[kensblog] The finish line is in site!


Cygnus Sea Trial!Cygnus Sea Trial!

Greetings all!

Our new Grand Banks 60 was scheduled for delivery in April of this year. We were confident that we could easily have the boat ready for cruising in time for the summer season.

However, as I’m sure you are painfully aware, the pandemic has interceded.

There isn’t much I can say about the pandemic that hasn’t already been said, so I won’t dwell on it other than to say, “I hope you and everyone you know are healthy, and that all of our lives return to normal soon”.

Grand Banks (and, Palm Beach) yachts are manufactured in Malaysia. Their factory was shut down for months which delayed the completion of our boat. The bad news is that we have lost this season’s cruising, but the good news is that the boat looks terrific and will soon be here.

Cygnus, Grand Banks 60Cygnus, Grand Banks 60

Cygnus is in the test tank! Prior to leaving the factory each of the Grand Banks boats is placed into a test tank so that they can verify that it floats and is properly balanced.

Roberta and I downsized to Cygnus from a larger boat, a Nordhavn 68 named Sans Souci. There were a variety of reasons, none of which had to do with our love of the Nordhavn 68. Sans Souci was an incredible boat and took us places very few boats could ever dream of going. But, we were at a point in our lives where we didn’t foresee crossing any oceans in the near future and were in the mood to experiment with a different style of cruising.

Downsizing, whether it is a home or a boat comes with its own set of challenges. We wanted something smaller and simpler, until it came time to start giving things up and limiting ourselves. Sans Souci spoiled us.

As we approached building our GB60 we tried to force ourselves to keep things simple, and to not put anything on the boat we could live without. I’d have to say that we somewhat failed at that mission. We did indeed approach our GB60 build saying we would only put equipment on the boat we actually need, and then to our great frustration we realized we want and use it all!

The people at Grand Banks are amazing to work with. As we were designing the boat I kept asking for more and more, and they said they would make it possible. Other than having less space I really can’t think of anything Sans Souci had that we didn’t put onto Cygnus.

All of those “extras” we put onto Cygnus added weight to the boat.

I’m sure the team at Grand Banks worried a bit more than usual before dropping Cygnus into the tank.

On our previous boat, Sans Souci, weight was not very important. Extra equipment could be added to Sans Souci without thinking about the impact on the boat’s weight.

That’s not true with Cygnus.

Sans Souci and Cygnus have some things in common, but in many ways are very different boats. Both are extremely seaworthy and both have long-range capability. Sans Souci’s hull limited its speed to only about 10.5 kts, whereas Cygnus is designed for a maximum speed of around 30 kts. There is plenty of magic and innovation in the hull design that allows Cygnus to maintain its seaworthiness while also achieving high speed, but much of the difference comes down to powerful motors and light weight. Cygnus’ main engines have three times Sans Souci’s horsepower with only one quarter of the weight.

The GB60 is a new model for Grand Banks. As I’ve mentioned in prior blog entries Grand Banks recently swapped leadership. The new CEO/President, Mark Richards, dropped all of the aging Grand Banks trawler models and replaced them with a new line of trawlers that take their heritage and design philosophy from the Palm Beach series of high-speed luxury motor yachts.

Grand Banks did an outstanding job of equipping the GB60 as a trawler. The standard equipment list is extensive and most people who order the GB60 as Grand Banks designed it will be very happy.

Unfortunately, Roberta and I don’t fit into the “most people” category. There are things we wanted that were not part of the base specification for the boat. These “extras” add weight and I have no doubt that when the boat is tested we will find that we have lost some speed. My guess is that we’ll only lose 1 or 2 knots, which is a fair tradeoff. After over 50,000 miles of cruising at 9 knots I will not be complaining about having a maximum speed of 28 kts instead of 30 kts. And realistically, Roberta and I are not speed demons. We’ll like knowing the speed is there if we want it, but I expect 99% of our cruising will be at a much lower speed.

