The Lower Manhattan waterfront, West Side, mid-20th century. A New York Central System tug kicks up a wake as it backs away from a Hudson River pier. The 90-foot, iron-hulled vessel — workhorse of the largest Eastern rail system — has just dropped off its tow, Barge 172, and the crewman is coiling lines, preparing for the next job.
In 1963 a retired Naval officer and World War II aircraft carrier veteran took off on a global voyage in a long-distance yacht of his own design. A dozen years and 60,000 miles later, Capt. Robert Beebe penned his story in Voyaging Under Power. The book ignited the imagination of would-be passagemakers everywhere. The idea of a recreational trawler, a boat that could circle the world for fun and adventure, was born.
Fast, classic and pocket models make sure that to each, his own.
It’s hard to believe now, but as recently as 50 years ago the trawler was widely seen as a full-displacement commercial fishing boat. Period. Today the trawler concept has achieved such popularity that its definition has been loosened like a belt around a middle-aged girth — and why not?
Part of the reason I first fell in love with trawlers was their salty lines. If you’re hatching an escape plan (as I was), you’re going to want a boat that can really take you places, and the traditional trawler announces its serious voyaging potential with a high bow, a pilothouse with forward raked windows and perhaps a Portuguese bridge, as well as voluminous fuel tanks — this kind of vessel lets you know it’s not messing around.
Pocket trawlers. They’re less than 30 feet, powered by a single diesel or a pair of outboards, and many are small enough to trailer without a permit. But don’t let the “pocket” label fool you. These are small boats for big dreams.
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