One of the most respected boatbuilding companies in the world, Grady-White Boats has a legendary reputation for designing and producing outstanding fiberglass boats. Since 1959, Grady-White boats have been built in Greenville, NC. And since purchasing the company in 1968, owner and CEO Eddie Smith steadily has done what he does best: inspire his crew to work hard to provide customers the best quality, reliability, safety, performance, and long lasting value. In large part Grady-White’s success is due to developing close relationships with its customers and dealerships, asking questions of and carefully listening to boat owners, and incorporating features they’ve requested, to create fun products that make many happy memories. The quest to provide “the ultimate in boating satisfaction” through exceptional attention to detail is the basis for the management style promoted by current company president, Kris Carroll.
Though Grady-White’s commitment to excellence never changes, the company constantly refines its boats as technology develops and customer needs change. That’s one reason why Grady-White was ranked “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Coastal Fishing Boats, Eight Times in a Row,” and has received this designation each and every time that J.D. Power and Associates conducted studies in the marine industry. The company has also been honored with the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) CSI Award for excellence in customer satisfaction, every year the awards have been given.
Eddie Smith believes that boating, sportfishing, and outdoor activities are great gifts for our society. The history of Grady-White reflects over fifty-five years of appreciation and respect for these gifts, and the company is a steadfast advocate of fisheries conservation and education, and waterways management.
Glenn Grady and Don White founded Grady-White Boats in 1959, and hired local craftsmen to build wooden boats in the coastal Carolina handcrafted tradition. The business outlook seemed bright; Grady and White dedicated themselves to quality, and they planned to grow their company through the increasing demand for coastal pleasure craft. The first Gradys were small, tough “works of art,” with flared bows and lapstrake sides starting with steamed white oak frames and planking, all joined with brass bolts and nuts. The process was labor intensive, but employed sure-fire concepts used in larger Carolina custom sportfishing boats. Grady-White’s founders believed that if they used those concepts, and crafted boats “tougher than they had to be,” that these smaller boats would stand up reliably to coastal waves and weather. Grady and White got it right.
The year that Grady-White was founded, present day CEO Eddie Smith was a high school boy in Lexington, NC, hundreds of miles from the coast in North Carolina’s upper Piedmont, an area famous for hosiery, furniture, and textile manufacturing. No one, least of all Eddie, would have guessed that life ultimately would lead him into the Hall of Fame of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). But, the outdoors captured his imagination and Eddie was an avid sportsman even then, learning to hunt and fish with his father, Edward C. (George) Smith, Sr. As a young man, Eddie learned much more from his dad than a keen love of the outdoors. His father had built a successful hosiery and apparel mail order business, National Wholesale, and instilled in Eddie the fundamental idea that success in business derives from dedication to unquestionable integrity, valuing and treating co-workers exceptionally well, truly appreciating and valuing customers, and striving for perfection in quality. The father also showed his son by example that it was good business to give back to his industry, to employees, community, and to the important passions in his life.
In 1960, Eddie Smith packed his bags and moved to Chapel Hill to enroll in his much beloved University of North Carolina. “I had a great time in college,” remembers Eddie. “Why not? I knew that when I graduated I was going to work in the family business and sell hosiery.” The highlight of his college years was meeting Jo Allison Clary of Winston-Salem who, very soon, became Mrs. Edward C. Smith, Jr. The future came quickly for Eddie: the Monday after graduation, he started work at National Wholesale. “I knew early on that this type of business was not where my passion was,” recalls Eddie, “but I continued to work and learn there for three years.”
What had begun as a successful Grady-White Boats was somewhat less successful by 1968, as the company was a little behind the changeover to fiberglass manufacturing. At this time, “Glenn Grady and Don White were at the point of wanting to sell the company,” recalls Eddie Smith. One day, Eddie received a phone call. “I'd learned to fly at Chapel Hill,” Eddie remembers. “A guy there in the automotive business called me and said, ‘I've got sort of an emergency. I need to fly to Greenville and meet with someone. Could you possibly take me down?’ I said sure. That someone we met was Don White.”
Eddie Smith was energetic, 26 years young, and recognized what he believed to be an enormous opportunity. Here was a company with all the ingredients for Eddie to exercise his entrepreneurial instincts. Grady-White boats were an exciting, superior quality, outdoor-oriented product with a great reputation. This was Eddie’s chance to engage the business principles he’d observed from his father and taken to heart regarding customers, co-workers, integrity and quality. “My dad was supportive when I approached him to buy Grady-White,” says Eddie. “He knew I was burning inside to mark my own trail, and secretly he figured if he gave me a shot, that failure was inevitable and that I would settle down in the family business. After all, what did I know about turning a company around, or production, or anything about boat building?” Regardless of the reasons, the Smith family stepped forward and bought Grady-White in 1968.
