So What’s a “Downeaster,” Anyway?
We don’t know who first misapplied the term “Downeaster” to boats like the 47 Eastbay FB. For our non-U.S. readers, “Down East” means the coast of Maine, so-called because the prevailing winds in the summer are out of the southwest, and sailing vessels headed to Maine from the middle Atlantic coast sailed downwind to get there. (They actually sailed northeast, or sometimes north-northeast, but “Down Northeast” didn’t sound as good.) Boats that evolved along the Maine coast, where lobster fishing was the primary industry, had flattish bottoms for speed, minimal cabins and huge cockpits for carrying vast stacks of light-but-bulky lobster pots. They bear little resemblance to the 47 Eastbay, which would not be caught dead with a load of pots in its cockpit. On the other hand, a true Downeast lobster boat would never wear a flying bridge.
Nevertheless, the Downeaster is now a certified yacht type, just like the trawler, which is really nothing like a trawler. In the Eastbay series, Grand Banks builds some of the finest Downeasters you can buy, and the 47 FB is a nice combination of size and manageability. It’s also not cheap – figure on spending around $1.4 million for yours, maybe more if you go heavy on the options. That’s a lot of lobsters, but it’s also a lot of boat: All the boat most of us will ever need, especially if we don’t cruise with a crowd.
We like the accommodations plan. While most builders cram as many berths as possible in their boats, the standard layout of the Eastbay 47 shows just two staterooms, a master forward and a twin amidships. Sure, the dinette in the saloon will convert to a double, as most do, but that’s for unexpected guests. This is really a four-person boat, which makes it ideal for many families; the twin berths in the guest cabin are good for kids. An alternate arrangement replaces that cabin with an office with a fold-up desk; sliding pocket doors let you open the space completely. When you need an extra berth, the office’s settee converts. There are two heads, one ensuite to the master.
The galley is down, opposite the ‘midships cabin. This will delight some people, turn off others – we think the numbers are about equal. A “down” galley leaves more room in the maindeck saloon where folks like to relax. The 47’s saloon has an L-shaped settee with a hi/lo table and either another settee or two easy chairs opposite for lounging. Cooks will complain that the galley-down arrangement keeps them away from the rest of the gang in the saloon, but how much time does anyone spend cooking on a boat like this?
The 47 Eastbay FB relies on a pair of 670-hp diesels spinning straight shafts; the company claims a top speed of over 30 knots with this power, but we can’t vouch for that, not having tested the boat ourselves. They also say the Hunt Associates modified-V hull will provide a comfortable ride at speed, and safe and sure handling. We think that’s reasonable: Ray Hunt developed the deep-V way back when, and the company that bears his name has been tweaking it ever since. But by flattening the deadrise a little to modify the V, the designers improved the 47’s low-speed performance (deep-Vs are happiest running on plane). Even with the big diesels, the Eastbay should be fairly economical to run at meandering speed. And you have the option to throttle up when you need speed, an advantage the Grand Banks “trawlers” from 40-something years ago did not have.
There’s no way we can say anything other than to look at the Grand Banks 47 Eastbay FB if you’re in the market for a boat of this type. It’s from one of the world’s most respected builders, is supported by a wide dealer network (not always the case with boats from the Far East) and should maintain its value over years, maybe decades, vs. other boats like it from lesser companies. Yes, it’ll cost more to buy, but quality doesn’t come cheap. We think if you buy this boat, you’ll like it, and will probably keep it for years. Just don’t try to carry lobster pots – it’s a Downeaster in name only.
Standard and Optional Features
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