I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly trepidatious about hopping aboard a boat in Stuart, Florida, just five hours before I had to catch a plane 90 miles down the coast in Fort Lauderdale. The agitated sea state awaiting us at the breakwater only added to my nerves. But as we began to slice our way through the short-frequency 5-foot swell and chop, never once landing hard, my cool was quickly restored with literally the swiftness of 1,600 horses.
You probably read about the 60 Skylounge’s flybridge model sibling, which was praised in the October 2017 issue of Passagemaker for her “un-trawler-esque” performance at 30 knots and her low, sleek profile—a modern touch and a departure from the angular look of the classic Grand Banks. So, when I first learned of this latest model with a box on top, my first question was, “Why?”
The original intent, it seems, was to extend the cruising season for a broader range of Grand Banks clients operating in varying climates, from the Pacific Northwest to northern Europe and beyond. The 60 Skylounge’s climate-controlled upper pilothouse with superb visibility certainly makes this possible in colder regions. And take it from a guy who spends most of his cruising days in the tropics wiping sweat from his brow—a fully shaded, air-conditioned helm station with sweeping views of that gin-clear Exumas water in July definitely makes off-season cruising more pleasant in warmer climes as well.
As it turns out, that box on top has also increased the living space dramatically. When designing a long-distance cruiser, you can never have too many distinct social spaces. On the new 60, cruisers will appreciate the ability for family and guests to spread out while on a passage. Abaft the twin Stidd helm seats, the “second salon” has a comfy L-shaped settee, a day head, a drink locker, plenty of stowage and an aft deck that easily accommodates the standard 13-foot tender and davit. Between two overhead sliding hatches and large electric opening side and aft windows, the skylounge essentially becomes an open-air flybridge when the weather calls for it.
Relocating the helm station up top also created additional living space on the main deck. Moving the galley forward freed up the salon for opposing settees to starboard and an L-shaped settee to port—subtly creating distinct areas for living and dining.
The design tweaks after Hull No. 1 (pictured) further trickled down to expanded stowage, where every available crevice seems designed to serve a purpose, from massive lazarette lockers for spare parts, folding bikes and dive compressors, to expanded interior storage. For example, the master stateroom now has a wall of roomy closets on the aft bulkhead as opposed to a stepdown locker.
The challenges of any skylounge model are the additional weight and the potential disruption of a yacht’s lines. But Grand Banks kept the added weight to a minimum (around 1,600 pounds) by fully infusing the entire deck, cabin house and enclosed bridge using the highest quality carbon fiber available. The fully cored structure uses PVC foam core and SAN Corecell in areas of specific application, sandwiched between skins of stitched multiaxial carbon fiber, bonded with vinylester and epoxy resins and supported by infused composite panels in a robust grid system. The result is added strength and reliability, even in punishing open-water conditions.
Maintaining her lines required a few cosmetic tweaks as well. The flybridge was shifted slightly aft to line up the angles of the lower and upper windscreens. A few style lines were added to the sides of the skylounge, and the overhang was extended to better match the cockpit overhang below.
“The proportions of the design are very important to us,” says Mark Richards, CEO of Grand Banks. “We’re not in the business of designing ugly boats, so we spent a lot of time ensuring the skylounge looks like it belongs on the 60. Our emphasis on the weight reduction and strength in the build process ensure[s] we’re not compromising performance while still keeping a very low center of gravity.”
Purists may be quick to judge. After all, this is hardly the same Grand Banks they grew up with. Those early semi-displacement models, while also well built, are slower hulls from a different technological era. The builder’s new approach to long-distance cruising finds us sea-trialing a boat that can do more than 2,000 miles at 10 knots, burning just 7 gallons per hour. It’s also a boat that can get up and go 31 knots (depending on engine options) when you need to, say, hustle down the coastline in a sloppy head sea in order to make a flight—while enjoying every moment of the ride.
No, this is not your father’s Grand Banks, and that’s precisely the point.
GRAND BANKS 60 SKYLOUNGE SPECS
4ft. 4in./3ft. 3in.
2x900-hp Volvo D13
2x900-hp Volvo IPS 1200
31 knots/25 knots/10 knots