Eddie Smith knew that if he was to succeed in his aims to get the details right and make customers happy, he must create a superior manufacturing company. Smith found Wiley Corbett, a man with fabulous talents in manufacturing and engineering, and convinced Wiley to come on board as executive vice-president for plant operations and engineering. The company very quickly completed the conversion to fiberglass manufacturing, and Smith and Corbett ensured that the final transition to fiberglass did not come at the expense of Grady-White’s reputation for superior quality.
Eddie also recognized that the company must have the absolute best distribution system to ensure customer satisfaction. He established a stellar sales team, adding Jim Stoneman and Pete Furman to join Bing Fishman who was already on board. All became enthusiastic proponents of Eddie’s customer-driven high quality products, and began preaching excellence and quality to the Grady-White dealership network. All three men took a lesson from Eddie’s book and truly listened to dealers and their customers about what they wanted in a great boating experience.
Grady-White persevered through those transition years because of the employees who have worked for Eddie Smith. Eddie is a tough taskmaster, but he truly appreciates his co-workers, and they understand his passionate desire to “get things right.” B.J Eakes, a 38-year production employee at Grady-White, said, “If there’s a problem, he wants it fixed right now. There are no right words to say how much he cares for his customers and his employees.”
Also, even during these early days, Eddie and Wiley jumped into sportfishing with both feet, anxious to learn the sport and the various ways customers used their boats. Wiley and Eddie began to listen very, very carefully to customers and potential customers in the growing market for sportfishing boats. They arranged fishing trips with customers and top fishermen, and they regularly fished for fun. Eddie and Wiley both became very proficient fishermen, and Eddie himself became internationally known for his winning ways and fishing skills in the Masters Sailfishing Tournament, as well as the Hatteras Marlin Club Invitational Billfishing Tournament and others. Eddie also quickly learned the business and personal values of a strong conservation ethic, and has more recently been named as recipient of the Rybovich Award, the Billfish Foundation’s top award, as well as having become the first recipient of the “Eddie Smith Award” the American Sportfishing Association Hall of Fame recognition.
In late 1972, with Wiley Corbett’s guidance and a great team of employees at his side, Eddie and Grady-White broke ground for what was to become and what (through continuous improvement and consistent investment) remains one of the world’s most modern and well integrated fiberglass boat manufacturing facilities. The stage was set for growth.
By listening to customers and paying exceptional attention to all the details, Grady-White began perfecting center console designs. The openness of center consoles allowed easy movement around the boat, with room for the installation of rod holders and racks that people wanted. Grady-White equipped models with all kinds of ingenious features such as nonskid decks and self-bailing cockpits, plus insulated storage and iceboxes that drain directly overboard and more than enough foam flotation–resulting in unsinkable boats. The center console soon became the style of choice among many boat buyers.
Soon the Grady-White team moved the console forward and made a cuddy cabin. This provided space for a real windshield onto which canvas protection could be mounted. Now a boat had the benefit of a walkaround console, plus the protection of a cabin with room for a bunk and even a head. Thus Grady-White began to manufacture one of the earliest walkaround cabins, the Hatteras 204-C Overnighter. It was, as company literature put it, “The comfortable move to a fishing machine.” It wasn’t the first walkaround cabin, but because the details of the Grady model came from customer input, Eddie believed it was the best.
People were curious about the cross between a center console and a cuddy. At the New York Boat Show in 1975, recalls Smith, a middle-aged couple was among the first customers to look the boat over. “The wife called it the ugliest boat she’d ever seen,” remembered Smith. “I was crushed.” Later the couple came back, heard the story about the 360-degree access around the boat, the small but comfortable cuddy, the room for a private head, and the protection of an enclosable helm. At the end of the day they returned to the Grady-White booth. “They understood the concept, and they bought the boat!”
The introduction of the Grady-White stern drive Kingfish 254 in 1977 ushered in the era of small sportfishing boats venturing far offshore. “Built by fishermen” became a company slogan. The love for bluewater fish and fishing evolved into Grady-Whites achieving top rank among small sportfishing boats. Eddie Smith, Wiley Corbett, and their team were not always the innovators of design, but they were very often the ones who pioneered the details and perfected the designs. Through their notes and scribbles brought back from boat shows and fishing trips, Grady-White products put the right combination of features and materials on the boats they built. In 1978, the company created the first saltwater dual console,
the Tarpon 190, complete with fishing features and an easy-to-clean fiberglass liner. Today, almost 40 years later, Grady-White continues to perfect the dual console design, currently building dual console models from 19-37 feet. The Grady-White team was the first to really 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.
Once during the early 1980s, Eddie had great cause for concern that he would lose his most precious asset, his customers. A bad resin supply was creating a problem with secondary bonding and Grady-White was shipping boats that had the potential to delaminate! Eddie shut down production for three months and sent his team on the road with a plan to do what it took to satisfy customers. Doug Gomes, today a senior vice president, remembers knocking on the door of a Long Island lawyer. “You mean I'm not going to have to sue anyone? You're going to replace the hull?” the customer asked, astonished at the visit’s purpose. That was one customer Eddie and his team delighted. And there were many others.
In 1989, Grady-White reached another 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 further offshore who desired a softer, more comfortable ride for their families. By the early '90s, all Grady models sported a SeaV2® hull.
“The '80s and '90s were interesting. The demand was so high we literally could have grown 300% or 400%,” recalls Smith. “But instead, we stayed true to our deliberate decision to focus on getting the details right, and to limit production. We felt this was the only way to maintain our high quality and customer satisfaction.”
Eddie Smith sticks with his employees, and they certainly stick with him. Many have been there for decades; senior managers all have from at least 18 to over 40 years with the company. Caring and continuity are Grady-White company traditions. Through tough economic climates and good years, through hurricanes, floods, and also the fairest of weather, Eddie and his management team have built an incredibly loyal family of experienced workers, managers, and dealers at Grady-White who are the envy of the industry.
One gutsy call that resulted from Eddie’s loyalty to employees was his selection in 1993 of a new president of Grady-White Boats to replace Wiley Corbett, who was retiring. The position was coveted throughout the marine industry. Eddie knew what had created success for his debt-free, customer-focused company. He knew that he wanted someone who would “do the right thing.” So Eddie chose Kris Carroll, a “feisty Yankee from Massachusetts” who had joined Grady-White in 1975 as a production control clerk, and had risen through the ranks. She clearly understood Eddie’s attention to detail and focus on the customer, and his desire to take that focus to a new level. Eddie’s choice absolutely astonished the industry; at the time, Kris was the first woman in such a position. But Eddie knew his customers were family fishermen, and he knew Kris believed in his goals. Kris has taken the company to new heights, partly with her motivational skills and certainly with the tried and true Grady-White process: customer involvement to ensure satisfaction and exceptional attention to every detail.
With Kris Carroll’s leadership, success continued into the new millennium. Another landmark triumph among Grady-White product offerings was the 2001 introduction of Grady-White’s 33-foot Express 330. At the time of introduction, the Express 330 was the company’s largest boat and in 2001 was hailed as Boating magazine’s Boat of the Year, in part because the outboard boat achieved an unprecedented level of room, comfort and proficiency in sportfishing. The boat was unrivaled even among many larger inboards. The Express 330 was widely praised, along with strategic partner Yamaha Marine, for taking modern outboard power to a new level.
In the first J.D. Power and Associates study of customer satisfaction in the marine industry, conducted in 2001, Grady-White ranked “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Center Console Boats.” In 2002 Grady-White goes “Two for Two,” being ranked “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Coastal Fishing Boats Two Years in A Row.” Also in 2002, Grady-White garnered the first CSI award for excellence in customer satisfaction from the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). The company has continued an unbroken chain of garnering every third-party customer satisfaction award ever given in the marine industry
By model year 2002, with 20 different models ranging from 18-33 feet, including two dual consoles, five center consoles, six walkaround cabin models and two express cabin models, Grady-White was offering customers the most complete line in coastal boating. Grady-White customers were becoming more and more brand loyal, and through carefully listening to the needs of these customers, the company achieved greater and greater success by following its formula of fine-tuning the product line each year based on customer feedback, exceptional attention to detail, and innovative designs.
The opening of a new 50,000 square-foot plant expansion began a new era of Grady-White manufacturing. This new $6 million fabrication area reaffirmed the Grady-White plant as the world’s most modern and completely integrated boat building facility of its kind, providing customers the benefits of efficiency and productivity with resulting superior quality and value, and providing Grady-White associates with the best possible working environment. During model years 2003 and 2004, product advances made to fit a wide range of customers’ needs continued at an astonishing rate, aided in large part by the efficiencies made possible by the new plant expansion. During model year 2003, Grady not only introduced an innovative update to the company’s 25-foot walkaround but also introduced the Advance 257 (now known as the Fisherman 257), a real fisherman’s center console loaded with features. The 257 quickly became the quality and reliability leader in the very competitive mid-size center console market. In mid model year 2002, and continuing into model year 2003, Grady-White introduced the 22' Tournament 225, a phenomenally versatile boat for coastal use and one of the first open dual consoles ever built to feature a roomy head aboard a 22 footer. Aboard the 225, the entire family stays comfortable on all-day outings, and the design was an immediate and longstanding success.
