Banks 64 Aleutian Class — By Capt. Bill Pike — January 2002
The Next Generation
|Part 2: Grand Banks 64 continued|
The Aleutian’s performance on the pancake-flat patch of Pacific west of Long Beach was way more rousing than I’d expected. In fact, the average top end of 23.9 mph was outrageously untrawlerly, a development attributable to both the complicated Fexas hull form, which combines planing and displacement characteristics in a single running surface, and the considerable oomph of twin 800-hp Caterpillar 3406Es. Out-of-the-hole performance was, if not exactly head-snapping, at least attention-getting (check out the acceleration curve on the following page). Turning characteristics were pleasing–despite a long, true-tracking keel, the hull form banks inboard instead of disconnecting outboard. And not only did the boat achieve an optimum planing angle of about 4 degrees with gusto, it did so without obfuscating visibility forward. Then finally, sound levels at the lower helm, even at WOT, were very low, thanks to Aquadrive shaft couplers, extra-soft engine mounts, and lots of lead-loaded vinyl insulation in the engine room, all of it behind crisp perforated-aluminum panels.
Returning the Aleutian to the face dock was a piece of boathandling poetry, thanks to the visibility already mentioned and a Morse remote on a long cord that puts both engines and a gutsy 25-hp American Bowthruster bow thruster at the walkaround disposal of the skipper. I prefer hydraulic as opposed to electric thrusters, by the way, primarily because they endure long periods of usage without overheating.
Once we got tied up, my examination of the Aleutian’s finer points started with the machinery spaces, accessed via a lovely Freeman watertight door on the forward end of the lazarette, which is in turn accessed through a lounge seat along the rear of the cockpit. Three groovy features stuck out. First, while all the electrics were top-notch, I was especially impressed with the inverter system, which consists of two big Trace units (in the lazarette, actually), a whopping bank of six Trojan 8L-16 golf-cart-type batteries, and a dedicated 11.5-kW Onan genset, one of two Onan units onboard my test boat.
Second, in addition to duplex Racors for the mains and gensets, there was a mammoth centerline-mounted Racor RVSF-1 prefilter/separator on the forward firewall, capable of filtering, polishing, and even centrifuging fuel from any or all of the five fuel tanks.
And third, most details of construction I could see were fairly unusual for Grand Banks. For instance, firewalls, watertight bulkheads, and soles were of Airlite-cored fiberglass, not plywood-cored as in other models, and there was a separately molded, preformed, solid-glass grid of six stringers (and numerous athwartship members) strengthening the hull–we’re talking an all-glass boat here. Moreover, Phillips said the 64’s topsides are cored with pricey Airex instead of balsa, and the superstructure and decks are cored with Airlite.
The Aleutian’s interior was just as noteworthy. As you can see from the photos here, the basics are traditional, with top-shelf joinery, a flawless finish, and crème de la crème ancillaries, although there are some striking departures, namely the first-ever use of carpeting, the openness of the layout already noted, and on the lowest deck, the large, central office area (with settee, desk, and day head) that separates the amidships master from the VIP forward. The design emphasis? Livaboard comfort, not population density.
My overall opinion of the 64 Aleutian Class solidified about sunset, as I drove the ol’ rental car back to the hotel, taking a route that treated me to the very same vision of the Queen Mary I’d enjoyed earlier in the day and the very same sense of relevancy. Whether considered from the vantage point of construction, layout, styling, or performance, this new Grand Banks is about as close to the New Age as trawler-types get. But like the great liner that now calls Long Beach home, she’s also, paradoxically enough, a veritable icon of seafaring tradition.
Grand Banks Yachts Phone: (203) 845-0023. Fax: (203) 845-0024. www.grandbanks.com.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.