Used Boat Review: Eastbay 49
When somebody mentions the boat model name Eastbay, the first thing that most likely comes to one’s mind is Grand Banks. Secondly, perhaps, would be C. Raymond Hunt Associates, the naval architecture firm that was contracted by Grand Banks Yachts to design a Down East-style cruising boat (more about Down East later) with a nice little turn of speed. Hardly ever spoken of, however, is the name John Deknatel. Deknatel, the chairman of C. Raymond Hunt Associates, is known for his distaste in drawing attention to himself, but he’s certainly one heck of a naval architect.
Ray Hunt, a natural at naval architecture and design, had no formal education outside of high school when he started the company that bears his name. Hunt garnered enormous attention and business opportunities after the success of the Bertram 31 that won the 1960 Miami-Nassau Race. Hunt also has his signature on the original 13-foot Boston Whaler and other innovative hull designs such as the Concordia Yawl; the design diversity here is an indication of Hunt’s genius at understanding the marriage between a boat bottom and water.
Deknatel studied at Harvard School of Design and joined Ray Hunt in 1963. He became a partner in 1966 and would refine Hunt’s deep-V bottom shape over the ensuing years. The Hunt/Deknatel deep-V was chosen by the folks at Grand Banks to undergird the Eastbay 49, with a deadrise that varies subtly but steadily from bow to stern.
When asked by another writer what he consistently strives for when designing a new boat, Deknatel responded, “Rough-water capabilities, dryness, and efficiency.” And, after logging 1,200 hours on Eastbay 49s over the years, I can testify that he ticked all of these boxes.
On one particular occasion I was running the Manasquan Inlet in New Jersey with stacked 12-plus-foot seas on the bar in the inlet. An intense moment occurred when the wave we were riding broke underneath us and the following wave caught the stern of the boat. I hammered down on the throttles and we pulled right out of the trough. A lesser bottom would not have responded as effectively.
Grand Banks introduced a Hunt-team designed Eastbay 38 in 1993. The first Eastbay 49 debuted in 1997. Grand Banks built 100 Eastbay 49s over the next 14 years. In 2012 a new Eastbay 50 was introduced to replace the 49. But the 50 had the very same bottom as the 49. Why?
As with many other high-profile marques, owners of Grand Banks boats are often referred to and identified by length and hull number as in, say, 49-01. And although the 49 could have been marketed as a 50 with no apologies, it happened that buyer 49-01, a chief influencer of the 49 project, was restricted by a town ordinance, which dictated that 49 feet was the maximum length for a boat on a private dock. That’s how the 50 became the 49. That’s a little fast fact for you from good ol’ Capt. Creel.
Anyway, Down East styling, of the sort you see on Eastbays and others, is of course taken from the working lobster boats most frequently found in the northeastern part of the U.S. The working lobster boat is a stable platform that is always in motion. Add a bit of styling and comfort and you have the Down Easter. From my vantage point, the Hunt team and Grand Banks created a winning model with the 49 and today there are good opportunities to snatch one from the used-boat market. Quite simply, the marriage of the Hunt design team and the build team at Grand Banks will probably make owning one of these classics a long-lasting cruising honeymoon. Sure, if you look at the level of comfort in a modern boat in this category from a builder such as Sabre, the 49 seems anitiquated. But in terms of the used-boat market, the 49 offers tremendous value for the cruising yachtsman.
There were originally two models of the Eastbay 49; the SX and HX. The SX is the abbreviated identifier for Salon Express. The SX has a hard enclosure over a fully finished helm deck. There were only ten 49 SX’s built. The HX was the original model and denotes Hardtop Express. Most often the HX models have a soft canvas enclosure across the after portion of the helm deck and are appointed with more weather-resistant soft-goods materials. Both the SX and HX models have air conditioning and heat on the helm deck. The only real downside to the HX I have noted is the difficulty of getting through the enclosure that separates the cockpit from the helm deck. The zippered doorway is literally a pain in the…you know what! However, the sightlines aft through the clear polycarbonate are fabulous.
Recently I delivered a 2004 Eastbay 49 HX with Cummins diesels from Cable Marine in Ft. Lauderdale to River Forest Yachting Center in Ortona, Florida. The boat was at Cable Marine for a custom door installation to replace the canvas door. I’m an old fart and can be set in my ways at times and I don’t impress easily, but I was friggin’ blown away! You could not tell that Grand Banks had not built the new door. This smart addition to the HX makes a lot of sense and can be accomplished on the aftermarket. Keep in mind too, that there’s a heck of a lot of varnished teak in this area. Especially around the helm. Some of the original buyers specified that some of this woodwork be replaced by easier-to-maintain Formica surfaces.
The more common and original engine package for the Eastbay 49 was the 660-horsepower Caterpillar 3196. Although my recent delivery to Ortona was only the second time I’ve logged any time on a 49 with Cummins, the engines performed impressively. Their biggest advantage over the CATs was their physical size; the engine room with the Cummins seemed bigger. Moreover, the Cummins handled planing mode, displacement mode, and even hole shots as well as the CATs. The one noticeable difference was that while heading up a strong, 4- to 5-knot current at idle speed the Cummins would drop off 30 to 40 rpm. Besides that, either engine package would work well if the rest of the boat suits you. Additionally, some of the 3196 packages were refitted over time with C12s, which would offer the buyer a different option to explore.
The original 49 was not a light boat by today’s standards. I’d say the builder at that time could be referred to as medium-tech. However in a sloppy sea, I’d say the 49 actually benefits a little from the extra weight.
Another after-market item to look for and evaluate when shopping for 49s is the tender stowage setup. Many of the models on the used market were retrofitted with hydraulic platforms by companies such as TNT and Cable Marine. Most constituted a nice stowage solution for this boat. I’ve also seen a few with davits as well.
There have been very few interior layouts for the 49 beyond the standard arrangement with two staterooms, a beautiful spacious galley, and loads of stowage. The builder just got the proportions right. There are no huge hullside windows. Just sensible ports that can be dogged down. No full-beam master stateroom with 5 feet of headroom either. Instead, there’s a generous walkaround island berth forward with a large hatch overhead for fresh breezes. Heck, most Eastbay 49s even have dorade vents. Nice touch. (Several custom layouts are out there, incidentally, including single-stateroom models with a huge saloon and bar area for the day-trippers.)
Another consideration when purchasing a used 49 is the suite of galley appliances. Many of the 49s were equipped with holding-plate refrigeration, a factor that may eventually demand an expensive replacement that might include some cabinet work. The refrigeration on any used 49 should be thoroughly checked out before purchase, as these repairs could possibly run close to a five-figure mark.
Simply put, the Eastbay 49 is one of the best and most fun boats I have ever run. Should you purchase one and need a boat sitter or, better yet, a delivery captain, give me a call! I love these boats.
Power & Motoryacht spoke to three brokers who have Grand Banks 49 Eastbays listed online. Here’s what they had to say about these Down East-inspired cruisers and the boaters who love them. ▶
Base Price $299,000-$695,000
Displacement 48,000 lb.
Fuel 775 gal.
Water 175 gal.
Power 2/660-hp Caterpillar 3196 diesels; 2/705-hp Caterpillar C12 disels; several refit packages.
Years Built 1997-2007
Cruising Speed 20-25 knots