The bow of the Grand Banks 46 Eastbay SX dipped several feet as I guided the boat down into the trough and then steered off at an angle to make her climb the oncoming 5-foot wave at roughly a 45-degree angle. The sharp stem entry cleaved the wave face, directing much of the energy along the sides, while the reserve buoyancy lifted the bow cleanly as the wave passed beneath the boat. I corrected the wheel slightly to make a smooth transition down the back side of the passing wave, then began working my way up the face of the next wall of water.
It isn’t often that I get to conduct a sea trial of a new boat in strong winds and large waves, but the day I ran the new 46 Eastbay SX was perfect for judging her ride comfort and handling in less than perfect conditions. A 20-knot breeze from the southeast collided with a strong ebbing tide, making the inlet at Florida’s Port Canaveral a sloppy, dangerous mess for small craft. Even after we had cleared the entrance and entered open water, the waves continued to be dauntingly tall, but the period between them seemed to improve, making the ride that much more comfortable.
This was not the kind of day an owner might choose to make the run to West End in the Bahamas, but the solid hull and systems beneath my feet and the nimble way in which the boat responded to commands at the wheel made me think that I could get there if I was prepared for a few hours of Gulf Stream waves.
Like all the Eastbay series models I have had the pleasure to run, the new 46 SX is right at home in rough water. Credit must be given to the classic C. Raymond Hunt Associates hull design, which has a well-established pedigree of performance, safety, and comfort in less than ideal conditions. Equally important is the quality of the build and components that Grand Banks holds as its standard for all its designs, not just the Eastbay line of hardtop cruisers.
The 46 SX has a traditional Hunt hull, with a gentle upward sweep to the buttock lines—not flat, horizontal surfaces—in the stern. There’s a 20-degree deadrise at the transom, which increases to 24.5 degrees at the midship section and finishes nice and sharp at the stem. The cutaway aft for the keel is in the same place as before. The spray rails are horizontal, with enough width in the horizontal chines aft to provide good support during turns, a measure of roll dampening, and some lift to aid planing when higher cruising speeds are required.
“The 46 Eastbay SX hull is virtually the same design as the 45 SX that preceded it, a derivation of all the underwater shapes that run through the Eastbay line,” said Earl Alfaro, Grand Banks’ in-house naval architect. “Except for the tunnels.”
Below the waterline of the good-looking Eastbay profile, the 46 SX is equipped with Zeus drives from Cummins MerCruiser Diesel (CMD). Gone are the exposed shafts, struts, and rudders of traditional drivetrains. In their place, the 46 SX has a pair of pod drives with torpedo-shaped lower units and twin counterrotating, aft-facing props that hang down through the bottom and are partially recessed in shallow tunnels. This offers a measure of protection from encounters with underwater objects that traditional drives do not have. Zeus drives are designed to pivot independently of each other, vectoring their thrust at different angles in response to commands from the wheel or joystick, eliminating the need for rudders.
This is not the first time that Grand Banks has used the innovative CMD drives. When the company launched the new 41 Heritage EU, it selected Sparkman & Stephens to modify the trawler’s lines to integrate the Zeus drives for an audience that wanted to experience the convenience of station-keeping and precision low-speed docking that are inherent in this innovative system.
If you have never used a Zeus drive, you should take the opportunity at a boat show; often, you’ll find the drive installed on a demonstration boat of one kind or another. At low speeds and in docking situations, the joystick of a Zeus drive allows you to control movement forward, aft, and to either side, and to pivot around the boat’s center of effort. Whether tying up alongside a crowded face dock or backing into a slip, it’s easy to maneuver precisely and in small increments, avoiding collisions with nearby boats or coming up hard against docks or pilings. It takes only minutes to learn how to maneuver a boat like the 46 SX with Zeus drives.
Those who cut their teeth on traditional drives often respond that the technology is too new, or that the system is too dependant on fly-by-wire technology. Under development for more than 15 years, the Zeus system employs considerable backup technology for reliability, and it can be completely overridden in case of complete failure because the throttle/shifter binnacles are always available.
