Grand Banks 36 Classic Trawler

The client(s) were Norwegian, rather confusingly a father and son of exactly the same name.  They liked the Grand Banks brand and felt the 42 too large for their needs.  They also felt a single engine was enough, if backed up by a bow thruster for moving around port.  Their US budget was approx USD 100k.  They liked the Classic layout with a master cabin aft, a V berth cabin forward and a saloon/lower helm above the engine space.  A Grand Banks 36 Classic was on the cards...

The first thing to notice was how few GB36 are fitted with a single engine in the US.  Presumably the low cost of fuel and 'comfort' from a second engine overcame the higher initial cost and cramped access in the ER space.  For our Norwegian clients the logic was both sound and necessary, as the Norwegian authorities, insisting that engines carry a CE mark from the manufacturer, would require the craft to be repowered with new engine(s).

The clients identified a suitable craft while we found some alternatives to make comparisons with.  Though the US broker was far from proactive we kept coming back to that initial craft, one which unusually had been kept on a (large) lift - important when trying to avoid osmosis issues.

One of the issues we had to deal with was where the craft would be kept between closing and shipping and who would be responsible for her upkeep in this period.  This may sound like a small detail, but for the buyer it was important to know how their investment would be protected once the sale had completed.  Though the seller was initially reluctant to accept any post-closing responsibility, we did finally agree that he would do so on a 'best endeavours' basis, and make sure the AC was left plugged in.

Having agreed the small print, we negotiated a price on budget.  This agreed, the deposit was paid and we arranged a local surveyor to assess the craft, both on the lift and under sea trial.  Generally positive, the most significant (and common) issue related to the steel fuel tanks, which were found to have corroded badly on their upper (top)  surface (take note when you look at a boat like this).  Replacement was needed, but the good news was that this fitted well with the repower plans.  With an extra USD 5,000 off for the tanks, the deal closed.

This boat also had outstanding finance, though in this case this was with a private individual and was thus relatively easy to process.  It's worth noting that financing is common in the US and where a bank is involved, getting the paperwork sorted can take up to 10 weeks (why doesn't that surprise you...).  In most cases some gentle prodding (calling) helps this down to a couple of weeks.

Lastly, for this part, make sure you know what provenance you need to supply to re-register the craft in your country.  The US Coast Guard typically have details of past ownership but you have to buy this.

Where to repower?

This is where it started to get complicated.  You will have realised that the repowering requirement was well known by now and in fact we had already placed a deposit for a new engine (FPT N67-220) in the UK, to replace the existing 1987 Cummins 210hp.  The plan was to repower and dispose of the Cummins in the UK.

That's when we took a call from a US yard owner saying he'd heard we had an engine with reasonable hours (<3,000) which might be available.  It turned out they had an excellent GB36 which had an engine with 5,500 hours, too many for the US market.  It also turned out they were a Grand Banks dealer of 30 years standing, who had experience of repowering and fuel tank replacement.  You can see where this is going and indeed a plan was put forward for the dealer to take the old engine in part payment against tank replacement and a repower.

Now at this stage we should state that we advised the Norwegian owner against this path, for the simple reason that whilst he could jump on a plane and visit/oversee works undertaken in the UK (original plan), this would be very difficult in the US.  Sadly this was borne out by experience.

In the event, the client chose to proceed with the repower in the US and the craft was motored from the sellers lift to the dealers yard, under her own steam.  The engine was removed and work began to remove and replace the steel fuel tanks (total of 400 USG).  Meanwhile, arrangements were made for the new engine to be shipped from the UK to Baltimore, MD (USA), to be picked up by the yard truck.  The client also discussed and agreed additional works to include a general refurbishment of the engine room and replacement of hoses, thro-hull fittings and servicing of other systems.  These did not involve Gablemarine and were arranged directly with the yard.  The client kept regular email contact with the dealer, asking specific questions on progress and costs.  All appeared fine.

Some issues were encountered with the engine, particularly with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who for some reason seemed to get very concerned that an engine they had never tested or seen before was being fitted to a boat in the US, even though the craft was being exported.  In the end, common sense prevailed, but the yard was (rightly) not amused.  The installation went well, but to us it appeared that the dealer would 'contain and complain' issues on a local basis rather than communicate these to a wider audience, who invariably could provide a solution quite easily and quickly.  In this regard, Mermaid Marine, who supplied the engine in the UK, were very supportive.

The shipping had originally been arranged for mid April, but it became clear this was not achievable so was put back to mid May.  Shipping would be water-water from Newport, RI to Southampton, UK.  At Newport the ship would anchor in the bay for loading so it was important that the GB36 could motor to the ship.

In the end it all seemed a rush and in fairness to the clients, who communicated on a regular basis with the yard, one can't help feel that the yard could and should have been more transparent and frankly, honest about the state of play.  Anyway, the boat was launched, pronounced fit (by the yard) and motored the 200 miles to the rendevous with the ship.

The US side was coming to an end....

Fast forward 2-3 weeks and the ship has arrived in Southampton.  We arranged for a local company to provide a skipper and collect the boat from the offload point and take her to Warsash Marina, closeby.

We arrived at 8:00am the next morning to undertake the CE assessment, knowing that the owner was planning to arrive and embark on a 'holiday' aboard.  

The boat was not finished, or in our opinion fit for the sea.  Yes, the engine worked, but the Generator was in pieces, as was the holding tank.  Neither of the two toilets appears operational and none of the thro-hull valves appeared to move.  One valve, with a large 2.5" hose didn't have any retaining (jubilee) clips at the valve connection - the valve was open (!).  We also discovered that the keys were missing (though the boat had been locked during embarkation) and that no loom had been fitted to connect the engine instruments (which subsequently were not working).  Ready for sea? No.

Now as mentioned before, Gablemarine were not directly involved in the US work and this is both agreed and acknowledged by the client.  In fact, we had advised against this course of action.  Whether the requirements the client put forward were unrealistic, or whether the yard just found it easier to say 'yes, no problem' than 'no, you'll have to arrange that elsewhere' we don't know, but clearly something had gone wrong.  The client appeared to expect a turn key boat whilst we suspect the yard may have felt they were just doing the engine, tanks and a refurbishment of the engine room space.  Whatever the cause, it just goes to show that being able to stand over the work is always better than relying on email, phone and other 'remote' communication.

The result was a swift curtailment of holiday plans and a visit to a couple of local yards to get the boat ship shape.  About a week later the client started again, this time with a boat that he could trust.  Now some two months later the boat is proving a real hit with the owners and has voyaged to over five EU countries.

We had arranged for a temporary visitor VAT waiver on arrival, meaning that tax would only be payable once the boat reaches Norway, far better than having to pay EU VAT, then Norwegian tax (25%) and reclaim the EU VAT.   The twist to this is that whilst Norway is in the EEA it is not in the EU.  Thus the clients could quite legally use the boat in EU waters without paying VAT for 18 months, just as an American could if visiting the EU.

Learnings

First and foremost, the GB36 is a lovely and very well built boat.  The quality of the fit and finnish is top notch and a testiment to both the workmanship and materials (particularly the teak) used.

The GB36 is also I suspect a very easy boat to live with and in.  It's layout is excellent for 2-4 people and with a single engine there's a lot of space in the engine room for access.  Storage is good too, as is the flexibility and visibility afforded by the flybridge.  It's a lot of boat for the money.

The FPT N67-220 has proved to be an excellent engine choice being both smooth and economical and has generated praise from both the clients and US dealer (who is a Perkins agent).

The use of a US yard has not worked out as well as expected, not because the quality of the work or intent were poor but purely as a result of a now apparent mismatch between the requirements of the client and the deliverables from the yard.  We stand by our view that in such cases it's important to have a local representative, or even better have the work done locally, where both Client and their representative can monitor progress in a hands on fashion.  We have no doubt the yard wanted to do a great job, we just don't think they managed it terribly well.

I'm pleased to say our client is happy with the boat (and us) and we enjoyed working with them.  

We're looking forward to our next Trawler project.  Perhaps it's yours....

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