LITTLE SHIPS THAT COULD

Since their introduction in the early '60s, trawler yachts have stretched the boundaries of te powerboating horizon. Bob Armstrong tells why cruisers love trawler yachts.




The pilothouse of a Kadey-Krogen 42 clearly shows traces of her
commercial-fishing heritage.

    Dick Loh, sales manager for Grand Banks, perhaps the oldest name in trawler yachts, tells a story. He was delivering a brand new boat to her owner when he overheard a youngster on the dock comment, “Look at that nice old boat, dad. The owner must have taken very good care of her.”
    Dick smiles as he tells it, but the story does raise a coupe of basic questions. In a day when “state of the art,” “sleek,” and “Eurostyle” are such common buzzwords, why would anyone want a book that already looks “old” the day they took delivery? And, considering the popularity of flying fuel tanks, those needle-nosed guided missiles that seem able to hit warp speed on the water-even in megayacht size-why would one want a boat that can never even come close?

 

    The truth is that most trawler yacht owners don’t give a hoot for either the rocket-like appearance of a reverse-shear foredeck or the go-fast performance of a planning hull. A group more likely to join Tevyeh in a rousing chorus of “Tradition!” than to sing “Tomorrow” with Annie, these people like the familiar look and the comfortable, seakindly feel that trawler yachts provide. They also like the greater space allowed in the accommodations plan; and they love the greater cruising range. In shot, trawler yacht owners go for a style of boating that is nearly as old as seafaring itself.
    Yet this is not to say that trawler yachts or their owners are old-fashioned. Far from it. The yachts themselves are now generally built with as many “state of the art” features as circumstances require.

Because they have mostly pure displacement of semi-displacement hull forms, trawler yachts don’t need the lightness-for-lightness’-sake construction often employed in much faster boats. Yet, in today’s trawler yachts, you will see such strength-by-design-rather-than-bulk techniques as cored decks and superstructures. You’ll also see them equipped (in every area from nav station to galley to entertainment centers) with high-tech apparatus.
    If you look at trawler yachts, possibly the most important thing you’ll notice is that they are being used! Because, though they don’t necessarily impress the yuppie crowd, trawler yachts more than make up for it in their ability to go to sea. 

But Are They Trawlers?
To the purist, the answer to this question is a resounding “NO!” In his eyes, only a working, pay-load carrying, fish-gatherer deserves to be called a trawler. But the term “trawler-yacht” persists. And the why is rooted in history.
    Back in 1962, FRP construction had already begun to change the way boats looked. Shapes which

 
 

previously had been difficult or impractical to build via other techniques became easily molded. At that time, John Newton got the idea that there might still be a market for a traditionally styled, long-range cruising yacht. John and his brother Whit owned American Marine, Ltd., a then eight-year-old custom yard located in Hong Kong. They hired Connecticut naval architect Ken Smith to design a boat, which was dubbed the Grand Banks 36.
    Partly because of the deep-sea fishing image conjured up by the name, and partly because of the various traditional workboat lines which were amalgamated into the Grand Banks design, the boating public came to call the boat a “trawler” and the appellation stuck.
    Traditional construction as well

 

as style (Grand Banks models sported wooden hulls until well    into the 1970s), the original 36 still departed from true trawler designs in several ways. Most obvious perhaps, was the absence of working gear and a fish hold, as well as the addition of spacious, comfortable living quarters. Not so obvious – because it occurs below the waterline – was the semi-displacement hull. Gone (along with the payload) was the true trawler’s need for deep draft and with it, full displacement. Through some trawler yachts do have some pure displacement hulls, the semi’s ability to deliver slightly better speeds while retaining much of the full-displacement hull’s fuel thriftiness helped prove Newton’s theory to be correct.

    The Grand Banks 36 caught on with the long-range segment of the cruising crowd and eventually spawned 38, 42, 46, 48, 50, 57 and 62-foot models. It also encouraged the creation of a number of similar competitors, literally defining a “trawler yacht” segment in the marine marketplace. 

Up, Up, And Away
The popularity of trawler yachts is largely related to their ability to carry a fair load under a wide variety of sea conditions. And that is a direct result of hull form. All hulls are in a displacement mode at rest. Planing hulls attain speed by being able to get up out of the water to run literally on its surface rather than through it. They do so via a combination of horsepower, comparative light weight, and hull lines which create lift.

    Lift both requires and contributes to hydrodynamic (moving) stability, and is usually dependent on speed. This often put planning hulls in the Catch-22 situation of needing to go fast to have proper stability.
When sea conditions aren’t conducive to speed, the boat becomes less stable and thus less comfortable and less efficient. Even under ideal conditions, a planning hull’s need for lightness runs counter to carrying the amount of gear, fuel and supplies dictated by the needs of long-range cruising.
    At the risk of slightly over-simplifying, let me say that displacement hulls essentially rely on hydrostatic (not moving) stability under way. This means they can’t move as fast as a planning hull – since they are moving through the water, rather than over it – but can often maintain a steady speed even under sea conditions which would require planning hulls to slow down anyway.

