By Bill Hayes, Marlin 300 owner
There is a Grady-White dealership on the north end of Longboat Key called Cannon's Marine. Nestled among numerous palm trees on the Bay side with white sand, shells and Spanish moss everywhere, the establishment perfectly depicts the Paradise we call Florida and has served boaters for more years than I can remember.
One of my vivid vacation recollections as a little shaver was gazing at the Grady-White boats from the front seat of my parents’ Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight as we motored by the marina on the way to our waterfront hotel for the week. Eventually, I talked my dad into stopping there occasionally so I could see the boats up close. To a kid from Indiana with only a few precious vacation days until the inevitable return to math class, the boats were exciting to behold and a fantasy to dream about. Solidly chocked bow and stern, the Gradys sat on Cannon's front lot in all their glory, gelcoat gleaming in the tropical sun. I had as much chance of acquiring one as I did replacing Ringo in the Beatles, but I stood there hoping... trying to figure out how to get my parents to write a check with more zeros in it than they would ever agree to. It was during those post-Kennedy years on Longboat Key that I began a love affair with Grady-White Boats that has stayed with me to this day.
In the spring of 1994, I was able to purchase my first Grady, the legendary Seafarer 22. (My Mom's co-signing of the loan streamlined the process considerably.) Ten years later, it was a Gulfstream 232, and now we have a Marlin 300. Throughout my ownership experience, I quickly learned that owning a Grady is much more than owning just the boat. You acquire a vast dealer network nationwide and a support group to which you are a real customer, not just a number. I have also become friends with the folks in the Grady-White Front Office, and I assure you they truly care about their product and their customers, and that makes all the difference when faced with problems or questions. The opportunity to join an Owners’ Club is another benefit to Grady-White ownership. We are proud members of the Tarpon Coast Owners’ Club of Southwest Florida, and the members are more than boating companions. They have become friends and have added a special spark to our retirement lifestyle. Our club, as with most I'm sure, is a hotbed of boating knowledge from cruising tips to fishing techniques, and the Captains are happy to share it all over a grouper sandwich and a bottle of their favorite vintage. We go on overnight trips, raft-ups, fishing excursions and sightseeing trips aboard our Gradys, living life at 1 MPG and can't wait to do it all over again. The Grady Experience is fun, I tell 'ya...
I can describe what we do in the clubs, how good our service dealer support is, and recount our past trips, but one of the most compelling things about owning a Grady is something that can't be conveyed through the printed word. It's a "feeling" that you get when you plane the boat off and experience how in-tune with herself she is. Trim up the Yamahas, maybe a touch of tab to compensate for a quartering wind on the bow, and for that moment in time the world is OK. This "feeling" is no accident: it's the happy result of experts at the top of their game building boats that have been honed to perfection over time.
When I saw the Grady-Whites at Cannons as a child, they inspired me. Even though I've replaced my baseball cards with a Medicare Card, they still do.