One of the biggest surprises at the Miami Boat Show came from Grady-White, a fishing boat builder with a long history of building center consoles, walkarounds, and dual consoles… but not bay boats. That changed this year, with the introduction of the 251 Coastal Explorer.
Now, before you get too excited – and yes, this is a boat worth getting excited about – note that the Coastal Explorer is big, huge actually, for a bay boat. It’s hull draft is 14″ so with the prop down, you’re looking at needing two feet of water. And it weighs in at 3,550 pounds. So if you like to scoot across extremely shallow water and weave through tight backwater creeks, this isn’t going to be the right boat for you. That said, the extra beef also makes it a good choice for anglers who want to head offshore now and again. With a 78 gallon fuel capacity and a single 300-hp Yamaha F300 on the transom, you can cruise at about 40-mph while getting around 2.5 MPG, so range is a healthy 175 miles, allowing a 10-percent reserve.
Fishing-wise, hard-cores do have to make a sacrifice or two. The Grady-White does have all the usual goodies – a livewell, fore and aft casting decks, and the like – but the foredeck is designed for pleasure-boating as much as for fishing. There’s a table up front, which turns into a bowdeck filler when you slide it up between the thickly-cushioned foredeck. The system works, but you’ll have to remove cushions and get the bowdeck set up in advance of a fishing trip. On the plus side, you gain the versatility of cushy pleasure cruising with the family.
One really neat feature on the boat is the seating arrangement on the aft deck, and in the foredeck. Seat-backs flip up and lock into place, so you have a sturdy backrest wherever you sit in the boat. Another nifty perk can be found in the bow. Lift open the anchor locker hatch, and you’ll also find a telescopic boarding ladder. It’s a feature seen on some bowriders and deckboats; the forward ladder allows you to beach the boat or pull it close to the beach, and climb in or out without having to go to the deeper water at the back of the boat.
For Grady-White fans who need a bay boat, the 251 Coastal Explorer is a long-awaited development. If you’re interested in checking one out, go to Grady-White Boats.