One thing leads to another. For John and Laurie Gray, it was a voyage on the Great Loop that turned the veteran cruisers into liveaboards, moving from recreational tugs to a husky, 39-foot trawler.
“We started planning for the Great Loop in 2006,” says Gray, 66, who lives on Hat Island near Everett, Washington. “We did the western half in September 2008 and liked it so much that we knew we wanted to do the whole adventure.”
The decision fit right into the natural progression of John’s boating life. He started out sailing a Sabot, an 8-foot-long mahogany pram that his father built, and went on to crew on sailboats. “I resumed boating some years later when Laurie and I moved to Puget Sound and started a family,” he says. The couple owned a 22-foot Tanzer sailboat, then moved up to a 24-foot Bayliner, which they enjoyed with their two children.
Then, in January 2014, they found themselves setting out from Florida in a 29-foot tug on the 6,000-mile Great Loop odyssey. They completed the trip just before Thanksgiving. “It was the highlight of our boating experience because of the people, geography and history,” says Gray. “It was an adventure.”
Living aboard a boat for 10 months was also revealing. “This was the lifestyle we wanted in our next chapter,” says Gray. “Living aboard made our lives simpler, and living on the water just fit us right. With less space, we bought less. Being on the water, we were more connected to the outside world and more in touch with weather and the seasons.”
Within months after finishing the Loop, in May of 2015, they bought the boat they’d live on: a 2004 Kadey-Krogen 39 Trawler, paying just over $300,000 for the single-engine, single-stateroom vessel. “It’s the ideal boat for a cruising couple,” says John. “It has a master stateroom that sleeps two, a salon settee that pulls out into a queen-size bed and a pilothouse bench seat that pulls out into a double bed. It comfortably seats six for cocktails and four for dinner,” says Gray.
The Kadey-Krogen name was a factor in the purchase. The builder has been producing yachts for the recreational market since the 1970s, and the Grays were attracted to the builder’s reputation for quality and seaworthiness. This particular boat was also in exceptional condition. “Within three minutes of going on board and seeing how clean the boat was, Laurie turned to me and without saying a word, gave me the broad smile with two thumbs up that signaled the search was over,” John says.
Then they did what liveaboards do: They sold their house and moved aboard. “We lived aboard full-time in Puget Sound for five years while working full-time,” Gray says. “We cruised throughout the Salish Sea and traveled the Inside Passage from Seattle to Glacier Bay National Park and back. This was the second highest peak of boating experience, right behind the Great Loop.”
The big trawler was surprisingly handy for voyages closer to home, while the two continued to work full-time. “We intentionally did not view it as a floating condo,” Gray says. “The boat was purposely always ready to use. We could be under way in 20 minutes. And it was nice that when we returned to the dock, we were done. We didn’t have to pack, unload, move, drive and load the house.”
With its displacement hull and ballast, the 39-foot trawler cruises smoothly through a variety of weather and sea conditions. Visibility from the pilothouse is good, and the walkaround side-decks provide added safety. While many trawlers have stabilizers, Gray’s boat does not. “We only missed them once, during three hours of 4-foot rollers while crossing Queen Charlotte Sound in British Columbia,” he says. “But the strategy of quartering the swells and tacking like a sailboat worked really well.”
Power comes from a single 135-hp John Deere diesel. At 8 knots, the engine is turning at 1800 rpm and is at maximum thrust, perfectly loaded, and using two gph, according to Gray. “The prop, transmission and the single John Deere diesel engine is perfectly matched to the hull form,” he says.
The electronics package includes the boat’s original Furuno electronics, which have been stable and reliable. The couple added AIS (automatic identification system) by Vesper Marine that displays other AIS vessels on an iPad. They always run Navionics or Aquamaps while under way in addition to the chartplotter.
“What I like most about the Kadey-Krogen is the combination of design, engineering and craftsmanship,” says John. “Every time I work on the boat, I am appreciative of the design decisions.”
Weight: 33,000 lbs.
Power: (1) 161-hp diesel
Fuel: 700 gals.
Water: 300 gals.
At just over 43 feet overall, the Kadey-Krogen 39 is suited for blue water or coastal cruising. It rides a full-displacement hull with 2,000 pounds of ballast. Standard power is a single 121-hp John Deere diesel housed in a stand-up engine room. With its 7- to 8-knot cruising speed and 700-gallon fuel capacity, the 39 has a listed range of around 2,000 miles. The layout puts the master cabin forward, set up with an island berth and an adjacent head with shower. The main salon has a dinette and galley to port and a settee to starboard that converts to a berth. The compact, C-shaped galley has a stove top, oven and a refrigerator. The distinctive raised pilothouse houses the command post, with large windows and doors to port and starboard for easy deck access. The upper deck has a centerline flybridge helm station, bench seating and room for a dinghy and davits.
Kadey-Krogen Yachts has been building boats in Asia for nearly 50 years. The 39 Trawler is an updated version of an earlier model, the Kadey-Krogen 42 that debuted in 1977 and helped establish the builder in the newly minted recreational trawler market. The 39 debuted in 1998 and enjoyed a 10-plus-year production run.