The success of the basic concepts in the 225 inspired Grady-White to continue to innovate in similarly-sized dual consoles, culminating in today’s Freedom 235, as well the Freedom 275 and 285. In that model year (2003), Grady-White also began balancing all new models for the special demands of emerging four-stroke outboard power. The company continued to introduce items from customer wish lists, such as deluxe seating and Grady’s patented aft foldaway bench seat. In model year 2004, Grady-White placed special focus on the smaller boats in the line by introducing the 18' Tournament 185 and the 20' Tournament 205, a 20-footer complete with head (a still popular model, now known as the Freedom 205). These smaller Grady-Whites helped the company continue to offer the very best, most satisfying products for inshore use. At the same time, Grady fine-tuned the larger boats, redesigning the company’s breakthrough Marlin 300 with a new cabin emphasizing comfort and adding great new convenience features in the helm and cockpit area. Through customer input and constant feedback, the most complete line in coastal boating was becoming stronger in every size and configuration category in the coastal recreational market.
At the Miami International Boat Show in February 2003, Eddie Smith was named to the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) Hall of Fame, largely because of his contributions to the initial formation of NMMA as well his interest in boatbuilding and fisheries conservation. At the induction ceremony, Eddie said, “We need to do everything we can to keep boating in a leadership position in recreation in America. We have an awesome product to sell: We provide leisure, fun, and maybe best of all, a wonderful family activity–something our country desperately needs more of! We also have a huge obligation to future generations, to do all that we can to ensure them a great environment, clean waterways, and healthy and abundant fishery resources.” And last but certainly not least, Grady-White was ranked “Highest in Customer Satisfaction With Coastal Fishing Boats Three Years in a Row” by J.D. Power and Associates.
Grady-White followed up the enormous success of the 2001 Express 330 with the 2005 introduction of the 37-foot Express 360 (now known as the Express 370), another home run among Grady-White owners, and a hit throughout the industry. The Express 360, with size and amenities made possible by further advances in outboard power, was hailed as another true outboard breakthrough, bringing Grady-White customers the big water performance, comfort and fishing capabilities that historically have been found on inboard engine boats costing hundreds of thousands of dollars more.
2005 brought much more than the continued and growing success of the Express 360. With customer encouragement, Grady-White had learned not to be afraid to redesign and improve even the company’s most longstanding and popular models. In model year 2005, Grady did exactly that with the very popular 28' Sailfish 282. Taking a cue from the highly successful Express 330 and 360 interiors, the 2005 Sailfish featured a handsome cabin upgrade with entertainment systems (stereo, optional flatscreen TV with DVD player), more storage and creature comforts, and a teak and holly cabin sole. Above decks, the Sailfish helm and cockpit also were redesigned, incorporating customer requests for greater visibility and electronics access, plus greater fishing function and comfort in the cockpit area. These features made the venerable Sailfish even more popular.
Grady-White continued its highest ranked customer satisfaction recognition, being ranked “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Coastal Fishing Boats Four Times in a Row” by J.D. Power and Associates. In the fall of 2005, Grady once again received the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) highest award for customer satisfaction excellence, the CSI award.
In the 2005 model year, Grady-White introduced customers to the “Grady Care” concept, an integrated system of satisfaction and exceptional attention to detail that Grady-White has developed and put in place over the years. Grady-White remains the industry’s most focused company on owner satisfaction programs including dealer events such as tournaments, cruises, fishing schools; print and digital newsletters; dealer sales and service training; and other programs. Grady-White Boats and your Grady-White dealer work hard to make the Grady-White ownership experience the absolute best boat owning experience.
Highlighting the 2006 model year was the remake of the Bimini 306 (now known as the Canyon 306), Grady-White’s 30' center console originally introduced in 1998. Grady’s design and engineering team approached the 306 task with enormous enthusiasm and began a dialog with 306 owners, dealers, and interested associates. The model update was very popular, with innovative changes in almost every area of the boat. One of the standout features of the new 306 was a completely redesigned “Command Seating” helm area with deluxe helm and companion seats, and a sports-car-like feel at the helm. There was even an automotive-style console glove box. The 306 also featured a sturdy hard T-top, complete with optional easy-to-use 15' telescoping outriggers. Grady incorporated the company’s patented aft bench seat and a super rigging station and livewell arrangement in the aft area of the leaning post. (View the current Canyon 306 video here.)
2006 also saw the revamp of one of Grady-White’s most versatile models, the fishing-and-family-friendly Gulfstream 232. Available with single or twin engines, the 2006 232 gave its owners enormous versatility and value. A wide-bodied walkaround cabin, the 232 is perfectly suited and comfortable for hunting big game offshore among much larger boats. Plus, partly because of the newly redesigned cabin complete with plenty of napping room, a nice stove, plus ample galley storage and optional head, the 232 really makes a nice coastal family boat.
In late 2006, Grady-White went “Five for Five,” again receiving the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) highest award for customer satisfaction, the CSI award. Grady-White continued its unbroken record of top recognitions for customer satisfaction.