    And since displacement hulls maintain stability and efficiency while moving slowly (neither of which can usually by said for planning hulls), they are ideal for carrying the load of fuel and stores you need to travel long distances. Add the fact that it usually takes relatively little horse power to achieve displacement hulls can go a long way on little fuel.
    The low horsepower requirement for displacement speeds is a big reason many trawlers and trawler yachts are driven by a fairly small single engine. Indeed, the only reason for using twin screws in most

 

trawler yachts are driven by a fairly small single engine. Indeed, the only reason for using twin screws in most trawler yachts is to gain close quarters maneuverability and the supposed “safety factor” of a “back-up” engine.
    Even with a full cruising “payload” of fuel, stores, gear and guests, most trawler yachts these days can be light enough that, with a slight modification of underbody form and a modest increase in horsepower, they can move from pure displacement in the “semi-displacement” mode in which they lift part way up, reducing the amount of hull moving through the water. This is, in many ways, the best of both worlds: nearly the same seakeeping qualities, slightly faster speeds, and only slightly reduced economy. For many it’s an ideal combination for pleasure cruising. 

The Way It Is
In 1968, American Marine, Ltd. Moved to Singapore and set up a yard which continues to produce all models of Grand Banks built today. And while Grand Banks was the first and continues to be a leading marque, it is by no means the only “trawler” available. Today, builders all over the world offer models bearing that designation, models ranging from full-displacement designs so similar to their commercial fishing forebears that you can almost smell the halibut to high-powered “speedsters” (it’s all relative) that can nearly pull a skier. But, not so strangely, most fall basically in the middle.
    Among the builders currently in the marketplace are Albin Marine, a Swedish company that offers a wide range of stock, custom, and semi-custom trawler yachts, and Kong & Halvorsen, whose Island Gypsy line is produced at yards in Hong Kong and mainland China.
    The former started out building engines (around the turn of the century) and produced its first boat in 1925. The latter has its roots directly in the “trawler” business and came into being when company president Harvey Halvorsen (formerly the Australian distributor for Grand Banks) met his late partner Joseph Kong (formerly American Marine’s production manager) in a business trip in 1972.
    Both Albin and K&H boats carry the simulated planked hull that adds so much to the traditional

 

look. They also fill their interiors with an abundance of rich, hand-fitted teak.
    Other trawler yacht builders include Kadey-Krogen, one of the few current producers of full-displacement, round-bottomed hulls; Marine Trading International, a New Jersey-based firm which imports boats from Hong Kong; Hinterhoeller Power Yachts, which entered the trawler market by default last year when it assumed production of a 31-footer for a small builder that was overwhelmed with orders; and Sabreline, producers of light displacement, so-called “fast” trawlers with traditional styling. Montgomery Yacht and Shipbuilding, a small firm based in Maryland, also recently entered the fray with its 49 Coastal, a full-displacement boat whose pilothouse profile proudly boasts of its commercial heritage.
    Dozens of other builders (the above list is by no means complete) have ventured in and out of the trawler market over the years, but the boats themselves, with the exception of a general trend toward larger power plans and more modern amenities, have yet to change in a significant way. Perhaps it’s because of hide-bound tradition. More likely the genre was simply done right in the first place.

Trawler Companies
Albin Marine, Dept. PMY, 143 River Rd., Cos Cob, CT 06870. Telephone: (203) 661-4341; Grand Banks Yachts, Dept. PMY, 563 Steamboat Rd., Greenwich, CT 06830, Telephone: (203) 869-9274; Hinterhoeller Yachts, Dept. PMY, 8 Keefer Rd., St. Catherines, Ontario L2M 7N9, Canada. Telephone: (416) 937-4440; Kadey-Krogen, Dept. PMY, 290 North Dixie Highway, Stuart, FL 34994. Telephone: (772) 286-0171; Kong & Halvorsen, Dept. PMY, 151 Shipyard Way, Berth C, Cabin 2, Newport Beach, CA 92663. Telephone: (714) 673-2967; Marine Trading International, Dept. PMY, Box 5300, Toms River, NJ 08754. Telephone: (201) 286-4000; Montgomery Yacht and Shipbuilding, Dept. PMY, Box 550, Brick Kiln Rd., Crisfield, MD. Telephone: (301) 968-3889; Sabreline, Dept. PMY, Box 10, South Casco, ME 04077. Telephone: (207) 655-3831

Reprinted with permission from Power and Motoryacht magazine.