Issue: March 2005
Grand Banks 43 Eastbay Saloon Express may be the little sister of the GB 49 Express Cruiser, but as the name implies she is fast, comfortable, easy to drive and has all of the sea-keeping capabilities of the Grand Banks deep-vee hull. While the 49 SE is more likely to be owned by a mature or retired couple, the 43 SE is, quite obviously, aimed at a younger market.
Bill Alle, who with his father, Adrian, operates Grand Banks Yachts Australia on the Gold Coast and distribute these legendary craft in Australia, are quite unashamed of the fact that he has a soft spot for the 43 SE. In a previous article I mentioned that the Grand Banks 49 was like stepping up to a Mercedes SLK from a domestic brand of motorcar.
Well, the 43 could be likened to stepping up to a C-series Mercedes. Built in the Grand Bank’s Malaysia factory, the Eastbay Express Cruisers don’t follow the traditional displacement hulls of the Classic and Europa trawler-style craft that people associate with Grand Banks. The Grand Banks Eastbay series are built on a modified deep-vee hull designed by noted American designer C. Raymond Hunt, who has a reputation for designing hull forms that are smooth, give a dry ride and a good turn of speed. The hull features a flared bow with a stepped chine and a short keel to add stability and tunnels have been introduced to raise the propeller shaft by about three degrees.
In a seaway the flared bow literally flings the water away. Although, we pushed the limits by taking the swell head-on as we drove out through the Southport Seaway. We took a fair amount of water over the windscreen, but the big windscreen wipers took care of that and the boat didn’t even flinch. Outside it was a lumpy day and this was where the sea-keeping capabilities of the hull came to the fore. At 14,969kg the 43 is a relatively heavy boat and with the narrow 4.01m beam it has a soft motion through the water, there was certainly no crashing and banging in the 2m swell.
It would take some exceptionally bad weather to cause the boat any concern or to frighten the passengers. Although it is designed for cruising, the 43’s accommodation focus is on the main saloon and entertaining. There is the usual lounge on the port side, but the foldout table with its fiddle rails is more like one found on a yacht. It has bottle storage underneath and two compartments in the centre where salt and pepper and the odd bottle of tomato sauce can be stored. Turn the lids over and there are four bottle holders set in the lids. The height of luxury is the large armchair in the starboard side aft corner.
The helm station is similar to the bigger boat and is part of the main saloon. Opposite is the chart table with a separate ‘admiral’s chair’. The galley is on the lower deck, but is open so that the ‘cook’ is not isolated from the rest of the company. The galley is U-shaped and it too is similar to a yacht galley, with room for only one person to work. There are all the top of the line Miele appliances including a four-burner cook-top and convection microwave. There is cupboard space a plenty and like the 49 a small pantry in the port side bulkhead. The sleeping arrangements are similar to the 49 except there are only two cabins, one for the owner and the other a twin-bunk arrangement.
Both have cedar lined hanging lockers and more than enough storage space. The toilet compartment is located on the port side with the shower cubical separate on the other side of the boat, creating a privacy buffer between the cabins. The whole boat is airconditioned, or opening the saloon doors, hatches and sliding windows to let the airflow throughout the boat, can open it right up. With the generator and air-conditioning going we recorded a noise level of 54.4dB in the owner’s cabin, which is not much more than the ambient noise in a normal bedroom.
It is a low machinery hum and the occupants would certainly have no problem getting a good night’s sleep with the air-con going. The GB 43 SE is powered by twin 450hp Cummins diesels with semi-electronic controls. If the electronics go ‘iffy’ there is a backup throttle system. Offshore the boat cruises comfortably at 19 knots and uses around 60lt of fuel an hour, depending of course on the conditions.
This gives the boat a range or some 500 nautical miles from the 1700lt tank. In flat water the best cruising speed is 24 knots at 2200rpm, but the fuel consumption goes up to 140lt per hour and if you want to push it to its maximum speed of 31 knots the engines will demand 170lt per hour at 2700rpm.
But it is not very often you will want to push this boat to the limits, the pleasure is in the safe, comfortable cruising it offers. It is fast if you want it to be, it is easy to drive, docking is not hard, even without a bow thruster and it is a boat that will give a family a lot of pleasure.
If there is one criticism I have of the boat is the aft cockpit. It is almost as if the designers have stopped at the cabin door and the cockpit is just an add on, it is uncharacteristically bare. In the true Australian style of taking something good and making it better, Bill Alle has had the factory design and build a barbecue module for the port side of the cockpit, and a sink and storage area for the other side, as well as a cockpit awning. This enhances the cockpit area for entertaining and adds another dimension to the versatility of the boat.
The barbecue and sink are being built in modules and will be retrofitted to this boat and will come as standard on future Grand Banks SXs the Alle’s will import. Overseas, especially in the US and northern Europe, the Grand Banks fraternity regularly holds ‘Rendezvous’ where they get together for a weekend and enjoy each other’s company swapping boating yarns. Bill Alle is planning on setting up a Grand Banks Association for owners in Australia and has established a website where Grand Banks owners are invited to log their details on the contact page. The Grand Banks Owner’s Association should be underway later in 2005.
Words by Kevan Wolfe