Stepping Up for Blue Water

Steve Giallanzo racked up more than 1,800 hours on a 21-foot center console with a single 200-horsepower two-stroke engine. He hauled lots of big dolphin over the side, along with numerous cobia and wahoo. It was a fine-tuned livebait program with very good results.

But, like many fishermen, Steve was tantalized by the prospect of bigger and better catches farther from shore—especially yellowfin tuna on the far side of the Gulf Stream.

A larger platform with twin engines, Steve reasoned, would be better for the runs to the deep. That’s a common sentiment, but in this case it was backed up by Steve’s perspective as a Certified Master Yamaha Technician, one of only 50 in the country. He can fix anything at his Sailfish Marine Service shop in Stuart, but he acknowledges that repair capabilities at sea with no parts are limited.

When one of Steve’s customers announced his intention to sell a 23-foot, twin-engine cuddy, Steve snapped it up. The boat was a Grady White Gulfstream 23. Steve had just serviced it, in fact, finding the 150-horsepower two-stroke engines to be in excellent mechanical condition, with only about 200 hours of running time on the engines. The boat and engine covers were poor cosmetically, but the boat ran very well and the ride was surprisingly good for a small boat.

She wasn’t pretty, but she had seen little use; her original 1990 manuals were stored below and Steve could see beyond the cosmetics to focus on a potential gem. She is 23 feet without the engine bracket or bow pulpit and has a wide beam of 9 feet, 3 inches. With the helm slightly forward of the traditional center console position she has a much larger cockpit than you would expect on a 23-footer.

The boat offered protection from the elements with its hard top, windshield and walk-around cabin. That would be nice on a Bahamas trip, Steve reasoned, and would provide many more days that Shelley, Steve’s wife, would come along on day trips as well. The boat seemed to have it all with good performance, creature comforts, large oval livewell, big fish box and huge cockpit.

Steve was able to sell his 21-footer right away, and did the same with the 150 two-strokes off the Grady. He ordered two new Yamaha 150 four-strokes and the project was underway.

The boat was in excellent mechanical, electrical and structural condition. Steve replaced the battery switches, batteries and baitwell pump—typical stuff for a used boat—but all of her other switches and electrical components were operational. Wet stored all her life, the aluminum engine bracket had suffered some corrosion in addition to the deteriorated finish. The bracket was stripped of paint, treated, filled, faired and painted by local expert Steve Bruno. With the bracket looking like new, hull polished and lockers cleaned, the new four-strokes were installed.

Adding modern electronics to the small dash area proved something of a challenge. The solution was to mount new Yamaha digital gauges on a Starboard panel and then install this over old cut-outs on the dash. These Yamaha Command Link gauges provide a host of useful information provided by the engines’ computers, including engine temperature, RPM, tilt/trim, gallons per hour, miles per gallon, fuel burned, fuel available in each of the two tanks and engine diagnostic codes.

Steve wanted a large electronics display and multi-functional radar/sounder/chartplotter features, but there was no place to install it on the small dash. He purchased a Raymarine C120 unit from dealer R.J. Marine Inc. and installed it in a NavPod above and to port of the original. The position doesn’t interfere with forward visibility and the display is right there, easy to see and operate.

The sonar has a new thru-hull transducer; it’s an angle-down flush-mount unit which can be mounted on a hull with a deadrise of up to 20 degrees while still shooting straight down. This side-steps the costly procedure of glassing a thru-hull transducer into the bottom for high-speed use. The Airmar unit is described as a high-performance 1,000-watt flat 20-degree transducer. The new batteries installed were upgraded to Group 27 in lieu of the original Group 24s. The extra power enables Steve to run a 12- to 24-volt converter for the powerful 10 kW 4-foot radar array—suitable for locating birds over tuna schools. He also added receptacles for electric deep-drop reels.

The test run with the new 150 four-strokes revealed a performance edge over the two-stroke models. With the 150 two-strokes, she ran 43 mph with minimal fuel, gear and water but with the 150 four-strokes she gained almost 10 mph under the same conditions. Steve was further pleased with fuel economy of 2.5 miles per gallon at 4,000 rpm/33 mph cruising speed. Plus, no more two-stroke oil to buy, no smoke and quieter performance.

Steve’s previous boat wasn’t really set up for trolling, but for his new goal of tuna fishing he decided to add Rupp Top Gun outriggers to the Grady White. He chose the telescoping poles, which stay out of the way for rack storage and days when trolling isn’t the main priority (he read about the “run-and-dump” yellowfin chunk-bait technique in another issue of FS).

Up top, Steve added some extra rod holders and a rocket launcher on the aft bar of the top. Rods used for sabiki bait-catchers have their own holders on the forward legs of the top, safely isolated from anglers or gear.

During one of the early trips, Steve detected a slight flexing of the transom. The boat is well-built and the transom is as good as new, but while he was in the refurbishing mode, he decided to address the transom. The old two-strokes and new four-strokes weigh about the same, but Steve notes that the weight is distributed differently, with more weight centered on the back of the four-stroke which, via leverage, makes it harder on the transom. Aluminum braces were fabricated and installed between the stringers and the transom to stiffen it up. This was probably not necessary, but Steve does not slow down much, if any, when it gets rough so it put his mind at ease.

I tagged along with Steve and his friend Jerome on a late September trip. We started at about 1,000 feet on a weak weedline. The boat is stable on the drift and turning the engines like rudders kept us on track with the weedline. There is ample battery power to drift with the engines turned off. Before long, we got a call from a local angler who was on a large piece of float in 63 feet of water that was loaded with dolphin. We made the run and the fish were there. With one engine running, the slow troll speed is perfect as the baits are still swimming and remain in good shape. There were more fish there than we had bait so we were heading back to the marina early afternoon. The nice thing is that we ran quite a bit but burned little fuel. Twin-engine security with single-engine economy is a good offshore package. With the wind, seas, ice and crew aboard, the fuel efficiency was not as good as a river test run, but she still gets about 2 miles to the gallon at 30 to 36 mph and runs almost 50 mph. Steve looks forward to the spring when the G-FORCE takes on the yellowfins. FS

Florida Sportsman Classics, August 2010

  • DoradoRick

    Hey Steve,I'm Rick & that's a nice boat you put together.I'm new to this website,but I'm basically doing the same thing with my new/old boat.I picked up a 1994 Stamas 25.5 Tarpon series,that had no running gear,or just basically a hull,with a V-Berth & Bimini Top.I have been steadily working on it for 1.5yrs And now it has twin Yamaha's,T-Top with a hardtop,& put a fold down survey tower.I've run all electrical,made most of the brackets,Put a bow pulpit,and alot of other things also.(just to many to list).Good luck on your boat for Yellow Fin,Tight lines,Fair Weather.