Written by Arni Hammerman
Grand Banks is an iconic brand, having built thousands of boats over the last 60 years, and new leadership is now driving it into the future. When Grand Banks purchased Palm Beach Motor Yachts in 2014 it brought in Palm Beach founder and famous Wild Oats skipper Mark Richards as CEO. Mark set out to update many aspects of Grand Banks by incorporating modern materials, design and construction techniques, but kept the definitive styling. The Grand Banks 60 Skylounge is a great example of this, with classic lines, exterior teak accents and contemporary accommodation that has the speed, performance and efficiency today’s boaters demand.
It was raining steadily as I boarded the new Grand Banks 60 Skylounge for a test drive; perfect weather to retreat inside her roomy, fully enclosed skylounge. I had toured an open bridge version of this model previously but soon found they were very different boats. As there is no exterior stairway, the additional room in the cockpit allows for built in seating and a teak table under the bridge overhang.
Inside, the saloon has an open layout with the galley forward, providing easy access to the skylounge via the floating stainless and teak stairway. This layout gives the saloon a bigger feel without the separation of overhanging cabinets aft and bench seats forward.
Protected from the rain under the covered side decks I threw off the lines as Grand Banks’ delivery captain Graeme Mellor eased the boat forward using the optional Yacht Controller. We were in a tight spot in the marina, tucked between pilings with a yacht side tied directly ahead. This shaft driven model with a length of 20.38 metres and 5.85-metre beam was easy to handle as we gently pirouetted out of the slip and through the tight marina.
Once we were clear, we both returned to the comfort of the skylounge to relax in the twin Stidd helm seats. Forward visibility is excellent from the helm with a teak clad wheel to centre and controls within easy reach. An electronics package features twin Garmin 8617 MFD flat panels connected to a variety of devices. Rear visibility is via camera on the MFDs and while the Yacht Controller helps when docking, a cockpit station is another option. Opening windows to both sides as well as sliding overhead hatches provide open air when desired.
The beauty of the skylounge is that you can remain in heated or air-conditioned comfort no matter the weather.
The skylounge has a shade under two-metres of headroom and is well laid out over 12 square-metres. The helm forward is adjacent to the internal stairway leading down for easy access to the side deck door below, the galley and saloon. A large seating area with a table behind the helm is a great place to hang out and relax, read a book, watch a movie or simply get away from the dockside action below. A large day head is conveniently located aft and allows the skylounge to double as an extra cabin. Aft, a large open deck is completed by a Steelhead ES1000 davit and a 3.6-metre AB aluminium RIB with a 40hp Yamaha. When the tender is lowered, the aft deck can be used for entertaining.
The climate-controlled comfort of the skylounge provided a quiet (53dBs while idling for a bridge), comfortable spot to run the boat on this muggy day. As we headed around the point and came up to speed the GB60 purposefully sliced through the water. A short three-foot chop was imperceptible as we ran our numbers. The GB 60 accelerated smoothly with little or no bow rise. She carved turns easily, leaning slightly into them because of her low centre of gravity. There was little or no bow spray cutting through the chop and not a drop reached our windshields.
With Volvo Penta D13-800s she cruised easily at 22 knots burning 187.4 L/hr giving her a range of 613 nm even at speed. Slowing to 19-20 knots brings the fuel burn down to 136 L/hr and increases range another 126 nm. Top speed was a respectable 28 knots but with larger engines the manufacturer has gotten her up to 36 knots. At trawler speeds she has remarkable range. At ten knots even in our somewhat lumpy test conditions she demonstrates a range of 1,661 nm and reducing speed to eight knots broadens that range beyond 2,500 nm. D13 900s will soon be standard and there are options for D13 1000s and D13 IPS 1200s. Few builders offer both IPS and shaft options on the same boat and this will satisfy buyers regardless of their preferred drive type. The GB60 Skylounge is an admirable coastal cruiser and is also capable of offshore passages. Owners can choose fast island hopping, or slower extended passage making, with the added comfort and safety of driving inside her skylounge no matter the conditions.
Modern and efficient performance is combined with quality furnishings and accommodations. Abundant high-quality teak flows throughout the interior. Joiner work is impeccable with built-in furniture, contoured doors and wall panels with contrasting fabrics that highlight the wood. Large salon windows bring in light to the fully equipped galley with Silestone counters.
Below decks, the master features a king bed athwartships, large quad-doored hanging lockers and an ensuite head. Teak floors in the master extend even into the head where a large shower compartment features a glass door and teak sole with stainless drain, corner bench and convenient shelves. The forward cabin has a queen bed, hanging locker and an opening overhead hatch for ventilation. A second head with a separate shower is accessed from the corridor. To starboard, a twin cabin features a single bunk along the hull as well as a step-down cabin with a single athwartships bunk beneath the saloon stairs. This cabin should be fun for kids and the bunks are big enough for crew or other adults. A washer/dryer combo is in one of the cabinets.
Quality workmanship is demonstrated throughout the boat. The Grand Banks 60 hull is vacuum infused with E-glass and vinylester resin and is cored above the waterline with closed cell foam to insure strength without adding unnecessary weight.
Carbon fibre is added in structural areas for additional rigidity.
The entire deck and superstructure are fully infused carbon fibre which reduces weight aloft, insuring a low centre of gravity. High tech construction is combined with a unique warped hull form. A fine entry point cuts through the water forward, which then streams along the hull in an even, unencumbered flow. There are no hard chines, strakes or tunnels to disturb it as the hull transitions smoothly and flattens aft to around eight degrees of deadrise. The result is a semi-displacement hull that moves cleanly through the water, and allows a boat with a lot of accommodation space to still be fast and efficient.
Her styling is salty and distinctively Grand Banks, and her performance is nimble and efficient. The Grand Banks 60 Skylounge is an excellent example of combining the best of old-world craftsmanship with modern design and technology.