Grand Banks Yachts was one of the leaders in creating the cruising powerboat niche when the builder introduced the Ken Smith-designed 36-footer in 1965. Over the years, the company has branched beyond slow-going, economical cruisers to the sprightly Eastbay series and the raised pilothouse Aleutian range. Yet with the new Grand Banks 54 Heritage EU, the builder is once again embracing its economical, tough cruiser pedigree, albeit updated for today’s more demanding buyer.
Laying at the heart of our test boat were two 600-horsepower Cummins QSC 8.3s with V-drive transmissions. The package appears to be a good match for this hull. (The 54 uses the same hull as the 53 Aleutian.) Volvo, Caterpillar, and MTU options are also available. At 1800 rpm we achieved nine knots while consuming 13.2 gallons per hour total. Pulling the throttles back to 1200 rpm produces a range of approximately 2,132 miles at six knots. The motion at 10 knots is gentle and the stabilized 54 shrugged off the offshore swells encountered during our sea trial with aplomb. We pointed her bow into some sloppy head seas and she rose gradually and entered the trough like a falling piece of cotton. Grand Banks also offers the 500- and 550- horsepower Cummins diesels as standard options.
The 54 is church-like quiet throughout the interior. At 2400 rpm, my sound meter only recorded 82 decibels directly outside of the engine room door. At the same rpm level, I registered 74 decibels in the master stateroom.
The Europa style Grand Banks, with covered side decks and cockpit, has proven to be one of the most popular versions of the builder’s Heritage series. It’s no wonder why this configuration, with a large saloon adjoining a covered deck, is popular among serious cruisers. The covered side and aft decks allow cruisers to open up the doors and windows even in rainy conditions, while partially reducing the glare of tropical sun. The saloon is wrapped in golden teak and features two comfortable, perfectly proportioned settees allowing guests to see through the side windows while seated. Forward is a formal dining area across from the U-shaped galley. There are three staterooms below and room for an optional crew quarters between the master stateroom and engine room. All areas feature plenty of stowage and amenities finished to perfection.
The lower helm benefits from two side doors allowing quick access while docking. I applaud the builder for also incorporating real, honest-to-goodness paper-chart stowage.
The flying bridge is huge and features two helm chairs, plus a forward-facing bench seat to port. Straight and L-shaped settees will entice guests to stay a little longer. There is room for a 13-foot tender abaft the optional sunpad. The builder also incorporated a bow seating area that may just be the best spot to relax at anchor.
The engine room, however, was the highlight of this little ship in my opinion. There is nearly six feet, four inches of headroom and unencumbered access around all sides of the engine. Every filter, dipstick, pump, and engine through-hull fitting was completely accessible. Abaft the engines, there is a generous space for tools, spare parts or aftermarket accessories such as a dive compressor and a watermaker. The 54 proves you can go home again.
: 83,335 lb.
: 1,500 gal.
: 300 gal.
: 2/600-hp QSC 8.3 diesels
: 2/715-hp Cummins QSM 11 diesels
: 21.5 kW Onan
Seakeeper gyro stabilizers, Naiad stabilizers, Twin-Disc Express Joystick system, Fiberglass hardtop on flying bridge, hydraulic swim platform, stern thruster, sunpad, various electronic packages.
Air temperature: 76°F; humidity: 60%; seas: flat; load: full fuel; 200 gal. water, 10 persons, 500 lb. gear. Speeds are two-way averages measured with Raymarine GPS. GPH taken via Cummins display. Range is 90% advertised fuel capacity. Sound levels taken at the helm. 65 dB(A) is the level of normal conversation.