Some of the “extra” equipment we wanted was strictly for comfort, such as the hot tub, satellite internet, gas barbecue, and extra freezer/refrigerator drawers. In some cases we “beefed up” the standard recommended equipment. For example, the standard GB60 comes with a single 25kw Fischer Panda generator. I wanted two generators, and wanted them to be the same Northern Lights model as we had on Sans Souci, despite their being much heavier. To keep the boat from rolling when underway or at rest, Grand Banks offers either conventional fin-based stabilizers or the Seakeeper 9 gyro (a large spinning globe which keeps the boat stable). We selected neither of these and instead opted for the much beefier Seakeeper 16, adding over 1,000 pounds to the weight of the boat. We also added a watermaker, chilled water a/c system, automated passarelle (gangway), extra transformers to support both the US and EU electrical systems, a motorized tilting mast so that we could go under low bridges, doubled the size of the anchor, and more.

Overall, I’m guessing we added 5 to 10% to the weight of the boat.

Bustle, added beneath the swim step to add flotationBustle, added beneath the swim step to add flotation

The test tank showed that the boat needed additional flotation at the back. To accomplish this a “bustle” was added to the bottom of the swim step. In the picture above it (the bustle) is the white object that stretches across the boat, mounted to the bottom of the swim step.

This picture also shows a compromise associated with Cygnus’ fast speed. Sans Souci’s propellers were protected by giant skegs. The propellers on Cygnus are unprotected. I will need to be very careful about hitting logs or grounding the boat.

The horizontal tube you see beneath the bustle is the stern thruster, which will help the boat step sideways at slow speed. With 1,800 horsepower on a boat this light, and a bow/stern thruster, docking should be much easier than on Sans Souci. Cygnus will weigh 30 tons as opposed to 120 tons for Sans Souci.

Cygnus' logo, backlit and in stainless steelCygnus’ logo, backlit and in stainless steel

We love how the logo turned out!

As you look at the pictures that follow, you’ll need to use a little imagination.

None of the upholstery or mattresses are in place. The tables are missing, and in some cases the seating is even missing. The boat is still a work in process, but as you can see, we are getting close!

Galley, viewed from the helm, looking aftGalley, viewed from the helm, looking aft

We can cruise the boat for months at a time, often in places where there are no restaurants and we love to anchor in remote spots. Here you see the galley on the aft port side of the boat. Across from the galley (starboard side) are two freezer drawers and a small wine cooler, and there are two more fridge drawers in the cockpit. Roberta says that she will actually be able to prepare meals in this galley; it’s got everything a cook needs!

Grand Banks does something very cool with the shelving overhead. Rather than needing to reach over your head, you push a button and the shelving drops to eye level. Roberta also added extra overhead shelving on the starboard side of the boat, and she has her eyes on the closet/cabinet in my office as supplemental pantry storage.

It’s not obvious in this picture, but that large window behind the galley on the right side of this picture (port side/aft of the boat) opens. In the cockpit, there are bar stools that sit at a counter just outside that open window. It allows someone to feel like they are part of the process, sitting outside, while dinner is being prepared.

Starboard side of main salonStarboard side of main salon

We will have two comfy, wall hugger recliners resting against the starboard side of the boat. From them we’ll be watching a large pop-up TV that is at the port-side window.

One of the many things we liked about the GB60 was how much you can open up the main salon. In addition to the door next to the helm seat, and the larger entrance at the back of the main salon, there are huge automated windows that raise and lower on the port like a car door window — starboard and aft sides of the boat.

Port side of the helmPort side of the helm

This picture is a little confusing in that the settee table is missing, as is the port side helm seat in front of it.

One thing worth noting is the black tube at the top of the port side window. It’s a screen that we can roll down when the window is open. I complained that it looked rather ugly, but Roberta reminded me that I’d learn to love it the first time we are at anchor and want the windows open for fresh air but there are bees or mosquitos buzzing around! (Which we have encountered in many beautiful anchorages over the years!)

