Discerning seafarers the world over consider the Grand Banks branding to be the absolute Rolls Royce of the sea. The latest Grand Banks Aleutian 53 model does nothing to dispel that theory.
Just as in motor vehicles where we have Holden Commodores at one end of the spectrum and Mercedes, BMW or Rollers at the other, so too we have the same scenario when it comes to boats. You have the rank and file good wholesome ‘perfect for the job’ examples that fit into the price-bracket of the majority, and on the other hand you have marques such as Grand Banks which conversely offer just that much more in the way of luxury appointments, opulent presentation and yes, genuine class!
Some of the features may be obvious, others are often so subtle as to be subconsciously dismissed at the time, but they all combine to form the rich tapestry of not just a capable boat, but a classy and at the same time very capable boat that has ambience. Examples of this realisation immediately obvious upon stepping aboard this Grand Banks 53 Aleutian for instance, included features such as robust quality door hinges and fittings, wood frames around the for’ard hatch, teak steps and flooring in the engine room, feature ceilings, alcove windows with drop-down fabric curtains, wooden side grab handles and louvered wardrobe doors.
On the outside there were the teak walkways, oval S/S bowrail and pulpit assemblies on both levels, the electrically operated shore-power system, the flyscreens on pilothouse and rear saloon doors, the Portuguese bridge and the Stidd ‘skippers’ chairs at both helms – that all oozed class and escalated it a cut and a half above the average passagemaker. The bottom line then is you pay for what you get!
This Grand Banks (GB) then was a genuinely accomplished go-anywhere passagemaker with traits such as big volume, high topsides, plenty of areas around the boat where you could enjoy your own space, good storage and an appropriate mechanical and electrical inventory.
From a distance one could perhaps be forgiven for dismissing this boat as just another passagemaker, albeit an indecently well presented one with its very balanced profile lines, but step aboard and instantaneously that perception dissolves. For starters, the attention to detail and the all-encompassing approach to features even on the boarding level were most evident, with lockers for the starboard remote shower and on the portside the brilliant electrically operated (feed-out/retractable) 23m 50A/240V shore power cable system with remote activator, and substantial removable pulpit hoops which added the safety factor.
Inviting ‘Entry’ Statement
This lower level was teak-covered, as were the two steps that took you up through the S/S gate and onto a cockpit again featuring teak floors, which in anyone’s terms was large in dimension. In this instance devoid of the owner’s choice of removable or fixed furniture, it still managed to look the part with its ‘standard’ bearer, striking hatch to the voluminous lazaretto, two raised anchoring modules, the teak-capped coaming tops and the oval-shaped S/S railings above that.
In true passagemaker tradition the cockpit also featured an upright second alternative access to the flybridge, and off to each side at the walkway entrance, clear ‘Lexan’ doors that protected this area from wind and rain; nice when enjoying those evening drinkies! The teak theme continued along these walkways forward, but extra effort had also gone into the bulwarks and the ‘fashion plates’ above them, the railings and the generous overhead protection which included down-lights also. It was a littler ‘ship’ in this respect!
Passing by the pilothouse door on the starboard side only, guests had yet another area where they could very easily ‘get lost’ for an hour or two, for the walkway became a Portuguese Bridge which provided access to a significant-sized foredeck area. I did like the raised aspect of the Lofrans windlass which was mounted atop the two-anchor bowsprit, but really the whole package which included the teak coamings, the sturdy bowrail, this winch, the fairlead and anchor guide, fresh and salt-water wash-down terminals, the lockers, and the cleats, was just so neat and tidy, practical – and user-friendly!
There was one other feature on the bow that caught my eye, and again it was just so typical of this GB. In the event you were bow-on into a marina, rather than stern-on, there were three well-protected shore-power fittings on the face of this anchoring feature; you could run your shore power from this point, rather than running a lead from the stern.
Unless the weather was decidedly sour the upper flybridge level, accessed either from the angled teak and S/S ladder in the cockpit or the typically grandiose teak stairway up from pilothouse level (and on through an equally impressive angled bulkhead entry door) – would be the area of preference for most people when underway.
An open-flybridge design nicely protected by a sturdy GRP hardtop structure, the visual delight for me was the helm which featured a Stidd helm chair behind what was a surprisingly comprehensive operational inventory (considering its outdoor aspect) which included a Raymarine E140W ‘touch-screen’ electronics package plus two ST70 screens for depth, wind and autopilot, an Icom IC M-604 VHF, the Naiad stabiliser and Sidepower bow-thruster remote controls, and Cummins/Mercury Marine SmartCraft remote controls and engine instrumentation.
