Boating Life

Grady White's 2023 281 Coastal Explorer

May 30, 2023
Ingman Marine
Boat Models
May 30, 2023
Ingman Marine
Boat Models

Nearly a decade has passed since Grady-White released its first hybrid center console, the 251 Coastal Explorer. The goal of this model was to address the needs of anglers and their families, both inshore and offshore. Now, Grady-White has introduced its newest CE and we are not disappointed!

The Grady-White 281 CE has a centerline length that nears 28 feet, and it is here to disrupt the industry. Built for comfort, safety and efficiency, the ways in which this model can be adapted to your required mission is a true testament to the engineers. Families that are looking for a boat that will allow them to shake things up every time they head out need look no further. Take this baby out to a sandbar, through back waters or far out to sea – she can handle it all!

Boat Specs & Media

Beam: 9′ 4″

Cockpit Depth: 22″

Deadrise: 16°

Draft: 19″

Bridge Clearance: 7′ 11″

LOA: 27′ 7″

Max. HP: 600 hp

Fuel Capacity: 160 gal.

Weight: 5,650 lbs*

*approx. w/o engines

Color Options

The gelcoat color options for this beauty are: Classic Grady White (this is the standard color), Celestial Blue, Coastal Fog (grayish-green), Ocean Mist (very pale blue), and Sea Glass (green).

There are also color options for the 2 Yamaha factory-painted engines available with this model via Grady-White’s website. The single 425 offers gray (standard), pearlescent white or primer (unpainted). The twin 300s come in the standard gray or the pearlescent white.

Engine Options

Grady-White recommends the Yamaha 425 or twin F300s, but an additional option tested by experts is the single Yamaha XTO 450. Based on reviews, however, the dual 300s seem to be favored across the industry for a few different reasons. For starters, we have the obvious benefit of redundancy; if one motor fails, you still have one working motor. Secondly, the twin motors provide maximum power, pushing almost 50 knots (57.4 mph), while also being able to troll with smooth precision.

The 281 CE comes equipped with Helm Master EX and an integrated digital electric steering system, which is compatible with Yamaha’s newest V6 4.2-liter F300s. This is an exciting feature to many boat enthusiasts that makes dual 300s a popular choice. The optional Helm Master Full Maneuverability upgrade package takes autopilot to a new level and provides all the fantastic capabilities of FishPoint, StayPoint and joystick maneuvering.

Ingman Marine only offers Yamaha Motors for New boats. We partner with Yamaha Outboards and even have a repower specialist, KG. You can also opt to buy this boat without a motor and purchase your desired motor elsewhere.

Standard Features

The level of ingenuity behind this Coastal Explorer is impressive! It’s hard to believe that some of the below features come standard, but we are here to tell you – it’s true and we are thrilled to tell you about this outstanding watercraft.

Safety Features

  • 2 automatic bilge pumps (total 2600 GPH) (9842 LPH)
  • Basic flotation
  • Bow grab rail – low profile 316 grade stainless steel
  • Captain Grady® – digital boat systems & operations guide for iPad & iPhone
  • Composite stringer system & transom – water impervious
  • Fire extinguisher holder
  • Nonskid fiberglass liner
  • Self-bailing cockpit w/cockpit drains (2)
  • Stainless steel through-hull fittings
  • Stern grab rail – low profile 316 grade stainless steel

The 281 CE has an abundance of rod holders placed strategically throughout, 2 of which double as posts for removable seatbacks to create additional seating in the aft cockpit when you don’t need as much casting space. The modular nature of the lounges and seats on this vessel are a large part of what makes it such a versatile vessel. The forward seating options, for example, hide many secrets. The foredeck includes a removable insert that can join the console lounge with an optional casting deck to provide more casting room. The removable cushions forward of the lounge hide port and starboard fish boxes, as well as the anchor locker with rode storage. On the flip side, if you’re looking to create the ultimate lounging area, you can convert the middle cushion into a table or electronically control the adjustable backrests of the side seats. This doesn’t even cover the fully adaptable aft seating area. The options for configuration are mind-blowing!

A favorite feature of many industry reviewers, though, is what Grady-White calls the “sport deck”. Controlled electronically, the sport deck is a door on the port side of the cockpit that opens downward to create a small platform with a removable ladder built in. This platform makes it easy for passengers to get on and off during watersports, snorkeling and swimming.

Cockpit & Deck Features

  • 100% hand laid SeaV² hull & deck
  • Anchor windlass w/remote switches at helm & windlass
  • Batteries (2) w/battery select switch (1) & battery charger (1)
  • Casting platform insert w/cushion
  • Cleats – flush mount (pull up)
  • Cockpit lights – blue LED
  • Deck hardware – 316 grade stainless steel through-bolted
  • Drink holders – stainless steel (8)
  • Engine flush system w/hose attachment aft (one per engine)
  • Factory engine pre-rigging
  • Fish box – 70-qt (66.2 l) forward port & starboard insulated fish box w/ob drain (2)
  • Forward bolsters
  • Hydraulic trim tabs w/indicator & auto retract
  • International lighting
  • Livewell – 18-gallon (68 l) aft insulated raw water livewell w/light & ob drain (500 GPH pump) (1893 LPH)
  • Rod holders – aft (4), amidships (4)
  • Rod storage racks – horizontal (2)
  • Rubrail – high density PVC w/stainless steel insert
  • Seating – aft bench seat w/port & starboard swing-open walk-through backrests
  • Seating – port & starboard bow cushioned seating w/electromechanically adjustable backrests
  • Sport Deck – electromechanically folding platform w/boarding ladder
  • Stereo system w/waterproof touch screen display, AM/FM tuner, Wi-Fi & Bluetooth® connectivity; speakers w/LED lights – bow (2), cockpit (2), T-top (2)
  • Stern eyes – 316 grade stainless steel
  • Storage – port & starboard under seat drop in boxes
  • Storage – port boarding ladder storage
  • Storage – forward anchor locker w/rode storage
  • Storage – lockable storage drawers (2)
  • Water tank – 18-gallon (68.1 l) fresh water

Both Boating Magazine and Soundings Magazine specifically mention the impressive visibility that is a result of a full, acrylic windshield that extends to the T-top, which has supports that are removed from the operator’s line of sight. The hard top is also equipped with four rocket launchers and receptables that can accommodate outriggers.

