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Used boat: Grand Banks 42 Classic


Nine years ago Pepper Holmes was living the retired life in Georgia, playing golf with her husband, Geoff. A boat ride, just a casual day trip with friends, changed that.

“I discovered the fun of boating,” says Holmes, a 63-year-old retired nurse. “I gave up golf and took to the water.”

Now the liveaboard couple’s retired lifestyle includes an annual voyage north to Chesapeake Bay to spend summers near their grown children and four grandchildren.

Come fall they head south for the Florida Keys and the Gulf of Mexico to spend the winter in Southern comfort. They do it in a 1987 Grand Banks 42 Classic, a double-cabin, twin engine trawler yacht that’s one of the most successful designs ever, and one that helped put trawlers on the recreational boating map. The price was around $300,000. In the four years they’ve owned Rosetta, home-ported in Oxford, Md., the couple has come to appreciate her virtues as a boat as well as her character.  


“Construction is top of the line. She handles very well and will take more [rough seas] than we will ever ask of it,” says Geoff Holmes, who is 67 and a licensed delivery captain. “And she’s a classic that helped spawn a whole style of boating.”

Holmes, retired from the pharmaceutical industry, was no stranger to Grand Banks, having owned a single-stateroom, single-engine 32-footer. But they had a problem they thought a bigger boat would solve. “We were only seeing our family once or twice a year when we were living in Georgia,” says Pepper Holmes. “We thought with a larger boat we could live aboard, spend the summer with them, and winter down South. It would be big enough to share, too.”

There were compelling reasons why the 42 was “the right boat,” the couple says. First, Rosetta was in excellent shape, still under the care of her original owner. The 42 Classic’s twin cabin layout — with forward and aft staterooms — was a big attraction for the soon-to-be liveaboards. Privacy is important on a liveaboard boat that has frequent guests, and having cabins at opposite ends of the boat provides it. The roomy, versatile saloon with its galley up was another plus. “[The galley] is much more convenient because it’s closer to the dining area,” says Pepper Holmes. “And it’s more sociable, too.” Twin helm stations and twin engines were two other factors in the 42’s favor.

Power comes from a pair of 210-hp Caterpillar diesels in a large engine room below the saloon. “They’re dependable and economical,” he says. “We cruise at around 9 knots and use about 6 gallons of fuel an hour. That’s pretty good.”

The couple logs 3,000 miles each season and has run into varied conditions between Maryland and Florida. Rosetta’s handled it all. “She’s been dependable; she does very well [in a seaway],” says Holmes.

Along with her time-tested, salty good looks, Rosetta is just a wonderful boat with plenty of character, says Pepper Holmes. “Rosie is quietly elegant,” she says. “With her lines and teak trim, she has a sense of style.”

Geoff, president of the local Grand Banks owners association, agrees. “When I talk about her, I keep coming back to character and quality,” he says. “I’ve thought about a new boat, but in that price range there’s nothing that can compare. She’s a grand lady; we’re proud to own her.”


Borrowing from commercial fishing vessels, designer Ken Smith gave the Grand Banks 42 Classic a well-proportioned semidisplacement hull with a tall bow and sturdy bulwarks — trademarks that have changed little over the years. The teak-rich interior and parquet saloon sole also have become Grand Banks standards.

There have been various floor plans over the years as the model was updated, but the twin-stateroom arrangement — one aft, one forward — remained the same. The forward cabin is down, laid out with a V-berth, hanging locker and private head compartment. Four ports and a hatch in the trunk-style cabin top provide light and ventilation. The distinctive aft cabin also is down, and came with either an island double berth or a pair of singles. There were two head arrangements depending on bunk choices, but both include a shower. A companionway leads to the small aft deck, though this was eliminated in the post-1991 versions.

The saloon is long and well-lit, and takes advantage of the boat’s 13-foot, 7-inch beam. The helm station is to starboard, next to a wing door giving direct access to the deck. The rectangular windows are tall and wide for good sightlines, and there’s a nav area for electronics and charts. The roomy, accessible engine room is below the saloon, reached through hatches in the sole.

The galley is to port, with room for a sink, stove, oven and refrigerator. A second settee and an entertainment center were options, placed abaft the galley. An L-shaped settee and dining table abut the helm station.


Thanks to its prolific production run, the Grand Banks 42 Classic is easy to find in the used-boat market. Equipment, amenities and hull material vary (wood models are still around), as one would expect, and prices run from the high five-figures to around $300,000 for preredesign models. A look through Soundings’ classifieds found the following: a 1988 model in Maryland in “pristine condition,” customized for long-distance cruising, listed at $295,000, including dinghy and outboard; a 1985 model in Wisconsin with twin Lehman diesels, new running gear and transmission, new electronics — including GPS and plotter — and kept in fresh water, for $278,000; and a 1976 model in New Jersey with twin 140-hp John Deere diesels, air conditioning, and twin heads (with a bathtub in the master head), listed at $148,000.


Grand Banks Yachts was founded in 1956, building wooden boats in the Far East. Its breakthrough came in 1964 with the introduction of the Smith-

designed Grand Banks 36, a rugged, salty-looking trawler that became one of the most successful recreational designs, with more than 1,000 built in a 32-year production run. The Grand Banks 42 came out a year later, and it has outsold its predecessor, with more than 1,500 vessels built. (The change from wood to fiberglass construction came in 1973.)

These boats helped establish the slow, steady trawler in the recreational boat market in the late 1960s and early ’70s. The original 42 remained little changed during its 25-year run (through hull No. 1203) before a modest redesign after 1991. Mark Parker and Ed McKnew, authors of several consumers’ guides, say the 42 Classic is the standard by which other trawlers her size are measured, with “superb engineering and construction, timeless styling and a proven semidisplacement hull design.”

That semidisplacement bottom helped establish the 42’s reputation for seaworthiness and performance, and was so successful it was used as the basis for Sport Cruiser, Motor-yacht and covered-deck Europa versions of the 42. Today, Grand Banks builds a fleet of yachts from 39 to 70 feet in three series: Eastbay (express), Heritage (trawler) and Aleutian (motoryacht). No longer in production, the last 42 Classic — hull No. 1554 — was launched earlier this year.