The year was 1995, and the out-of-the box 38-foot Eastbay by Grand Banks was blasting through winter fog on Seattle's Lake Washington. There were two people aboard-a failing boat broker (me) and a possible buyer.
We burned doughnuts in the water, the massive Evergreen Point floating bridge protecting us from traffic coming from the south, and the radar watching the empty north end of the lake. She turned tight and hard, not skipping or sliding as the Caterpillar diesels roared.
Then we ran an estimated mile, the Cats at WOT, and our speed probably wound up to somewhere in the high teens. Chilly fog penetrated the helm area, which opened into the cockpit, but it was great fun in a responsive little yacht I thought would appeal to sunshine boaters, weekenders and party people. The would-be customer, who apparently shared my views, moved on in his search for a trawler/cruiser type of boat.
For nearly a decade, that was my take on the Eastbay: a quality Grand Banks product, with a distinctive classical design by Raymond Hunt, but not one that would appeal to anyone more intent on cruising than partying.
Over the next 10 years, however, the Eastbay became Grand Banks' hottest product. It grew and grew in size, with models to 58 feet. Some were given flybridges, and all were given monster engines for express speeds. Today, GB builds more Eastbays than Classics, and brokers and individual buyers are lined up, impatiently waiting for delivery.
A NEW VIEW
Flash ahead to the last day of summer 2004. This time, we were burning doughnuts in Burrard Inlet, just outside Vancouver, British Columbia, in the newest Eastbay from Grand Banks, a 47-foot model powered by a pair of 700hp C12 Caterpillars. The 45,000-pound-displacement yacht, the first 47 built with a flybridge, heeled nicely into the turns without skipping or bounding as I spun the power-assisted wheel almost as far as it would go, or as far as I dared go.
A few minutes earlier, we had proved the boat has hustle. With the approval of Jon Howe, a GB broker, I pushed the electronic Twin Disc engine controller to maximum power at 2300 rpm. We all had to catch our balance as the boat leaped ahead, moving from a cruise speed of 22 knots to a maximum of 30.2 knots in what seemed like seconds.
The acrobatics came at the end of a long cruise (more than 100 miles) completed in a little more than 5 hours in light winds, mostly flat water and a generous sun. A day aboard the 47 was exciting and enjoyable. And it gave me a new view of the yacht's potential for cruising.
When Grand Banks adopts a style, the company sticks with it. Classic GBs built today look much like those built in the 1960s and exhibit the same constant devotion to quality. And the new 47 Eastbay shares the distinctive Downeast styling of the 38 I drove years ago.
But there have been many changes. The 47 has a back door and a comfortable, enclosed saloon. She has two staterooms and two heads and a workable U-shaped galley.
And that makes her more than a weekend party boat.
OFF TO SEA
Jon Howe, who works for the Seattle GB dealer, Passage Maker Yachts (it shares only its name with this magazine), left Seattle about 0630 to take the Eastbay 47 to Grand Yachts, the GB outlet in Vancouver, British Columbia, for display at a boat show. My wife, Polly, and I boarded the Eastbay at Edmonds, Washington, about 10 miles north of Seattle's Shilshole Bay.
We have been cruising in Grand Banks' boats for nearly 25 years, first in a 36-foot wood Classic and now in our fiberglass 42-foot Europa. Our assignment was to determine if the Eastbay 47 has what it takes to be a cruising yacht capable of circumnavigating Vancouver Island, following the Inside Passage to Southeast Alaska or exploring distant ports along other shores. As professional
journalists, objectivity is deeply imbedded. But bear in mind we are GB fans.
Our route would take us north in Puget Sound, through Admiralty Inlet, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, along San Juan Channel and into President Channel at the top of the San Juan archipelago. Then we'd cross Boundary Pass, hang a left at East Point on Canada's Saturna Island and scoot northeast across Georgia Strait to Vancouver's Coal Harbour. In our vintage GB, the trip from Seattle would take two days. With the Eastbay, we arrived in time for a fashionably late lunch.
Jon has spent many hours driving the 47. A Coast Guard-licensed skipper, sailing instructor and lifelong boater, he believes the Eastbay's sweet spot is 1900 rpm, which kicked the boat along at 22 knots, although Grand Banks' literature lists cruising speed as 27 knots.
The three of us shared wheel time, steering manually most of the way because of an abundance of drift logs in the water and in order to stay well clear of small sportfishing boats that clustered near points of land in search of fall salmon. I had imagined that the boat's high speed would make it difficult for me to react quickly enough to dodge debris, but visibility over the bow is excellent, and
the 47 is nimble in response to a tug at the wheel. Floating junk was not a problem, but we took care not to charge over any of it.
