Sixteen years ago, I got my start in the marine industry at Grand Banks Yachts. On day one, from a shared desk in Seattle’s brick-heavy Pioneer Square, most of what I knew about the company was summed up in one word: Trawler. The venerable boat was characterized by its trademark planking lines, boxy-practical design, and teak parquet floors (never a fan of those).
Around my Pacific Northwest stomping grounds, GB was a ubiquitous symbol of power cruising. It was Volvo on the water—safe, secure, practical, sturdy. My dad, who would curse most powerboats under the hood of his Helly Hansen, seemed to reserve a small place in his heart for this particular stinkpot, so when I told him I accepted the job, he nearly smiled. Of course, he was probably just relieved to know that I wasn’t moving back home.
One thing that I didn’t know on day one: The launch of the Eastbay Series in 1993 was a game-changer. The Downeast-inspired Eastbay was a successful collaboration between Grand Banks and C. Raymond Hunt Associates, the legendary design firm forever linked to Boston Whaler, Grady-White, Hunt Yachts (of course), and the patented deep-V hull design. Despite the long-standing success of the trawler, Eastbay quickly took hold, and in some years, even outpaced the trawler in units sold.
My dirty confession is that I instantly loved the Eastbay—and though we probably weren’t allowed to, I also admired similar yachts from Hinckley, Sabre, MJM, and others—not just for their looks, but also for their performance capabilities and cruising comfort. Sure, the storage was limited and fuel costs were higher, but the combination of ride, seaworthiness, and schedule flexibility of higher speeds were unsurpassed.
We all change over the years, and Grand Banks is no exception. The 60-year-old company has gone through a metamorphosis of late, with a new design chief/CEO in Mark Richards (founder of Palm Beach Motoryachts), who has introduced sweeping changes at the factory in Malaysia as well as the use of relatively radical construction materials like carbon fiber. Richards’ vision for the next generation Grand Banks will be fascinating to watch. Can GB meld heralded Downeast design characteristics—namely, speed and performance—with a look and—perhaps most surprisingly—fuel economy of a modern-day trawler? If so, it could be another game-changer.