"Mid Size Power Boats": A Guide for Discreminating Buyers - by David Pascoe


Grady-White Offshore 24

Grady-White Offshore 24

Here's a builder we get a lot of requests about, which we don't see often, and as luck would have it, we ran across one recently. Please note that those of you who e-mail requests for information about buying specific boats, we are unable to answer. With over 20,000 different model boats out there, rest assured we've not even familiar with 10% of them.

This 1988 model with a single Mercury 250 hp outboard is old enough that its had a lot of use, so we generally get to see how well its held up over time. Its an example of an older style, walk-around outboard boat of the type that has no motor well and an open transom. Personally, I'm not much of a fan of the walk-around style because of the way it cramps the forward end of the cockpit. In this case, the smallish pedestal helm chairs had only 14" of space between them, making it very difficult for two people to be up front. And if you've got any kind of wide beam yourself, you're not going to be very happy about trying to squeeze between those chairs all the time.

Yes, its got a positively huge cockpit area, but the trade-off for the walk around ability comes at a pretty steep price of convenience in operating the boat. The one place where this design might be an advantage is to the bottom fisherman who's not foolish enough to throw anchors over the stern out in the ocean. More about that in a moment. If you're moving around from one spot to another a lot, the ability to easily get up forward is a definite plus, especially for skinny folks who'll have less of a problem with those chairs. The walk-around style is still being marketed by various builders, so the pros and cons of this feature is something you might want to consider carefully. If you're only going to be throwing an anchor off the bow infrequently, it may not be worth the constant cramping of the helm area just to avoid having to climb over the windshield occasionally. Another viable option is to rig your anchor so that you can control it from the cockpit. so you don't have to go up there at all, unless the anchor gets stuck.

Going around and kicking the tires, so to speak, the hull of this boat seems pretty solid. The hull sides don't flutter when you bang on them with your fist. The rub rails weren't loose and there were no cracks along the deck joint. There were few stress cracks on the decks. Looking down in the bilge, we see a lot of framing down there and things look pretty solid, although the glass work is rather rough. Even so, we found some stress cracking up forward on the bottom, located under the berth liner where we couldn't see it from the inside. There was an area of apparent panel deflection around 18" in length  that appeared to be causing the stress cracks, although there was no indication of immanent failure, but the exact reason for their being there wasn't determined. Possibly a one-time hit on something, plus the boat seems to have had some pretty heavy trailer use.

Our main concern was the open transom with no motor well. We measured the cockpit deck at 5-1/2" above the water line with a 4" deep well and open scuppers. It has a removable plastic panel across the back which isn't going to do much for security. Any wave crashing over the stern is going to bend and force that unsupported panel out of its side mounting channels. And because its easily removable, chances are that you will remove it in order to gain the extra space. After all, that's why its there. Apparently the idea is that if you are dumb enough to remove it, they'll let you do that. In addition, there were two leaky plastic inspection ports at the bottom of the well, and the hole in the side of the liner for the engine controls (bottom right photo) is cut below the level of the transom cut-down.

Since I've done a bit of night-time snapper fishing out on the reefs, drifting along in the dark, I know what a big wave over the transom can mean. You tend to forget what the 3 foot wake of a passing ship miles away can do to the boat. It comes along completely unexpected and catches you off-guard. To suddenly have a couple of feet of water crashing into the cockpit, in the dark, out on the ocean, late at night, when you know that the deck is not watertight, is a terrifying experience. If you survive it. Ever have a boat go out from under you? I have, and I can tell  you that what you start thinking about is floating over a reef with your feet dangling down. Suddenly the idea of becoming fishbait bait yourself becomes very real.  Take a close look at the photo below right and you'll see why.

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The trade-off for the walk-around capability is the cramped helm area.

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The completely open transom only 5-1/2" above the water line. It would be less dangerous with the partition in place, but if you remove it you could be headed for trouble.

Personally, I would  recommend against buying ANY boat designed like this. In my view, its just plain dangerous. Even if you can make the cockpit 100% water tight, remember that water is very heavy. It weights 64 lbs per cubic foot. And when you end up with a thousand pounds or more of water back there, all that light-weight plastic may not hold together so well. They do call it an "offshore", but this is not the kind of boat that I'd want for going out on any large body of water.

