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power-grady_white_330-largeHere is an express cruiser that may stimulate the rethinking of what a cruiser could be here in Canada.

Saltwater fishermen in the US are quite prepared to spend big money for sportfishing boats but these rigs are less common in Canada. We've got excellent fishing in the Great Lakes as well as along our coasts, so the Grady-White 330 Express will be attractive to people who are into fishing, but we think the Grady-White 330 Express represents a whole cruising lifestyle alternative.

Driving the Grady-White 330 Express with its twin Yamaha 350 HP V8 outboards is a game-changing experience. Although we have a relatively large cruiser with a very social bridge area, a spacious cockpit, a cozy but accommodating cabin with standup head, well-equipped galley and even a mid cabin to expand the sleeping accommodations, we also get a boat that can fly out to the cruising grounds and back through all kinds of weather and at impressive speeds.

Compared to inboard or stern drive power, the Yamaha 350 hp V8 outboards may seem to be an expensive choice, but there are many benefits to justify the cost. Instead of all the complexity of inboard mounted engines, the outboards are much lighter, fully self-contained units that can be tilted up totally clear of the water – no corrosion and no fouling problems.

Engine vibration, exhaust and all the mechanical complexity is outside of the boat leaving much more interior space. The added cost of these big outboard engines is a lot less than the value of the space you gain. But it's the performance that will win you over.

The new 350 HP Yamaha V8 engines have fully electronic controls with a single key for the two engines and a 'Start All' button. Press that and both engines instantly spring to life. They idle silently, the gear change is quiet but positive and dockside handling is exactly what you would expect from twin engines. Our test boat had an optional bow thruster to make things even easier.

You idle (or troll) quietly out into the open water; the power assisted hydraulic steering make it easy to control at all speeds. From there, shove the throttles ahead and the Yamaha's accelerate the Grady-White like it was light as a feather. They sound great and in seconds you are planed off. In about 10 seconds, you will find yourself doing almost 50 mph. Throttle back to 3,900 rpm and Grady-White's technicians say you will be traveling at 32.3 mph and getting 1.22 mpg. That level of economy is very impressive and it's available at a wide range of speeds.

Testimony to the Grady-White hull design is that this boat has simply remarkable turning ability and its seaworthiness in big water is well-known. This boat will take you from the marina or yacht club to a secluded anchorage about as fast as anything in the market and yet the boat is just dead easy to drive. It goes where you point it like a responsive family runabout.

Of course, you can stop to fish!

The cockpit is what this boat is all about because it was designed for saltwater fishing. Features include toe rails, padded cockpit coaming all the way around, rod holders spaced to handle big saltwater reels and we really liked the handsome foldout transom seat; it's there when you want it, gone when you don't.

Across the transom top is a 240L insulated fish box with drain and gasketed lid with a 173 L raw water live well on the starboard side with an interior light as well as a great rigging station for setting up your bait that has a freshwater sink and pull-out faucet. There are rod holders on the gunwales as well as in the cockpit sides. We especially liked the LED cockpit lighting mounted under the gunwales. There is also a brace of rod holders across the aft edge of the hardtop.

Grady-White loads their boats with nice features – too many to detail individually but there are abundant storage lockers and cubbies, drawers for tackle and small items, a freshwater washdown as well as a transom shower and in our opinion, an excellent transom door. That leads to a combination swim platform and outboard mounting area which is really an integral part of the 33' 6" hull – not a bracket of any kind. This keeps the sea out of the boat and the big Yamaha's breathe through venting in the top of their cowling so taking a big wave astern is no problem.

The bridge area is helm-centric with a Pompanette brand pedestal helm seat with locking arms that swivels and adjusts. The other bridge seating surrounds the centre-mounted helm making a nice social arrangement while giving the captain the best 360 degree view for driving, docking and fishing. The bridge area is up a couple of steps from the cockpit and this provides the headroom for the mid-cabin below.

In saltwater style, radios and other electronics could be mounted in the overhead console although there's lots of space for electronics directly ahead of the driver too. Our test boat had the Yamaha Command Link digital instrumentation along with tilt wheel, footrest, Ritchie compass and 56-quart helm seat cooler. I particularly liked the opening vent wings on the windshield. The upholstery and fibreglass gel coat are all the same French vanilla colour. That is a lot easier on the eyes than stark white in bright sun. BTW – a 12,000 BTU bridge air conditioning unit is optional – a 12,000 BTU system is standard in the cabin.

The cockpit is down four steps from the bridge and has stainless steel handholds everywhere you would want them. It is a reasonable size for a 33-footer and has a double-berth forward and a second one in the mid-cabin to sleep four in total. Grady-White includes a 15" flat screen TV, Kenwood stereo and Toshiba DVD player for entertainment. A 4 kW diesel generator is included to keep you comfortable away from shore power.

The galley features a storage locker and three drawers under the Corian counter and a storage locker with built-in racking and mesh nets above. A Contoure microwave is included as is an Isotherm refrigerator and a two-burner ceramic cooking surface. We liked the large, round stainless steel sink. Most parts are in plastic or composite material for strength and long life and the interior has a full fiberglass liner.

The head is a usable size and again has Corian counter, handheld shower and a Vacuflush MSD.

If an owner had a dry slip arrangement, this is the kind of cruiser that can be stored indoors, be ready to go in minutes, can handle rough conditions, get places fast and has a high level of versatility. Even if you never fish with it, you will love those huge lockers, cockpit lights and the great helm position. It's a new lifestyle alternative with a great pedigree – hat's off to Grady-White and Yamaha!

By Andy Adams

To see if this boat is available, go to www.boatcan.com to check listings!