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European Invasion

Trawlers from the other side of the Atlantic are finding American fans

Having been involved in the trawler market since the grand days of the first Grand Banks, Krogens, Island Gypsies, DeFevers and Marine Traders, I’ve enjoyed watching the evolution of this type of yacht during the past 40 years.

The Magellano 43 by Italial builder Azimut Yachts

Nordhavn came along in the early 1990s and practically redefined the category and helped promote long-range passagemaking under power. Fleming carved out its own high-end niche, with Selene, Outer Reef and Marlow eventually getting into the game.

Most of these brands are American designs built in the Far East. Quality has greatly improved over the years, and today the top-tier Asian builders employ some of the world’s best craftsmen. But there are some exciting players from Europe making waves in the American market, and after spending time on a number of them, I believe U.S. boaters may be welcoming these new arrivals with open arms.

Of course, developing a European twist to what has been an American nautical tradition is nothing new. Anyone who has an affinity for the Down East lobster yacht can’t help admiring what the Italians have done with their gorgeous line of Mochi Craft. And who can walk away from a Vicem without turning around for another look at her beautiful lines? The success of these Euro lobster yachts proves the viability of combining American traditions with European styling and craftsmanship.

The builder across the pond making the biggest splash in the American trawler market is Beneteau. No stranger to successfully marketing its sailboats in the United States, this French builder introduced its first Swift Trawler to our shores in 2007. The Swift Trawler 42 highlighted Beneteau’s experience in maximizing interior living space while offering a fresh, modern approach to what a trawler looks like — inside and out. It also featured decks that were safe and easy to move around on, a sign of a well-designed trawler. But most of all, Beneteau helped move the needle in performance. This modern, salty-looking trawler with her twin Yanmar diesels could reach 25 knots at WOT and cruise at 18 to 20 knots.

French builder Beneteau's Swift Trawler series entered the U.S. market in 2007 (ST50 pictured).

Since then, Beneteau has continued to develop its line of Swift Trawler coastal cruisers, which comprises a new 44, as well as a 34, 50 and 52. Having spent time running the 34 and 52, I can attest to the success of their Joubert-Nivelt hull designs. Not only do they get up and go with relatively modest horsepower, they are also quite happy at displacement speeds while sipping fuel.

Another sign that Beneteau is shaking up the trawler market is its recent introduction of the Swift Trawler 50 with Volvo Penta’s IPS pod drives. The pods provide more efficiency at higher speeds and impressive joystick maneuverability, and they free up lots of space that can be better devoted to interior accommodations. The 50 is full of clever surprises to enhance on-board living and entertaining. Beneteau’s modern Euro-style, its smart use of interior space and versatile hull forms are reasons to take a closer look.

The interior of the Greenline 48, built in Slovenia, reflects a European sensibility.

The Italians always seem to have a sexy way of looking at things, but somehow “sexy” and “trawler” don’t seem compatible. Leave it to Azimut, however, to bring these two worlds together with its Magellano line of long-range cruisers. Introduced in 2009, the Magellano 74 grabbed international attention with its unique trawler-like styling and semidisplacement hull. It performed efficiently at displacement speeds, yet was able to cruise in the low to mid-teens. Azimut recognized that it had a winner and added a 53 and two versions of a 43 and updated the 74 to a 76. The 43 with flybridge is of particular interest, as it competes directly with many of today’s popular trawlers.

All of the Magellano models bring a sense of style, if not fashion, to the traditional trawler. The distinctive plumb bow and gentle curves of the superstructure present an attractive profile that seems just sexy enough. Anything more, and true salts might be turned off. The clever use of interior space and luxurious details also feel like a breath of fresh air, compared with yesteryear’s teak-centric, squared-off trawler interiors.