I also had imagined that keeping a vigilant watch on a fast boat would be more tiring than on a slow boat. Not so.
Before boarding the Eastbay, I also had assumed it would skitter across the water, bouncing and skidding at speed, a little like a fishing lure being trolled quickly on the surface. I've experienced that action in smaller fast boats, but not with the 47. She was on tracks.
Once we were in Georgia Strait and in water free of debris, Jon switched on the Simrad autopilot, and we settled on a course for the entrance to the Vancouver harbor-out of sight nearly 20 miles to the northeast. More often than not, Georgia Strait is mean cruising. Every wind is on the beam, and seas pile up quickly. This day, however, we found only low swells and minor chop, and the 47 soared across the strait on a laser-straight course.
Once under way, we began looking for cruising attributes, as well as any potential changes.
We boarded the 47 easily via the swim platform and a transom gate. The immense cockpit obviously is the social center of this boat. A bench seat folds down from the transom, and the teak-capped bulwarks offer places to sit because there are no handrails around the cockpit. There are stout stainless handrails along the side and foredecks, and GB has fixed teak grab rails inside the boat for safety in rough water.
The cockpit has a teak sole. Steps to the side decks also are teak, but those decks and the foredeck are nonskid fiberglass. Three hatches in the cockpit deck open to a spacious lazarette. One end of a 500-gallon painted fiberglass fuel tank protrudes into the area, but I found storage space for extra lines and fenders, crab pots, cleaning supplies and other gear. It's a plus for serious cruising.
A wet bar and ice maker are to port in the cockpit, against the forward bulkhead, with a propane barbecue on the starboard side. A curving stairway leads from the cockpit to the bridge. It is a striking work of art and an outstanding example of engineering talent. The teak treads are wide, evenly spaced and broad-a feat on a curving stairway.
GB installed a stainless-steel handrail to make the stairway easier to negotiate while carrying a basket of sandwiches or a pot of coffee to the upper helm.
That spacious cockpit is going to be hot in the sun and wet in the rain. I wonder, has anyone ever installed some kind of a sun/rain cover over an Eastbay's cockpit? Would one dare? She does have a Bimini over the bridge helm, an important accessory that protects the crew from too much sun.
A single sliding door leads from the cockpit into the saloon. The settee on the port side meets the most important requirement-it's long enough for the skipper to nap comfortably. An adjustable teak table fronts the settee; it also can be moved to the cockpit for open air dining.
The settee opens to a double bed, which gives the boat a theoretical overnight capacity of six. Space beneath the navigator's seat is fitted for bar storage.
To starboard are a pair of armchairs and a small cabinet. A flat-plate 27-inch TV is recessed in the ceiling and folds down for viewing from the settee.
Teak parquet flooring is standard on thousands of GB yachts, but the Eastbay has teak and holly under foot. This is a Grand Banks yacht, so the interior finish is also teak.
Ahead of the settee on the port side is a forward-looking navigator's seat, with space for two. The folks at GB already know the backrest on the seat is too low for comfortable sitting. A table ahead of the seat is large enough to display chart books or quarter-folded NOAA charts.
The helm is to starboard, with a door to the outer deck. The skipper gets a Stidd chair for luxurious comfort; there are two Stidds at the flybridge helm. Visibility from the lower helm is excellent. The one barrier to a 360-degree view is the stairway to the flybridge at the port corner.
The helm area is remarkably uncluttered. Gone is the preponderance of gauges that usually report temperatures and pressures, replaced by Caterpillar-supplied monitors that provide all that data-and much more-in a few square inches. The engine monitors offer information in text and graphic modes. Just push a button.
A multipurpose monitor displays radar and charts. Jon and I joked about what to install in an open area ahead of the wheel-probably another monitor, perhaps for an engine-room TV camera.
Following GB tradition, the center forward window in the saloon may be opened for better ventilation. Because of the steps to the down galley, it's hard to reach it for hand adjustment. So, it's electric. There's a switch at the helm.
The Eastbay's 15-foot beam makes the saloon sitting area especially spacious, despite side decks about 16 inches wide. People in the armchairs won't have to move to create room for someone walking to the door.
The galley is down five steps from the helm area and to port. (An up-galley layout is offered, too.) The steps are as easy as those at home, with uniform rise and tread width. For safety, Grand Banks adds a nearly invisible nonskid compound to the varnish that's used on the steps.
There's a portlight over the range, and by taking a step or two, the cook can look aft and watch the world flash by through the lower window on the saloon door, or chat with crew and guests in the saloon.
