There comes a time when "fast," as in boats, cars, planes - life in general - loses its allure. That's one reason Mississippi boater Jim Palmer traded in his go-fast bass boat for a 25-foot outboard-powered trawler on a trailer, a boat that's more suited to his changing lifestyle.
"I now find the gentle, small and slower things more important than how fast I can get from one place to another," says the 62-year-old Tupelo photographer, who founded L'il Angels Photography, which focuses on children's photography.
The boat is a 1997 Nimble Nomad, a Ted Brewer-designed pocket trawler from Nimble Boats in Tampa, Fla. In the three years that Palmer and his wife, Maggie, have owned it, they've trailer-cruised north to Lake of the Ozarks, Mo., and east to Pensacola Bay in the Florida Panhandle. They've also enjoyed the waters of the Tennessee River near their home.
"It's an easy matter to tow Boomer 400 miles in a single day and have her on the water by nightfall," Palmer says. "So we get to enjoy new cruising waters."
And that's just what the couple wanted to do. After traveling the country in an RV, the two thought it might be fun to explore the nation's waterways, but in their own boat. "We started looking for a trailerable boat - rugged, comfortable, cheap on gas, with all the amenities of home," Palmer says. "Plus, it had to have curb appeal and lend itself to easy modifications."
The couple searched for two years - online, boat shows, magazines, classified ads. As they narrowed their choices, the Nomad seemed to look better and better. A visit to the Nimble factory swayed them. With the company acting as broker, Palmer bought the boat from a private owner. The price was $25,900.
"The people at Nimble treat you, before and after the sale, the way you would expect," he says. "I [ended up] a proud owner and I haven't regretted my choice."
The Nomad's standard layout is complete, but Palmer has added the amenities he and his wife wanted for cruising comfort. That includes air conditioning - "It gets hot in Mississippi," Palmer says - a 2-gallon water heater and a hot-and-cold cockpit shower. Other additions include a barbecue grill, entertainment center and custom cabinetry.
Boomer is powered by a 40-hp Honda 4-stroke mounted in an outboard well. The 2,450-pound displacement boat cruises at 5 to 7 knots, and fuel usage is about 1.5 gallons an hour at 7 knots; it's less than a gallon an hour at 5 knots. There's a 24-gallon fuel tank.
Besides being practical, the Nomad has plenty of character, turning heads wherever it goes, Palmer says. "We love to show off our boat," he says. "On a July Fourth a couple of years ago, we were at the Lake of the Ozarks, where an estimated 1,000 boats were gathered in a secluded cove. As we motored through the gauntlet of anchored boats, people stood up and cheered our little Nomad."
But real enjoyment came with the Nomad tucked away in a peaceful anchorage. "At dusk we cruised up the [Lake of the Ozarks] along the sheer limestone cliffs to where a small waterfall cascaded down the rock face," Palmer recalls. "We anchored, grilled some steaks and just enjoyed our boat, each other and life. It was absolutely wonderful being able to doze off to sleep to the sound of the falling water and the gentle motions of our home on the water."
However, there was another kind of "Nimble moment." As they cruised Pensacola Bay, an unexpected storm blew in, and Palmer had to take shelter behind a small island to wait it out. "We stayed there through the night, with 25- to 30-knot winds and waves that I would estimate running between 3 and 4 feet," Palmer says. "In fact, the ship's bell rang all night long. I credit our safe outcome to the quality construction of our Nimble and to the great Danforth anchor, which held firm under those terrible conditions."
Cruising comfort, character and seakeeping - the little Nimble has it all, Palmer says. "If I had it to do over again, I would buy another Nimble Nomad," he says. "In my book, it fills the niche of a quality, affordable and unique pocket trawler. It's an absolutely wonderful boat."
That's the good life, at 7 knots.
The Nimble Nomad comes in two versions - the "Tropical," which features a varnished wood interior, teak-and-holly sole and teak doors, and the "Special" or "Standard", which has a more modest, wood-trimmed cabin. The pilothouse has 6 feet, 3 inches of headroom, and six windows, including two sliders, provide good sightlines and ventilation. The helm station has a command seat to starboard and a companion seat to port. The varnished-teak instrument console has room for a full slate of electronics, and there's a convenient chart table behind the helm seat.
The aft cabin has a single settee to starboard and a convertible berth to port. The enclosed head compartment has room for a portable or marine head and an optional shower. The galley is L-shaped, outfitted with an electric stove and refrigerator and a stainless-steel sink.
On deck, the layout features high bulwarks and easy access to the foredeck through the pilothouse. An aft door opens to the cockpit, which is surrounded by a high coaming. The engine cover doubles as a cockpit table. The outboard is mounted in a deep well so it can be lifted completely out of the water for safety or trailering.
Nimble Boats was founded in 1985 by Jerry Koch, who harbored a love of boats during a career as photographer and field operations director for CNN. Koch went into boatbuilding full time with a pair of cruising sailboats, the Nimble 20 and Nimble 30, both designed by Ted Brewer. More boats followed, sail and power, and the models included the Nimble Arctic, Kodiak, Nomad and the 32-foot Wanderer, a trawler/motorsailer and the largest boat in the Nimble fleet of trailerable pocket cruisers. Koch passed away in 2003, but the company continues to build boats under the guidance of fellow businessman Ken McCleave and a group of partners. Most late-model Nomads are priced in the low- to mid-$20,000 range.
LOA: 24 feet, 8 inches
BEAM: 8 feet, 6 inches
DRAFT: 1 foot, 4 inches
WEIGHT: 2,450 pounds
HULL TYPE: displacement
POWER: outboard, 9.9 hp-50 hp
FUEL CAPACITY: 24 gallons
DESIGNER: Ted Brewer
BUILDER: Nimble Boats Inc., Tampa, Fla.
This article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue.