When Dan Londero’s wife said, “Buy a bigger boat,” he went straight to the Grady-White showroom at Short Marine. Now he steers a sweet Marlin 300 with twin 300 HP Yammies and Furuno screens wrapped in a custom dash.
The Captain is feeling pretty cosmopolitan at Fergusons Marina on Middle Harbour, sipping a latte and nibbling a ham and cheese croissant. It’s a beautiful summer morning, a perfect day for boating, and we’ve dodged the boat ramp mayhem and detoured to the marina.
The Captain’s crew has been invited aboard Dan Londero’s brand-new Grady-White Marlin 300, berthed under the Spit Bridge. Kingfish are the target today, but we’re just as interested in the Marlin 300 — the Big Dog version of Grant Shorland’s Journey 258. (For those readers without total recall of The Captain back issues, Grant’s the abalone diver with a fondness for fluids.)
IN THE BEGINNING
It all started with an email from Dan the Man that went a little like this: “G’day Captain. I wonder if you could help me with my dilemma. Given your extensive experience, I’m sure you’ll have an opinion. I currently fish offshore Sydney in my Stabicraft 2400. Now, I absolutely love this boat, but I didn’t expect my wife to love it as much as me — she’s actually threatening to come away with me on weekends. So I’m looking for a new boat.
The spec is about 30ft (9m) and I use dry storage, so it doesn’t need to be trailerable. I prefer outboards — Yamahas with Helm Master are the go. It’s got to sleep at least four people comfortably, with galley and toilet departments. Most importantly, it must be an offshore fishing weapon with walkaround capability so we can fish from the bow. I like a centre consoles and have so far checked out the Grady-White Marlin 300, Robalo R305, Boston Whaler 285 Conquest and Haines Hunter 760. What do you reckon?”
Having ridden every boat on Dan’s list, we wasted no time sending him to the lads at Short Marine, southern distributor for Grady-White.
Not long after, The Captain’s inbox was swamped with a tidal wave of emails from Dan — asking what colour we thought his newly ordered Marlin 300 should be and sharing pictures of the 15” Furunos cramming the dash. Mission accomplished.
The Captain had successfully secured another east coast fishing platform. Er, and a good salty mate, of course.
DAN’S TIPS TO DOMINATE SYDNEY HARBOUR
(YES, HE’S CAUGHT PLENTY OF BIG ONES)
1. Sydney Harbour is a really busy waterway. I prefer to fish it really early, as close to first light as possible. I’ve had the best results this way when the waterway is at its most quiet. Marry that with a turning tide and hold on.
2. Live bait is key, especially for kingies. No doubt, squid is top-notch bait, but just about anything will have a pick at a live squid. It takes a while to catch them and they can get snaffled up in no time. Medium-size slimmies are my favourite bait, as are medium-size yakkas.
3. Nickleback pumping at about 150db gets the fish thinking WTF?!! —and brings on the bite. I have no conclusive scientific proof. Maybe we just caught the only deaf fish out there. But you’re mad if you don’t get good speakers in the boat. My Marlin 300 has a Fusion system.
4. If fishing anchored, then burley, burley, burley. I’ve found the perfect —perhaps only — use for Australian salmon. Chuck ’em in the burley bucket and mash ’em up. I prefer to downrig because I can’t sit still — and I just love the hum of those 300HP Yammies.
5. Sydney Harbour has everything. Anticipate a slow fish day and bring on board the BBQ, snorkels and budgie smugglers just in case. You can finish the day with family and friends chilling on the beach at Store or Collins. What better way to redeem yourself?
On board Dan’s new baby, after a few handshakes and a grand tour, it’s on to the task at hand: kingfish. Dan’s 16-year-old son, Coops, is at the helm. We don’t know too many 16-year-olds who steer a half-million bucks worth of fibreglass, but Coops is right up to speed on the Helm Master joystick and pulls us away from the berth like a boss.
The first thing we notice at the helm is the elevated floor lifted above the waterline and rear cockpit. It offers great sight lines across the water as Coop works through a few manoeuvres. It also makes a dominant 360-degree fishing outlook — something often missing on small game-fishing vessels once the stainless and clears are chucked on.
After a quick squirt across the harbour, we arrive at the artificial reef off South Head. Instead of dropping the pick, Dan hits the Helm Master Set Point feature, which allows you to lock your position on the GPS.