In the galley we found a propane stove, which many cruisers would applaud. The boat has a 13.5kW generator, mostly for the reverse-cycle heating and cooling system, but it also would support an electric range.
Polly and I were concerned about the size of the galley sink. It's not big enough to wash a tall glass, let alone a soup pot or a frying pan. Grand Banks recognizes this, and we should expect something more useful in later models.
The refrigerator is under the counter, with GB's trademark meat-locker teak door. A top-loading freezer is under the counter, in the corner.
Polly, who normally doesn't like down-galley arrangements, gave the Eastbay galley a passing grade because of its openness to the saloon and the abundance of natural light flooding in from the windshield above. She was critical, however, because it lacks storage a cruising boat requires, especially large spaces for pots and pans, griddles and crockpots. She also noted that galley drawers could be bigger.
People going cruising for a month or more tend to carry aboard extra clothing and bedding, vacuum cleaners and brooms, too much foodstuff, books, spares, cameras, computers, printers, and a long list of other odds and ends they believe will be needed. In our part of the world, they lug aboard crab cookers, fish smokers and vacuum-packing machines for preserving fish and shrimp. Also rubber boots, rain coats and shovels for digging clams. Milk crates full of gear are lashed to bridge railings. The dinghy often is stuffed with goods that must be unloaded before launching. Finding places to put it all is a never-ending challenge, and on many cruising boats, a guest stateroom becomes a catchall when every other nook is filled.
Cruising families don't subsist on cocktail snacks and finger foods. They cook crab, broil salmon and beef steak, simmer stews and soups, bake bread and rolls, scramble eggs with potatoes and bacon, and use packaged and canned foods and fresh vegetables for hearty meals. Mostly, they use real plates and glassware, not paper goods. A functional galley endowed with adequate storage is a must for them.
One possibility: There's a multi-use space between the galley and the day head. In some arrangements, it can be used for a separate shower in the head. Or it may house a stacked washer-dryer in a cabinet that opens into the companionway. Alternatively, the space could be used for humongous storage. That use would solve galley shortcomings and storage problems in the master stateroom. Another thought: Substitute a combination washer-dryer, mount it above a large drawer with capacity for kitchen utensils and then add shelves for whatnots above it.
Polly thought the stateroom in the bow needed more space for stowing extra bedding and clothing. The stateroom has one hanging locker and some storage beneath the bed. Another hanging locker might fit in a corner now filled with a TV and an air conditioning outlet. AC isn't needed in the Northwest, although heat is, and in the places we cruise, there is no television to watch.
The guest stateroom is opposite the galley. This Eastbay has a desk, sleeper sofa and two good hanging lockers in that space. Berths also can be installed. I think there's an opportunity for providing more storage here. Putting shelves in one of the hanging lockers might be considered.
(We are particularly sensitive to storage because our older GB has so much of it. The Europa design created a huge belowdecks area aft of the engine room and ahead of the water tanks, which are in the lazarette. Reached through a hatch in the saloon, this space runs full width and is 3 feet high and nearly 6 feet deep. In addition, there is a 6-foot-long cabinet across the aft bulkhead that is filled with many good and useful things. Furthermore, there is space down there for a washer-dryer, a water maker and extra toolboxes-as well as two spare propellers. Now you know: We're spoiled.)
Polly and Jon talked about storage issues while I was at the helm. The Eastbay is a semi-custom boat, and Jon believes GB, which listens to owners' suggestions, would consider providing more storage space in later models, or at a customer's request. These problems can be resolved.
But maybe we, as cruisers, could help lessen the storage problem by doing a better job of controlling what we need to carry aboard. It could be called cruising smart, cruising light.
TITANS, A PAIR
Flick a hidden switch in the cockpit, and the steps into the saloon slowly rise, revealing a stairway to the engine room. Incredibly, it has teak treads. Not the diamond plate one might expect.
This is a standup engine room for those less than about 5 feet 10 inches tall. The C12s hunker down, with the generator along the aft bulkhead.
The turbocharged and after-cooled Cats are rated at 700hp for pleasure-boat use. For continuous, heavy-duty use, they are rated at 341hp. Running a few hundred hours a year certainly qualifies as light use. These big engines should last a lifetime, with proper care and maintenance.
The 47 has two fuel tanks, the 500-gallon unit that protrudes into the lazarette and a 200-gallon tank below decks forward. The engines and generator draw fuel only from the large tank; there are no fuel manifolds. A transfer pump moves diesel from the small tank to the large one as needed.