In December 2006 - January 2007, at the New York National Boat Show, Grady-White redefined the family cruiser by introducing the Tournament 275, a remarkably versatile 27-foot multipurpose family boat especially for coastal and big water use, now known as the Freedom 275. The 275 was instantly popular because it is one of the first boats available that combined the amenities of an open inland cruiser with a saltwater-tough Grady-White hull. (Click here for more information and videos on today’s Freedom 275.) The Tournament 275 was the 21st model available to customers in the 2007 model year, once again ensuring that Grady-White continued to offer the most complete line in coastal boating.
Many people may not immediately think of Grady as a center console boat builder, but as the 2008 model year began in August 2007, Grady-White literally and figuratively lengthened its lead as the manufacturer of the world’s most complete line of center consoles, ranging from 18'-33', by introducing its eighth center console, the fantastic 33' Canyon 336. The Canyon 336 upped the ante for innovation, and continued the high standards and attention to detail that deliver the long-term value and genuine satisfaction that customers embrace. The 336 offers the fisherman a big, beamy easy-to-fish cockpit and rigging station, and one of the best and most comfortable helm area seating arrangements anywhere. What’s more, the lockable console features a roomy stand-up head enclosure, with a nice deep sink and a freshwater shower. An optional microwave oven heats food and beverages. There is even a berth that extends forward, providing additional storage space or a place for a tired fisherman to get a little rest. (Click here to find out more about today’s Canyon 336.)
As if all these fantastic new models weren’t enough, there were more honors and recognitions. Having already received recognitions of excellence in every study ever conducted in the marine industry, in early 2008 at the Miami International Boat Show, once again Grady-White was highest ranked in the coastal fishing boat category when named “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Coastal Fishing Boats Seven Times in a Row.” “What a great confirmation of Grady-White’s continuing dominance in customer satisfaction!” said Kris Carroll, Grady-White president, as she accepted this seventh trophy. “We are incredibly pleased and proud to receive this award. We never take this recognition for granted, and will continue to focus on making our customers exceedingly happy. Our entire team–not only our factory associates, but also our dealers and suppliers–has a great passion for and experiences a lot of joy in delivering something special in the lives of our boat owners, something that makes their families feel so fulfilled,” Carroll continued.
In the 2009 model year, Grady-White continued to do what the company does best: introduce great new products and features, plus focus on attention to detail and the customer satisfaction this focus brings. Kicking off the 2009 model year and beginning the celebration of the company‚ as the 50th year in business began, in late summer 2008 Grady-White introduced a new walkaround cabin model, the 29-foot Chesapeake 290, a boat named after a very popular Grady-White originally introduced in the early years. “The fact is, we are the company that pioneered the walkaround in 1974 and we’ve put all those years of refinement into all of our walkarounds. Whether your Grady Life is about serious fishing capability that is also family pleasing, or whether you’re looking for a family-friendly boat complete with a roomy head and overnight sleeping comfort that can really do the job right when fishing gets hot, a Grady-White walkaround has it all,” said Vice President of Engineering David Neese. The Chesapeake 290 also introduced some great new deluxe seating options with flip-up bolsters for the helm and companion chairs, and companion bench seating that became quite popular and was incorporated into other models.
The Chesapeake 290 was far from all of the innovation coming from Grady-White in the 2009 model year. With the introduction of the 30-foot Tournament 307 (a boat model later re-named the Freedom 307) in early fall at the beginning of the 2009 model year, Grady-White added to a whole new category in boating: open, big water coastal cruisers. The company now offered the most complete line of safe, seaworthy, multi-purpose dual console style boats. These boats, built with refined durability in the Grady-White tradition of versatile, seaworthy saltwater fishing and family boats, were pioneered by the Grady-White Tarpon 190 created in 1978. Customer requests for a roomy cruising-and-fishing boat with genuine oceangoing capability were the inspiration for the Tournament 307. A great fit for families with homes or second homes at the coast or on lakes, and perfect for those with a wide range of water activity interests, the 10'7"-beam 307 was created to assure a great day on the water for the whole family. Like its Grady-White siblings (the Tournament 205, 225 and 275, all later renamed as Freedom Series dual consoles), the Grady-White 307 features an enclosed head area. The boat offers the seating and comforts of an inland cruiser, with a big-boat hull proven for rough water, big-water safety, and capability.
In December 2008, Grady-White completed the prototype for the company’s biggest center console to date, the awesome, super-fishing beast, the 37-foot Canyon 366 (now known as the Canyon 376). Although the 366 was billed as a center console, it might more properly be called a “center cabin” boat. The extraordinarily roomy console cabin not only has more than ample bulk storage, it comes complete with air-conditioned comfort and features a stainless sink plus a roomy shower area, as well as a microwave and optional flat screen TV. Bottom line is that this “center console” with all its creature comforts is a far, far cry from the Spartan center console fishing platforms coming out of Florida in the late 1970s and early 1980s. (Watch the Canyon 376 video.)
