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As I walked down the dock and arrived at the slip where I was supposed to meet a representative from Grand Banks, I did a quick double take. Sitting in the slip where I expected to find a traditional trawler was the new Grand Banks 43 Eastbay Salon Express (SX). It was a pleasant surprise. Like the 54 Eastbay SX introduced a little over a year ago, the 43 Eastbay SX is a winning combination of sleek Downeast styling above the waterline and a capable modified deep-V running surface below, from the boards fo C. Raymond Hunt & Associates.
The Grand Banks reputation for stout construction, attention to detail and fine craftsmanship continues unabated. For instance, the teak decking, dorade boxes and interior joinery are of a quality and workmanship that will stand tall next to any semicustom yacht. The Eastbay is built in Malaysia, which explains the liberal use of teak, but the skill with which it is installed is legendary. On deck, the only explanation for the excellent stainless steel welding and fabrication, as well as the immaculate and non-blemished gel coat, is careful workmanship, pure and simple. The 1 7/8" diameter railings are seamlessly welded, not pieced together, and they stretch to just above waist level, all the way from the bow aft to the cockpit. The stainless steel bowsprit/anchor roller is also a carefully fabricated piece.
There is no place on the deck of the 43 Eastbay SX where you can reach that you do not have a firm support or handhold. The stanchions are custom-fitted to the teak caprail and, other than the bowrail stanchions, all have supporting struts that are through-bolted to glassed-in aluminum backing plates. Even the dockline chocks are lined with fitted stainless steel plates, highly polished to prevent chafe. The molded nonskid is a sand-like design that, in my opinion, doesn't grip as well as a deeper cut pattern.
The 43 Eastbay SX is the kind of boat that lends itself to anchoring out, and the ground tackle reflects that. Two flush foredeck lockers (gel-coated and self-draining with solid tie-offs, for the rodes) flank a Maxwell 1500 chain/rope windlass with a manual backup. Two snap-cap-covered control switches are wired to a main at the helm station-there won't be any inadvertent anchor deployment with this configuration.
The wide sidedecks range from about 15" forward to 12" aft, so you'll stride them naturally. It's two steps down from the coaming into the cockpit, where two cushioned seats with storage underneath snug up against the deckhouse. Three hatches in the cocklift lift up to reveal enough storage to satisfy the most dedicated take-it-all cruising family. On our test boat, the lockers were floored with teak slats, so that when wet gear gels stowed there, it drips into the bilge and doesn't pool or create mildew in the locker.
Our test boat sported a pair of 440-hp Yanmar 6LY2-STP in-line-six diesels-it's in the middle of power offerings ranging from 420 to 500 horses from Caterpillar, Cummins and Yanmar. They are located beneath the salon, near the boat's center of gravity, which was a major contribution towards the stability the yacht showed during our sea trial.
And when it came to busting through a sharp chop, the 43 Eastbay SX plowed amply capable. We ran our tests in Long Island Sound off Rowayton, Ct., into one of the southwesters that typically builds up a stiff chop in these waters. But I experienced none of the bone rattling that I've come to expect in such conditions. The Hynautic power-assisted steering was positive, with none of the stiffness or bucking that indicates a poorly installed or designed system. Running downwind produced minimal yawing that was easily corrected, and while running in the troughs, the roll was gentle and predictable.
When I performed one of my favorite tricks, disengaging an engine and turning away from the dead prop, the boat pulled it off nicely, even into the firm breeze. If you ever need to come in on one engine, the 43 Eastbay SX will still maneuver nicely. Slipping into the berth was easy, thanks to the optional Side-power bow thruster: it helped overcome the windage of the salon's sidewalls.
When you're ready to go inside, you enter the fully enclosed salon through a pair of swing-out, teak and safety glass doors at the top of three steps leading up from the cockpit. Inside, the raised deck gives the 43 Eastbay SX excellent visibility from comfortable built-in passenger seating and from the helm console forward and to starboard. This includes unobstructed sight lines aft.
Engine access is via an easily lifted, gas-strut-supported manual hatch in the teak-and-holly sole. Plumbing and wiring is easily accessed, well marked and chafe-protected. Access hatches through-out the boat get you to breakers and wiring. I'd specify the optional automatic oil changing system, and prepare to squeeze and stretch when changing the outboard oil filter. It can be a tight fit in this engine room for a big guy, but the trade-off is all that under-deck stowage aft: well worth it, I think.
Three steps down through the forward companionway (the battery switches are cleverly recessed under one of these steps) and you're into the dining area. The galley to port faced a U-shaped dinette on our test boat, with a table that converted to form a spacious guest double. The standard layout specifics an enclosed cabin with over/under berths here, indicating Grand Banks' ability to suit your living needs.
Strategically placed handholds throughout the interior, as well as the U-shaped alley's seamanlike layout, indicate that life below doesn't have to be all stagger and lurch when the 43 Eastbay SX is at sea. The forward master stateroom features a queen-sized island berth. In every cabin, the fitt and finish is extraordinary, and there's plenty of stowage in every gel-coated nook and cranny.
3831 Trappe Landing Road
Trappe, MD 21673