In 1978 I had the privilege of doing my first review of a Grand Banks. It was a 32-footer and was introduced as a classic modern fibreglass trawler. The brokers, National Yachts, which I believe became Grand Yachts of today, invited me to accompany them to Vancouver Island to pick up and deliver the yacht to its new owner, Dr. John Ankemann, a local medical specialist.
The Grand Banks 32 project for Pacific Yachting followed a string of boat reviews involving a number of trawler types, express cruisers and sport boats. That review was different. It was the first time I had reviewed a boat while undertaking anything of a trip–from the island to the mainland. It was also the first time I discovered a manufacturer that had designed and built a boat to such a high degree of quality and that was operation-ready without a broker or shipyard having to do some refinishing or modification to correct any shortcomings.
Now, running the new 54EU through the Ballard Locks in Seattle, I reminisced about that early cruise. Here again was a vessel that instantly revealed those self-same parameters, but now, as one would expect, with more modern finishes and embellishments in boat design, construction and finish.
One quick glance at the interior woodwork, upholstery, trim and functional components and I could almost just sit back and relax, enjoy the trial run and simply give it full points in all respects. However, I simply had to inspect this latest rendition of the Grand Banks style of family cruisers just for the joy of appreciating its fine details.
Design and Construction The 54EU has a V-drive propulsion system and traditional standards and elements of the classic GB Heritage line.
There is one unexpected feature: this vessel has a modified V-hull to achieve better performance at higher speeds. During a sea trial in Seattle we achieved 24 knots. It was a calm sea but the vessel is designed for conditions up to and including Force eight winds and wave heights up to four metres. The vessel is equipped with optional 7.5-foot Naiad fin stabilizers.
The hand-laid fibreglass hull has a gel-coat, polymer and composite outer skin. There is solid fibreglass below the waterline and cored fibreglass with cross-linked PVC foam above. It has a full-length keel that extends below the running gear, a feature that helps protect propellers and shafts from submerged debris. There are three partially watertight structural bulkheads.
The vessel has a modernized traditional superstructure with wheelhouse, galley and main saloon on one level with a small step and galley cabinetry dividing the large open plan area of the main deck. It has three staterooms, a multi-function utility room and an extensive command bridge.
On Deck The sedan-styled Heritage EU is entered by way of a wide teak swim step and a few steps over the transom through a stainless steel framed door. It can also be entered forward along the covered side decks and through doors on either side of the cabin. The aft deck is teak while the side and forward decks are heavy, non-skid fibreglass. Heavy, solid teak is used on the gunwale caps, which support sturdy stainless steel handrails.
The aft deck is a social place, a sun deck if you will, with bench seat fronted by a sturdily mounted teak table. To starboard, a fibreglass console contains a stainless steel sink with a hinged cover to the right of it that houses a set of helm controls for docking and use while fishing. The console also has a wet bar with storage space. An icemaker is located just inside the saloon at the aft port bulkhead.
A teak-on-fibreglass stairway with stainless handrails leads from the forward port side of the aft deck to the upper command bridge. Large diameter stainless steel posts support the extended bridge that forms a deck over the cockpit. Immediately overhead, on the flying bridge extension is a dinghy cradle, and to starboard of the cradle is a very adequate Aritex 1000-pound electro-hydraulic davit system.
The upper helm station, with its centrally located skipper’s chair, is a good replication of the one below. Stidd captain’s chairs are used at both stations with one below and an optional mate’s seat up top. Bench and L-shaped seats and dining table complement the sink with faucet, optional Galleymate 2000 propane barbecue grill and an Isotherm refrigerator. The shaded bridge was covered with a bimini, form-fitted over a hefty stainless steel support grid.
Stainless steel 1 1/8-inch handrails are fitted around the main deck and the aft section of the command bridge, with an intermediate rail at wider sections and a Sunbrella fabric and mesh cover around the stern section.
Interior As we saw in the design, the main saloon, dinette and galley are one with the wheelhouse. A solid teak floor is a feature of the entire main deck interior and the accommodations below.
After stepping into the saloon from the cockpit through the heavy stainless steel-framed glass sliding door, an L-shaped sofa lies to port. To starboard there is a straight sofa, both in optional exquisite ultra leather finish. Beneath the large windows and behind the starboard sofa is an entertainment centre that opens to a pop-up-powered television set.
An item that really catches the eye is the lighting boxes. These protrude subtly from the deckhead, and are made of a combination of teak laminate, teak trim and upholstery with pot lights embedded in the lower surface.
The galley, to starboard, forward of the lounge area, is divided from the lounge by a protruding cabinet with an overhanging cabinet above it. This upper cabinet contains a microwave convection oven and enclosed adjacent storage shelving. Teak laminate and solid teak trimmed cabinetry below and throughout the galley includes refrigerator and freezer pullout drawers, and a drawer-style dishwasher below the sink that has a well-camouflaged panel matching the cabinetry. The standard Corian countertop has been replaced with optional ocean foam coloured Caeserstone. A further upgrade to granite is available. Solid teak fiddles surround all of the countertops.