As the year 2009 arrived, Grady-White marked its 50th Anniversary with the electronic publication of a book and video about the company’s history. (Read the book and see the video here.) Grady-White’s position as a leading company, with financial strength and a solid business model carefully built and nurtured by the Smith family and the longstanding management team, empowered the company to continue to continue its mission of providing the ultimate boating experience to customers–despite difficult economic conditions. The talented engineering team didn’t miss a beat in designing great new products. In Miami at the February 2009 boat show, Grady-White was awarded the eighth consecutive J.D. Power and Associates award for the highest-ranking coastal fishing boat in customer satisfaction. Later in the year, the company was likewise awarded its eighth consecutive NMMA CSI award for excellence in customer satisfaction, continuing a string of gaining every third-party recognition for customer satisfaction. And in March, Grady-White owners gathered 250 strong at the very first Grady Fest held in Punta Gorda, Florida, joined by many members of the Grady-White management team.
That fall, Grady-White began publication of the company’s multiple award-winning e-newsletter, Docklines (subscribe here). And early in October, Grady-White saluted retiring Northeast territory factory sales rep Bing Fishman, a man who pre-dated even Eddie Smith at Grady-White and who was an icon in the industry–a genuine “character” as well as a strong supporter at Grady-White dealership events. The dealer meeting in October 2009 was held at the Grady-White plant, with a costume party themed “The 1950s,” complete with a wall of vintage photos and items from the past. Talk about the company’s and many of the dealerships’ perseverance through the years dominated the presentations and the conversation. Dealers also got to see a great new style of hardtop enclosure for the Express 360.
In contrast to many builders in the industry, Grady-White was active in the 2010 model year, introducing two completely new models (the Freedom 255 and Fisherman 230), reintroducing another (Freedom 192) and completely revamping an old favorite, the Fisherman 209 (formerly named the Escape 209). During the 2010 model year, Grady-White made the decision to change the name of many of the models in order to help customers understand the fundamental functions of the boats. Thus all the dual consoles were re-named as the “Freedom Series” to highlight their versatility; all the center consoles 25 feet and less in size became the “Fisherman Series” to indicate their primary use; and all the center consoles over 25 feet became the “Canyon Series” as they are often used to run well offshore.
Back in 1993, Grady-White took advantage of its long legacy of building great 19-footers by introducing the dual console Tournament 192, one of the company’s most popular models through the 1990s. Due to demand and requests for a versatile, high-value coastal 19-foot boat, Grady-White re-introduced the 192 as the Freedom 192 for the 2010 model year: a classic Grady updated with the many improvements that the company has incorporated into the line every model year.
Mid-year in the 2010 model year, Grady-White also introduced the company’s tenth center console offering, the Fisherman 230. The 8'6"-beam, 23-foot beauty was packed with well-conceived new features making great use of available space, resulting in an aft cockpit roomier than those of many 25-foot boats. Innovations included a clever removable cooler that doubled as forward seating, a stand-up head area in the console, and a handsome, well-engineered optional T-top integrated into the console structure.
In March 2010, the Grady faithful from all over gathered again, this time in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, for two days of beautiful weather at the second Grady Fest. Parties kicked things off, followed by seminars on everything from technical detail of Grady design to cooking aboard, to the idea exchanges and socializing of Owners’ Clubs, made for a wonderful event. (Watch videos and slideshows of past Grady Fests.)
Spring came, and for the upcoming 2011 model year Grady-White introduced yet another dual console model, this one with a stand-up head: “The Ultimate in Versatility” Freedom 255. For coastal and big-water boating, Grady-White’s increasingly popular dual consoles began redefining family recreation for a new generation by capitalizing on the Grady-White heritage of building the safest, best-riding, highest quality boats in their categories, and by enhancing design and features–like the stand-up heads–that provided enormous versatility and recreational freedom. (Learn more about the Freedom 255.)
Also as a prelude to the 2011 model year, in midsummer Grady-White responded to customer requests by completely revamping the Fisherman 209, a popular 8'1"-beam 20-foot center console that included a much roomier head area, deck-level access all the way to the bow of the boat, a redesigned helm and electronics area, plus an optional T-top that was handsomely integrated into the console.
The bonds that Grady-White has built with its boat owners over the years pay dividends whenever and wherever customers gather. That fact was evident in Miami and in New England and many other winter and spring boat shows in 2011, with new Grady-White Owners’ Clubs forming all around the country. And that wasn’t all going on at the shows. Attendance was up, and folks were gathering to see the new Freedom 255, the Fisherman 230, the updated Fisherman 209, and of course the awesome Canyon 366 and other models. There was also a new hardtop enclosure for the Express 330, modeled after the popular one being installed on the Express 360.
Grady-White dealership customer events in the spring of 2011, plus good weather, sparked great interest anew in the Grady-White Owners’ Clubs. Thus, Grady-White organized the first national Grady-White Club Commodores meeting that took place in July, and was attended by over 50 club leaders and other active members. The primary purpose of the event was to organize an idea exchange to see how Grady-White could best foster new and greater club participation. Socializing, idea sessions and break-outs, and a great factory tour highlighted the event. (Watch the Club Commodores video.)
Model year 2012 opened with the introduction of the all-new Canyon 271 (now reinvented as the Canyon 271 FS), a super 27-foot center console fishing boat that is also very family friendly. The Canyon 271 included features that customers had been asking for, among them being a large, versatile enclosed head area, as well as a well-protected and highly ergonomic helm area. Highlight of the Canyon 271 included loads of seating and storage, in the bow area especially. Perhaps because Grady-White was a pioneer in cabin style boats, customers are sometimes surprised to learn that Grady-White has built center console boats for nearly four decades. By model year 2012, with ten models from 18-36 feet, the company offered far and away the most varied and complete line of center consoles available from any single builder. (Watch the Canyon 271 FS video.)
Throughout the late summer and fall of 2011, Grady-White worked furiously on superbly engineering the all-new Freedom 285, introduced to dealers at the combination dealer meeting and sales training seminar held in New Bern, North Carolina, over several warm, beautiful days in December 2011. Determined to have the best service and sales in the business through its dealers, Grady-White went all-out in dealer training at the meeting, with 15 different models in the water for dealer learning and testing and a rigorous seminar and meeting schedule. The 28-foot Freedom 285 dealers saw at the meeting was a full foot wider and longer than the Freedom 275, and was designed specifically with variety and entertaining in mind, while not forgetting Grady-White’s fishing heritage. More room in the Freedom 285 made it ideal for socializing, all kinds of fun, and all types of gear, whether for fishing, diving, camping, tubing, wakeboarding or skiing. All of the requisite comforts provided by excellent seating and a very roomy head were there, and the boat was an immediate hit with the dealers.
For the first time since the very early 1970s, also thanks to customer demand, Grady-White began offering colored boat hulls in the 2012 model year, with a sand-colored gel coat option and painted hull options in a handsome Sea Glass (light green), Vista Blue (light blue) and Harbor Blue (dark blue). (Colored hull options have changed; please see Build My Grady online for the latest hull color choices.) Even with a colored hull, the distinctive Grady-White raised shear line remains a product trademark, seen even when the boat is spotted from afar.
In addition to the growing popularity of the versatile Freedom Series dual consoles (and with six models from 19 to 30 feet, Grady-White now offered by far the industry’s largest selection), the company continued its proud center console legacy, and invested in continuously improving the wide range of terrific center consoles offered in 2012. As a result, early in the 2013 model year, the largest of Grady-White’s Fisherman Series, the Fisherman 257, got an impressive revamp of its console area, plus a handsome newly styled integrated T-top. The Fisherman 257 redesign focused on a larger stand-up head with amenities inside the console. The console helm station was redesigned to be more ergonomic and to accommodate the latest flush mount electronics, and a new footrest was added. The crowning touch was a revision of the optional T-top as a more integrated structure, including handholds right where you’d naturally reach.
At Miami in February 2012, Grady-White unveiled a prototype that would not be deemed “complete” until summer–a real game-changer, and the largest outboard dual console ever built to that date: the Freedom 335. Designed to “Fish in comfort, cruise in style,” the Freedom 335 was big, luxurious and loaded with never-seen-before features and handsome detailing. Each console, port and starboard, is essentially a cabin. The port side console is set up for resting, with a clever sliding full-sized bunk and an entertainment system. The starboard side console head area contains full-sized cabinetry and counters, and other amenities previously unheard of in any dual console. Seating and a table at the bow were innovative and very smartly engineered to be out of the way. And in the cockpit, the port side features electronically controlled seating with great storage and a neat fold-down countertop, and the starboard cockpit is set for entertaining with a wet bar, refrigerator, and optional grill. The aft cockpit is perfect for competitive fishing, if that’s the owner’s choice, and a SureShade™ retractable shade device covers the aft cockpit. Truly, the 335 exemplifies comfort and style, and appeals to a wide variety of age groups. So, at the top of the 2013 model year, Grady-White offered a company record 27 models‚ truly a size and shape boat for any serious boating family! But the record wouldn’t last long.
In the fall of 2012, early in the 2013 model year, Grady-White continued to sweat the details on engineering great new features and products in anticipation of an improving economy. The Grady-White team hosted another excellent sales training seminar that December. And behind the scenes, Grady-White worked to introduce yet another incredible dual console. Actually, a new phrase was born for this special product: the “dual cabin boat,” touted as the “ultimate transformer,” the “biggest and best”– the Freedom 375, with literally dozens of features designed to make anyone’s idea of a dream day on the water come true, including for the first time anywhere, the trademark AirView2™ enclosure. (See the 335 video.) By the time that the Miami show arrived in February 2013, the company was building nine different Freedom Series models and 28 models of all descriptions.
