PILOTHOUSE

Passage Maker - - Contents - Jonathan Cooper

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 Downeast­in­spired 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.

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An early East­bay 38 Ex­press, on sea tri­als in Southeast Asia.

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