For many, the name Grand Banks conjures up images of salty, hardy trawler yachts designed to chug along in the slow lane. Finished with a heavy dose of teak and powered by reliable, slow-turning diesels, an older Grand Banks may achieve a 9-knot cruising speed with the wind over the transom. Although today's Grand Banks trawlers cruise in the upper teens thanks to bigger engines, their design is more or less the same as the first one put to paper nearly four decades ago.
When Grand Banks introduced the Eastbay line in 1995, it was refreshing to see an old-line company add a little zip and spice to its formula. With the introduction of the Grand Banks 58 Eastbay, the company has turned up the heat even more. The 58, the flagship of the Eastbay line, is an elegant gentleman's performance cruiser that redefines the line between a production boat and a custom yacht. It offers a level of fit and finish generally associated with custom builds, but does so with the engineering, design and building experience of a company that has delivered almost 6,000 production yachts in 40 years, and at a price that won't leave your check-writing hand trembling.
I traveled to Malaysia last spring to take out the first 58 for a sea trial. I found that in terms of performance, construction and overall execution, this model has leapfrogged up the evolutionary ladder compared with the company's previous offerings. She is a sexy thoroughbred that offers many custom features sure to alter perceptions of how far a builder can go with a well-designed production hull.
Few traditionally styled 58-foot cruisers boast top speeds in the 34-knot range, an area usually inhabited by the convertible crowd. The Eastbay 58 owner may not be looking to get to the canyon first, but the ability to commute from New York to Nantucket in a day should have great appeal.
As with all Eastbays, C. Raymond Hunt and Associates created the 58's hull design and structural engineering. Her hull has a 19-degree deadrise aft, and a pair of 1,400 hp Caterpillar 3412 diesels results in a 72,500-pound yacht that shreds the waves.
On our run in the Straits of Malacca between Malaysia and Singapore, we sprinted onto plane in an impressive 12 seconds and powered to a top speed of 34.1 knots in 37 seconds. She has an honest cruising speed of 25 knots when loaded with owner's gear. On future hulls the company will offer 1,550 hp C30 Caterpillars. Timing when she started to plane, at around 14 knots, was tricky: I forgot I even had trim tabs, but she reached an optimum angle without me touching them.
Bruce Livingston, managing director of Grand Banks Malaysia and a veteran boatbuilder who oversaw production for Little Harbor Yachts under Ted Hood for nearly two decades, had a smirk on his face while we put the 58 through her paces. Every maneuver revealed impressive performance. The rudders responded to fingertip adjustments, and she nearly turned in her own wake. Her ride was solid and surefooted.
When I measured the sound level at the lower station, there was nothing but a whisper-quiet hum and a relatively quiet 79 decibels at wide-open throttle-73 at a cruising rate of 1900 rpm. LSP Associates, a sound-consulting firm in Singapore, worked closely with the builder from the beginning of the development process to ensure noise was kept to a minimum. LSP specified an aluminum-lined insulation sheet under the sole and 2-inch sound-absorption insulation on the underside. The helmsman and guests can converse in golf-spectator tones.
Similarly civilized conversations can take place in the spacious teak cockpit. Grand Banks measured the sound levels of several muffler systems before the building process started. Plus, over the years the company has gone from stern exhaust ports to side ports on both Grand Banks and Eastbay models to minimize noise and reduce the station-wagon effect. For the 58, though, Grand Banks' engineers zeroed in on corner exhaust ports as the best solution. This is a benefit enjoyed by a production builder that receives feedback from a substantial number of boats on the water.
Accessing the cockpit from the flying bridge is often difficult on convertibles. The Eastbay 58 solves this problem with an exceptionally functional staircase concealed by the deckhouse. It flows gracefully from the cockpit to the bridge with a teak banister. Guests can spread out on the flying bridge on an L-shape settee wrapped in soft UltraLeather. A wet bar is abaft two Stidd helm seats, giving the helmsman and mate a good perch from which to operate and navigate. When backing down, the helmsman can stretch just slightly and easily see the aft port corner of the swim platform.
The engineroom also benefited from extensive engineering before the project began.
"We made several full-size mock-ups to make sure everything was accessible before we started production", Livingston said. "And we've already recognized a few areas we want to change on the next hulls, to gain a little more room outboard". Systems are well laid-out, and a forward pump room frees up more space in the engineroom. Access from the cockpit is through a shippy, watertight door. Soft patches in the saloon's sole will keep mechanics from tearing apart the interior if an engine needs removing. They will be eager to work on the 58, too, thanks to optional air conditioning and the stadium-like intensity of the overhead lighting.
I'm an engineroom snob, and I really enjoy a space that is as aesthetically pleasing as it is functional. The 58's engineroom was not as glowing and gleaming as one on, say, a Cabo or Hatteras. The paint was thick, with a matte finish that will act as a sponge for dirt and grime. Also, the area could have benefited from wiring and plumbing conduits. The amount of time that went into systems planning is impressive, so a little more time spent making things a bit tidier would be welcome to most buyers.
A major change Grand Banks instituted with the 58 was enlisting outside design resources. With the exception of the Aleutian Class 64, launched three years ago, the company has relied heavily on its own in-house engineers and design team for new design development.
"Grand Banks used to be very production-boat oriented when it came to design. Now we've made a deliberate change in the design process", said Richard Ahl, the company's product-development manager. "We had to put this boat in the market we were going after and made sure we did everything we could to make the design a success."
This approach is apparent in the execution of the yacht's interior. Stepping through the aft sliding saloon door, I stopped for a moment to absorb my surroundings. If it weren't for the industrial backdrop through the windshield, I could have been in a fine London boutique hotel. Patrick Knowles' interior design, with countless board feet of teak, combined with Grand Banks' execution, provides a sophisticated, timeless gentlemen's-club atmosphere. In a departure from many new launches whose owners must shed soiled carpets and veneer bulkheads after a decade, the 58 will most likely improve with age. Each buyer of a 58 will have the benefit of working with Knowles and his team to select soft goods.
I worked in Grand Banks' marketing department for several years during the 1990s and was involved with product development for the Eastbay line. I am quite familiar with the interiors of Grand Banks and Eastbays. Most are very well crafted, but they sometimes lack the luxury and appointments found on yachts priced for less. Not so on the 58. The model sports classic New England styling, with an instant air of luxury and a sense that she is a complete picture. Everything works together.
"So, what do you think?" asked Livingston. I think my grunts and sighs had already answered the question. "You know, I think she's a lot like a custom New England boat", the native Rhode Islander suggested. Actually, I was thinking she was more in line with some of the Dutch custom builders.
The warm, satin-finished teak feels like silk, and the grains blend almost perfectly, resulting in a pleasing warmth. A starboard settee graces a teak table with an intricately carved compass rose in the center. Two barrel chairs flank an entertainment center that conceals a plasma TV. Knowles' talent is evident everywhere you look: in the newel posts that brace the companionway to the galley, in the granite countertops in the galley and saloon, and in the raised panels and crown moldings.
A Stidd chair serves the lower helm station. Electronics were not yet installed on our test boat, but the leather-wrapped console will clearly accommodate an array of gear. A sliding door adjacent to the helm makes it easy to step out and pass a line to a waiting dockhand.
The lower deck has a galley to port, open to the saloon and helm. A guest stateroom with a double berth is opposite and benefits from a double sliding door that provides a nice sense of space when open. A second guest stateroom with twin berths is forward of the galley. Both staterooms share the starboard head. Grand Banks offers several interior layouts, including a galley-up arrangement. In my opinion, one issue with hull number one's layout is that neither guest stateroom has direct access to the guest head. Some may not wish to walk the runway in the morning with bed-head and bleary eyes, exposed to those in the galley and saloon. The company can accommodate this request and has done so on a hull currently on the line.
On the subject of heads, I would specify an overhead hatch in the separate master shower stall. It is beautifully finished with a granite sole and trimmed in teak, but with no port or hatch you may feel buried alive.
The master is forward and includes a walkaround queen island berth, raised-panel bulkheads and good natural light. Cored doors keep the weight down while still providing a solid, Old World feel.
Selling the 58 will not be a problem for Grand Banks. The challenge will be in trying to satisfy buyers of other Eastbay models, who will surely be struck with envy. "We're certainly looking at design elements that may flow down to other models, but it's a price issue", Livingston said. In the meantime, buyers willing to part with $2.0 million (a fairly reasonable ticket price) can look forward to fast cruising in luxury and style.
Contact: Grand Banks Yachts, (800) 809-0909;
www.grandbanks.com. For more information, contact: (866) 922-4877