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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Grand Banks 59 Aleutian RP

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, 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.

Moran’s modified-V running surface (with semicircular prop pockets) did a nice little balancing act, too. Average top speed was a rousing, un-trawlerish 32.1 mph in seas measuring one foot or less. But then, at close to hull speed (approximately 11.4 mph, or 10 knots), the 59 produced a .88-mpg running efficiency, a figure that generates a range of more than 1,000 miles. “Versatile boat,” I noted to Crouch at one point, “what with speed and economy on the docket.”

Getting situated at Key Largo’s Ocean Reef Club at high noon went pretty slickly. We did a starboard-side tie-up that was both fast and facile thanks to big props, an excellent view of the stern through the saloon from the lower station, a Side-Power electric bow thruster, and, for effortless deck checking, optional Freeman wing doors in the wheelhouse. Once we got our lines tweaked, Crouch and I hit the last lick of the day: a tour of the 59’s teaky, three-stateroom, three-head interior.

Elegance and practicality were the watchwords. On the lower deck, the 59’s full-beam master offers a large island berth and an en suite head with separate shower stall. While the look is understated, the emphasis on stowage isn’t—I counted 22 cabinets, drawers, and hanging lockers in the master alone. The forepeak VIP was darn near as sumptuous and, in between, the third stateroom/office, with nearby dayhead and stairwell, made for efficient traffic flow. The finish throughout seemed good, although I’m no fan of the plastic cabinetry latches. Stout? Presumably, but unworthy of a prestigious marque.

The 59’s wheelhouse, galley/dinette area, and saloon occupy the main deck, and the ambiance here was slightly different from your Grand Banks of yore. Features like finely crafted joinery and teak-and-holly soles were familiar, but the big flush-fit windows and LCD TV powering out of the starboard credenza were new. And the overhead pass-through hatch between the galley and the flying bridge was cool!

Crouch and I finished up later that afternoon, and in keeping with the natural beauty that had highlighted the whole day, a couple of palm trees framed the test boat when I turned to take one last look. The vision was fetchingly traditional, of course, but a little deceiving.

Given her top-end sparkle, state-of-the-art design, and cruise-comfy, condo-esque layout, the Grand Banks 59 Aleutian RP is an absolutely modern trawler. In fact, given her trendy personality, you might even say she qualifies as New Age!

Grand Banks Yachts
(206) 352-0116

This article originally appeared in the May 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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