“Now’s probably a bad time to tell you I’m afraid of heights,” announced Tucker West, the North American sales manager for Grand Banks Yachts, as he squeezed his 6-foot, 5-inch frame into a miniscule opening in the freighter’s deck. He then disappeared like a rabbit, descending four decks through a dimly lit passageway. At the bottom of the oil-coated ladder, the new Grand Banks 72 SC awaited us as the commissioning crew cut away the layers of shrink-wrap to free her from the cradle and place her back in the water where she belonged.
Over the years, I’ve tested boats in a variety of conditions, yet this was the first time that I needed stevedores to complete their job before I started the review process. But it was all part of the grand plan. This situation presented the ideal scenario for testing a new boat — fresh out of the box. After we took on some fuel and a few provisions, we would continue on from Portsmouth, Virginia, up the coast to Rowayton, Connecticut — an even better way to shake down a new model.
The Grand Banks 72 Aleutian SC is the latest addition to the builder’s raised pilothouse Aleutian series. The line includes the 53 RP, launched this summer; and the successful Sparkman & Stephens-designed 59, of which 40 have been built since 2007; the 65; and the 72 RP with a cockpit. When the original Tom Fexas-designed Aleutian 64 was introduced in 2001, the hull mold was 72 feet. It was then damned to create the 64, which later evolved into the newer 65.
The 72 SC replaces the cockpit with a larger, covered afterdeck, which allows decent-size crew accommodations. She is designed to coastal cruise and island-hop with six to eight people comfortably. (Fewer people equals more comfort.) “We’re taking advantage of the downtime resulting from the slower market to re-engineer systems and models,” said David Hensel, director of brand and marketing for Grand Banks Yachts.
My initial knee-jerk reaction when comparing the cockpit version with the new SC model was if you were more involved in water sports, you should go with the 72 RP with the cockpit. However, after a few days aboard, I realized that unless you’re planning on landing a great white, the 72 SC still offers very good water access, thanks to the double stairway that leads from the after deck to the larger swim platform. Putting on dive tanks or loading up the tender will be an easy affair. Safety rails can be installed as well along the edge. The covered aft deck has a large teak table that can accommodate eight during mealtime.