The helmThe helm

The standard GB60 comes with two 17″ screens. The owner of the boat just before ours (GB60 #14. We are GB60 #15) had the idea to oversize the monitors. These are dual 22″ monitors and I supplemented them with an 8″ display which is dedicated to Maretron. You can also see the joystick on the right side (to the left of the throttles). Cygnus uses shafts, not pods, for propulsion. I had always believed that the joystick solution was dependent on having pods, but am told that it works wonderfully on a shaft-based boat and that I am going to love it. I’m very much looking forward to trying.

The Master StateroomThe Master Stateroom

We upsized the bed from the standard Queen size bed to a full King bed. Our doggies sleep in the bed with us and, despite their small size, manage to take up much of the space! (Yes, they are extremely spoiled!)

There is a walk-in closet at the back of the room. The standard GB60 is a four stateroom boat. We converted one of the staterooms to an office, and we stole a part of the smallest stateroom to boost the size of the Master walk-in closet. The washer and dryer, we installed into the balance of that small stateroom. Therefore, Cygnus is a two stateroom boat.

looking aft from the central hallwaylooking aft from the central hallway

On the right side of this picture you see the entry to the Master stateroom, and on the left you see the entry to the office. We widened the office doorway (with no door) so that it feels more open.

Guest Head showerGuest Head shower
Guest HeadGuest Head
The office with steps down to the laundry roomThe office with steps down to the laundry room

By “stealing” one of the staterooms we are creating a very nice office mostly for me. I’ll have a nice big monitor sitting on this desk (which is much wider than it appears in this picture).

To the upper right side of this picture you see the back of the helm and some of the wiring that connects all the electronics. This will all be beautiful when the boat is finished…

The fly bridgeThe fly bridge

This picture was taken looking forward from where the tender will sit.

The hot tub turned out incredible! The people at Grand Banks exceeded all expectations. I remember when I first asked whether the sun bed that appears on the standard GB60 could be replaced by a hot tub. Everyone thought I was joking, but Grand Banks accepted the challenge and made the impossible possible.

Top deck helmTop deck helm
Fly Bridge dining area and bbqFly Bridge dining area and bbq

Missing in this picture is the top deck dining table and the settee cushions. The gas barbecue and the sette table will get near-daily use when we are on the boat (in good weather).

I’m taking a wait-and-see on the upper drive staton. On Sans Souci I never liked the upper drive station and only tried driving from it one time. It just felt too high and Sans Souci’s pilot house was extremely comfortable!

I have been pushing Grand Banks on when the boat would be shipped to the United States from Malaysia.

Their response was, “We don’t know. There are a lot of systems to be tested.” I would love for them to be able to give a date, but they are right. There ARE a lot of systems on Cygnus and I’d like Grand Banks to be as thorough as possible. Once the boat is in the United States it will be more expensive and tougher on everyone to get the systems dialed in. And, realistically speaking, we’ve missed the summer cruising season at this point. Roberta and I have talked about shipping the boat to some other part of the world that would allow for cruising this-coming winter, but we have various personal and family issues that have us locked in on the west coast for the next year.

Our current challenge is that we booked moorage for the boat in Canada over this winter, and the pandemic has the border closed. For the foreseeable future our cruising plans are outside Washington. If Roberta and I get barred from taking the boat to Canada we’re not sure what happens.

That’s it for this edition of the blog. Once again it is a blog entry that I thought about not doing. There is so much pain in the world that thoughts of boats and cruising seem, perhaps, unsympathetic. That said, we all need to remember that there will be a world after this ends and that perhaps it is a bit less depressing to focus on the future and good things to come, rather than the current mess. Plus, what better time to daydream of sailing into the sunset?

Thank you!

Roberta and Ken Williams (and, Toundra and Keely)
MV Cygnus, Grand Banks 60

  • Mark Glazer
    Posted at 04:39h, 31 July

    Hi Ken,

    The boat actually looks a lot different than what I expect. The colour of the wood and the openness of the living space. Your fly ridge with the barbecue, what an inviting place to relax and take in the scenery. Hopefully in your future blogs you can show us the height In regards to the water below. What is the height of the fly bridge to the water level?