The outboards move independently to hold us on the spot. With two 300HP V6 Yamahas growling at each other the whole time it’s not as relaxing as sitting quietly at anchor, but the feature works perfectly.
Position set, Coops deploys the bait jig and before too long he’s filled the 121L live bait tank with slimies and a couple of arrow squid. The tank features Grady’s full-column distribution system (basically, water flows in evenly through the round-edged tank). It’s the best tank set-up going and several boat builders we know could take a few pointers from the design.
Next we head to the sheer cliff faces of North Head and begin rigging up. Dan pulls out a downrigger, neatly stowed underfloor, while Coops rigs the rods. The father and son work like pros and in a few moments we’re on the rods. While trolling, the duo take turns to head up to the bowsprit to cast metal slices and poppers into the wash. Coops uses a special topwater rod he made himself.
The walk-around configuration really lends itself to this kind of fishing. Grady claims the concept was developed by them in the mid ’70s and has been a feature of the Marlin range since 1989. Even though you’re in a big boat, you can still move around like you would in a console.
THROUGH THE RANKS
To say the fishing is quiet is an understatement. We drag perfectly presented live squid and slimies up and down North Head and through the moorings of Middle Harbour. Nothing. On the upside, it gives us a good chance to chat to Dan.
“My financial advisor had me on a guilt trip for many years when it came to buying a boat,” he says. “He used to tell me, ‘the best friend you can find, is one with a boat’.
After years of stowing away on whatever boat I could, and with my kids getting a bit older, I thought bugger it! I’m finally going to buy a boat. My first was a Quintrex 490 Freedom Sport. Then I thought I’d get a bit more serious and stepped into a Stabicraft 2400 Supercab. I absolutely loved that boat — it was like a Sherman tank on water. We had such a great summer on it last year that my wife suggested we get a bigger boat, something we could sleep on. And before she could change her mind, I bought this baby!”
By this stage of his trip down Memory Lane, Dan is softly stroking the (admittedly rather attractive) dash of the Marlin 300.
PIMP MY RIDE
Yep, Dan is smitten with his Grady. He rates the finish and handling as exceptional and we’d have to agree. Like every other Grady The Captain has inspected, attention to detail on the mighty Marlin is top-quality.
Not to mention the performance in shit seas. The Marlin 300 has a 19.5-degree dead-rise at the transom with an increasingly sharper dead-rise towards the bow. Designed by Ray Hunt, the variable dead-rise hull gives all Grady vessels an awesome balance between stability (at rest and underway) and a soft ride — the best of both worlds.
Another standout feature is the huge cockpit size. For a 30ft boat, there is so much space that Dan decided to throw a Yeti cooler in the centre (it’s a pretty good as a makeshift rigging bench). If seas are shitty, there’s a rigging bench behind the drivers seat with a sink underneath.
Other custom bits include the dash. The Marlin 300 comes out of the factory with twin 12-inch screens. But Dan says he’s a bit “optically challenged” these days and wanted 15-inch screens so he could see them clearly when fishing down the back of the boat. So he got the boys at Short Marine to take a diamond blade saw to his brand new boat and widen the dash. “You’d never know it was a custom job,” he says. “The workmanship is beautiful”. The Captain agrees. Standing at the helm feels like you’re in command of a battleship.
But the custom work doesn’t end there. Dan also wanted the topside colour to run right down to the keel, which he reckons is a first for Grady-White. The boat is fully kitted out with SeaDek flooring so she feels great underfoot and the outriggers have been fully rigged by Alex Qasabian from the Fishing Station in Mona Vale. Mint job, Alex.
BOAT BUILDING PEDIGREE
There really isn’t much to fault on this Grady. The rig oozes 60 years of boat building experience. We’re just disappointed the Marlin 300 doesn’t fit on a trailer. We’d follow the bluefin bite south to Bermagui and back in this baby. But really, who cares when Sydney Harbour is your home base — one of the best ports in Australia, maybe even the world.
Aside from catching a kingie for dinner (we didn’t), Dan reckons fishing is all about the memories, “My best memories are fishing up on Fraser Island with my dad. He was happiest when he was catching fish.” And by the looks of things, the tradition continues for Dan and Coops — they couldn’t wipe the smiles off their faces all day.