You can’t get much closer to the water than you do in a kayak. That kind of one-on-one feeling is what got Vickie Silvia started on boats.
“I started out kayaking as an adult, with a friend who was an avid kayaker,” the 54-year-old from Old Lyme, Connecticut, says. “She took me out and showed me the [Connecticut] river, and that was it. I kayaked for 10 years. It’s so basic — you’re so close to the water — and I fell in love with the river.”
Then she went out on Long Island Sound aboard a friend’s sailboat. “That was it, that was all it took,” Silvia says. She and her partner, Laurie, went from kayakers to boaters, finding themselves the owners of a Catalina 30, a classic cruising sloop with an auxiliary engine. “We had no idea how to sail, but were determined to figure it out.”
A good friend showed them the ropes, but they downsized, owning a couple of Boston Whalers, a 13- and a 15-footer that again kept them close to the river. “They were great boats,” she says. “Kind of like kayaking without paddling.”
Next they bought a Ranger Tugs R-21, and the pocket trawler gave them a taste of what they could do with a cruising powerboat. Soon after, Silvia was aboard a Nordic Tug. “I had the chance to crew on a 42-footer coming down from Maine,” she recalls. “There was something about it. I loved the way it looked. It touched me in some way — the craftsmanship, reputation and the solid build of the boat got to me.”
Silvia decided it was time to get out of the river and back onto Long Island Sound. “I’d been out on a friend’s [Nordic Tug] 32 in some pretty nasty weather, and there was no stopping it,” she says. “And I liked that we could go off somewhere and be able to stay on the boat.”
In 2011, she bought a 4-year-old Nordic Tug 32 from Wilde Yacht Sales in Essex, Connecticut, for around $245,000. “The boat was owned by the same man who bought the 42 I came down from Maine on,” Silvia says. “It was in excellent shape, with maybe 200 to 300 hours on it. We went out on a trial run, and it was a whole new world for me. I loved that we could do anything we wanted with it.”
The pair have covered a lot of ground in the six seasons they’ve run Sparrow. Cruising has taken them to Point Judith and Newport in Rhode Island, Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts,
and across the sound to Long Island. “We really like Shelter Island and Three Mile Harbor,” Silvia says.
Their favorite destination is Cuttyhunk, Massachusetts, which they visited during a three-week cruise. “We were there a week, and that was the highlight,” she says. “I wish I could live there.”
The Nordic Tug 32 seemed to be made for such adventures, Silvia says. “I love the layout,” she says. “We spend most of our time on the upper deck, but we’ve also cooked some really great meals in the galley. It’s like a little condo.”
Sparrow is powered by a single 280-hp Volvo Penta diesel and cruises at 8 to 9 knots. Top speed is around 15 knots. Fuel consumption is around 1½ to 2 gallons an hour, Silvia estimates. Electronics include a Raymarine chart plotter, depth sounder and, added last season, a Raymarine autopilot.
The 32’s performance in rough seas has been exemplary, Silvia says. “It takes bad weather really well.”
Now that they’re involved in running a business, Sparrow stays closer to home. “We play on the river, take people out, hang out in Hamburg Cove,” Silvia says. “Friends have shown us Watch Hill [Rhode Island], and that’s a beautiful place to go to. And Block Island is pretty close for us, too.”
The Nordic Tug has required minimal work and just a few upgrades. The upper and lower boot stripes were redone in patriot blue, and the handrails were removed and rebedded. A custom stainless Bimini top was fabricated, and Sunbrella privacy screens were fitted for the windows.
“It’s been a good boat, with no major problems,” Silvia says. “It’s never let me down and can handle seas better than I can.”
LOA: 34 feet, 2 inches
BEAM: 11 feet
DRAFT: 3 feet, 6 inches
WEIGHT: 16,000 pounds
HULL TYPE: semidisplacement
PROPULSION: single diesel
TANKAGE: 200 gallons fuel, 100 gallons water
CONTACT: Nordic Tugs, Burlington, Washington, (360) 757-8847. nordictugs.com
The Nordic Tug 32 is one of the Washington builder’s most popular models, with more than 300 sold. While it’s kept the salty look, with its plumb bow, tugboat stern and false smokestack, the design has undergone a number of modifications.
Originally, the builder offered two interiors: one with an angled berth in the forward stateroom and the galley forward in the saloon, the other with a V-berth forward and the galley farther aft. In 2002, a new model, the 32+, was introduced. It had an interior with an island berth forward, a convertible settee in the saloon and a contemporary galley with an under-counter refrigerator. An integral swim platform was also added.
The finish aboard all the NT32 models is high quality, with a teak-and-holly cabin sole and teak paneling. Side windows provide light and ventilation for the saloon. The pilothouse has the helm to starboard, and a sliding door accesses the deck.
Standard power came from a 220-hp diesel, which gave the NT32 a cruising speed up to 12 knots; top speed was 15 to 16 knots, the builder says. The boat was renamed the Nordic Tug 34 in 2013.
Jerry Husted and naval architect Lynn Senour founded Nordic Tugs in 1979 with the idea of building salty, fuel-efficient cruising powerboats. The first boat, a 26, debuted at a 1980 boat show in Seattle and caused a sensation: 54 were sold before the show ended. The Nordic Tug 32 came out in 1986, helping to further establish the builder’s position in the recreational tug/trawler market. The fleet today comprises six models from 26 to 54 feet.
This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue.