Grand Banks 36 Review

Issue: May 1998

The 12ft tri-hulled tender, armed with an out-of-tune 20hp outboard, tried gallantly to keep pace but was inevitably lost in the wake of the Grand Banks 36.

The driver was almost apologetic as we sat, rocking. This wasn’t supposed to happen – Grand Banks are traditional trawlers; seaworthy, certainly, but about as swift as an English darts champion. No self-respecting speedboat should be passed by one.

Here was the 36 Classic, however, looking every inch your conventional aft-cabin cruiser and weighing 11,800kg, doing 16.4 knots. With only twin 210hp Cummins turbo-diesels, mind you. What’s changed, of course, is the underbody. Grand Banks have adopted a semi-displacement hull shape for the new-generation models, providing a fine entry, deep forefoot, and flattish run aft. The latter is further boosted by over-sized trim tabs. Plant the throttles and the hull lifts bodily (up to 23cm above the displacement waterline), reducing wetted surface.

There’s a gentle, almost imperceptible, transition from slow to full speed. It is all remarkably efficient, with no planing hump to breach, nor any burying of the stern. As it accelerates, great cylindrical walls of water begin to peel from its bows, while the water astern becomes a boiling cauldron of froth and bubble. No spray comes aboard, though, as it’s turned away by the roll of the topsides and a projecting gunwale strip. Teak-capped bulwarks run the full length, also. From the flybridge helm station, with its large timber-spoked wheel, it feels as though you’re commanding a Navy destroyer.

You gaze down upon these perfect curving breakers, and are swept up in the noise of wave action. Meanwhile, the handling aspects, upon which Grand Banks’ builder American Marine prides itself, are again evident in the 36. A long keel keeps it on track, yet it turns with remarkable deftness, washing off little of its speed. The mechanical steering, as well as being dependable, is reasonably light.

Stability is another strength, with hard chines reducing the rock’n’roll action associated with trawlers. Seaworthiness doesn’t appear to have been compromised either, and herein lies the beauty of the GB’s newfound alacrity. The door is opened for new cruising opportunities, speed being the essence of modern society. Eight knots is OK if you don t have a pressing deadline; at 16 knots you halve the travel time, or cruise twice as far, and can still be back at your desk by Monday morning.

On reaching your destination, you’ll appreciate the many ‘proper little ship’ features that the 36 has to offer. Big stainless steel fairleads and cleats; wide sidedecks and high guardrails; a capstan winch that self-feeds the anchor chain into an under-deck locker. Climb two steps, turn left, then up three more steps, and you reach the flybridge.

There’s little cockpit space to speak of, so you’d spend all of your outdoor time here. Bench seating accommodates eight people and abundant storage is provided. A stabilising rig adds to the appeal, but the helm station, devoid of electronics, looks bare. Down below, in the warm and cosy cabin, is where the 36 shines. While it lacks the spaciousness of modern American cruisers, Grand Banks have employed this layout for decades and perfected the design and finish to a fine art.

The timber work in particular down to the delicately crafted cigar box that comes with each vessel – is truly inspiring. Construction takes place in a two-year-old production facility in Malaysia. Upon completion, every boat spends three to four days in a detailing shed having the slightest faults corrected. It shows. On the test boat there were some 50 drawers and cupboards, and not a single panel was out of alignment. Nor were there sticky latches, or fittings incorrectly placed. The drawers are solid timber with dove-tailed edges. Parquetry flooring is constructed in individual squares, so they can be replaced if damaged. A slide-out timber cutting board is to be found in the galley. Mattresses are 6in Dunlopillo foam, no less.

Elsewhere you notice safety items such as a leak tester for the LP gas bottles, which are stored on the flybridge, plus every sump has its own bilge pump and tester light. Wiring and plumbing in the engine room is first class. A genset is optional but there s shore power availability and auto battery charging as standard. Engineering wise, the Cummins swing 2in-diameter stainless steel shafts and bronze propellers (28in x 25in).

All thru-hull fittings below the waterline are copper bonded, double clamped and have seacocks. Entering the deck-level saloon from the rear port-side door, there’s an L-shaped dinette opposite. The teak table has wine bottle storage and is height-adjustable via gas struts. For’ard is the comprehensive internal helm station and it too has a door to allow the helmsman quick departure for anchoring or tying up. To port is a longitudinal galley comprising a Corian bench top, concealed electric refrigerator (made especially for GB), three-burner stove/oven, and a single but large stainless steel sink.

Accommodation is divided fore-and-aft. The vee cabin, down three steps from the saloon, has twin berths, a hanging locker and ensuite. The aft cabin, which is enormous for a 36-footer, has a queen-sized island berth, walk-in wardrobe, large ensuite and a wealth of storage (including an under-bed chart drawer).

Light floods in through the rear companionway and large flyscreened windows. Entry to the rear cabin is through cute bi-fold doors but is somewhat narrow – perhaps my only criticism of the layout. There is a price to pay for such superb luxury and quality. The 36 is listed at $515,940, complete with safety equipment and a Honda 2hp-powered Metzeller inflatable, but, alas, no electronics. The demonstrator is available for $449,900. This puts the 36 Classic in perspective. Grand Banks by name, it’s built like a bank too – big, safe and dependable. And sadly you’ll need a hefty account to afford one, though one senses that it’s an investment in a lifetime of use.

Story by Mark Rothfield.