The idea of Grady Care, a customer experience concept pioneered in 2005, resulted in a fantastic new innovation in 2013: Captain Grady, the model-specific, industry-exclusive iPad app, with complete video and written instructions for all boat systems and components operation. By 2014, Captain Grady was available as a no-additional cost asset and feature on every new Grady-White model. (By early 2016, Captain Grady was available on iPhones, too.) In short, this one-of–a-kind Grady Care application makes any new Grady-White the easiest boat to operate in the world. If anyone wondered what it means to have exceptional attention to detail and close relationships with customers and how they use their boats, the Captain Grady app is certainly proof of Grady-White’s commitment.
Mid-winter 2013-14 also marked the introduction of a whole new category of Grady-White, with the development of the breakthrough 25-foot 251 Coastal Explorer. Shown extensively at winter boat shows and raved about by boating industry sportsmen and writers, the shallow draft multi-use boat was an instant success. Touting a C. Raymond Hunt SeaV2® hull, this coastal boat is perfectly designed for shallow water family fishing, and can easily venture offshore. With family-friendly amenities, including a roomy head compartment and comfy seating, and foldaway, easy-to-store bow seat backs, this boat is a coastal family’s dreamboat.
Interest in boating continued to escalate, and demand for many Grady models continued to outperform other brands. Refreshed designs across the line with new cushions, tops, design details, features and options made the 2015 model year line up even more desirable. The Express 330 got a full helm and cabin update, incorporating customer suggestions with exceptional detail and more luxurious appointments. The commanding Express 370 also received terrific upgrades that make this boat even more elegant and refined in the cabin, while maintaining her incredible rugged durability for offshore fishing or long-range trips. Mid-year, a smaller scale Coastal Explorer joined the Grady-White family with the introduction of the 191 CE at the Miami International Boat Show. Sporty and fun, she was and is an instant big hit with the younger crowd for all kinds of boating adventures, and proves once again that through well-considered customer input, Grady-White can pack a ton of features into a smaller package, much the same way Grady builds highly desired feature-rich refinements and durability into every model including the larger boats.
Grady-White revealed a completely new website in the fall of 2015, made even more user friendly and packed full of the details boat buyers need, along with interesting information customers want to explore and expand Grady experience. The site aimed to provide the industry’s most up-to-date and detailed information, as well as the most thorough company and “Grady Life” lifestyle experience. The introduction of the new site was hailed by customers and dealers alike! The elegant ivory header mirrors the SeaV2® hull design shear line, and the big picture format makes the site beautiful to view while being easy to navigate.
For the 2016 model year, Grady-White completely redesigned a perennial favorite, the Freedom 275. With innovative new features and fresh styling, the 275 is a perfect model for families looking for a boat in that size range to go farther and take along more friends for all kinds of fun! A triple engine option was added to the already awesome Canyon 336, in answer to requests from many Grady-White offshore fishing enthusiasts looking for even more extra power and speed.
Grady-White also put a new twist on the spectacular Canyon 271 offshore sportfisher. Many customers were asking for more fishing room forward, so the Grady-White team redesigned the console, converted the large forward center box into a full size cooler, and made the bow available to function as a true casting platform. With an eye on innovation and versatility, the Grady design and engineering team added never-before-seen gunwale hugging bolsters that convert to comfortable and secure seat backs. Responding to customer requests, Grady-White also added a T-top integrated, extra-tall windshield at the console that gives the captain and crew extra protection in tough conditions. Ready for gamefish battles or for family fun, the Canyon 271 FS is a great addition to the line.
For summer 2016, a new hull configuration platform was ushered in with the unveiling of the Freedom 235 and the Fisherman 236. Both of these not-so-identical “twins” incorporate fully integrated stern swim platforms port and starboard that double as boarding surfaces, with storage room starboard for a stern anchor that's so useful for beaching. Both boats immediately hit a sweet spot in the market with customers moving up from some of the smaller dual or center consoles. Many new and old Grady enthusiasts say these are the perfect mid-size boats for their families, and offer versatility, safety, and features that buyers say did not exist on other brands.
The immediate success of 2017 model year introductions builds anticipation for even more innovation, and excitement for the many new models including the Canyon 306, specifically in windshield protection and helm ergonomics. The 2017 Canyon 306 also serves up Grady’s super comfortable fold-away back rests to make the forward bow seating even more luxurious, whether the emphasis is on a pleasure cruise or an offshore fishing trip. The latest boats hold great promise as the company works hard to keep up with the demand for the exceptional attention to detail that is uniquely Grady-White, in every model of every size.