The Second Wave Cometh – Grand Banks 41 Heritage EU

If IPS and Zeus drives on express cruisers were the first wave of this new “azimuthing drive pod” technology, then keep your head up because the second wave is arriving — in the form of Grand Banks’ 41 Heritage EU.

Why the second wave? Well, the first wave was basically a quick “bolt-on” application, with only minor modifications to hullforms and interior hull arrangements. But these demonstrations proved worthwhile even in their own right and stirred the creative thinking in naval architecture organizations throughout the industry. The new GB 41 Heritage EU takes the technology the next step. A new underwater hull design belies the iconic topside appearance of one of the best-known and loved trawler designs. And inside that hull, designers have taken best advantage of the compact installation of the Cummins Mercruiser Zeus drives to create a full second stateroom — a feature rare in trawler designs of this size.

So this new Grand Banks boat is a big deal. An even bigger deal is the likelihood that within a certain few years, nearly all new boats for sale will sport this kind of drive technology and be capable of the same things this boat is capable of.

And capable she is. Her maker says she will cruise efficiently at both 10 and 24 knots. We already know that with her Zeus drives and with precision autopilot technology, she will be as maneuverable in the water as a helicopter is in the air — but a whole lot easier to drive.

Are Zeus, and Volvo Penta’s IPS drives the wave of the future? Absolutely, unless some hidden downside reveals itself as installed numbers grow. The main concern boaters have talked about is related to groundings. The angst is typically expressed in terms of, “Gee, that’s a lot of money hanging down there waiting to get sheared off when I run aground at high speed.” I don’t really understand why this is more of a concern than shearing off double shafts, struts, props and rudders under the same scenario in a conventionally powered boat. Cummins Mercruiser thinks it has addressed concerns about underwater impacts on the Zeus drives, putting the propsets behind the transmission leg and putting a skeg on it to deflect debris. True, you can still shear the whole mess off if you hit something hard enough and immovable enough, but even then, the breakaway characteristics of the drive pod are designed to prevent the sea from joining you aboard the boat.

But there is another element to the leading-edge nature of this technology. I believe it is the logical transition step to diesel-electric drives in recreational boats. True, they’ve been deployed in giant cruise ships, and in megayachts like Lurssen’s Air/Ice; and even some smaller yacht manufacturers are working on those installations in boat sizes the rest of us might actually own someday. The principal obstacles have been designing lightweight applications that are affordable. Drive systems like Zeus and IPS, however, are paving the way in terms of hull re-design, maneuvering control software and interior design. Imagine the further advantage coming with diesel electric propulsion; if Zeus gives a designer an extra three feet because of its compact design, how about being able to place the diesel generator anywhere in the boat and just having to run electrical cables to the completely separate drive pod hanging under the hull (and, by the way, anywhere under the hull that the designer thinks it works best). Now THAT is flexibility. Instead of being the big “iron problem” in the bottom of the bilge around which everything else has to be adjusted, that heavy diesel can become part of the weight and balance solution. That is technology that provides real benefits to boat designers and, ultimately of course, customers.

So look hard at boats like Grand Banks new 41 Heritage EU. It really is the wave you want to ride.

© 2007 Thomas M. Tripp

Posted by Tom

Tom Tripp is the owner of OceanLines LLC, the publisher of OceanLines and founder of Marine Science Today. He is an award-winning marine journalist, science writer and long-time public communications specialist. His PR career and much of his writing stems from the fact that he loves to explain stuff. It all began when he and his brother Mark threw all of Mom’s tomatoes at the back wall of the house. . .