The 43 features attractive veneers that highlight its high-quality furnishings, and somehow the designers were able to create three roomy staterooms in this modest-size hull. But more important is the versatility of the “Dual Mode” hull design, designed for efficiency at a variety of speeds. The 43 can hit 22 knots at WOT with optional 355-hp Cummins diesels, yet average 1.5 nmpg at 9 knots. At a miserly 7 knots it has a range of 1,100 nautical miles. So although the Magellanos will not cover the distance of a Nordhavn or a Krogen, they offer very stylish coastal cruising.

If the high style of the Italians or the French seems a bit extreme or not salty enough for your taste, the Dutch have come to our shores with a line of trawlers that should attract the most critical traditionalist. The Elling E3 (45 feet) and E4 (48 feet) are serious offshore passagemakers with just the right touch of elegance. Their low-profile pilothouse design is attractive and keeps the center of gravity low — important when running offshore.

Although most Ellings sold in Europe are powered with a low-horsepower diesel for efficient cruising at displacement speeds, their semidisplacement hulls can be equipped with much higher horsepower for cruising in the upper teens. And these “faster trawlers” seem aimed at the American market. With a range of about 1,500 miles at 7 to 8 knots, these single-engine passagemakers are capable of taking you safely to such faraway favorites as Alaska, Bermuda and the Virgin Islands.

Dutch builder Elling is a newcomer to the U.S. trawler market (E3 pictured).

Partly out of necessity, European boaters have been more conscious of fuel consumption than Americans, so it’s no surprise that one of the most successful “hybrid” cruising boats comes from across the Atlantic. The Greenline 33 is built in Slovenia, a country of 2 million people bordering Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary, with a small portion of coastline on the Adriatic Sea. Developed by the Seaway Group, a leading yacht development and design company, it was introduced in 2010 and more than 300 of these diesel/electric boats have been sold worldwide. A Greenline 40 and 48 soon followed. Putting a Greenline 40 through its paces not long ago, I discovered that it has innovative ideas beyond its hybrid power system.

The yacht’s profile is an interesting mix of American retro and Euro modern, featuring a plumb bow, broken sheer, large sweeping windows and a vertical transom. Its top extends over the cockpit for protection and to provide a surface for the large solar array. Seaway’s “super-displacement” hull form creates virtually no wake up to 9 knots, and even at its WOT speed of 15 knots, the wake is moderate. Construction is high-tech, featuring vacuum infusion for a light, strong hull.

Powered by twin Volkswagen 165-hp diesels, it operates like a traditional boat when it’s in diesel mode. But the shafts also drive two inline electric motors that act as generators, keeping two 12-kWh lithium batteries charged. When conditions are right for running under electric power, the diesels are shut down and the lithium batteries power the electric motors, which drive the shafts directly. Most Greenline 40s include an optional 1,300-watt array of solar panels, and on a sunny day they provide enough energy to run the boat at 3.5 knots — sufficient for in-the-harbor cruising or a leisurely run up a river. Top speed under electric power is 6 knots.

Other notables entering the U.S. market include the Corvette 340, originally designed and built in the U.K. and now built by the Fleming yard in Taiwan, and Cranchi’s Eco Trawler 53, a distinctly Italian interpretation of a modern trawler.

Of course, this “interpretation” of what a trawler is and looks like is the subject of much debate. There has been a natural evolution of the trawler segment to include serious coastal cruisers that don’t necessarily fit the more traditional definition of full-displacement, full-keel, single-engine, ocean-crossing passagemakers. And now, as in the worlds of fashion or automobiles, our European friends appear to be raising the bar and giving us new and exciting ways to go cruising.

Doing the Great Loop in a Magellano 43, a Beneteau 50 or an Elling E4 would be a special experience. Imagine the curiosity these boats would generate at Hoppies Marina in Kimmswick, Mo., or at Bobby’s Fish Camp on the Tombigbee Waterway. What a hoot.

Grazie, merci and dank u!

See related articles:

- Cruising for a cruiser?

- 6 boats from some familiar names

- Lord Nelson Victory 37

May 2014 issue