There’s nothing half as exciting as being aboard a big, beautiful cruising boat in South Florida in the springtime with the sun coming up when it’s still cold up north. You feel privileged, meteorologically speaking, every time the tropical breezes stir. Stepping up into the cockpit of a new Grand Banks 59 Aleutian RP (Raised Pilothouse) with test gear in hand, I caught a pungent whiff of the fine Cuban coffee they sell in nearby Miami’s Marriott Biscayne. Somebody was already onboard.
“Caf Cubano?” grinned Grand Banks service manager Larry Crouch, pointing to a steaming cup he’d just put on the dinette table. Once the formalities had been dispatched, we jumped right into a juicy little discussion about Teak Decking Systems, or TDS (see “No-Hassle Elegance,” this story), an outfit that installs traditional-looking teak decks without the traditional maintenance hassles that go with them. Our test boat’s swim platform, Portuguese bridge, and wide walkways were paved with TDS decks. The stuff was virtually glowing in the low morning light.
Since our test boat had to be in Key Largo by early afternoon, plus star in a photo shoot along the way, we knocked off the confab after a bit, toodled aft along the wide port-side walkway, and entered the stand-up engine room via the watertight door just forward of the cockpit. While Crouch pulled dipsticks, I looked around.
What a layout! The 59’s machinery spaces are divided into two parts. There’s the engine room proper (with mains, blowers, air-conditioning condensers, and a standard, starboard-side, 20-kW Northern Lights genset) and a lazarette abaft it (with room for the optional 12-kW Northern Lights genset, optional 800-gpd Village Marine watermaker, Glendinning Cablemaster, workbench, battery chargers, Xantrex inverter, and steering gear). The division’s eminently practical for two reasons. First, thanks to a thick, sound-insulated bulkhead (with Freeman watertight door) that separates the two areas, the secondary or “nighttime” genset in the lazarette can run without disturbing sleepers in the master, which is also isolated from sound by the forward firewall of the engine room. And second, relegating secondary and tertiary systems to the lazarette seriously simplifies the engine room. Certainly, some components outboard of our mains were crowded and tough to access, but all the major players (like the Groco sea-water strainers, the duplex Racors, etc.) were inboard, logically installed, and easy to get at from the central walkway.
By this time Crouch had completed his checks, and we were ready to shove off. The weather stayed gorgeous as we proceeded through Biscayne Bay. I ran the 59 from both upper and lower stations and was impressed with the easy reading of both dashboard layouts and the cushy adjustability of the Stidd helm chair in each spot. Visibility was unobstructed by bow rise from both helm chairs as well, thanks to a carefully positioned longitudinal center of gravity and reasonable running attitudes. The broad, hard-over turns I did were typical of a keel-accoutered inboard vessel except for one thing: The disconcerting tendency to lean outboard was only faintly discernable. That’s a tribute to naval architect Jim Moran of Sparkman & Stephens, who nicely balanced the 59’s keel dimensions to get both solid straight-away tracking and a comfy, straight-up orientation in turns.
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