We operated the engines at 1900 rpm, which produced slightly more than 22 knots and burned fuel at the rate of 44 gallons an hour, or 2 gallons of diesel per mile. My burst of speed at WOT took the engines to 2300 rpm and about 70gph.
This is a million-dollar boat, and I'm sure that rate of fuel consumption-as staggering as it seems for us who drive 8-knot, 4gph boats-will be the least expensive element of ownership.
The engine room has space for additional equipment, such as a watermaker (and with only 150 gallons in stainless-steel tanks, that would be a good idea); additional batteries for quiet hours on the hook; and tools, spares, lube oil and filters.
The 700s are standard. GB will install 720hp Yanmars upon request.
Engine-room insulation is good. Cruising at 22 knots, I measured 73/74 decibels in the helm area (precisely the noise level on our much older GB). Normal conversation is possible. My Radio Shack sound level meter indicated 77 decibels in the galley, 78 in the guest stateroom and 79 in the master stateroom. Jon offered to pull open an engine-room hatch while we were running at 22 knots, but I declined, having heard that kind of train wreck before.
The sound of the bow slashing through seas at 22 knots combined with mechanical noise to create high decibel readings in the forward areas. That's why the saloon settee needs to provide comfortable napping while under way.
On our old GB, the noise penetrating the sole clearly is the rattle of igniting diesel. On the Eastbay, that hallmark of diesel operation is gone, and the sounds I heard were more of a general but well-muted roar, probably partly related to the turbochargers and the driveline.
Because this boat's claim to fame is the flybridge, we made several trips up the handsome teak stairway.
Standing up in 22-knot winds will muss your hair and blow away that baseball cap. For seated crew, however, the stainless-steelframed windscreen effectively blocks the breezes and creates a comfortable ride, with superb visibility. It is a great place to watch an evening sun slip away.
In addition to the two helm chairs for crew, there's a guest settee on the starboard side with a small triangular table. The bridge deck is textured fiberglass, although there's a pad of teak decking around the settee.
The helm area has full electronics, including a chart plotter.
There's no room on the bridge deck for dinghy storage. The only place for a tender is on the swim step.
A CRUISER? SURE-WHY NOT?
We maintained speed through Burrard Inlet and past freighters moored in English Bay, but we began to slow the big engines as the 47 passed beneath the First Narrows Bridge at the entrance to Vancouver Harbor.
Slowing more, we neared Brockton Point and the turn into Coal Harbour, where the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club and several marinas and moorages are spread at the foot of an array of high-rise buildings in the center of the city. It's a dramatic urban scene.
At idle, the engines drive the boat at 7 knots. To heed a 5-knot speed limit, Jon engaged the Twin Disc trolling valves, which brought the boat's speed down to 5.2 knots. Even at that slow pace, the engines were smooth and vibration free.
It was clear from her performance that the Eastbay 47 could safely, comfortably and conveniently go anywhere we have taken a boat. We did not test her in heavy seas, because we saw none on this delivery run, but the Hunt hull shape is known for seaworthiness, and Grand Banks builds quality boats that can a take a beating. There should be no questions about its cruising capability.
Jon and I talked about Eastbay owners we know who have gone cruising, and we counted several who successfully have ventured north to Glacier Bay and other Alaska spots and have dared the waters off the west coast of Vancouver Island. It can be done.
And we all thought about how much farther we might have gone that day, taking advantage of the way 22 knots can shorten travel time. On up Georgia Strait and Malaspina Inlet to Prince Rupert? There's a decent restaurant there. Or how about deep into Jervis Inlet to Princess Louisa Inlet and Chatterbox Falls? Sadly, the 47-without a dish, pot, coffeemaker, blanket or toothbrush-wasn't ready for overnight travel.
As the crew from Grand Yachts helped with the lines, I also thought about the things many cruising couples believe are necessary on a boat making longer coastal runs, among them side decks, a fair-sized cockpit, and no-step, easy access to mooring floats through transom or bulwark gates. All contribute to safer, more comfortable and easier operation.
Cruising yachts also need the electrical capacity (batteries, inverters, generators) to lie quietly at anchor for several days, either to wait for weather or simply because the boat is in a nice place. The Eastbay 47 meets or can meet those requirements easily.
Burning 44 gallons of fuel an hour, or more, means the Eastbay 47 will need to stop at a fuel dock every 250 to 300 miles. While she won't have the range of slower boats, finding fuel that often in U.S. waters is not a problem.
While Grand Banks' Eastbay has sufficient storage for weekends or short cruises, the company would gladden people who cruise for months by providing more space for stuff.
Don't mess with anything else, though. The boat works well and is a joy to drive.