    Anyways, congratulations to Roberta and you on what seems like an other perfectly assembled boat.

    Pls keep those post coming, they brighten my day.

    Just a quick question. The clock count down was reset to 2 more months. Is that an approximation until you receive the boat?

    So very much happy for you guys,


    • ken@kensblog.com
      Posted at 04:59h, 31 July

      Greetings Mark!

      I am very curious what the boat height is. It is supposed to come in under nineteen feet one inch (with the mast down). My guess is that we are close to that but I’m not sure.

      I have been uncertain where to set the clock. GB hasn’t wanted to give me a date. My guess, based on what I’m seeing is that the boat will be ready for shipping to the US around the beginning of September. It will then need 3-4 weeks to reach the west coast, and another 2-4 weeks for final commissioning. My most optimistic date is Oct 15th when I can actually take delivery of the boat.

      It’s getting close .. but … I’m not sure HOW close.

  • Cedric Rhoads
    Posted at 01:36h, 31 July

    Hi, Ken.

    Whatever you do, please don’t trouble yourself over posting updates. Yes, CV19 sucks, and yes, many are impacted, but those of us that are on KensBlog are here by choice. We want to know what’s happening and we enjoy your posts. Many, like Debs and me, very much enjoy vicariously experiencing what we hope will be a part of our future. I’ve been following your posts since the build of Sans Souci and look forward to each and every post. So, yes! Keep them coming. Often. And thank you.

    • ken@kensblog.com
      Posted at 05:02h, 31 July

      Thanks! I’ve been working on a book about my old video game days while waiting for the boat to arrive. The book is turning out great, but has been a lot of work, and makes it hard to find time for blogging.

      Soon I’ll get the book out of the way and refocus.

      -Ken W

      • Harry Sack
        Posted at 13:17h, 02 August


        As a big Sierra fan, I’m very excited to hear this!

        Is it a free downloadable book or is it going to be published and sold?

        Will it be like a history overview of Sierra, from origin to selling or are it just some chapters about selected topics you write about?

        Good luck with the book! After so many years, this is really amazing!!
        I think many old Sierra fans will LOVE this.

        Harry Sack

        • ken@kensblog.com
          Posted at 14:42h, 02 August

          Harry: The book is in good shape. I’m printing 50 copies to send to ex Sierra employees on Sept 1st to collect their feedback, and then will do a major editing effort to integrate their comments and then make the book available to the public sometime in October.

          This is the working draft cover (it will change several times between now and the release)


          My goal is to break even on the book, or not lose too much. It’s 325 pages full color. I haven’t worked it all out yet but I’m guessing $25 for the book and $7.95 if someone just wants the PDF.

          The book will thrill some people and be a huge disappointment to others. I don’t spend too much time on individual games. A lot of it is the strategies I used to launch, manage and grow the company. And then there is a lot of the behind the scenes stuff about selling the company and how the new owners managed to destroy it. So .. unless you are planning to start a software company, or in an MBA program, you might find it boring. I hope people will like it, but it is definitely different than a lot of what has been written.

          I just read another book about Sierra, “The Sierra Adventure” by Shawn Mills, that is amazing in the amount of research he did. I think many Sierra fans will find it preferable to my book.

          Grin — and, that’s my sales pitch! I’m just shocked at how much interest there is. We sold the company 25 years ago. Wild.

          FYI — there is a documentary that has a bunch about Sierra coming to a major network on Aug 19. I’m not sure what I can say now .. so .. ask me on aug 19.

          • Harry Sack
            Posted at 18:11h, 02 August


            I think it’s a good decision not to focus on the games. Information about that is online on countless websites.

            You have the PERFECT place to make sales: SierraGamers website!
            You should put the cover online there and the news spreads itself…

            IMHO you could also put a link to the other book online, because I never heard of it.
            I ordered a copy!

