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Southbound Blog: ‘Dreamboat’ Musings From St. Petersburg

Maybe some of you dream about flying, too. I dream that I can stay aloft by sheer will—no airplane, jut me flying. My dream flights are visceral. Sometimes they’re recreational and thrilling. Sometimes I must use my flying powers to escape villains. Yesterday, for the first time ever, I experienced the same thrill while awake. I was at the wheel of the new Grand Banks Heritage EU 43. And I kid you not: This connection between dreaming and doing only came to me later, at 3:10 a.m. when I woke up and could not get back to sleep. Naturally, this morning I turned to Google to divine the meaning of all this.

Google delivered me to a dream lady, who had written, “If you are flying with ease and are enjoying the scene and landscape below, then it suggests that you are on top of a situation. You have risen above something. It may also mean that you have gained a new and different perspective on things. Flying dreams and the ability to control your flight is representative of your own personal sense of power.”

Yup, that’s how any gypsy worth her salt might describe the effects of twin Cummins diesels with pod drives and electric wheel steering (with joystick control for slow speed maneuvering). To bring the 43 on plane is to soar. At the lightest touch of the helm, the boat zooms into a turn, leaning inward, smooth and quiet. As I later said to our host, Grand Banks Marketing Director David Hensel, I felt like a country bumpkin who had just seen the big city for the first time. (Yes, I know, but bloggers are allowed to mix metaphors.)

I had come to St. Petersburg, Florida, with Milt and Judy Baker to test the Heritage 43 for the April issue of PassageMaker. Milt Baker happens to be the magazine’s book review columnist. Not only have Milt and Judy been married 50 years, but they have been cruising for most of that time, much of it on their Grand Banks 32 and later, a 42. They now cruise summers aboard a Nordhavn 47 Bluewater, kept in Maine.

Milt and Judy are able to write about the degree to which the 43 maintains the GB tradition of style and craftsmanship, but also the ways it might surprise earlier generations of Grand Banks owners. Milt, an ex-Navy commander and retired owner of Bluewater Books in Ft. Lauderdale, is an exceptionally meticulous observer and honest to a fault. Judy, I don’t know as well, but she seems like a fun-loving soul. Expect them to deliver some great insights about the cruisability of this vessel.

Our sea trial on Tampa Bay just before Christmas represented our inaugural attempt at a new-age new boat review. Going forward we would be relying whenever practical on folks like Milt and Judy—couples like yourselves—to test boats for us. The reason for the change is twofold. We’ve always recognized that cruising is a lifestyle of couples, and that many a boat has been purchased only after that wifely nod of assent. The second is an initiative to fulfill our promise as “The Power Cruising Authority” holistically. To wit, with online efforts, such as this blog post, and accompanying videos (stay tuned).

Milt and Judy Baker: First Impressions

You’re going to read a lot about the technology behind the 43 in Milt and Judy’s account, but I’d like to steal just a little bit of their thunder to whet your appetite. The Cummins Zeus autopilot has a feature called “Skyhook,” whose arrival I have been awaiting for years. Activating Skyhook keeps the boat in place and on a heading while compensating for wind and current. It’s a way to let you wait for bridges without having to constantly maneuver, or to put fenders out before docking. I would envision using it as a powerboater’s “heave-to,” enabling someone who had arrived at a tricky inlet during darkness to wait for dawn before entering. Very cool.

Hensel says Grand Banks has no choice but to embrace new technology, despite the company’s reputation for tradition. With an estimated 5,000 GB boats cruising the waterways of the world, there are probably hundreds for sale at any one time. Grand Banks’ greatest competitor, Hensel says, are not other brands. GB’s greatest competitor is itself in the used market. New GBs need to be different.

’til next time.