The first Grand Banks trawler, a 36-footer, was delivered in 1963. A 42-footer was later introduced — in 1966 — and soon became the company's most popular model. Fast-forward to 2005, and we witnessed the end of an era, as four decades of producing the venerable 42 ended with the delivery of hull number 1,560 in July.
When Grand Banks began building trawlers, most were powered with a single Lehman or a John Deere diesel engine. Both were slow, reliable, economical, they'll-outlive-you engines, which were derigueur for the day. But as the years progressed, Grand Banks buyers increasingly wanted twin engines along with more power, and the management at Grand Banks listened.
The company is not, however, abandoning the strong market segment for its industry-leading 42; rather, it is listening to increasingly younger buyers who want greater mobility (read: speed). The result is a newly designed 44-foot speedster to step into the shoes of the successful 42.
What's Underneath Counts
Grand Banks' new Heritage 44 is available in two models, the Classic (CL) and the Europa (EU). Both models have the same new hull and the same interior layout.
"The new 44 is one of the most important new models we have ever launched, with a lot of innovative thinking and high-quality work going into the boat," said Bob Livingston, Grand Banks chairman and CEO.
Above the waterline, you see what appears to be a traditional Grand Banks (except in the stern, where you'll notice a new integral swim platform). But below the waterline rests a new Sparkman and Stevens-designed hull that is a radical departure from Grand Banks' traditional displacement hull. The swim platform is the first hint that different things lay below the waterline, and what you cannot see is the 44's modified deep-V hull with an 18-degree deadrise. The new hull is intended to house large powerplants, which in turn allow the Heritage 44 to reach planing speeds in the low- to mid-20s (knots) depending on power options.
Anyone who has ever cruised in a Grand Banks knows that when at 75-percent-throttle or more, there is so much bow rise that the helmsperson in the cabin has difficulty seeing over the bow. In designing the new 44, Sparkman and Stevens compensated for this by allowing for more rake in the bow, and a forefoot with more of an "S"-curve in the bottom, optimizing performance at higher speeds and eliminating the bow rise problem inherent in displacement hulls. Our sea trials confirmed there is little bow rise in the 44, while the helmsperson maintains excellent forward visibility at all speeds (including WOT).
Twin propeller tunnels house 31- by 34-1/2-inch bronze/nickel/aluminum five-blade props mounted on massive 2-1/2-inch stainless-steel shafts, which, when attached to our test boat's optional 500 hp Caterpillar C-9 six-cylinder in-line diesels, reached a top speed of 23 knots with a light load on board. A pair of 8D AGM batteries provides starting power to the Cats as well as powering 12v appliances when the engines are quiet; a 25-pound Fireboy fire extinguishing system (standard) is plumbed into the engine room for safety.
The Heritage 44 maintains Grand Banks' traditional teak sole, with a heavy 1-1/8-inch stainless grabrail mounted atop the teak gunnel. At the bow, a powerful Lofrens combo chain-and-line windlass handles anchoring duties, and dual storage compartments sit beside the windlass, as do dual water spigots. A third, larger deck box, sitting just aft of the windlass, is built into the forward exterior of the master stateroom.
Securing a Grand Banks to a dock or in a slip is always a joy, because you never have to worry about where to put a line. With twin 12-inch stainless-steel cleats at every corner of the boat plus twin cleats amidships (12 cleats total), all with hawse pipes, you don't have to worry if there is going to be a place to add another line.
The 42 Grand Banks had a 14-foot, 1-inch beam, while the 44's beam gains more than a foot, at 15 feet, 3 inches. Under the 88-square-foot aft deck lays a cavernous 6- by 12-foot lazarette, which houses twin rudder posts, triple air-conditioning compressors and a few miscellaneous electrical and hydraulic items. Accessed via a large deck hatch (which has a gas-assisted strut) and a teak-over-stainless-steel ladder, there is enough open space in the lazarette for four people to sit and play cards.
At the transom, the integral swim platform houses three in-platform storage compartments, sufficient to carry bumpers, lines, electrical cords and other miscellany, including a retractable swim ladder. On the port side of the aft deck, a molded fiberglass stairway provides access to the bridge, while lifting the stairs via those gas-assisted struts allows access from the rear deck to the engine room via a spacious gangway.
Above and Beyond
Up top, the flybridge on the 44 EU model is huge, with seating available in two helm seats or an L-shaped settee large enough for 10 people to enjoy (around a beautiful teak table), and plenty of room left over on the aft end to hold an 11-foot rigid-hull inflatable. Dinghy chalks are standard (what serious Grand Banks owner does not have a dinghy?) and our test boat came with an optional telescoping davit crane.
A traditional 12-foot aluminum Grand Banks radar mast sits near the aft end of the flybridge, with flag halyards and a pre-installed radar mount; at the helm station, a retractable electronics panel is standard, as is a monster 30-inch teak-and-stainless destroyer wheel.
Entering the main cabin requires a 6-inch step up from the main deck, and once inside you are immediately aware that you're on board a Grand Banks. Beautiful teak flooring, along with high-quality accoutrements and rich teak walls are what you get when you purchase a Grand Banks trawler. Seating for six on an L-shaped leather settee around a beautiful teak dining table (the table collapses to form the base for a berth) can be expanded to seating for eight with two pull-up chairs. The U-shaped galley holds a refrigerator, a freezer, a three-burner glass-top stove, a sink, an eye-level microwave and lots of storage.
Opposite the galley, the helm is traditional Grand Banks. The joiner work on the 30-inch all-teak steering wheel is another work of art found only on a Grand Banks. Each wheel contains 35 parts and takes 38 hours to build.
A flush-floor hatch between the helm and the galley provides typical Grand Banks cabin access to the engine room. And as previously mentioned, visibility forward is greatly improved due to the 44's better running angle while on plane.
The master stateroom is located in the forepeak and contains a queen-size pedestal berth, abundant lighting, 6-foot, 6-inch stand-up headroom, a 30-inch screened ceiling hatch, a cedar-lined closet and a private head. A Grand Banks head is another artful masterpiece, and the 44 has two of them (the other one is in the port side gangway opposite the guest cabin). VacuFlush commodes are standard, as are Corian floors in the showers; both the master and the guest showers are spacious and inviting.
The guest cabin to starboard has twin bunks; each one is 6 feet, 6 inches long (a rarity, as most guest bunks do not exceed 6 feet). A short cedar-lined hanging locker, overhead lighting, reading lights and ample under-bunk storage round out the guest cabin amenities.
With the Grand Banks 42 now retired, it appears the company has a winner with its new Heritage 44 Classic and Europa models.
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Manufacturer Contact Information
Grand Banks Yachts Ltd.