            Best regards

  • Dean Russell
    Posted at 03:51h, 30 July

    Wow Ken, it looks awesome. It will be different from San Souci for sure. Different is not bad, just different.
    I am interested to hear how the SeaKeeper does.
    Is your new surveillance system built by GOST?
    I hope time passes quickly for you and you are cruising the Inside Passage before you know it.
    Thanks for the update
    Dean Russell

    • ken@kensblog.com
      Posted at 14:34h, 30 July

      Thanks Dean. I’m also VERY curious to see how the Seakeeper does. It’s overkill for the size of the boat, and assuming it doesn’t rip the bottom out of the boat, we should be impressed.

      No – I’m not using GOST. I use a package called “Surveillance Station” that is part of the network hard drive that I use.


      I’ve used it at our homes, plus on Sans Souci, plus at some business locations. I’ve used it with over 20 cameras and never had a problem. It’s an impressive system and worth checking out. It has IOS apps (I’m not sure about Android) as well as running on the computer. One very nice thing is does is to allow me to configure multiple resolutions for different types of monitoring. It’s a confusing concept, but when I connect from my iphone I want different resolution than when I’m on my computer. I also want recordings kept that are at maximum resolution. Another nice feature is that I have it email me a single frame when it senses motion. My email has an image that allows me to see what is happening, and quickly decide if I want to connect live to review the activity.

      Best wishes!

  • Nicolas Mailloux
    Posted at 02:19h, 30 July

    Looks beautiful and very well thought as for functionality.

    I hope you’ll be able to follow your original plan and travel to Canada.

    • ken@kensblog.com
      Posted at 14:36h, 30 July

      Agreed! Thanks.

  • Sarah Northway
    Posted at 02:03h, 30 July

    Thanks for deciding to write this! Reading your posts and dreaming of cruising is a big mood booster and I think we could all use that right now.

    • ken@kensblog.com
      Posted at 14:41h, 30 July

      I’ve heard that even though the economy is not good now, boat sales have not suffered the way they normally would in a downturn. Sitting in some distance anchorage, socially distanced on some white sand beach, while perhaps sipping an adult beverage .. doesn’t sound too bad!

      Thank you,
      -Ken W

    Posted at 23:32h, 29 July

    Magnificent Ken! Thank YOU very much for sharing.
    Are thrusters electric, hydraulic, other?

    • ken@kensblog.com
      Posted at 23:43h, 29 July

      Joe, Cygnus will have hydraulic thrusters (both bow and stern). I have never had electric thrusters but am biased against them. I have heard too many stories of them overheating when over-used.

      I also insisted that my bow windlass be hydraulic.

      Best wishes, Ken W

  • Chris Halllock
    Posted at 23:17h, 29 July


    It would be easy to add an additional screen from the helm into the office to keep an eye out on things or for camera views etc. It would be a short cable run for sure.


    • ken@kensblog.com
      Posted at 23:29h, 29 July

      Chris: Great minds think alike! I did do that. There is a Maretron screen mounted just to the left of where my monitor will be. I also can call up Maretron on my phone, an ipad or from my computer.

      On Sans Souci I often would set an Ipad next to my monitor with it running both the surveillance software and the Maretron monitoring software. Both work fine off the boat’s wifi.

      Unfortunately, the boat is in Malaysia and I am in Seattle, and I haven’t wanted to bug the factory by asking them to enable the wifi on the computer on the boat. I can’t wait to be able to fiddle with Maretron, Garmin and the Surveillance system (which runs on Synology). I’m not sure how many cameras I can feed into Garmin, or what ability Garmin has for remote connection.

      Historically, what I’ve done is to have an Intel Nuc computer on the boat which is accessible via remote desktop. Connecting to it effectively puts me on the boat. From there, no matter where I am in the world, I can bring up the security cameras or Maretron.

      On Sans Souci I had motion sensitive alerts set up in the cameras, as well as various alerts in Maretron. Whenever I receive an alert (via text message or email) I sign into the boat and have a look around.

      I am very eager to get my hands on Cygnus!

      -Ken W