While the lines of the 53 RP were inspired by the shape of the original Fexas-designed 64, nothing was left to chance. Two different versions of both the bottom shape and the prop tunnel configuration were tank-tested at the University of Michigan’s model basin to assure her performance both as to speed and to seakeeping. In addition, both pod and inclined-shaft propulsion systems were tested, with the as-built yacht being powered by traditional shaft systems with V-drive gears. Like a pod, a V-drive puts the engines near the stern, shifting the longitudinal center of gravity aft and enabling Earl to pen a finer entry for the hull than would be possible with engines farther forward. Not only does this make for drier running in a seaway, with a quicker lift to the bow, but it affects the arrangement plan belowdecks as well.
In this case, Earl has placed all of the accommodations at the bow and utilized the space amidships for a pair of fuel tanks, port and starboard of a walk-through utility room. Such placement means that there will be little if any change in static trim as the tanks are drawn down. The space between the tanks allows easy access to the engine room through a watertight door, and the utility area can also be fitted out as a crew or teenager hideaway, with its own head, as an option.
In either case, the forward accommodations remain the same, with a queen guest stateroom forward and the master stateroom aft, and a smaller guest cabin with upper and lower twin berths to port. The full-beam master stateroom has a spacious head to starboard with double doors that slide open to allow light from both sides of the yacht to flood the space. Access to the three staterooms is via a comfortable winding stair from the starboard side of the lower helm. Such a stair is noticeably more spacious and safer than the tight spirals we so often see.
That lower helm, by the way, is one of the best on the market. Returning from our sea trial, we had to dock near the end of a narrow canal in the tightest quarters I’ve encountered in a while. There was no margin for error. Rather than navigating from the flying bridge, however, we opted for the lower helm. Multiple Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer drawers in the galley, in place of a single vertical unit, and open space between the upper and lower cabinets mean that the helm has a clear sight line astern as well as to the sides and forward. Pilings and adjoining boats were fully in view at all times, something that would not have been the case had we been topside.
Other nods to safety that I liked included sea rails on the salon overhead and solid handrails at the aft ladder, guards over the V-drive shafts and an electrical interlock on The flying bridge grill to prevent it from being activated with the cover closed. Grand Banks has been building boats for committed cruisers long enough to attend to creature comforts as well: nicely sized heads, functional louvers and intuitive handles on lockers, fiddles on the galley countertops and sea rails on the Miele cooktop, and wing doors to keep the afterdeck dry when spray is blowing down the side decks.
All in all, the Grand Banks 53 Aleutian RP is a great boat for a family, easily capable of being cruised long-range by a couple without crew, yet with enough speed and outside space to host a crowd for a quick day trip or weekend jaunt. For those not wanting to take on the size and expense of the bigger Aleutians, this is a very welcome addition to the series. A tip of the hat to Earl and to the craftsmen at Grand Banks for a job well done.
Displ.: 73,000 lb.
Fuel: 1,000 gal.
Water: 300 gal.
Deadrise: 17.5 degrees
Engine Options: 2 x 600 hp Cummins QSC 8.3 diesels; 2 x 715 hp Cummins QSM 11 diesels
Engines Tested: 2 x 715 hp Caterpillar C12 ACERT diesels
Price As Tested: On request
Grand Banks Yachts, 206-352-0116; www.grandbanks.com