Long Distance Cruising

By admin ~ December 22nd, 2008. Filed under: Features.
Grand Banks Aleutian 59

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Think of long-range cruising boats and the word trawler comes to mind.
Think trawler, and the words Grand Banks inevitably follow.

By Marilyn Mower

In Hong Kong during 1956, Robert Newton and his sons entered the boatbuilding business founding American Marine, Ltd., a custom yard with a specialty in heavy wooden sailboats and motoryachts. In 1962, they commissioned Kenneth Smith to design a small diesel-powered cruising boat they could operate themselves. Their 36-footer received such a warm welcome that a year later they began concentrating all their efforts on a production line. Their first yacht, which they named the Grand Banks 36, launched in 1964. In 1973, they switched to fiberglass. An astounding 1,141 GB 36s followed before the model was retired in 2003, and 1,560 GB 42s were launched between 1965 and 2005. Their design, with its trunk cabins at either end and salty raised wheelhouse, became typical of the genre.
Following those early days, Grand Banks has come under new ownership and since 1975, Chairman and CEO Robert Livingston has modified and expanded the line, first with Europa models and then, in 1993, with the arrival of the Down East-style Eastbay series. In 2001, the Aleutian series was added in a line that now stretches from 59 to 72 feet.
One of the strongest proponents of the Aleutian series is Steve Fithian, owner of Classic Yachts International, which has three dealerships open in Florida and a fourth on the way.
“The 59 Aleutian Raised Pilothouse really speaks to the cruising couple,” says Steve. “That being said, it’s a very  versatile boat that suits a great number of cruisers. It weighs ninety-thousand pounds, but it will stop where you want it to. It’s a big boat, but with the wheelhouse forward and easy deck access, it’s easily manageable.
“We sold hull number one twice, first to an eighty-year-old man who put twenty-five-thousand miles on the boat and then we resold it to a middle-aged woman from Australia. I sold hull number eleven to a fellow in his thirties.”
Steve also sold hulls seven and eighteen and has just taken delivery of number thirty.
“Each boat is just a bit more refined than the last. Our newest boat for example, has ten new features,” Steve notes.

As one of those rare brokers who are exclusive to a single builder, Steve takes his role seriously by spending a considerable amount of time at the shipyard figuring out ways to help maximize the product for his type of cruising customer. “A few years ago, Grand Banks didn’t make boats this size, when it stepped up to the Aleutian series, it wasn’t just to a bigger boat but to a different type of customer, one who understands the economy of traveling long distances at displacement speed, but also wants a boat that can pop up on plane at 14 knots without huge engines or the sense that it’s driving like a truck.”
As an Aleutian 59 RPH is going to base at around $2.5 million, Steve’s personal business mantra is to maximize value. Key to that is a special list of features that he has added to his boats at the factory.
“The folding light mast is one, the stainless steel and glass sliding aft door is another. Yes, you could just stick a light pole on the hardtop, but this mast is more functional, it fits the boat and provides the right place to fly courtesy flags. It’s the same with the door. Yes, you could use the standard fiberglass door, but when I saw this beautifully crafted heavy one that was being installed on a seventy-two footer, I asked for it on the fifty nine. This is a boat that deserves that kind of door and it will last longer.”
Among the other 10 upgrades for hull 30 are solid acrylic wing doors in Awlgripped frames for low maintenance; a two-part teak table on the aft deck that expands with a leaf; a larger C-shaped sofa in the saloon and a repositioned TV that preserves seating space; more storage in the galley and handsome sliding stainless steel shelves; and a custom storage cabinet above the dinette featuring a pass-through for service to the flybridge.
In all, Steve has a list of about 40 “suggestions” he shares with clients who are looking to customize their boats regardless of the model but shaped by the way they will use their boats. All items have been worked out in advance with the yard, from granite countertops to full teak bulkheads to an extra helm chair and a ladder to the flybridge hard top. So the question remains, once they have seen Steve’s version, do they ever ask for plain vanilla?
“Uh, no. They all seem to like the added value,” he says.

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