[Kensblog] Construction Update and more


Greetings all!

All is going fine with the construction of our new boat. Surprises can still happen, but we’re on track to take delivery of the boat sometime before this coming summer.

Our cruising plans

We now know our cruising plans! Or, at least we think we do. Cruising plans are always subject to change But, our current plan is to take delivery of the boat next June in ALASKA and then mosey our way south down the inside passage. This will allow us to do our first summer of cruising in waters that are fairly known to us. Grand Banks assures me the new boat will be perfect on delivery, but it doesn’t always turn out that way. Boats are complex beasts and it usually takes a season or two for them to stabilize. At the end of the summer season we’ll load the boat on a freighter and ship it to the east coast. Grand Banks has a shipyard in Stuart Florida, and will be able to address anything that needs fixed. Then in Spring 2021, we’ll start cruising north along the east coast. Where we’ll go, or the route we’ll take, is 100% unknown. We have lots of time to figure that out.

Even though we are building a Grand Banks boat I still keep track of events at Nordhavn (manufacturers of our prior boat, Sans Souci). 

Nordhavn recently held a film festival wherein owners submitted videos of their cruising adventures. All of the videos were incredible. It is impossible to watch the videos and not wish you were on a boat.

Here is a link to the winning video, and it is well worth watching (preferably on as large a screen as you have):

To see all of the other amazing Nordhavn videos from the film festival, CLICK HERE

We are getting much closer to resuming our adventure!

It won’t be much longer. We’re expecting the boat to be factory complete as soon as March of 2020; only three or four months from now. That said, factory complete is only the first of a few milestones. Once it is complete at the factory in Malaysia they need to ship it to the United States for commissioning. Finding a freighter and transporting the boat can easily take a month or two. Then, once the boat arrives there will be some final commissioning to be done. We’re trying to get the boat as complete as possible in Malaysia, but some things, like the drapes and bed coverings, won’t happen until the boat is in the US. My guess is that Roberta and I won’t be on the boat and cruising until mid June 2020.

Our new boat! Cygnus! It’s all put together in one piece!
Barely visible in the picture above, at the bow, just above the person in the green jacket, is a steel plate we had added to the bow. It is our first line of defense against hitting a log in the water.

The top deck of our boat is now mounted on the hull! This video (CLICK HERE) shows the process of assembling the boat. They wait until all of the heavy equipment is in the boat prior to putting on the top deck.

I watch all of this with some amount of nervousness. Whereas the factory is concerned with being able to efficiently construct the boat, my focus is on, “How will I maintain the boat?” With the top deck off the boat placing the engines, the generator, the washer/dryer, even the mattresses, is easy. Whereas I’m looking at it thinking, “Someday the dryer is going to fail. How will I get a new one?”

I often remember an incident when we had our boat at the Nordhavn factory in Taiwan. I was concerned that the fresh water pump was located under the floorboard in the hallway where it was impossible for me to access. I explained the issue to one of the senior guys at the factory and he clearly wasn’t understanding the issue. He saw no problem in accessing the pump. I said, “OK. Let’s see you get in there for replacement. Show me.” He summoned one of his technicians and a little guy showed up who was no more than five feet tall and probably weighed less than a hundred pounds. He could easily crawl under the floor to access the pump. To make a long story short, I had them move the pump.

And, for those who have no fear of watching sausage be made, here are some construction photos

If you don’t understand what I am referring to above, remember that even the prettiest of butterflies started as a caterpillar. And, thus shall our new boat emerge from the photos below as the swan (Cygnus) that flies across the water it is destined to be.

Looking forward in the engine room
The picture above shows the bulkhead at the front of the engine room. Grand Banks pays a lot of attention to equipment placement and is great about working with me to see that all the equipment is placed for optimal maintainability.

Here you can see one of the many detailed diagrams they send showing their suggestion for equipment placement.

The engine room forward bulkhead layout

Looking to port in the main salon
On the port side of the main salon will be a dining table. Along the window will be a pop-up television, and beneath the seating will be storage.

This is the frame that will form the bed in the Master stateroom
Our two dogs (Toundra and Keeley) sleep between Roberta and I at night. Six inches on the right side of the bed are reserved for me exclusively and six inches on the extreme left for Roberta. The doggies aren’t big, but they take up a LOT of space.

We upsized the bed in the Master Stateroom to a full King size. There won’t be much room to walk around the bed, but we figure, “How much time do we spend hanging out in the bedroom when not sleeping, anyhow?”

The hole in the center of the bed is for access to storage.

This picture is somewhat interesting in that it was taken only one week after the prior picture. Wow! They are starting to move fast
The cockpit, standing on the swim step looking forward
There are a few things to note about this picture.

  • The cockpit is actually much larger than it appears in this photo. There is an entire sitting area and table that is hidden from view by the camera angle
  • In the transom there are two large holes. The one on the right in the picture is for an electric barbecue. We’ll have a true propane barbecue on the top deck, so the electric barbecue may never get used. We don’t know yet which we will prefer.
  • The other hole in the transom is for storage. Good! We need all the storage we can get!
  • Looking to the forward port corner of the cockpit there is a counter protruding. We think this will be a popular place to hang out. The window there is much larger than it appears and fully comes down (like a car window) just by pressing a button. There will be two barstools beneath the counter. I’m lusting for the day when I’ll be sitting on one of those barstools sipping an adult beverage while watching Roberta in the galley making dinner. Because of our aft galley arrangement the galley is immediately on the other side of the counter
  • In the lower right side of this picture (the aft starboard side of the cockpit) you see an access hatch with plywood below it. Normally that would be storage, but on our boat it is where the passarelle (automated gangplank) resides. There actually is some good storage under there but to access it will require crawling through a small opening inside the lazarette
A better look at the counter area in the front of the cockpit. Here you can see the start of the cockpit drive station at port side
Here you can see the access door, inside the lazarette that gives me access UNDER the passerelle to the storage under the starboard side of the cockpit
Looking forward inside the storage on the starboard side. I’m not sure what, but I suspect we’ll find something to put on top of the fresh water tank in this picture. That’s the side of the passarelle we see to the right side of the picture
The bow of the boat. Note that there is only a small glass window on the fly bridge, and it is open above that. A friend pointed out yesterday that it can be quite noisy on the fly bridge of a boat at 30 knots. Also, some parts of the world it can be cold outside while cruising. A full height window there or an enclosed fly bridge makes sense. That said, I saw pictures of a GB60 with an enclosed fly bridge and didn’t like the look. You may see us close in the fly bridge someday, but .. probably not
I’m not positive, but in the picture above I believe the wooden boxes stacked on the hatches may be fans. I would imagine it is hot in Malaysia and that working inside the boat would be miserable without some sort of air flowing.

The stairway up to the fly bridge. Note that there is storage beneath every step, and there will be an extra refrigerator beneath the stairs
We will have a gas barbecue, refrigerator and sink on the fly bridge. We have a long history of preferring to dine outdoors. The view while having dinner from the top deck will be incredible
This is the bed in the Guest Stateroom
Guest Stateroom Bath. It’s interesting to see how the factory posts diagrams of each room as a reference for the team during construction
To view the picture above in super high resolution, CLICK HERE. If you zoom in on the upper left corner of the picture you can see the diagram showing how they are building the room. (It’s not that interesting, but .. Roberta and I liked it)

At first I thought this was the galley and someone was already making spaghetti, but I was wrong
Wow! There are a lot of wires involved in a boat. I really did focus on simplicity in building this boat and did all I could to not over-complicate things, but there is still an amazing amount of wires and plumbing around the boat. The gentleman in the green shirt s sitting on what will become my desk, installing wiring for the helm drive station, which is on the other side of the wall.

In the background, the gentleman in the blue shirt is standing where there will soon be our washer and dryer. Or, maybe they are already in place, and just not visible in this picture. I would assume they were placed when the top deck was still off the boat.

This picture is taken from the center of the main salon, looking forward. To the right side is where Roberta and I will be sitting to drive the boat
The orange you see in this picture is the inside of a cabinet which forms the seat for the helm chair
Inside the cabinet will be a LOT of electronics; the satellite tv receiver, satellite internet (VSAT) receiver, and more. Across the hallway from this cabinet, to the starboard side, is the passenger helm chair. It will also be filled with electronics.

Looking forward from the top deck. Where that ladder is sitting will someday be our hot tub.
Here you see the tail end of the fly bridge
In the picture above you can see that the railing is missing the top rail on the port side. Our tender will be sitting sideways here on the top deck, and is long enough that the motor will slightly hang over the rail.

When I was speaking with another GB60 owner I mentioned that we normally tow the tender behind the boat all season. This saves us the headache of raising and lowering the tender as we move from anchorage to anchorage. He pointed out two things to me:

  1. It is easy to raise and lower the tender on this boat
  2. The GB60 is much faster than our prior boat and towing the tender at 25+ knots is totally impractical
You can see in this picture that the hot tub is not on the top deck yet. Rather than custom constructing a hot tub we shipped over a fully complete fiberglass hot tub from the United States. To heat the water quicker we are plumbing the hot tub into the boat’s hot water tank. I’ll be able to dump 40 gallons of 135 degree water into the hot tub to give it a head start on heating up.

Early in the process I decided not to install a diesel furnace. We were spoiled on our prior boat (Sans Souci) in that we had an infinite supply of hot water from the diesel furnace. Heating the hot tub on this boat will need to be done using electricity. We are upsizing the standard 120v 1kw electric heater to be 240v and 4kw.

The next few pictures show the boat that is just ahead of me on the production line being lowered into a test tank. If you look closely you can see the tilting mast in the tilted configuration
I have been in constant contact with the owner of GB60-14 during our construction (Grand Banks 60 , the 14th boat, ours is the 15th boat in the series).

Our two boats are very different than any GB60s that have been built before. All of the GB60 boats (that I am aware of) have been purchased by owners with extensive cruising resumes, but they have been purchased primarily for reasonably short-range cruising or day trips. Roberta and I are different, as are the owners of GB60-14. We live on the boat for months at a time. This changes dramatically how the boat is designed and equipped. Our goal is a “portable home” which can survive for weeks or months without entering a marina except to take on fuel. Both GB60-14 and GB60-15 are set up for world cruising, meaning that we are preparing the boats to accept both US and European power. Both boats are also the first with the tilting mast which will allow us to keep the boat low enough to go under bridges when river cruising, and with passarelles so that we can get to shore when Med Moored in Europe.

Both the owner of GB60-14 and myself were looking forward to tank testing. We have added a lot of weight to our respective boats. Would the boat sit right in the water? Or would it be too heavy at one end or the other?
Good news! The boat sits perfectly on its waterline. All is good
GB60-14 has twin doors at the stern. Here you can see the tilting mast raised. The actual internet and tv domes are not yet installed
This is just showing a close-up of the base of the tilting mast. The mast will be fully automated, but for safety, and to take pressure off the hydraulic motor, there is a locking pin I’ll need to climb up and remove before tilting the mast
I couldn’t finish the blog without showing some pictures of a recently completed GB-60 (not ours.)

A recently completed GB60
The blue on this hull is similar to ours, except that ours will have a lot less blue in it and a slight tinge of green.[/a
For comparison, here is a mockup showing what the colors on our boat will be. Note: This mockup was done before we added the tilting mast
This picture was taken while standing in the cockpit. You can see how close the galley will be to our cockpit counter and bar stools
That’s it for this edition of the blog. As always, thank you for living this adventure alongside us.

If you would like to give feedback, the best way is to go to: www.kensblog.com and click on the blog, then find this entry and look for the button that says “Post Comments” at the bottom of the blog entry.

Ken and Roberta Williams (and, Toundra and Keeley)

Grand Banks GB60-15, Cygnus



  • Ronald+C+Rogers
    Posted at 20:13h, 13 February

    The Corian square, sharp corners should be rounded to avoid injury.

  • Chris J
    Posted at 01:01h, 09 February

    Hi Ken,

    I’m in the process of researching a new more modern inverter. I talked to a couple of the reputable places in Seattle. Many were suggestion Victron as they have a very contemporary product line with remote management features as well as a very intuitive remote panel. What are you going with on Cygnus?

  • Troy Etherton
    Posted at 01:33h, 07 February

    Just thought I’d let you know I’m currently playing Jones in the Fast Lane

    • ken@kensblog.com
      Posted at 01:52h, 09 February

      A great game! A bigger hit than we expected .. I thought it would bomb .. but we sold a bunch

  • ken@kensblog.com
    Posted at 18:02h, 04 January

    John Blais:

    It’s good to hear ours aren’t the only spoiled dogs!

    Happy New Year!

    -Ken W

  • John Blais
    Posted at 17:50h, 04 January

    Those pups are being too generous to let you have the 6 inches..Ours are not that generous! Look forward to hopefully meeting you on the East Coast. Happy New Year!

  • Ronald C Rogers
    Posted at 23:04h, 02 January

    The late Paul Allen’s superyacht Octopus has 7 tenders. One of them is 63 feet long. It bears a striking resemblance to a Palm Beach yacht.

  • rcrogers6
    Posted at 23:59h, 23 December

    Does the passerelle have self-erecting rails? The Malaysian distributor of 3M blue masking tape has ordered a 72 foot GB.

    —Reply posted by admin on 12/24/2019

    The passerelle does indeed have self erecting rails. They should be visible in the video. 

    Our passerelle on Sans Souci had the same style of rails. They are fairly simplistic. As the passarelle extends a line tied to the end of the passarelle is stretched, which causes the rails (which are lying in grooves on each side of the passarelle) to be pulled vertical. 

    I just went to the Grand Banks site to see what it said about a 72' GB. Unfortunately their site seems broken today. I do know they are doing an 85' version of the GB60, and a 70' Palm Beach boat. 

    Thus far, I have been amazed by how great the Palm Beach/Grand Banks team has been to work with, and with the quality of the boats. Their boats are expensive, but the service and attention to details on the boat is incredible. I suspect we will be very happy with the new boat! 

  • jsschieff
    Posted at 16:48h, 16 December


    Thanks for your thoughtful reply to my comment.

    I noticed in your reply to another comment that you were originally interested in a Palm Beach 55. One of my sons has a PB 55 and loves it. It is his second Palm Beach.

    From what he tells me, support and service from the crew at Grand Banks/Palm Beach has been exemplary.

    —Reply posted by admin on 12/16/2019

    The Palm Beach boats are incredible. We came very close to buying a PB55 and a couple weeks after ordering our GB60 I suddenly thought maybe we should have gone for the PB65 or 70. Roberta and I agonized over the decision all over again. 

    For us, the issue really did come down to the tender. We couldn't see ourselves with a 10' tender. 

    The GB60 is more practical for what we want to do than any of the PB series. That said, I will be envious every time I see a PB series boat. 

    -Ken W

  • admin
    Posted at 10:02h, 16 December


    The new Grand Banks looks great. I look forward to reading about the commissioning and initial cruising. 

    About the isinglass on the flybridge — I ran a boat with isinglass at the helm and it was very annoying at times — it salted up when spray was flying and visibility through it in hard rain was miserable. The lack of windshield wipers was a major drawback. However, I see Grand Banks 60's with enclosed bridges going by our place in Stuart and I agree they look top heavy. One idea — just install a glass windshield but do not enclose the bridge. Kind of the best of both worlds.

    About the increased weight — have the naval architects/engineers at Grand Banks said how much, if at all the additional weight will impact performance? The 60 is made to move and it would be a shame if the added stuff took away some of the boat's oomph. 

    I hope everything goes smoothly on delivery.  Are there ample technicians and supplies to deal with commissioning bugs where you take delivery in Alaska?

    John S,

    —Reply posted by admin on 12/16/2019

    John S:

    In all of the years we owned Sans Souci I drove only once from the fly bridge. This boat won't be as high, but on Sans Souci it felt like you were atop a sky scraper trying to drive the boat. It just didn't feel right. My guess is that “out of habit” I'll never drive this boat from the fly bridge. We're setting it up so that it can be driven from there, but .. my expectation is that I won't. If we do decide we like it I'll probably get a roll down plastic windshield and lower it if I feel the need. My assumption is that if I'm ever driving up top it will be because it is a 90 degree day and it was fun to be up there. If so, I'll just slow down and enjoy the view. I'll know a lot more after we actually have the boat and I try it. At this point I've never driven a GB60 at all .. so, it will all be a fun surprise. For us, the fly bridge will be the entertainment area. It's where we'll have dinner, and where the hot tub and barbecue are.

    We have added a some weight to the boat, but I don't think it will be that bad. At most it may cost us a knot or two in speed, but .. maybe not. The extra items that have weight are: the generators (two Northern Lights gensets), the large Seakeeper 16, plus the hot tub. Together they probably add 2,000 pounds to the boat (I'm comparing to the standard boat with a Seakeeper 9 and a single Fischer Panda generator). 

    One way to look at it is that the boat carries 1,500 gallons of fuel, or … around 11,500 lbs of fuel. The incremental weight is roughly equivalent to the difference in performance that 250 gallons of fuel might make. It's significant, but .. not likely to be a problem. It is also worth noting that several of the existing GB60s were sold with Caterpillar engines. I'm told that those are at least a thousand pounds heavier than the Volvos we are getting.  

    Anyway … after a decade of cruising at 9 kts, if I have to cruise at 24kts instead of 26kts, life will continue. My prediction: we won't be slowed down at all. But, if we are, I'm ok with that. There is no part of me that is saying, “Gosh. I wish I could go back and choose a single Fischer Panda generator and pitch the hot tub overboard.” 

    Personally, my favorite times on a boat are sitting in a distant anchorage sipping wine in the hot tub. You can do that at any speed.  

    —Reply posted by admin on 12/16/2019

    PS .. I forgot the passarelle. I'm not sure what it weighs, but would guess it adds 300 lbs to the boat, and then there is the tilting mast. It probably adds another 200-400 lbs. Then again, there is no such thing as a “standard boat”. All GB60s are customized in some way. I do think my boat may be heavier than the average GB60, but I doubt it is materially heavier or that there will be much of a performance penalty. One other thing worth noting, whereas most planing hull or semi-displacement boats, rise up off the water when cruising, the GB60 runs relatively flat. I suspect that the extra weight “may” not impact this boat as much as some other more traditionally hulled boats. Ask me again in June…

  • aquafair
    Posted at 08:55h, 16 December

    Well, it's good to see you're not sparing and expense on your GB 60! There was a new GB 60 next to me at Harbour Towne marina this past summer and I was very impressed with how stout and meticulously crafted she was.  Beautiful finishes too; they did their caprail in a bronze finish rather than varnish, but not sure if the rail was teak or part of the hull mold.  I never saw the owners as I think we were both waiting to be loaded.

    Anyway, good to see your progress in getting back on the water.

    John Zimmerman, former N60 & N63. Now Mystic a 52 Krogen Express

    —Reply posted by admin on 12/16/2019

    John Z:

    I was just thinking about you yesterday! I was surfing on Youtube and a video of yours popped up. It was showing rough seas on your N63. Awesome! (and, scary).

    We definitely miss our Nordhavn but will also enjoy the (hopefully) smaller and simpler GB60. 

    The cap rails on our boat will be the painted faux-fiberglass that GB does. I don't think real wood cap rails are an option. I thought about pushing them on doing real wood, but my preference is for “whatever is easiest to maintain”. Life's to short to spend time varnishing cap rails. 

    -Ken W

  • King, Kimberley
    Posted at 08:23h, 16 December

    We are hoping to purchase a Nordhavn within the year.  I have been reading you blog and loving it.  It was especially a hoot to read about Rod Whitehead, who is a friend of ours.   We live in Juneau, Alaska.   I will keep an eye on your blog to see when you might be in Juneau this summer!

    —Reply posted by admin on 12/16/2019

    I don't know if we'll make it to Juneau. It will depend on weather and how early in the season the boat completes. Our fingers are crossed that we are able to start cruising in early June, but .. we shall see.  

    The current plan is to fly to Ketchikan and take delivery of the boat there and then start cruising south slowly to Victoria Canada, and then ship the boat east from there.

    Thanks! – Ken W

  • Joe W
    Posted at 06:44h, 16 December

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing Ken.

  • ggaunt
    Posted at 03:38h, 16 December

    Goodness, you take your eye off your blog for a minute and your beautiful new boat is nearly finished. Congratulations on the progress and I love the name, Cygnus, it is also an emblem of my State of Western Australia.

    There is also a fair bit of Australian DNA in the boat with our friend Mark Richards, Palm Beach series as well as Wild Oats the famous Sydney Hobart racer. We have some tough sailing conditions around here so you will be well found in your new Grand Banks. 

    Merry Christmas and an exciting New Year to you both and I look forward to hearing more of your adventures. 

    —Reply posted by admin on 12/16/2019

    Yes — it was the Australian DNA, and Mark Richards' reputation that led us to Grand Banks. We started the process wanting a Palm Beach 55 and then decided it was too small and moved up to the GB60.

    The Sydney Hobart is coming up soon. Hopefully Mark's streak of success will continue! 

    -Ken W