Review: Grand Banks Aleutian 55 RP review

By: Ben Keys, Photography by: Ben Keys & Supplied

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Grand Banks Aleutian 55 RP 27
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With the latest Grand Banks Aleutian 55 Raised Pilothouse unavailable for review in Australia, we decided to test this luxury boat in its home port of Malaysia.

Singapore’s Changi airport is closest to the Grand Banks boatbuilding facility in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. This explains how I found myself gridlocked on a bridge with several thousand motorcycle commuters.

 

GRAND BANKS ALEUTIAN 55 RAISED PILOTHOUSE

Grand Banks Aleutian 55 RP

Our review boat, named Lady Alma, is ultimately bound for the Mediterranean, but for now, her new owner is enjoying exploring Malaysia’s islands and surrounds.

The Grand Banks Aleutian 55 RP is an update of the Grand Banks A53 – the smallest in the Aleutian fleet, which stretches right up to 76ft. Grand Banks nonetheless sold more than 20 of the plucky A53 motor yachts, but by extending the waterline a mere two feet, the company was able to make a vast number of clever improvements.

The most obvious gain is space in the rear cockpit. Most owners order their Aleutian with the optional moulded rear seat, so the 55 now offers more room to move in this popular area of the boat.

There are also significant performance advantages. A longer waterline length equals higher top speeds, greater lift, cleaner trim and improved efficiency.

 


Grand Banks facility in  Johor Bahru, Malaysia

 

LAYOUT

Grand Banks Aleutian 55 RP cockpit

At a glance, the Grand Banks Aleutian 55 Raised Pilothouse looks similar to the Grand Banks 54 Heritage EU we reviewed in 2014 and the two yachts certainly share comparable designs, but there are key differences.

The single-level interior of the Grand Banks 54 EU seems likely to appeal to older buyers and the massive flybridge area will suit living on board or entertaining large numbers of guests. But what the Grand Banks Aleutian 55 Raised Pilothouse offers in that step-down from the helm/galley to the saloon is an aft deck much closer to the water. For this reason it will find favour among younger owners, perhaps those with an interest in watersports who’ll appreciate the easy access to the ocean via the rear gates.

The sprawling submersible teak swimplatform at the stern of Lady Alma is designed to carry a 4m RIB while cruising, although the 1000lb Steelhead crane on the flybridge ensures the tender can be safely stored away on long passages.

The wide platform also creates a safe waterside playground for children, as adults entertain themselves at the rear table, overlooking the happy scene.

A further appealing feature for owners with young children (or pets) is the Portuguese bridge that runs in front of the lower pilothouse. When closed, double gates here prevent access to the bow. This means kids are safe behind a solid bulwark that runs all around the yacht, with no chance of them slipping under a handrail, like those at the bow.

 

PASSAGEMAKER

As with every Grand Banks yacht, the Aleutian 55 RP is unashamedly pitched as a bluewater passagemaker, one which will comfortably (and safely) transport you over the horizon.

What’s interesting about this one (and I’m contrasting it with the 54 EU again) is that the A55 weighs in more than three tonnes lighter than the Heritage, despite being 2.5m longer overall. This weight saving is due to a swept back flybridge and slightly shorter deckhouse. So that does that mean for owners? Performance, baby. The A55 houses twin 705hp Cummins QSM 11 engines, in contrast to the 54’s 900hp Volvos. Each will go nearly 1000nm at 10kts, but the Aleutian enjoys the fast stuff more. And she’ll cost you less to do it.

Fuel figures provided by Grand Banks show the 54 ERU using 230lt/h at 18.4kts, whereas the Aleutian consumes a more moderate 170lt/h at 18kts. Both show a top speed of around 22.5kts, but Hank assures me the A55 will hit 24kts at a gallop.

 

INTERIOR

Grand Banks Aleutian 55 RP saloon

There is a small series of steps between the galley and pilothouse area, but once you descend, the wide saloon invites total relaxation. Full-height picture windows frame panoramic views of whichever quiet bay you’ve chosen to stop in, and wide couches offer space for all

Teak wall veneers in the Grand Banks Aleutian 55 Raised Pilothouse now feature a horizontal grain and shadow lines as part of the recent update and square light fittings make for a more modern look, echoed in door handles and latches. The coffered (recessed) ceiling hides air-con ducts, and in the future, expect to see features like textured fabric panels on the walls.

This is all part of a push to modernise the time-proven Grand Banks catalogue and increase the brand’s appeal among younger buyers. And it doesn’t take much. Light-coloured fabrics, blonde timbers, a handful of angular fittings.

The enclosed pilothouse offers a social space to navigate from, with passengers able to relax on the adjacent lounge while the captain steers ahead with the help of twin Raymarine Hybrid Touch displays.

The compact galley has everything you’ll ever need – all quality Miele appliances – and the addition of a sliding window, makes this a pleasant place to spend time at anchor.

Grand Banks Aleutian 55 stateroom

Accomodation lies beneath, in this case a forward VIP and port bunk room with a shared ensuite. The full-beam master stateroom is aft, with opening portlights above the plush bed, set on port side. It’s all lavishly appointed (as you’d expect at this level), including little details like a tiled bathroom and cedar-lined wardrobes.

Hiding through a second doorway is one of my favourite GB trademarks – a fully equipped utility space which leads to the engineroom, via a watertight bulkhead. In here you find a washer and dryer, another freezer, storage for every spare part imaginable and even a work bench.

It’s acknowledgement that this builder recognises how people use proper cruising yachts – they need the space and capacity to fix things themselves as required.

 

ENGINES

Grand Banks Aleutian 55 engines

The engineering spaces offer even more room to move and it was nice to find ample headroom on a 55-footer.

In here the purring Cummins turbo-diesels capably go about their business, linked via vee-drive to a Twin Disc gearbox. Two Fischer Panda generators provide security away from the shorepower tether and Naiad stabilising fins work to quell the motion of the waves.

Or they would, if there were any. The glassy waters of Singapore harbour failed to challenge the A55’s handling, but her low centre of gravity and the renowned prowess of those trawler hulls suggest solid performance in the rough stuff.

Below the waterline, shaft-driven props are housed in tunnels set above the lowest point of the full length keel. So should you run up on a sandbank (or heaven forbid, a reef) the keel will rub before damaging the propellers.

 

FLYBRIDGE

Grand Banks Aleutian 55 RP flybridge

Let’s not forget the flybridge. Because if you’re anything like me, this is the spot you’ll be wanting to drive from. And relax in. And do backflips off the hardtop from. Okay, maybe not...

Twin Stidd helm chairs make long days at the wheel a breeze and these pivot around to meet the flybridge lounges when you’re done for the day. The solid hardtop could also be fitted with clears if you’re venturing to high latitudes, but provides good protection.

A SureShade retractable awning can also be extended out over the aft flybridge deck, suggesting this owner has plans for fun in the sun. Access to the main deck is via forward stairs on port, or a ladder to the stern, and the locker next to the davit can be customised with a barbecue, icemaker or a drinks fridge. Or all of these.

 

THE TRADE-A-BOAT VERDICT

Grand Banks Aleutian 55 RP helm

The new Grand Banks Aleutian 55 Raised Pilothouse has much to offer the experienced buyer looking for a dependable bluewater yacht. It offers both a stylish fit out and performance that will have you confidently setting a course over the horizon. Planned changes to build techniques will only strengthen the position of this yacht and its ongoing pedigree, so it’s truly an exciting time to be looking at a Grand Banks purchase. 

 

GRAND BANKS ALEUTIAN 55 RP SEA TRIALS

2x 705hp Cummins QSM11; 50% fuel and water load.

RPM

SPEED (KTS)

FUEL BURN (LT/H)

ECONOMY (LT/NM)

1200

9.6

36

8.8

1400

10.6

54.8

11

1600

11.5

76.4

13.8

1800

13.4

104.2

16

2000

15.5

137.2

18.2

2200

18

174.8

19.8

2300

19.5

201

21

2400

21

225

21.8

2530 (WOT)

22.6

262.5

23.6

* Fuel data supplied by Grand Banks. Fuel figures are for both engines combined.

 

GRAND BANKS ALEUTIAN 55 RP SPECS

Grand Banks Aleutian 55 RP price: US$2,284,000 (priced from)

 

GENERAL

MATERIAL GRP hull, foam core decks

TYPE Semi-displacement monohull

LENGTH 19.07m

BEAM 5.4m

DRAFT 1.45m

WEIGHT 29,940kg (light ship)

 

CAPACITIES

PEOPLE (NIGHT) 6

FUEL 4000lt

WATER 1136lt

 

ENGINE

MAKE/MODEL 2x 705hp Cummins QSM 11 boat engines

TYPE Six-cylinder, four-stroke diesel

DISPLACEMENT 10.8lt

GEAR RATIO 2.04: 1

 

MORE INFORMATION

Grand Banks Australia

The Boat Works Complex,

Waterfront Suite 2, Building A

200 Beattie Rd, Coomera, QLD, 4209

Phone 07 5618 0000

Web grandbanks.com.au

 

See the full version of this review in Trade-A-Boat #465, May / June 2015. Why not subscribe today?

 


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