Take a Walk

Author: BoatingWorld Staff
Out here, said sport angler and marine surveyor Bunker Hill of Newport Beach, California, “if you can’t walk around a sportfishing boat, then you may as well not own it.” Such sentiment pretty much meant that boats under 30 feet in length weren’t suitable for West Coast fishing — at least until 1975. That year, North Carolina boat builder Grady-White had a better idea. Why not build a relatively small outboard-powered boat with an honest-to-goodness walkway around the cabin, so an angler could work from the cockpit to the bow — always with the security of a gunwale beside him or her? And so, the Grady-White Overnighter 20 was born, and along with it, a new sportfishing boat genre: the trailerable walk-around. The 20-footer became such a hit that Grady-White went on to introduce variations on the same theme — including the subject of this month’s Modern Classics feature: the Sailfish 25, of 1980. A true offshore sportfisher, the Sailfish 25 is an easy-to-use, easy-to-maintain alternative to large flying bridge convertibles. Indeed, said Steve Anaya of Schock Boats in Newport Beach, a Grady-White dealer, buyers often trade down from sportfishers in the 30 to 40 foot range for the Sailfish 25. They are experienced boat owners who are happy to swap the hassles of maintaining a big hull for the go-at-a-moment’s-notice capability of a 25-footer. Because they know firsthand about the challenges of the Pacific, these experienced buyers demand a safe boat, Anaya said. The Grady-White fills the bill. The company is not only known for its walk-around design, but for its high-quality construction, as well. An example? Positive flotation is standard fare in boats under 20 feet, no matter the maker. But even the larger Grady-White models like the Sailfish 25 have enough flotation to keep the hull, engines and listed capacity of equipment and people from sinking if the boat should ever become completely swamped. Grady-White completely fills any hull voids with sprayed-in foam to provide the flotation, as well as to dampen sound and vibration. Other examples: The solid fiberglass hull is completely hand-laid. The stringers are encapsulated in resin and fiberglassed to the hull. And the inner hull liner is bonded to the stringers and hull with fiberglass. The deck is joined to the hull with watertight gaskets, sealed with silicone and secured by stainless steel screws. All this ensures that this Grady-White hull is one tough, rigid structure that will retain its integrity for many years. No wonder Hill says “the boats survey out very well.” Safety First In addition to the safety afforded by the walkway around the cabin, the entire forward half of the boat is surrounded by stainless steel rails. These rails, plus the rest of the deck hardware, are through-bolted to backing plates and secured by locking nuts. Grady-White places grabrails where you’re likely to need them, and toerails around the cockpit to hook your feet when you have to lean over the side, to haul in a fish. The cockpit is self-bailing and the drains for the built-in fishboxes are thoughtfully placed above the waterline, so water goes overboard rather than into the bilge. As on any proper sportfisher, the cockpit is the business end of the Sailfish 25. Because of the boat’s relatively wide beam, there’s plenty of cockpit, too — 59 square feet. Besides giving room for anglers to work, the big cockpit makes a dandy under-the-stars sleeping area. In this way, the cockpit can supplement the berths in the Sailfish 25’s cuddy cabin. Customary V-berths take up the forward area of the cabin. Later editions also have an amidships berth under the helm. Though the walkway around the cabin means a narrow deckhouse, there is room enough below for an enclosed head compartment and a small galley. Given its rather cramped interior quarters, the Sailfish 25 might seem to appeal only to sport anglers. Not so, says Anaya, who sells plenty of the boats for family use. “The fisherman wants seaworthiness, safety and a lot of space to put fish,” he said. “And what does a family want? Seaworthiness, safety and a lot of place to put stuff. The Sailfish 25 gives it to them.” Although Grady-White offered the option of a stern drive until 1994, most buyers have opted for a pair of big outboards: twin 200 hp engines are favorites. With these engines, the boat becomes a real screamer. With throttles punched to the wall, the boat will reach speeds of over 40 mph. But there is a downside to outboards. It can be awkward to fight a fish over a pair of big outboards. And they can also be expensive to operate. “From an economic standpoint, I wonder how long twin outboards will remain popular,” Hill said. A single diesel inboard won’t give the same top speed. But at similar cruising speeds — say in the high 20 mph range — the diesel will burn about half as much fuel: a little less than 10 gallons per hour vs. more than 20 gallons per hour. Moreover, the outboards have a much shorter lifespan. While the outboards are typically good for 1,000-1,500 hours of use, a diesel will last 3,500-6,000 hours, according to Hill. Should you need a new pair of outboards for your older Sailfish 25, you can expect to spend in the neighborhood of $27,000. So, if there was ever a case for a used boat buyer to be well aware of the condition of what he or she is purchasing, this is it. Beyond paying attention to the condition of the engines and perhaps searching out one of the rarer stern drive Sailfish 25s, you’d also do well to buy the most recent boat you can afford. Though an early 1980s boat will look remarkably similar to a 1990s edition, Grady-White has made significant upgrades over the years. Perhaps the most important change came in 1990, when the company raised the helm several inches to provide more interior headroom, add an amidships berth and offer better visibility for the skipper. Two years later, Grady-White changed the hull to its SeaV2 design, with a continuously variable V that becomes flatter at the stern and sharper at the bow for a softer and drier ride. And in 1994, the company switched from cutout transoms or full transoms with bolt-on aluminum brackets to carry the outboards, to a more handsome integrated bracket platform. Finally, keep in mind that Grady-White changed the model designation several times over the years. The original Sailfish 25 became the 255 for 1990-1993, the 253 for 1995 and the 272 for 1996. There’s also a version with a barebones interior called the Dolphin 25. But no matter the name, the boats are essentially the same rugged model that has become a favorite of families and anglers alike.

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