A very social area also, from a guest perspective, immediately behind the skipper there was a four-person Ultraleather L-shaped lounge to portside and opposite this, another two-person bench lounge. The pedestal-style teak table was accessible to each lounge. Completing the picture of a ‘self-contained’ level, the aft side of the portside lounge was in fact a galley module complete with electric BBQ, a sink with hot and cold water, and a storage cupboard with beside it space for a refrigerator and/or icemaker, and, a wall-mounted removable Grundig FB TV which has been wired for Foxtel, free to air digital and the Sony Playstation – for the kids or big kids.
Saloons are invariably one of two scenarios; they can be imposing and intimidating, or they have a ‘warmth’ and charm that immediately invites you in. This example was very much the latter, for entering through generous-width doors, the underlying first impression was the wood presentation. The gloss teak and holly floors, the satin-finish teak cupboards and furnishings, were all beautifully crafted and presented.
The open-plan nature of this spacious saloon was the other big feature for me, for despite the fact there was this portside wall lounge, which incidentally opened out to provide another double berth, a starboard L-shaped lounge and a coffee table – there was still oodles of room left to move about. Special features included the ‘feature’ ceiling, the panoramic windows complete with drop-down fabric curtains if you required them, a bar complete with icemaker and bottle and glass storage, and forward of that again, the glass-panelled cupboard for the AC/DC switchboard. The aft face of the galley on the next level was cleverly disguised also, with a feature bookstand-cum-television and Bose DVD entertainment module.
Further for’ard and up three steps from this saloon level, was the equally salubrious pilothouse – a definite contrast of work and play all wrapped up in a busy yet most ambient area of this GB. Immediately to portside at the top of these steps was the internal staircase that led up to the flybridge level and opposite this was the most impressive galley.
Uncluttered and well sited so the chef could still very much be a part of proceedings, features here included a 4-burner Miele stove, a convection microwave oven below, range-hood, trash storage cupboard, heaps of cupboard and drawer space, three drawer-style refrigerators and one freezer, and overhead pigeon-hole lockers. While the eye-catching separate sink module was a good idea, for me once again it was the little things that mattered; the grab rails above and on the side of the galley module, the fiddles around the stove and benches, the air-conditioning vents above where you stand.
Opposite this and effectively alongside the skipper, was the main five-person dining setting. A break with passagemaker tradition perhaps, but I liked it if only for the close-quarters interaction with the skipper who, let’s face it, would only be there when inclement weather dictated a move indoors. Understandably, with a layout such as this, the helm was a little more compact than one would normally expect in a passagemaker, but it was a situation I was still entirely relaxed about.
Especially relaxed in fact, when I discovered features included the Stidd skipper’s chair, the most comprehensive array of instrumentation, electronics and remote controls that were a virtual duplication of the flybridge level, a pilothouse door to starboard, the automatic flick-switch battery isolating system which alleviated the need to troop off to the engine room to switch batteries, the tankage meters, and of course the array of rocker switches for internal application.
Below Decks - More of the Same
Descending the semi spiral staircase beside the skipper, the view below decks was simply more of the same immaculately presented ‘wood’ and refreshingly different approach to layout options. Standard guise for the 53 Aleutian was a three-stateroom configuration and while the floor and furniture wood theme prevailed, each of the three staterooms also boasted individual air-conditioning, window alcoves, opening hatches and drop-down curtains, television, DVD and independent speakers, hanging wardrobes and (very) good lighting.
The number two guest stateroom to portside at the base of the stairs was a Pullman-style bunk layout which simply was clever maximisation of space. The VIP guest cabin number one was your traditional for’ard cabin in that it offered a queen-size island berth, feature head-board plus his and hers louvered hanging wardrobes and an overhead hatch complete with black-out screens and, may I add, the nice hitherto-mentioned wooden frame around the hatch – the ‘classy’ tag sprung to mind yet again!
Athwartships was the full-beam master that was every bit the ‘stateroom’ with its king size berth, good sound-proofing, bedside tables with swinging lamps above, ‘feature’ air-conditioning vents and the same style of window and wardrobe renditions as in the GSR#1. Included within the parameters of this room was of course the ensuite bathroom with separate shower and head, quality faucets, hatch and a sizeable granite bench. What I especially liked with this bathroom was its practicality; it wasn’t a grandiose over-bearing statement – it was just the right size so as to capably handle a live-aboard situation.
An unobtrusive door off to the side opened to reveal in this instance a utility room complete with laundry (provision), a Waeco portable fridge and/or freezer and copious (cupboard) storage provision. This could also be a fourth bedroom option as it can also be configured as crew quarters complete with bathroom and laundry.
