View from the bridge

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Opting for the flybridge version of the Grand Banks 55 Eastbay was a no-brainer for Josh Mandell. It’s the first one built with a ‘second floor.’

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Photos by Billy Black

Josh Mandell was the first Grand Banks customer to order a 55 Eastbay with a flybridge as opposed to the sedan model.

“It seems like the obvious choice, so the question is, why not get the flybridge?” says Mandell, who uses the yacht with his family to cruise between New York Harbor and Nantucket, Mass.

“A 55-foot vessel is going to require all of the same systems for propulsion and operation whether it has a flybridge or not. Once you are spending all of that money, why not add a second floor for a small fraction of the overall cost?”

If Mandell wants to operate within an enclosed space, he mans the lower helm. “It has excellent visibility, as there is very little bow rise when the boat is on plane,” he says. “I prefer the open air, so you’ll find me on the flybridge mostly.”

Grand Banks has built the flybridge large enough for three Stidd helm seats and a generous L-shaped settee around an equally sizable teak table. You access the cockpit via a curved stairwell — safer and more comfortable than a ladder or a steep straight staircase, says David Hensel, director of brand and marketing at Grand Banks.

“We’ve sold nine 55s — eight as SX models and one as an FB,” he says. “I can’t give you a specific reason why the SX has been favored over the FB. That’s just been the buyer preference.”

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Perhaps that’ll change as more boaters see Mandell’s fine-looking yacht traversing Northeast waters. The 55FB carries a stately profile and rides a C. Raymond Hunt Associates deep-vee hull. She can be outfitted with twin Caterpillar C-18 ACERT diesels configured at 813, 1,015 or 1,150 hp. Mandell, 45, opted for the maximum horsepower, and on most trips he cruises at about 28 knots.

A meticulous record keeper, this former mayor of Larchmont, N.Y., logged his own performance report — and input the data in a spreadsheet with a graphic chart. It shows a fuel burn of 82.5 gph at 29 knots for a mileage rating of 0.4 nmpg and a range of 352 nautical miles. She reaches nearly 35 knots at full throttle. Grand Banks in its sea trials came up with similar numbers — at 23 knots she gets 0.35 nmpg and tops out at 34 knots.

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Mandell, who took delivery last July, likes many aspects of his Eastbay, but it’s the ride that gets his highest praise. “I knew exactly what to expect from the quality craftsmen at Grand Banks, so it was no surprise that she was absolutely beautiful aesthetically,” says Mandell, who has owned a 28-foot Boston Whaler Conquest and a Grand Banks 42 Europa. “But the ride and the way she handles is more than I could have ever expected. When the waves are big, she plows through almost like a large displacement yacht.”

And when the seas aren’t so mean she behaves as sprightly as a ski boat, he says. “There’s nothing like the feeling of leaning into a turn on a 35-ton vessel while cruising at nearly 30 knots,” he says.

The genesis of the 55 Eastbay FB goes back to 1997, when C. Raymond Hunt Associates designed the 49 Eastbay for Grand Banks, says Peter S. Boyce, principal designer for the company. “The original mold was 54 feet and was modified for the 49,” he says. “The idea was that the 49 would be followed at some point by another model.” And it was. The original mold was used for the 54 Eastbay (2003-2007), a more enclosed version of the 49 with a larger cockpit.

The 55 Eastbay FB rides a Hunt-designed deep-vee hull and is available in three interior layouts. Mandell chose the galley-up with three staterooms.

“It is a typical Hunt deep-vee hull with quite a lot of deadrise carried all the way aft,” Boyce says. “It has a relatively fine entry and quite generous chines and lift strips. All the Eastbay boats and many of the other boats we do have propeller tunnels and are relatively shallow.” The 55 draws about 5 feet.

The same hull is used for the 55 sedan express and flybridge models. Grand Banks plant manager Bruce Livingston and product development manager Earl Alfaro are responsible for the interior design of the 55FB, as well as the flybridge and superstructure. Grand Banks offers three interior layouts, all with two heads below.

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The standard layout puts the galley below on the port side with a twin-berth cabin opposite and the master cabin forward. The second version also has the galley below in the same location, with a larger guest cabin to starboard featuring a queen berth. This layout carries a larger footprint — a trade-off for a shorter galley counter. The third is a galley-up design with three cabins. Two are amidships and the third is the forward master stateroom. The galley is on the port side, and the lower helm station is on the starboard side.

Mandell chose the galley-up version, giving the facing starboard and port staterooms to his three children, ages 9, 12 and 15, and keeping the master suite forward for himself and his wife, Ravit.

Mandell appreciates the rigorous attention to detail that went into constructing his yacht. “It’s a trademark of all Grand Banks models,” Hensel says, “the quality fit and finish down to the joinery of the woodwork or the welds on a safety rail. It’s true at the big-picture level, as well, where features like storage, access and ergonomics get such careful and thorough attention.”

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Grand Banks has aptly arranged a mix of seating, tables and amenities within the saloon. A U-shaped settee wraps around a teak high/low table on the port side. A long cabinet with storage, minibar and an entertainment center sit opposite, and a settee separates this area from the helm station, with its Stidd pedestal chair.

Three pedestal seats line the flybridge’s command station, with two companion seats flanking the centerline helm. The L-shaped settee abaft the helm on the starboard side has proved one of the most popular locations on the boat, Mandell says. “We have found that most guests will quickly claim a seat on the flybridge whenever we take a cruise,” he says. “It’s the place to be.”

At A Glance (Specs)

LOA: 55 feet, 1 inch

WATERLINE LENGTH: 50 feet, 10 inches

BEAM: 16 feet, 4 inches

DRAFT: 5 feet, 2 inches

DISPLACEMENT: 63,000 pounds (light),

69,500 pounds (half),

74,000 pounds (full)

TANKAGE: 1,000 gallons fuel, 180 gallons water, 68 gallons waste

SPEED: 32.5 knots top,

25.8 knots cruise (Caterpillar C-18 ACERT, 1,015 hp);

34 knots top, 26 knots cruise (Caterpillar C-18 ACERT, 1,150 hp)

PRICE: unavailable

CONTACT: Grand Banks Yachts, Seattle

PHONE:(206) 352-0116

EMAIL: www.grandbanks.com

Photos by Billy Black

Editor’s Note: If you want to catch a glimpse of Lenox, your best bet is Block Island, R.I. “Our home-away-from-home port during the summer is the Block Island Boat Basin, where Justin, Joe and Tony always take good care of us,” Mandell says. www.blockislandboatbasin.net

November 2013 issue