those companies in Australia. Staying in line with the keep-it-simple philosophy, the Suzuki unit is controlled by a cable system rather than fly-by-wire and the steering is hydraulic.

By now, the wind had built beyond the "fresh" level and I was looking with some trepidation at the white caps created by the wind-against-tide effect. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried.

Like most centre console boats, the Fisherman 180 is beautifully balanced, with the bulk of its weight sitting closer to the fore and aft centreline than most conventional boats can achieve. This factor, along with the extra weight discussed earlier, combines to produce a delightful ride. The fine entry sliced the significant chop with ease and we glided through the rough stuff at pace — more than 26kts (48kmh).

I was also surprised by the dryness of the ride — it’s usually folly to leave your raincoat behind on a centre console test, especially if there is bit of wind about. I guess the flair knocks most of the spray down and the windscreen catches the rest, although I would still opt for a higher one.



THE WRAP

Refreshingly open to the elements, this style of vessel is the ideal small platform for the serious tropical angler; the visibility afforded by this configuration allows you to spot every angling opportunity. It’s amazing how often a slight swirl spotted in your peripheral vision leads to a day-changing opportunity.

Those that want more shelter from the sun can opt for a bimini, something Cappy has since fitted to this boat.

What sets the Grady-White Fisherman 180 apart from its competition is the quality of the build and the extra effort put in to give it a more refined look. The off-cream colour glows in the sunset and its lines make it the perfect accessory to a new European (or Australian, if you prefer) tow vehicle.

Frankly, it’s just a prettier boat than most other options, and with that extra weight and fine entry its ride at least equals anything else I’ve tested in this category.

ON THE PLANE...

  • Classy presentation should suit discerning buyers
  • Heavy build and fine entry delivers a good ride
  • Hose-down-and-leave fishability
  • Easy to manage one-up
  • Good level of standard outfit


DRAGGING THE CHAIN...

  • Windscreen could be higher to provide more protection
  • Toekick’s a bit limited


SPECIFICATIONS: GRADY-WHITE FISHERMAN 180

HOW MUCH?

Price as tested: $69,000

Options fitted: Nil

Priced from: $69,000



GENERAL

Type: Planing monohull

Material: Handlaid fibreglass

LOA: 5.44m

Beam: 2.26m

Draft: 0.38m

Weight: 975kg (without engine)



CAPACITIES

People: 5

Max HP: 150

Fuel: 227L

Water: Nil

ENGINE

Make/model: Suzuki 150

Type: Four-stroke petrol outboard

Weight: 220kg

Displacement: 2867cc

Gear ratio: 2.5:1

Propeller: S/Steel



MANUFACTURED BY

Grady-White Boats,

Web: www.gradywhite.com



SUPPLIED BY

Game and Leisure Boats

Factory 1 Runaway Bay Marina

247 Bayview Street,

Runaway Bay,

QLD 4216

Tel: (07) 5577 5811

Web: www.gandlb.com.au


Originally published in TrailerBoat #294, April/May 2013.

 


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