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Owner enthusiasm and continued strong demand have
elevated this trawler to virtual cult status

By John Wooldridge

The Grand Banks 36 trawler is the embodiment of the phrase "proper yacht." Viewed from afar, it has the classic cabin-forward lines of a design born for long hauls and open waters. The hull design is renowned for its economical, seakindly operation.

There are great views from the saloon in virtually every direction, and copious amounts of light. The furniture and bulkheads are made of golden Burmese teak, accented by neutral fabrics and a soft cabin liner. The Grand Banks 36 has handcrafted teak parquet cabin soles and hand carved rails.

Drawn by Ken Smith, the designer of record for all the early Grand Banks designs from 32-42 feet, the first GB 36 came down the ways in 1965. Stoutly constructed of Philippine mahogany until the Singapore building yard made the transition to heavy fiberglass production techniques in 1973 - 1974, the Grand Banks 36 has never lost the functional, seaworthy appearance or features that made it an instant classic with serious cruisers.

The sharp entry has a near-plumb bow with a gently curved, clipper-like upper profile leading to the short bow pulpit and the high bow bulwarks protecting the foredeck. Nicely flared sides provide excellent buoyancy and additional dryness to a bow that cleaves waves cleanly. This semi-displacement design has a full-length keel, providing excellent protection for the prop and rudder and accurate tracking for extended cruising. Hard chines aft effectively dampen pitching and rolling.

The classic Grand Banks 36 design features low trunk cabins fore and aft, somewhat minimized by the high bulwarks all around the weather decks. The bulk of the tall deckhouse is set forward of amidships, providing excellent views for the pilothouse steering station, and is topped by a forward-positioned flybridge. Teak planking graces the weather decks, a feature which combines well with teak-capped handrails to provide extra security on the wide side decks - particularly important as your crew moves fore and aft to handle docking duties.

Inside, the classic layout includes long fore and aft berths in the aft cabin, and a vee-berth double in the forward cabin. Both cabins were equipped with private head compartments. The aft cabin had a private access hatch to the aft deck. The saloon originally featured a bench seat to port and dinette to starboard in the after part of the cabin. Forward, the galley took up the remainder of the port side cabin space, while the inside steering station and sliding cabin door were set to starboard.

Beginning with the 1988 model year, the overall dimensions for the GB 36 were lengthened and widened by about 6 inches to provide more living room. Sleeping arrangements aft included a double to starboard with a single to port, or a large island double to port. Over the years, American Marine (the builder) offered two other versions of the Grand Banks 36 to extend the appeal of the classic aft cabin design to a wider ranging audience.

"Grand Banks are one of the two or three quality-built yachts that have appreciated as much as 10 percent over the past couple of years."
Cruisers seeking more usable interior room should be interested in the GB 36 Sedan and Europa models, with their sedan-like single level deck for the saloon and aft cockpit (with large connecting door), and a choice of one large single or two smaller staterooms forward. The Europa is distinguished by extensions of the flybridge deck, which overhang the side and aft decks. The interior layout common to both includes a saloon with L-shaped dinette and galley to port, plus two armchairs and built-in storage to starboard. The inner helm remains to starboard, while the cabin layout forward houses a forward cabin with large vee-berth, portside cabin with upper and lower single berths, and a single head compartment to starboard with separate shower stall.

"Grand Banks customers traditionally are family oriented", says Clute Ely, vice-president of sales for Boatworks Yacht Sales in Rowayton, Conn., "which is why the classic two-cabin layout is vastly popular compared to other models - by as much as 5- or 6- to -1. The GB 36 was the first Grand Banks, setting a reputation for strength of construction and reliability that has stood the test of time. There are still quite a few wooden-built Grand Banks models on the market."

Single Ford Lehman diesel engines - with a sprinkling of other models made by well-known companies such as John Deere - were the standard power until approximately 1982. Cummins and Caterpillar diesels were used in roughly half of all Grand Banks built between 1982 and 1989, bringing additional horsepower and speed to the forefront, and they have become the dominant propulsion since that time. Twin engine models are not as common, but are sometimes available from customers who opted for more power.

In many cases, single-engine models provide efficient cruising in the 8- to 9- knot range and burn a stingy three gallons per hour (gph). Top-end speeds rise to 10 to 11 knots, but fuel consumption jumps to 12 gph. Twin engine models may not have been as popular as singles because of the general perception that many heavy semi-displacement boats tend to plow. A GB 36 with twin 210-hp diesels efficiently cruises at approximately 9 to 10 knots while burning 6 gph, but will top out at 14 to 15 knots while burning 22 gph. A test ride will convince you that the hull form of the GB 36 is well suited for optional twins because it slips along cleanly even at high speeds and never plows a tall wall of water.

"Grand Banks owners are an important source of ongoing refinements," says Ely. "As a group, they are enthusiastic and supportive, especially when they are meeting and competing at annual rendezvous all over the country. That kind of popularity is unique."

Lee Shepard of Westport, CT., bought his twin-engine, classic GB 36 in April 1995 after owning a 22 Aquasport for a number of years. Spending a summer aboard another GB 36 belonging to a friend convinced him that the liveaboard lifestyle was what he wanted. He lives aboard full time in the Northeast, and has fitted the boat with an Espar diesel forced-air heater at a cost of approximately $9,000 to make the winter months more comfortable. With an operating cost of roughly $600 per winter, the Espar has proven to be a cost-effective heating system, according to Shepard.

"It was beautifully outfitted with modern electronics, so I have no plans to upgrade them," says Shepard. "The former owner was a Swiss gentleman, a chemist by profession, meticulous about everything. I could tell that just by looking at the boat. He even gave me logs about every modification or maintenance procedure that occurred, right down to the size of the wrench used or screw replaced."

"Prices for used GB 36s are up, and demand continues strong," says Ely. "Grand Banks are one of two or three quality-built yachts that have appreciated as much as 10 percent over the past couple of years."

Generally speaking, a fiberglass GB 36 in average condition, built between 1975 and 1979, can be found in the price range of $80,000 to $120,000, according to Ely. From 1980 to 1984, expect to pay between $120,000 and $160,000. For 1985 to 1989 models, selling prices increase to $165,000 to $220,000. Boats built between 1990 and 1993 are going for $220,000 to $250,000, says Ely. From 1995 on, look for prices to start in the $250,000 to $275,000 range.

"As condition and equipment vary greatly," says Ely, "assume that these are beginning points for establishing value and final selling prices."

A recent Soundings Marine Datanet search produced 15 Grand Banks 36s, ranging from a 1967 model for $49,000 (single Lehman diesel) to a 1993 trawler with twin 135-hp Sabre diesels listing for $282,500.

Shepard paid $210,000 for his 1990 model, a figure that he considered below the market for a boat in obviously excellent condition. The previous owner was awaiting delivery of a new GB 42, and was ready to sell. Considering the price of real estate in the Northeast, the price seems more than fair to Shepard, who says that future retirement plans may include a trip down the ICW, with sojourns in the Keys or the Bahamas. But for now, his GB 36 offers the warmth of a teak-paneled home with water views in every direction.

Reprinted from Soundings April 1998

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