Author : Barry Tyler
While I rather selfishly consider it a huge honour to be the first journalist in the world to step aboard and test boat #1, the very first Grand Banks 65 Aleutian RP model ever produced, the honour is perhaps more befitting Australia and in particular the dealers R Marine and the venue Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show, who were chosen for the world premier release of a model that Grand Banks considers one of their best yet.
Grand Banks is recognised worldwide as the absolute pinnacle of traditional boatbuilding design and construction – you own a Grand Banks and you have made it in society. The problem was while the brand enjoyed a cult-like following in markets such as the USA and Europe, down-under a series of ill-fated efforts at marketing the product appropriately, ensured the brand never ever received the recognition it deserved.
With directors acutely aware of the potential of the Asia Pacific region in general, they recently set about changing all that by appointing a professional Australasian dealership network in the form of R Marine; and at the same time ensconced one of their own in-house representatives in the region also, to ensure the Grand Banks side of the equation was represented also.
To establish just why this particular marque enjoys the following it does, one must first appreciate the rich tapestry behind the company. First and foremost their industry-envied reputation is based around absolute quality, both in workmanship as well as specification of materials and of equipment. For this reason alone a Grand Banks Motor Yacht will never ever be the cheapest boat on the market, for each craft and part there-of is meticulously built for the discerning boater who knows and therefore appreciates the difference between a thoroughbred and an also-ran.
Even the Grand Banks build strategy is different to most other marine manufacturers. GB’s head office is in Singapore and its sales and marketing office is in Seattle, Washington, in the US. Its boatbuilding production arms are in two facilities in Malaysia and in Singapore.
Even as far back as 1968, when the company moved to Jurong Town in Singapore, it was obvious that, to build a vessel to their standard, they would need a decidedly more competitive labour force – administered by their own people, their own company. Singapore at the time seemed the logical choice, especially as their government was right behind an impetus such as Grand Banks’.
In 1995 they opened a second manufacturing arm in Malaysia, at Johor Bahru, a state-of-the-art yard just ‘up the road’.
The Grand Banks Way
What this means for Australian buyers is that now for the first time they have access to the full Grand Banks package of sales, service and back-up. GB builds three distinct styles or configurations of luxury motor yacht, the Heritage Series of traditional trawler-style vessels, the Eastbay Series of fast-planing cruisers and the Aleutian Series, of which there are three models, the 59 and 72ft models and now for the first time, the Aleutian 65.
As the name suggests, the Aleutian range is your very serious ‘passagemaker’ style of boat – with all the trimmings. One could well be forgiven for under-estimating the GB 65 from a distance, but the closer you get you quickly appreciate this boat bears little resemblance to the veritable multitude of passagemakers available in the marketplace today.
Step aboard the 65 and the boat literally oozes class. GB describes this as a totally new boat and it shows with the little extra features that were very very up to date. A standard layout in this instance, below decks there was the traditional accommodation for six in the form of a forward guest cabin, starboard twin single cabin and the master stateroom aft of the foyer, effectively under the saloon sole. Aft there was also crew accommodation in the form of upper and lower bunks and an ensuite.
The last GB I tested oozed luxury features, but it literally paled into insignificance when compared to the ‘new’ features aboard this Aleutian. Yes it was very opulent in all facets, but for me it was the ‘little’ things that stood out, that made this interior specification so unique, so special. Items such as the rounded more bull-nose edges of the joinery, and there are now Japanese-style aesthetically pleasing
shoji screens over the windows, that slide back and forth in an over-lapping movement so as to privatise the cabins without sacrificing the natural light from the portholes. Portholes may I add, which were assisted in their opening operation by the addition of gas struts.
Another very impressive feature for me, were the door handles, every handle throughout the boat in fact; very very labour-intensive but wooden inserts on the hand-grips of the taps in the bathrooms added an uncompromising look of ‘contemporary’ class to these particular fittings. Emphasising the luxury aspect also, all three cabins had their own ensuite attached to the room, with the guest ensuite to port doubling as the house bathroom. Here again, the bull-nosed edging theme prevailed on all the Corian bench-tops in these bathrooms.
As stated, it was the traditional three-cabin accommodation layout for a boat of this size and configuration, but it was the size of the rooms that took me by surprise. You could get round both sides of the queen-size berth in the guest accommodation forward in the bow, despite the fact there were hanging lockers, shelving and window alcoves to contend with.
