Photography by Jonathan Cooper
The Grand Banks 46 Eastbay FB is a maneuverable, surprisingly sporty vessel with boatloads of old-school charm.
There comes a time in every boater’s life when he is forced to acknowledge that a change is necessary. Such was the case last year for Dan McCormack, a Chicago-area boater. McCormack’s beloved Grand Banks 46 Europa Lucerne met a grim fate [see November’s After Word for that story] and he felt like for his next boat he was ready for a hybrid of sorts. Something with enough room not to leave him shellshocked from the change, but also with a little more oomph, oh, and he wasn’t willing to sacrifice his love of salty lines either. What to do, what to do? He and his wife pondered that question as they perused the Web sites and the boat shows. And then one day into their lives motored the Grand banks 46 Eastbay FB.
“Yeah we shopped around a bit but Grand Banks was pretty much always number one for us,” McCormack told me as we sat onboard his new Eastbay in Chicago’s Burnham Harbor. “We were in love with the quality and craftsmanship they put into their boats, both with the hull and the fit and finish. And of course their traditional styling was a draw as well.”
Better Boat: Under the Hood
So far, both of the 46 Eastbay FBs that have been built have had pod configurations. And though the option is there for straight shafts, it doesn’t sound to me like Grand Banks thinks they’re particularly necessary. Over the phone, Fran Morey, Grand Banks’ director of service, had this to say on the matter: “If we had someone who wanted shafts, we could do it—we’ve done it on the 50. But we like the pods for the performance, handling, and the ability to have control when docking,” he said. “For most boaters, it’s those five minutes getting out of and getting back into the docks that can be the most nerve wracking. The pods really make docking much simpler.” Morey also points out that the Cummins setup eliminates a lot of finger pointing if repairs are needed. “The controls, steering, propulsion, it’s all one system, with one vendor,” he said. “You’re not going to have the engine guy saying ‘Oh, this is a problem for the boatyard’ or the transmission guy blaming the engine guy for something. You just take it to Cummins and they handle everything.”
That philosophy makes sense to me, if you’ve ever had engine problems during prime boating season, you’re certainly not going to want any added rigamarole. You just want to get your boat fixed, quickly and correctly, and get back out there!
But it was clear that the McCormack’s trawlering days were over. The kids were off in college, and not around as much during boating season. And overnights on the boat were becoming more and more rare, especially considering they have the lake house in Michigan not too far away. “The more we looked at these boats, the more it really dawned on us that the kids weren’t going to be onboard with us as much anymore,” McCormack said. “And that meant two things. One, we didn’t need as much space as we used to have. And two, we were losing some deckhands, so we needed something we could handle ourselves. Plus,” he grinned and glanced over at his wife, and then back at me, “we wanted something with a little bit more speed.”
That much he certainly got. On our test runs on the glassy surface of Lake Michigan the 46 Eastbay topped out at an even 30 knots, with a fast cruise hovering in the 24- to 26-knot range depending on how hard you want to push her. She accelerated through her rpm scale like a sportboat, and though to be honest my test boat rode slightly bow high for my tastes, that was no problem at all once I trimmed down a few clicks.
The lake that day was as flat as, well, a lake, so we needed to create our own turbulence to get a feel for how she might handle a pounding in a rough sea. So I zipped her around in pleasingly tight loops and figure 8s until I created my own little tempest. Then I gunned her through the whole mess a few times—with McCormack’s blessing—aiming for larger and larger launch pads trying to get her either to creak or just more generally blow the landing. She refused.
The 46 FB’s seaworthy hull is a C. Raymond Hunt Associates-designed modified-V with 19 degrees of deadrise at the transom. Solid below the waterline and cored with Corecell foam, it’s both slippery and seaworthy, and a large part of why this boat performs so sweetly.
The other major factor in the boat’s performance is her powerplants—twin 600-horspower Cummins QSC 8.3 diesels that rest in a spacious engine room, well forward of two Zeus pods. McCormack is fond of the space, and says of it “You can get around and reach everything pretty readily.” By which he means not only the engines, but the twin Racor fuel-water separators and 10-kW Cummins Onan generator as well. He also likes that the pod configuration puts the engine room farther aft than on a straight-shaft build. The design choice creates a large under-sole stowage space forward of the engine room—a handy little feature for owners who intend to go on longer cruises. For his own part, McCormack had a sight tube installed in this area as a redundancy measure for checking his fuel tanks.
The boat’s interior is nothing if not elegant. The accommodations deck in particular is covered in a forest-load of beautifully finished teak and has a definitive old-school nautical style that is as handsome as it is tranquil. The forepeak master isn’t huge, but it’s certainly large enough for two, and has a big cedar-lined locker to starboard and lots of other stowage compartments scattered about wherever they can fit. Notably, McCormack didn’t fit out the cabin with a television—a breath of fresh air to me, boats are for boating after all. The en suite head featured a shower with 6 feet 4 inches of headroom and a seat so Mrs. McCormack can easily shave her legs.
Moving aft through the bottom deck, you come upon my favorite detail in the area, teak pocket doors that gracefully slide aside to reveal a cabin that can act as a guest stateroom, den, or office. An L-shaped settee here can convert to a berth, and a desk in the corner makes this space a more than suitable spot to get some last-minute weekend work squared away so you can head into the office on Monday morning with your ducks in a row.
Topside in the saloon my eye was drawn to the expert joinery work and high levels of attention to fit and finish. A custom teak table to port featured a mariner’s star that sets off the woody, nautical feel of the space quite nicely. Large windows stretching nearly 360 degrees around the saloon offer excellent natural light, as well as reassuring sightlines as you steer from the lower helm. A very workable galley can also be placed in this area, though my test boat had a galley-down arrangement, forward of the companion seat.
Frankly, I’ve never been a huge fan of flying bridges on Down East-style boats. From a purely aesthetical viewpoint, I prefer the lines of the 46 Eastbay SX that Capt. Bill Pike tested for Power & Motoryacht in September 2012—she’s the same boat as the FB, just about 100 grand less since she’s missing the flying bridge (indeed, both boats share a hull with the older 45 Eastbay). To my eye, flying bridges on Down East-type vessels detract from otherwise classic lines, and peck away at the sense of workmanlike simplicity and nostalgia these kinds of boats tend to evoke. However their practicality is inarguable. The 46’s flying bridge offers a whole other deck for larger crowds, and the twin Stidd helm chairs are the perfect place for the McCormacks to sit and take in the crisp lake air as they scoot from Chicago to Michigan and back. So what the flying bridge argument really boils down to is one of practicality versus aesthetics, and it’s completely up to personal preference.
And hey, if you’re looking into getting an Eastbay 46, you’re probably a serious boater. You know what you want, and you’ll get exactly what you need. Just ask Dan McCormack.
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NOTEWORTHY OPTIONS: Ice maker ($2,860); washer/dryer ($3,770); surround-teak decking ($15,455); dishwasher ($2,980); utility-room fridge ($3,440); underwater lights ($4,960).
The Ship’s Manifest: Grand Banks 46 Eastbay FB
Does she have sisterships? Yep, the 50 and 55 Eastbay FBs and the 46 Eastbay SX.
Closest competition? Sabre 42 Fly Bridge, Hinckley T48 Flybridge
Who is this boat for? Anyone with an eye for salty elegance and a desire for a little bit of speed.
How many does she sleep? Four, comfortably.
Where would you take her? The Great Lakes are nice, but she’d fit right in at Martha’s Vineyard too.
Sum it all up for me: She’s a well-crafted and versatile boat perfect for a cruising couple.
Generator: 10-kW Cummins Onan, Warranty: 1 year limited warranty
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 72°F; humidity: 30%; seas: flat
Load During Boat Test
300 gal. fuel, 40 gal. water, 3 persons, 400 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/600-hp Cummins QSC8.3s
- Transmission/Ratio: Cummins Zeus proprietary
- Props: stainless steel Zeus M4s
- Price as Tested: approx. $1,200,000
This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.