A Grand Banks 42 cruises the coastline in this idyllic scene captured in 1969. Nowadays, the trawler-style cruising yacht is such a familiar sight around the waterways of America that it’s hard to imagine a time when this classic design wasn’t around.
The trawler-style cruiser made its debut in the early 1960s with the Chantyman, a wooden boat that Robert Newton built halfway around the world at American Marine Ltd. in Hong Kong. Just under 35 feet long, it looked like a fishing boat as it was husky and high-sided, with a wheelhouse set forward like an Alaska trawler’s. With a big diesel engine, it bore little resemblance to the motoryachts of the day. And yet, the builder saw the possibilities in the design. It was seaworthy and, with an 8-knot cruising speed, easy on fuel. There was a lot of room on board, and it had a rugged, salty look. The Chantyman proved to be a groundbreaking design. Author Robert M. Lane, in A Brief History of Grand Banks and American Marine, wrote, “It was a design that introduced the concept of a production-type trawler yacht to the boating world.”
Newton went on to commission marine architect Ken Smith to improve on the Chantyman idea. Smith produced a 36-footer that was diesel-powered with the same working trawler look, but with more room inside and the addition of a flybridge. The first hull of that trawler made its debut in 1963. A year later, American Marine abandoned its custom yacht business to focus on the trawler. In 1965, the company introduced the 36 as a production boat. It was named Grand Banks, after the famed Atlantic fishing grounds. The recreational trawler market was born.
Not long after, the Grand Banks 42 debuted, refining the concept of the recreational trawler. It became one of the most successful trawler designs ever, enjoying a 30-year production run.
This article originally appeared in the February 2019 issue.