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Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?
The Grand Banks 60 Skylounge is made for enjoying the sun, but with the protection of a fully-enclosed flybridge for year-round enjoyment.
It’s big enough to handle the open ocean and, with a range of more than 4,000 kilometres, it’s capable of circumnavigating both the North and South Islands on a single tank of fuel. It’s trim enough to tuck into small harbours and shallow anchorages, giving it the flexibility to go absolutely anywhere. And it’s luxurious enough to please a prince. Can the new Grand Banks 60 Skylounge really be the ultimate long-range cruiser?
I decided to find out. I’d been impressed by the 60 Flybridge model when the first drawings of it appeared in 2017, but I became even more intrigued last year when the newer Skylounge version emerged, with its enclosed upper bridge for added comfort and living space.
Completely climate-controlled, the Skylounge allows comfortable access to the bridge no matter what’s happening with the sun, the heat, the wind or the dew. Would that more protected helm provide greater comfort for exploring distant shores, or would it leave me pining for the wind in my hair?
The Grand Banks 60 is a truly innovative yacht that delivers eyebrow-raising interior space, driving performance and fuel economy while remaining true to the company’s classic style. While the brochure talks about its wide-open entertaining areas, supremely comfortable furnishings and three staterooms, what really sets this yacht apart is its exceptional handling, long-range, seaworthiness and the fact it can still be easily handled by just two people.
Built for drivers
The performance of the Skylounge reflects a unique combination of time-honoured design principles and space-age technology. The yacht’s hull is designed to deliver an ideal balance of beam and depth, allowing it to carve the water easily without the need for extraneous strakes, steps, tunnels or other corrective elements.
The design sweeps from a fine entry at the bow to a transom with only six degrees of deadrise. Engines, tanks and other equipment are carefully positioned to reduce bow rise on acceleration and provide an optimal running attitude at all speeds.
While the 60’s hull is constructed of vacuum-infused E-glass and vinylester resin, pretty much everything from the rubrails up is crafted from lightweight carbon-fibre laminates with Corecell foam cores. This allows a low centre of gravity that’s fundamental to her impressive stability, handling and fuel economy.
What does ‘impressive’ mean? For starters, the Skylounge really can cruise along for more than 4,000 kilometres between fuel stops. Yet if you’re in a hurry, she can achieve top speeds in the mid-30 knot range while maintaining snappy handling with the optional Volvo Penta IPS 1200s.
While sea-trailling the vessel on a greyish overcast day, my review boat seemed eager to play and effortlessly carved a series of delightful, tight figure-eights for the camera while running at 28 knots, which is not at all what one expects from a near-20m luxury trawler. I should mention that my review boat was rigged with shafts and rudders – the available IPS power option would have given it even more zip.
Even with a more sensible hand at the helm, the handling is still cause for smiles. Slide the throttles forward and the boat simply glides on top of the water, with little discernable bow rise, and surprisingly little noise. Its efficient hull holds plane at a remarkably low rpm and, thanks to bow and stern thrusters, the boat manages tight turns into the slip with ease. Built for drivers? You better believe it.
Room with a view
But stellar performance is only part of this boat’s charm. As befitting a yacht with the Grand Banks nameplate, the 60 Skylounge is very much the complete package.
Step aboard the broad aft swim platform and it’s immediately clear that this is a yacht designed for enjoying the great outdoors. A wide Kenyon grill mounted right on the transom and accessed from the swim platform makes a clear case for an al fresco lunch with a view – while dangling your toes in the sea, no less. An adjacent storage locker on the transom top provides a convenient spot to stow wet gear like snorkels and swim fins between stops.
A starboard-side, inward-opening transom door leads to the expansive aft cockpit which in our review boat featured a full teak sole to match the swim platform. A near full-width transom seat faces forward toward an elegant pedestal-mount table with a beautiful teak top.
To starboard, a useful storage cabinet with a Silestone countertop houses a refrigerator, a freezer and storage, while a matching cabinet to port accommodates a sink and faucet, with still more storage space beneath. With the convenient fridge, plenty of space for additional seating and the sun protection of an overhead hard top with integral LED lighting, the cockpit on this vessel really is an ideal lounging or entertaining space, day or night.
A large hatch in the cockpit sole opens to provide access to the engine room and an enormous lazarette. That she’s built for long-range cruising is obvious by the tremendous amount of stowage space throughout. The engine room is not especially tall, but it is spacious, providing easy access to the twin Volvo Penta D13 diesels, twin Fisher Panda gensets and other mechanical equipment in our review boat.
Twin side decks, each accented by a stainless steel railing, lead forward from the cockpit to the bow. These passages are wider and far less confining than one might expect from a boat of this size. An available sunpad can be added to the bow deck if desired, creating a quiet spot for soaking up the sun with a good book.
If you’d rather step inside, a beautiful teak-and-glass sliding door takes you from the cockpit into the saloon. Grand Banks offers the boat with a choice of aft-galley or galley-forward floorplans. I usually prefer aft-galley layouts since they permit serving the saloon or cockpit with equal ease, but must confess that the forward-galley layout in our review boat seemed ideal for the space.