The twin single room was large enough to cope with queen-berth situation or indeed you may prefer to set it up as an office. And the master stateroom – it was very spacious. All three bedrooms featured down-lighting, air-conditioning, feature bedside lamps, bedside tables, proper full-length wardrobes, television and DVD, mood lighting and good natural light and ventilation.
Occupying the full beam of the hull, the modified king-size berth in the master stateroom in this instance was athwartships. A most private area courtesy of the shoji sliding screens, the presentation of this room was ah la superyacht specification. The rounded woodwork and features, the bull-nosed edgings, the workmanship and most of all the contrast between the different décor of blinds, lamps, wall-papered walls (that’s a first), fabric and vinyl panels and the woodwork – was really quite breath-taking.
Upstairs, the saloon and bridge level were equally spacious, equally opulent – the consummate entertainer. This standard layout configuration features the galley up, on the pilothouse level, which in my opinion is far superior as it leaves all the ‘messy stuff’ upstairs and allows the then more spacious downstairs saloon aft of this to be used solely as an entertainment area.
The actual bridge level, although certainly not huge in area, was none the less an object lesson in space management for you have the galley to port, complete with every conceivable feature the most discerning of gourmet cooks could ever ask for. It was practical, capable and with generous bench and storage space – entirely appropriate in an extended-stay situation.
Opposite the galley and in effect to starboard of the skipper, is the U-shaped dining setting. Understandably with this particular layout option this dining setting was again not huge, but you would still seat four adults very comfortably around this table. As readers will appreciate, everything is a trade-off in a boat and GB has done exceptionally well to incorporate as much as they have, within this pilothouse level.
Forward of this was the actual helm station, which apart from the entrance to the accommodation area below, covered the whole width of the pilothouse forward bulkhead. A traditional central ‘station’ with good visibility, it was certainly spec’d to a very high level. Included was every conceivable aid Grand Banks could find to add comfort and safety to the equation – including may I add, the most efficient Naiad stabiliser system that in my books would be an absolute must on any bluewater vessel.
Despite the fact the saloon incorporated side cupboards, three free-standing low-boy-style cabinets, a low coffee table, the entertainment and bar cabinets, a full length portside settee and three movable ‘single’ lounge chairs – there was still plenty of room to move freely about this area. Yet more innovation was evident with the lounge chairs and settee all featuring lazy-boy-style folding footrests and reclining backs (as you do); the drop-blinds each side were electrically operated so as to completely privatise this room, and once again the bull-nosed edging theme prevailed.
A most ambient area then, and the best part was the saloon doors opened wide enough to allow the mood to flow through to the aft cockpit area. For those long hot evenings the raise and lower cockpit table and the full width (of the transom upright) aft lounge provided the perfect ‘open-air’ platform from which to enjoy the moment.
Some may choose to gravitate to this area at night, but certainly during the day or whilst underway the flybridge level would sensibly be where most people would gravitate to. Despite the fact the aft overhang is occupied by a nearly 4m tender and davit, and despite the fact there were two entry points to this level – there was still a sublime amount of room for a full complement of guests to sit close to the skipper at his duplicated helm station. Protection from the elements was courtesy of a full moulded hardtop.
Yes this boat is somewhat more expensive than other passagemakers I have been aboard, but look around the boat and you can certainly see where the money has been spent. As far as I am concerned the legend very much lives on, for if it is unashamed luxury and pampering you want with your passagemaker then you betcha – this boat has it all. Carrying 8,328 litres of fuel it is a genuine ‘passagemaker’ cruising vessel, yet when you ask the question of her the two upgraded C18 turbocharged inline 6-cylinder Caterpillar diesels will push the Grand Banks 65 Aleutian RP to an impressive top speed of 24 knots – with little noise, no vibrations and indecently good stability.
- Boat Design Name: Grand Banks 65 Aleutian RP
- Year Launched: 2008
- Designer: Grand Banks / Tom Fexas
- Builder: Banks Yachts
- LOA: 20.93m
- Beam: 6.05m
- Draft: 1.63m
- Displacement: 48,308kg(half-ships)
- Max Speed: 24 knots
- Cruise Speed: 19 knots
- Construction: Hand-laid GRP/core composite
- Fuel Capacity: 8,328 litres
- Water Capacity: 1,666 litres
- Engines: 2 x Caterpillar C18
- Base Price: AU$4-million As Tested: