Great news! Our new boat has arrived in Seattle!
Cygnus arrived in Tacoma Washington, only about 30 miles south of Seattle, where Roberta and I were waiting anxiously to see her. In normal times we probably would have flown to Malaysia to see the boat during construction, but these are not normal times.
I had hoped that we would be able to ride on the boat during its initial trip from Tacoma to Seattle, but Grand Banks’ rules and insurance company said “no.” Instead, I was in constant communications with the driver of the tender which transported the Grand Banks team to the freighter. I was being texted pictures every few minutes as Cygnus was lowered into the water.
The Grand Banks’ team that was standing by to bring Cygnus to Seattle stood by as Cygnus was lowered onto the dock instead of lowered to the water. It was lunch time and everyone would have to wait.
When shipping a boat via freighter, all electricity has to be turned off. I’ve been through shipping a boat via freighter a few times, and there is always a very scary moment when it is first dropped in the water, with all eyes are on you as you rush to the electric panel and start flipping switches. You cross fingers that the boat will come back to life. The boat had been dead for over a month. Would everything come back to life? Luckily .. it did.
If you look carefully at this picture you can see that Cygnus’ mast is not raised. The various antennas, satellite internet dome, TV dome, radars, are on a tilting mast that is in the “down” position. Rather than immediately raise the mast, the boat was run for the short trip to Seattle with virtually no electronics or navigation. They had an iPad with charts on it, but really didn’t need them as they followed a tender to the docks at Elliot Bay Marina in Seattle.
Roberta and I rushed to the marina to greet the boat as it arrived. We were greeted warmly, but I’m sure the Grand Banks team didn’t really want us there. They almost certainly would have preferred to have time to clean the boat, and make it presentable, before we saw it for the first time. But, there was no stopping us. Within minutes of the boat being tied up Roberta and I leapt onboard and toured the inside of the boat. Neither of us thought to take pictures. We were too excited!
Just a few weeks previously a freighter had delivered another new boat to Seattle, a Nordhavn 68, the same model as our prior boat. When the excited owners entered their new boat for the first time they received a HUGE surprise. The interior had received MAJOR damage due to rough weather at sea during the trip from Asia. Their (Tanglewood’s) blog entry about the incident is recommended reading:
I forwarded a copy of Tanglewood’s blog entry to the team at Grand Banks, as they were shipping our boat, as a subtle reminder that these boats get bounced around a fair amount during their journey and that everything should be tied down firmly. The team at Grand Banks has been making boats for a very long time and needed no reminder. I can’t imagine the heartbreak Tanglewood’s owners went through after waiting for their new boat for years, only to be greeted by a total mess.
Grand Banks had done a terrific job securing Cygnus for her 10,000 mile journey across the Pacific. We had some minor damage (a damaged radar array, a broken antenna mount and a small scratch on the side) that were easily fixed. Roberta and I spent under 10 minutes going through the boat before leaving. Inside the boat, it was tough to walk around. There were boxes of boat parts blocking the hallway, the hot tub lid laid on the bed, coverings over most of the woodwork, etc. Dust was everywhere.
WE DIDN’T CARE, SHE LOOKED BEAUTIFUL TO US
Roberta and I have been avoiding the cold Seattle winter by vacationing in California. We flew up to see the boat on arrival in Seattle but then had to fly back to California. Soon after, I became impatient to see the boat and tried to talk Roberta into returning to Seattle. She didn’t think that she would be of any use while they were working on Cygnus, but thought that it would be a good idea if I went back. I took her up on her suggestion and booked a flight back to Seattle.
Grand Banks is using a combination of my local Seattle boat maintenance team (Pacific Yacht Management) and two of their own employees to get the boat ready for us. Under normal circumstances the commissioning process for a new Grand Banks boat does not require a huge effort or take more than a month. But these are not normal times, and Cygnus is not a normal Grand Banks boat.
THE VIRUS EFFECT
Cygnus was built in Malaysia only a few miles from Singapore. As all of us are painfully aware, countries have been closing their borders as a way of minimizing the spread of the virus. Grand Banks’ own senior management is based in Australia and was unable to visit their own factory. This meant that some of the experts who were planned to work on our boat could not easily cross the border to do their work. For example, Twin Disc, the makers of Cygnus’ transmissions and engine controls could not visit the boat to do their final tweaking of the system. Instead, we have had a series of specialists visiting the boat in Seattle to commission the boat. During the few days I was in Seattle, Garmin (navigation electronics), Twin-Disc, Volvo (engines) and others were on the boat.
I had hired my own expert, Steve D’Antonio, who was to visit the factory to help me catch early any issues with the boat, but we had to do his inspection via a zoom call. We supplemented this by having him visit the boat in Seattle after it arrived. Roberta and I had hoped we would be able to visit the boat in Malaysia, but of course that also could not happen.
CYGNUS IS NOT A NORMAL GRAND BANKS
Grand Banks is a company with a long history making trawlers, and Cygnus has some aspects in common with trawlers, but also much that is quite different. As I was typing this blog article, I couldn’t decide how to describe the Grand Banks 60. The word “trawler” doesn’t really apply, so I visited the Grand Banks website to see what word they used, and discovered they are calling it a “cruiser.” I guess that works…
An excerpt I snagged from the Grand Banks website:
Generally, when boaters hear the word “trawler” they think of a boat that looks like a fishing boat, is slow, with long range, but set up to comfortably be lived on for weeks or months at a time.
Roberta and I chose the Grand Banks 60 because we wanted something fast and sleek, limited in height and draft, ocean rated and extremely seaworthy, but with the same comfort we enjoyed on our Nordhavn.
CYGNUS IS FULLY LOADED
I suspect that Grand Banks would agree that Cygnus is one of the most fully featured boats they’ve ever shipped. There are a lot of great things about Grand Banks, but one of the best is how willing they were to work with us as Roberta designed the exterior colors of the boat and planned the interior while I selected all the mechanical, electrical and electronic equipment.
Here’s a quick list, off the top of my head, of some of the “optional features” that are on Cygnus:
I’m probably forgetting things, but you have the idea. This boat is ready for cruising anywhere we cruised our Nordhavn, with the exception of crossing oceans. That’s fine with me. Crossing oceans is the holy grail for many boaters and we crossed the Atlantic in 2004 and the Pacific in 2009. We have our ocean crossing merit badge and don’t feel a strong need to do it again. With this boat we’ll cross oceans by loading the boat on a freighter and writing a check. It’s not a tiny check, but there is a lot less wear and tear on the boat, and when all the costs are added up, it isn’t clear that taking a boat across the ocean on its own bottom is really any cheaper than loading it on a freighter.
DOWNSIZING, AND WOULD WE DO IT AGAIN?
The first question everyone asks Roberta and I is, “What do you think of the new boat?” Until last week I had never driven a Grand Banks 60. We ordered the boat never having seen, much less driven, a Grand Banks 60. We did briefly step aboard a similar Grand Banks boat at a boat show but had no interest at that time and paid little attention to the boat.
My primary motivation for flying back to Seattle was that I really wanted to drive the boat. I was VERY curious to see how it felt out on the water.
My test drive went very well. As expected, the boat performed flawlessly, was exceptionally quiet, and was easy to drive. I didn’t try any tight maneuvers but did take the boat about ten miles away from downtown Seattle to drop anchor and return to the marina (Elliott Bay). I would have tried mooring the boat except that until we officially take delivery of the boat, we don’t own it! It is still the property of Grand Banks until commissioning is complete. Grand Banks wouldn’t want me learning to drive a boat, that they own, by maneuvering too close to other boats I could bump into.
That said, it wasn’t much of a test of the boat. Virtually all boats are awesome on sunny days with no wind and flat seas. We really won’t know what we have until we get the boat into high winds and rough seas. I’m not worried. Cygnus is Category A Ocean rated and should handle anything we throw at it.
During the test drive I ran the Seakeeper (a large gyroscope that is meant to keep the boat from rolling in rough seas). Unfortunately, the water was absolutely flat. I could feel no difference with or without the Seakeeper.
The biggest challenge during my short test drive was that the AIS system was not yet integrated with the chart plotter. The bay in front of downtown Seattle is heavily trafficked by ferries and freighters. Normally, ferries sneaking up behind you appear on the chart plotter, so I was having to keep my head on a swivel to watch for them. I did have radar, but it was a new radar that hadn’t been calibrated, and I saw signs that it needed adjustment. With driving a boat for the first time, watching out for logs in the water, and navigation electronics I didn’t yet trust, it was a lot to take in during the short test drive.