Set into the galley countertop is a stainless steel sink, and above it some interesting overhead crockery storage lockers. Teak doors drop open allowing access to the crockery stored in dish racks and cup holders, which present themselves toward the front when suspended from the deckhead.
The galley cabinets below the countertop include storage lockers and general-purpose drawers, all with retractable latches. A four-plate electric stove is mounted against the starboard wall with a protrusion housing the sink and faucets. This forms a divider from the helm station and stairs which access the accommodations below.
The helm is located centrally between hinged watertight side doors to port and starboard. A comfortable, robust Stidd helm seat standing on the solid teak sole gives the captain easy access to all controls. A raised console is designed to provide generous space for an owner’s preferred selection of electronics. The view forward from the bridge, through its three large windshield windows, is outstanding. Even when the vessel came up to speed the bow did not rise up and obscure the view ahead.
Below Decks A curving stairway to starboard of the helm leads down to the staterooms, as well as to the utility room and the engine room.
The master stateroom is midships with an ensuite bathroom to starboard. It has a separate shower with built-in towel racks, Caeserstone countertop washbasin, teak-finished cabinets, generous locker space and large bright portholes. In addition to the ample hanging lockers in the stateroom there are storage drawers beneath the queen-sized berth. The room is embellished with teak night tables, large glass portholes with screens and privacy covers, and elegant lighting.
Forward of the master there is bunk-fitted stateroom to port and the main guest stateroom in the fo’c’sle. This latter cabin is hard to distinguish from the owners’ stateroom in that it is as nicely finished and well appointed. Like the owners’ stateroom it has copious teak paneling on bulkhead, walls, wardrobe and lockers. The lockers have wood paneling finished interiors.
A very well appointed guest bathroom is shared between the main and second guest staterooms. As a stateroom the bunk cabin (optionally an office) is a comfortable space with no less quality of finish and generous locker space than the other two staterooms.
Aft of the accommodations a door leads into the utility room. Here the vessel is equipped with washer and dryer and an additional stand-up refrigerator freezer. A hefty watertight bulkhead door opens aft to the engine room.
Engine and Systems The engine room is spectacular. It has headroom for a tall person, is extremely well laid out and with easy access to all components. I favour the extensive use of white, which allows easy visual of components.
Standard power in the 54EU is twin Cummins QSM11 715 hp engines. In this vessel, the twin MTU S-60 825-horsepower optional diesel engines are mounted either side of a teak grid sole and have stainless steel handrails running along the sides. The engines have V-drives with twin disc gearboxes and EC 300 twin disc Glendinning engine controls. An Onan 21.5kw generator with Soundshield is standard. There is a standard Mastervolt 24-volt, 2500-watt inverter charger and a reverse cycle air conditioning system. Space has been allocated and prepared for the installation of a water maker. The service bank and additional 12-volt, 255-amp hour batteries are contained in fibreglass boxes.
There are vertical stainless steel grab rails and more stainless strategically located in the room. In addition to the access doorway forward there is a ladder down from the cockpit. A full-width workbench with shelving runs aft of the engines.
Underway We could talk without raising our voices in the wheelhouse and saloon, even when the boat climbed on the step and ran at 24 knots. We did a tight turn at that speed and the vessel hardly heeled over, but rather started leaning into the turn almost as much as a full planing hull would. The noise dampening comes partially from the engines being mounted beneath the aft deck, away from the immediate proximity below the saloon. The sound is also muffled by good insulation around the engine room.
The engines are not working hard to get it to cruising speed of about 19 knots. They burn 4.6 gallons an hour per engine for 8.9 knots at 1,000 rpm. The burn rate is 32 gph at 2,100 rpm and a maximum of 42.8 gph at 2,340 rpm.
The range is 397 nautical miles at 2100 rpm. Power aplenty is derived from the twin 825 horsepower MTUs.
The weight of the onboard fuel and domestic water made little if any difference to the vessel’s performance. The hydraulic helm responded smoothly to turns on the large diameter teak wheel and when docking the vessel moved nimbly to a touch of the bow and stern thruster controls.
We began with a slow cruise off Seattle’s Shilshole Marina and then ran up to speed for a short duration before doing the sharp turn that headed us back toward the Ballard Locks. Handling the boat on the run as well as entering the locks and then docking at the marina was a cinch, and the additional set of controls in the cockpit made docking just that much easier.
Closing Remarks It is hard to improve on what is already as nice as it gets. But Grand Banks, living up to its exacting standards has managed to find a way to upscale its existing vessels when creating new models. Such as slight, almost imperceptible changes to the lines, additional features like the foredeck treatment, deckhead design and layout options. This GB 54 Heritage EU leaves this reviewer shaking his head in wonderment at how they keep doing it, and with such aplomb.
|LOA||16.55 m||54’ 4”|
|Beam||5.41 m||17’ 9”|
|Weight (dry)||33000 kg||72,753 lbs|
|Fuel||5,678 L||1,500 USG|
|Water||1,136 L||300 USG|
|Holding||379 L||100 USG|
|Grey water||197 L||52 USG|
Grand Banks Yachts
Grand Banks Northwest