This utility room of course led to the engine room, a decidedly spacious room with full head-height, and, teak steps and flooring – never seen that before! While there were no actual back-up systems, the mechanicals were however more than capable in a long-range situation, with equipment within such as Onan 17.5 kVA genset, Mastervolt 24V/2000W/160A inverter/charger combo, 25.8kW Marine Air air-conditioning, Indromar 130L/h watermaker and the battery bank of a whopping eight 255Ah house and two 255Ah engine batteries.
Power was I thought actually quite conservative for a boat that size, especially considering the pair of 715hp QSM-11 Cummins diesels though ZF 325-1, 2.4:1 ratio gearboxes, V-drive and conventional shaft drive to the 34”D x 31”P Hung Shen propellers – returned a top speed of 23 knots. Remembering it was a 34-tonne GRP motor yacht which in turn cruised at anything from 9 knots through to 20 knots, this was surely confirmation of the efficiency of this new hull design. The other impressive figure for me was the range; 750NM at 9.03 knots and 454NM at 10.9 knots.
Performance underway was a non-event really; it just went about its job without fuss. It was effortless to drive, with the power-assisted steering which incidentally runs off a power-take-off on the engine, running perfectly in tandem with this new hull design. I decided it would be great on a long passage – it was literally little-finger steering. And with the stabilisers on it was even better; it revelled in a three-quarter following sea and the fine entry literally chewed up the two-metre swell we were running in – it cut through a wave instead of diving into it and losing momentum. This vessel, the second in the Aleutian range of new-era in-house Grand Banks hull designs, works very well.
What can I say, at $AUD2.2 million complete with 3.8m tender with 40hp 4-stroke Yamaha, electronics upgrade, watermaker, air-conditioning, all the toys; this boat has to be seen as good value for money. The practicality, quality fittings, the level of specification, the magnificent wood finish, the handling and performance – all added up to ‘class’, and pride if you were the owner!
- Boat Design Name: Grand Banks 53 Aleutian RP
- Year Launched: 2011
- Designer: Grand Banks Yachts
- Interior Designer: Grand Banks Yachts
- Builder: Grand Banks Yachts
- LOA: 16.4 metres
- LWL: 15 metres
- Beam: 5.4 metres
- Draft: 1.4 metres
- Displacement: 34,020 kg (heavy ship)
- Max Speed: 23 knots
- Cruise Speed: 17 – 18 knots
- Construction: FRP
- Fuel Cap: 3785 litres
- Water Cap: 1136 litres
- Engines Make: 2 x Cummins 715hp QSM-11
- Gearboxes: ZF 325-1 – ratio 2.4:1
- Drive Train: V-drive shaft drive
- Propellers: Hung Shen – 34”D x 32.5”P
- Generator: Onan 17.5 kVA
- Inverter / Charger: Mastervolt 24V / 2000W / 160A
- Air Conditioning: Marine Air – 25.8kW
- Watermaker: Indromar 130 L/h
- Bow Thruster: Sleipner Sidepower SE 170-250
- Anchor Winch: Lofrans Falkon.
- Anchor: 2 x Ultra Plough – 99 lbs
- Steering: SeaStar power-assisted
- Engine Controls: Glendinning Electronic
- Lighting: Cantalupi
- Paint (Topsides): Gelcoat
- Paint (Antifouling): International Micron
- Hatches: Manship
- Wipers: Xalto – with fresh-water washers
- Windscreens/windows: Grand Banks Yachts
- Porthole Hatches: Manship
- Heads: Freshwater Electric Tecma
- Wood Finish: Teak & Holly Floors
- Liferaft: RFD 8-man
- Davit Crane: Muir Steelhead 800lb
- Tender: 3.8m RIB Inflatable
- Stainless Steel: Grand Banks Yachts
- Saloon Doors: Grand Banks Yachts – S/S
- Trim Tabs: Bennett
- Helm Chair: 2 x Stidd leather.
- Batteries: House: Lifeline Deep Cycle – 8 x 255Ah
- Batteries: Engine: Lifeline Deep Cycle – 2 x 255Ah
- Upholstery: Grand Banks Yachts
- Stabilisers: Naiad MultiSea Dynamic
- Autopilot: Raymarine ST70 Multi
- GPS: Raymarine E140W Touch-screen
- Plotter: Raymarine E140W Touch-screen
- Depth Sounder: Raymarine E140W Touch-screen
- VHF: 2 x Icom M
- Radar: Raymarine 48NM
- Entertainment Systems: Bose & Samsung
- Engine Instruments: Mercury Marine SmartCraft
- Wind Instruments: Raymarine ST70 Multi
- Software System: Raymarine
- Switch Panel: BEP Marine
- Onboard Systems: Mercury Marine SmartCraft
- Base Price of Boat: AUD$2,000,000
Price As Tested: AUD$2,200,000