Console Features

  • Accessory outlet – 12V (1)
  • Accessory outlet – 5V duplex USB port
  • Compass
  • Console grab rail
  • Cooler – 296-qt (280.1 l) cooler under forward console seat w/removable divider
  • Drink holders – stainless steel (2)
  • Footrest – molded console footrest
  • Flush mount electronics area
  • Head – lockable console w/lighting, bulk storage, composite cherry & holly sole & marine head w/electric flush, 10-gallon (38 l) holding tank w/macerator, overboard discharge & deck pump out
  • Seating – molded forward console lounge seat w/cushion & backrest
  • Steering – Helm Master EX® w/Integrated Digital Electric Steering (does not include joystick)
  • Steering wheel – 316 grade stainless steel w/knob
  • T-top (fiberglass) w/painted aluminum frame, storage net, LED spreader lights, rod holders (4), tri-colored (red, blue, white) LED recessed lights (3), radar flat & outrigger plates
  • Window – tinted frameless glass
  • Windshield – scratch resistant acrylic integrated w/T-top
  • Windshield wiper w/washer

The lean bar that comes standard with this model is a little slice of heaven for our serious anglers. It plays host to a 38-gallon livewell, a rigging station with a sink and pullout shower, several tackle compartments and lockable storage drawers.

Deluxe Lean Bar

  • Knife & pliers holders
  • Livewell – 38-gal. (144 l) insulated raw water livewell w/light, full column distribution inlet & ob drain (1100 GPH pump) (4164 LPH)
  • Painted rod holders (4)
  • Rigging station – freshwater shower (recessed), cutting board & bait locker
  • Seating – backrest w/split flip-up bolster
  • Storage – lockable storage drawer
  • Storage – lockable w/tackle trays (6)
  • Storage – port net storage area
  • Washdown – pressurized raw water w/hose

Optional Features

For our families that love water sports, the 281 offers an optional ski arch or pylon on the transom perfect for towing your favorite toys. When it’s time to pile back onboard, you and your little ones could greatly benefit from the optional SureShade retractable cockpit shade.

In addition to or as upgraded optional features, you can choose from these following options:

  • Bow table package
  • Casting platform extension insert w/cushion
  • CE certification package (European Conformity)
  • Engine paint – Yamaha factory-painted engine(s), pearlescent white (300 and 425 HP) or primer (425 HP only)
  • Hull color – Celestial Blue, Coastal Fog, Ocean Mist, or Sea Glass gelcoat
  • Lighting – underwater blue LED (2)
  • Outrigger kit – 18-ft. (5.5 m) crank hardtop mounted stainless steel outriggers w/carbon fiber poles
  • Seating – Elite lean bar w/Command Elite helm chairs (2), painted rod holders (4), 38-gal. (144 l) insulated raw water livewell, freshwater shower (recessed), raw water washdown w/hose, bait locker, cutting board, lockable storage drawers (3), tackle storage, port net storage area & knife & plier holders
  • Seating – removable aft bench seat center backrest
  • Ski arch (only available w/single 425 engine)
  • Ski pylon (only available w/twin 300 engines)
  • Steering – Helm Master EX® Full Maneuverability w/autopilot
  • SureShade® electrically retractable cockpit shade w/Sunbrella® canvas (oyster)
  • T-top color – underside of fiberglass T-top (requires matching gelcoat hull color option)
  • Trolling motor pre-rig – swivel mounting bracket w/quick release, head stabilizer, 36V batteries (3), and 20-amp battery charger (trolling motor not included)
  • Canvas – Easy up bow shade (ivory mesh)
  • Canvas – T-top wing curtains (black or ivory)
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Fishing in your 281 Coastal Explorer

With a 16-degree deadrise at the transom of a SeaV² hull and a 19-inch draft, you can conquer any offshore tuna chase or back-bay tarpon trip. PRO TIP: This model can be pre-rigged for a trolling motor, so this is an option for those that prefer to be inshore. The forward and aft casting decks allow everyone enough room to comfortably do their thing. You can utilize the multitude of livewells, fish boxes and wells to store snook, redfish, shrimp and crab.

Final Words

If you’re looking for a boat that checks every box you could possibly have on your dream boat list, this one would be the winner. Every element was ingeniously designed, tested, refined and perfected. It is fast, responsive, smooth in chop, quick to plane, has a ton of storage capacity, offers immensely comfortable seating arrangements and is adaptable to almost any scenario. Start your day off early with an inshore or offshore pursuit; then, you can quickly and easily convert your boat into a lean, mean, family fun machine by making some minor adjustments and letting down the sport deck. Finally, flip your boat one more time into your most relaxing luxury oasis with a large forward sunpad and comfortable aft bench.

As Saltwater Sportsman Magazine and Boating Magazine so elegantly put it, “The 281 Coastal Explorer brings all of Grady-White’s best attributes together in a boat that opens doors to blue water without shutting doors to bays and backwaters”, doing it with “impeccable construction, beautiful lines and a track record of winning customer-satisfaction awards.”

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