The major difference between the builds of the 46 SX and the 45 SX is that the full-length stringers do not stretch all the way to the transom in the newer model. On the 46, a pair of inboard and outboard stringers on each side of the keel run continuously from the bow to a location just ahead of the Zeus drives. In the engine room there is a roughly oval-shaped insert on which the base of the drive and the heavy grommet that seals it against the hull is mounted, with stringers supporting and enclosing it. The stringer structure is manufactured to a laminate schedule dictated by CMD, and it is heavily reinforced and designed to withstand catastrophic strikes with the force to shear the lower unit off the hull.
The composite hull is fully cored with cross-linked, high-density PVC to a thickness of 1.25 inches on the bottom up to the chines; the core is somewhat thinner in the hull sides. A premium gelcoat, a Hydrex resin skincoat, and handlaid fiberglass cloth completely encase the coring. There are three watertight bulkheads, plus other transverse members on the fiberglass-and-foam structural hull grid that integrates the continuous stringers. The grid is heavily tabbed and overlapped to the hull, particularly in the way of the engine beds and drive mounts. Grand Banks specifies an epoxy barrier undercoat to protect the underwater surfaces from possible osmotic blistering.
Major equipment in the 46 Eastbay SX has moved, compared with the layout on the 45 SX. Zeus drives are close-coupled to the main drive engines, meaning the engines and drives are now located under the aft cockpit, rather than in the center of the boat, beneath the saloon. The 45 SX had a midship engine room with two fuel tanks, one directly aft of the engines behind the aft engine room bulkhead, the other forward on the centerline. Fuel tanks are now midship wing tanks, mirrored port and starboard, with the water tank forward on the centerline. The genset is found forward in the engine room on the centerline, and engine and genset starting batteries are forward of the starboard engine. House batteries, and the optional watermaker on our test boat, are located forward of the port engine.
As you might guess, shifting the engines aft opens up an enormous space amidships, and Grand Banks has taken full advantage of this increased space to offer interesting, useful options. Accessed by lifting centerline stairs on the accommodations level, the former engine room space can be a well-equipped utility room with loads of storage possibilities or can be used for crew quarters.
Boarding the 46 Eastbay SX using the full-width, teak-slat swim platform is made more secure with the addition of low stainless steel handrails that complete surround the aft cockpit. The transom door is substantial, pivoting smoothly and locking securely with custom Grand Banks hardware. The teak cockpit sole is beautiful and sure underfoot, glued to fiberglass to minimize potential fastener-caused leaks. There is good storage beneath both the molded aft-facing bench seat and the optional forward-facing transom bench found on our test boat.
Molded steps with teak treads lead up to side decks that are wide enough to walk without crabbing, and two stainless steel handrails on the aft corners of the house add security when ascending or descending the steps. Stout stainless handrails and varnished teak toerails completely wrap the weather decks. The only thing I found myself wishing for was a rail under the hardtop overhang.
The foredeck has port and starboard lockers serving a Maxwell 1500 vertical winch with chain gypsy and rode capstan, plus foot switches to make anchor duties easy when you’re cruising shorthanded. Mooring cleats are formidable, with fairleads let into the toerails to help minimize dockline chafe.
Once inside the saloon, the first thing I noticed was the outstanding visibility. New wraparound aft corner windows and an automatic window next to the Dutch-style door with two glass-panel insets add tremendous views astern for guests and helmsperson alike. On our test boat, an electrically powered opening center windshield panel and sliding side window screens added abundant ventilation possibilities, as did the optional large, electrically powered sunroof. Curtains are provided to cover all but the windshield windows, and the optional sunroof even has an Oceanair retractable blind.
The standard interior layout was the typical galley down, with twin lounges aft, a small bench to port, and a power-sliding Stidd helm seat to starboard. The decor was classic Grand Banks, with plush beige upholstery (a range of optional designer fabric packages is offered), loads of select teak panels and built-in furniture, and a handcrafted teak-and-holly sole throughout the interior.
The helm has a comfortable, wraparound feeling, with good thought given to ergonomics. The throttles are outboard, while the trim-tab controls and Zeus joystick are just ahead, close at hand. There is more than enough room for a pair of multifunction displays on the dash—either Garmin or Raymarine as installed at the factory—with space left over for an autopilot and VHF radio. The standard single Cummins VesselView display is to the left of the adjustable teak-and-stainless helm wheel. I noted with appreciation the overhead handrail in the main portion of the cabin, and the teak handrail leading down the steps to the galley.
Corian countertops with varnished teak fiddles, stainless-steel-finish appliances and backsplash, and abundant storage above and below typify the galley when it is down, just beneath the port windshield panel. I liked the top-loading freezer, though reaching down into the farthest corners might be a challenge for shorter chefs. The electric cooktop had proper pot holders for cooking under way, and the microwave/convection oven was located below the cooktop, a safer location than overhead. An optional layout moves the galley up and aft, a fine idea for those who entertain in the aft cockpit.
In addition to the space amidship created by the relocation of the engine room, more space is available for a guest cabin opposite the galley that can optionally be an office. If you elect the galley-up layout, the space formerly reserved for the galley can become an optional wet head, with room left over for a combo Splendide washer/dryer.
The master cabin is truly comfortable, with private access to the portside head compartment and its separate shower stall. Access to the massive island berth is very good, and storage includes a bureau with drawers and a cedar-lined hanging locker.
THE ENGINE ROOM
Compared to the 45 SX, the aft cockpit sole of the 46 Eastbay SX is raised somewhat to make room for the engine and drive. A large door and a three-tread, teak-and-stainless ladder lead down into the engine room. There is adequate sitting room underneath the deck forward to check the batteries and the Racor duplex fuel-water separators (single on the genset) and to service the genset. Routine engine checks are easily accommodated by the position of the open hatch, water-intake seacocks are designed for ease of operation, and the large Groco intake strainers are equally easy to examine or clean out. Delta “T” demisters help keep the engines supplied with fresh air.
The engines on our test boat were the optional 600hp QSC8.3s, in lieu of the standard 550hp diesels. Top speed is 34 knots (in conditions far calmer than those I experienced), and fast cruise begins at 19 knots, burning a combined 13.85gph (1.48 gallons per nautical mile) for a range of 304 miles. (These numbers were calculated with the genset running and taking into account a 10 percent fuel reserve.)
“The mission of the Eastbay series hasn’t changed,” said David Hensel, Grand Banks’ marketing director. “It was originally intended to be a weekend, get-there-fast luxury vessel, but that having been said, there are people taking their Eastbays up the Inside Passage, out to the Caribbean, and tackling long-distance coastal cruising, too.”
The 46 Eastbay SX offers everything you expect from Grand Banks, including excellent handling, a range of speeds for every situation, and luxurious accommodations. Add the convenience of Zeus drives to the mix, and the package is even more attractive.
GRAND BANKS 46 EASTBAY SX
LOA 45' 9"
LWL 41' 9"
BEAM 14' 7"
DRAFT 3' 4"
DISPLACEMENT 42,006 lb. (half load)
BRIDGE CLEARANCE 15' (mast up); 11' 10" (mast down)
FUEL 500 U.S. gal.
WATER 145 U.S. gal.
HOLDING TANK �� 60 U.S. gal.
GENERATOR 9kW e-QD Series
ENGINES Twin 550hp Cummins QSC8.3s (standard); 600hp QSC8.3s (optional)
MAXIMUM SPEED 34 knots (optional power)
CRUISE SPEED 19 knots (optional power)
RANGE AT CRUISE SPEED 304nm (optional power)
DESIGNER C. Raymond Hunt Associates
BUILDER Grand Banks Yachts
BASE PRICE Available on request
For more information:
Grand Banks Yachts
2288 W. Commodore Way, Suite 200
Seattle, WA 98199