As you enter from the cockpit, a large L-shaped settee to port surrounds a beautiful pedestal-mount table with a gorgeous teak top and adjustable leaves, allowing it to be easily-configured for dining or drinks. To starboard, a pair of facing loveseats share a beautiful teak coffee table while just ahead of them, a large high-definition TV on a lift stows in a discreet teak bulkhead.
The entire saloon is bathed in light thanks to large windows that wrap fully around the space, many of which can be opened to provide ventilation. The bright environment and wrap-around views create a particularly attractive galley, where a U-shaped Silestone countertop facing the port side provides expansive counter space.
Thoughtfully outfitted, the galley centres around a deep, undermount stainless steel sink with a residential-grade faucet, and cavernous storage space below. Miele appliances including a three-burner induction cooktop, oven, refrigerator and a freezer complement the high level of construction detail.
A discreet panel of rocker-style switches allow the chef to open the side window for fresh air, or lower overhead shelves providing access to dishes and cookware that’s otherwise stowed neatly out of sight. Kudos to Grand Banks for thoughtfully outfitting the 60 Skylounge right down to the plates, flatware and glasses – each sporting a discreet GB logo.
Opposite the galley, a side-opening door allows direct access to the starboard side deck while an elegant teak and stainless steel staircase leads up to the Skylounge.
Designed for extended cruising, the Skylounge offers all the comforts of home – in this case a three-bed, two-bath home for an adventurous couple and their guests.
While full-beam master staterooms have become all the rage in cruising yachts, Grand Banks has gone one better with the Skylounge and positioned this suite along the boat’s port side. I found this approach immensely appealing, offering all the floor space of a full-beam suite while providing a wide rectangular window directly over the headboard, so the morning light can gently illuminate the suite without shining directly in one’s eyes.
The owner’s stateroom includes an equally spacious ensuite head, which is also well-illuminated and ventilated with its own overhead hatch and a side port. The shower deserves special mention, being particularly roomy and bright with its oversized glass door. The heated towel rack points to Grand Banks’ exceptional attention to detail, providing just one more delightful luxury that will bring a smile every morning.
The far end of the owner’s suite is dominated by a substantial closet that includes several drawers and plenty of space for hanging clothes. Facing the island bed is a large, wall-mounted, high-definition TV, giving the space all the comforts of – well, you get the idea.
Guests might be forgiven for thinking they’ve been treated to the owner’s stateroom themselves, as the VIP suite in the bow is nearly as large and opulent. The bright guest accommodations feature a large island bed, with an overhead hatch and two side ports that provide plenty of sunlight and fresh air.
A large portside hanging locker with drawers, a dressing table with drawers to starboard and a neat row of cabinets encircling the upper cabin provide a generous amount of storage space for clothing and personal items. Guests enjoy ensuite access to the day head which, like the owner’s suite, includes a particularly spacious shower and that wonderful heated towel rack.
A wide companionway leads aft to a third cabin with two single beds in a staggered L-shaped arrangement for greater privacy. The younger members of the crew will simply love this space; so too will empty nesters, who are more likely use it as particularly attractive storage spot to stow additional supplies and gear.
The Sky’s the limit
As you walk through the Grand Banks 60, you can’t help but feel a sense of luxurious refinement. That’s particularly true when you ascend its beautiful, curved teak staircase to the aptly-named Skylounge. The Skylounge does more than simply provide cruisers with the ability to operate the boat from a protected upper pilothouse in both cold and warm climates – it also allows Grand Banks to take full advantage of the available living space on the main deck.
But rather than a simple pilothouse, as you ascend the steps you’ll find yourself greeted by a smaller, more intimate version of the salon below. As on the main deck, a large and comfortable L-shaped settee to port (which can serve as a watch berth during a night passage) faces another beautiful teak table with adjustable leaves.
A refrigerator in a small galley unit keeps a refreshing drink close at hand. A spacious day head negates the need to go downstairs when nature calls, while full 360-degree wrap-around windows (some electrically-retractable) bathe the space in fresh air and natural light. The joinery work in the Skylounge – and everywhere, really – is absolutely top-shelf, giving the vessel the feel of a luxurious, private retreat. Only the twin pedestal-mount Stidd captain’s chairs and the neat helm console reveal its true purpose.
A wide centreline door at the rear of the Skylounge provides access to a second aft cockpit, which is typically set aside to accommodate the 4.2m tender and the standard ES1000 Steelhead Marine crane. It’s a neat arrangement that provides easy access to the tender without giving up space on the swim platform, while keeping it securely stowed and out of the way.
The challenges of any Skylounge model are the additional weight and the possible blemish to a yacht’s lines if it’s not designed with a keen eye. The proportions of the design are very important to the company, says Grand Banks CEO, Mark Richards.
“We’re not in the business of designing ugly boats so we spent a lot of time ensuring the Skylounge looks like it belongs on the 60. And our emphasis on weight reduction and strength in the build process ensure we’re not compromising the 60’s performance, while still keeping a very low vertical centre of gravity. The whole package comes together and works extremely well.”
He’s absolutely right. So who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? This is an extraordinary long-distance cruising yacht with the protection of a fully-enclosed helm. With its luxurious accommodations, outstanding handling and superlative performance, it is hard to imagine a serious cruiser wishing for anything more.