Of course, the boat had only one bilge pump in it. Bilge pumps never fail, right? This degree of disregard for safety really gets exasperating after a while.

Over all, this is a pretty utilitarian boat, which is appropriate for a fisherman, with the exception of a lot of teak trim that wasn't being cared for and tended to make the interior look rather shabby. There are four integral boxes that can be used can be used as bait, fish or live wells, taking care of those needs pretty well. But the small stack of tackle drawers on the inside face of the port side passenger seat base was ill thought out since the door clashes with the drawers, and everyone has to be out of the way to open it.

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Plastic inspection ports with snap-in covers. The flimsy plastic frame distorts and is allowing water to leak onto  the aluminum fuel tank. Tests also show that the covers often leak badly.

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The cut out for the engine cables at upper right is below the level of the transom. When the well fills up with water, it partially drains into the hull.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that the rubber boot around the cables keep the water out. It doesn't. And the well drain holes often plug up with debris like leaves and pieces of paper.

Oh, those wonderful cheap, flimsy, plastic inspection ports. Like most boats this size, the deck is full of them, and the deck flexes, meaning that the inspection ports bend, distort, and do not seal. They're not even the screw-in kind, but the snap-in type.  Unfortunately, the aluminum fuel tank is under one of them, and of course water was leaking onto the fuel tank. But since we couldn't see the tank, we have no idea of what is happening to it. All we know is that it is getting wet, and what happens to aluminum tanks if they are foamed in place. We couldn't even tell if it was. At least there is a large, removable deck plate over the tank so you don't have to cut the deck up to take the tank out if it has to be replaced.

The cabin door is easy to get into, but right inside the door where you want to step when entering  is a porta potty! Attempting to use it would be, well . . . . difficult to say the least. Color that one useless. Even the ladies would have to use the leeward rail. Might as well toss it and make better use of the space.

Overall, this boat seems to have held up fairly well over the years, but the variety of design and layout flaws are likely to turn away the more discriminating buyer. I could live with the cramped helm area, but there's no way I'm going out to sea in a boat with an open transom like that. A small lake would be more suitable.

The good news is that later model transom designs with the integral platforms provide a much higher degree of safety, which is particularly important to the fisherman. Boat designs have come a long way since 1988, but so have the prices. If you're not in that price category, and are seriously considering this boat, we suggest you find a way to make the transom arrangement and the decks a bit safer. Otherwise, you might want to look for something a little better.

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Buyers' Guide to Outboard Boats Surveying Fiberglass Power Boats (2E)

David Pascoe - Biography

David Pascoe is a second generation marine surveyor in his family who began his surveying career at age 16 as an apprentice in 1965 as the era of wooden boats was drawing to a close.

Certified by the National Association of Marine Surveyors in 1972, he has conducted over 5,000 pre purchase surveys in addition to having conducted hundreds of boating accident investigations, including fires, sinkings, hull failures and machinery failure analysis.

Over forty years of knowledge and experience are brought to bear in following books. David Pascoe is the author of:

In addition to readers in the United States, boaters and boat industry professionals worldwide from over 70 countries have purchased David Pascoe's books, since introduction of his first book in 2001.

In 2012, David Pascoe has retired from marine surveying business at age 65.

Biography - Long version

Articles at
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Mid Size Power Boats Mid Size Power Boats
A Guide for Discriminating Buyers
Focuses exclusively cruiser class generally 30-55 feet
With discussions on the pros and cons of each type: Expresses, trawlers, motor yachts, multi purpose types, sportfishermen and sedan cruisers.
Buyers' Guide to Outboard Boats
Selecting and Evaluating New and Used Boats
Dedicated for offshore outboard boats
A hard and realistic look at the marine market place and delves into issues of boat quality and durability that most other marine writers are unwilling to touch.
Surveying Fiberglass Powewr Boats
Surveying Fiberglass Power Boats
2nd Edition
The Art of Pre-Purchase Survey The very first of its kind, this book provides the essentials that every novice needs to know, as well as a wealth of esoteric details.
Marine Investigations
Pleasure crafts investigations to court testimony The first and only book of its kind on the subject of investigating pleasure craft casualties and other issues.
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