The most obvious thing I noticed was the speed. The boat was instantly at a comfortable cruising speed of 22.5kts and I could have gone faster, but with logs in the water I didn’t want to. By comparison, on Sans Souci, our prior boat, the top speed was 10.5kts, but I usually cruised at 9kts. All of the extras we put on the boat do indeed slow it down. The top speed is over 27kts, which is incredible for a boat of this size. I didn’t run far enough to be able to say much of anything about range, but the indication was that I could run over 700nm at 22.5kts. Slowing down a bit would yield a much longer range. Allegedly, if I slowed to the same 9kts as we ran on Sans Souci, Cygnus will have a range of over two thousand miles.
As to how the boat felt, I didn’t really feel the speed, and I mean this in a good way. The bow never rose up more than a few degrees and there was never a sensation of “being on a plane.” The boat felt perfectly happy at speed. There wasn’t much engine noise. Talking in a normal tone of voice was easy. Our Nordhavn, Sans Souci, weighed 120 tons and had only 640hp, whereas Cygnus weighs only 30 tons and has 1,800hp. It was like driving a Porsche rather than a huge Mercedes SUV, each of which has their place in the world, but are quite different.
I had an immense amount of power available, and the boat was instantly responsive. Nice!
My favorite feature was the “Dynamic Positioning.” Cygnus has a button you can push that causes the boat to stay in one spot. I was very curious to press the button to see what would happen. A technician from Twin-Disc (makers of Cygnus’ autopilot and transmissions) was on board and I was able to ask him about the system. He said to be careful with the button, and to be absolutely positive that I was standing still before engaging it. He said that the system engages instantly. If the boat is moving forward while I am engaging the system, Cygnus’ galloping 1,800 horsepower are all going to be employed to slam the boat to a stop.
My chance to experiment with Dynamic Positioning came when we dropped anchor.
I engaged the dynamic positioning, and the boat immediately stayed exactly where it was, ignoring any wind or currents. The engines and thrusters were working, which made some noise (not bad, but I could definitely hear them.) Whether or not it would hold the boat in a 40kt crosswind, I do not know, but have no doubt that I’ll find out sooner or later. I worried a little that retrieving the anchor might overwhelm the system. The bow windlass and the thrusters share a common hydraulic system, but the windlass functioned just fine. The anchor went down, and came back, exactly as it should.
As to the ultimate question of, “Would you buy again?” The answer is not an easy one, and is one I’ve pondered over more than one time. For now, the answer is absolutely “YES!” but, ask me again at the end of this cruising season and I’ll know more. Downsizing is never easy, and our Nordhavn was an amazing boat. Cygnus is the same length as Sans Souci, but is shallower and less tall. The engine room is not full height. My office is below deck and will not have the nice view I enjoyed on Sans Souci. I will be surprised if Cygnus is as seaworthy as Sans Souci was.
There are many ways that the two boats are very different, and that is part of why we made the trade. We had run nearly 50,000nm with our two Nordhavns and were feeling like we wanted to do something completely different and perhaps less “off grid”. We also wanted to go places that Sans Souci couldn’t go, such as the Great Loop. Cygnus will be a different boat and we’ll use it differently. That’s exactly what we were in the mood for. But do we miss Sans Souci? Of course.
AND IN CLOSING….
Our cruising plans this summer are somewhat unknown. We doubt the Canadian border will open. We could run up to Alaska bypassing Canada, but I’ve never been a fan of cold water cruising, and there are plenty of great places to cruise in the Pacific Northwest without heading north. Also, with a brand new boat, it makes sense to stay close to the mechanics while shaking out any new-boat gremlins. This summer will just be dedicated to learning the boat and preparing for future adventures.
On a completely different subject, unrelated to cruising, Roberta and I each released books over the last few months. My book is about the company Roberta and I founded and ran together, Sierra On-line. And Roberta’s book is a fictional historic novel based in Ireland during the Great Famine of the mid-1800s. I don’t normally do plugs of any sort on the blog, but both of us are VERY proud of our books. They can be found at:
And, www.robertasbook.com respectively. Check them out!
We expect to be on the boat and cruising by mid June.
THAT’S IT FOR THIS EDITION OF THE BLOG
I hope all of you are staying healthy, and I’m excited that the covid numbers seem to be declining. Let’s hope that by summer the world will be somewhat closer to normal.
Ken and Roberta Williams