A tugboat with a red hull caused a sensation at the Seattle Boat Show in 1980. The 26-footer from Nordic Tugs was so popular with boaters looking for a salty, seaworthy pocket trawler that 45 orders were taken.
The recreational tug market was born. Soon, a Seattle, Washington, broker asked naval architect Jack Sarin, on nearby Bainbridge Island, to come up with a design for a similar craft. At the time, Sarin was known for his commercial tugs as well as for the Symbol and Vantare lines of yachts. Sarin’s recreational tug was a bit bigger than the Nordic Tugs 26-footer and took its look from the hardy Pacific Northwest fishing trawlers that plied waters as far north as Alaska. He called it the Sundowner 30. Two of the boats were built before the molds (and those for a 36-footer) were shipped to Taiwan for construction by Ho Hsing FRP. Co. Ltd., which had also produced the pioneering Albin 36 trawler.
The 30- and 36-foot Sundowners were laid out for long-distance cruising. Seaworthy, economical to run at trawler speeds, and sporting a nautical look, they stood in stark contrast to the sleek, sweptback, Euro-style cruisers that were popular at the time. The distinctive pilothouse (with its tumblehome and overhead camber) had, in addition to a helm station, a galley with a propane stove/oven and a dinette. There was a double berth aft with a head, and there was a V-berth forward with a tub/shower. Power came from a 150-hp Perkins Range 4 series diesel.
In 1984, the builder turned out 90 of the 30- and 36-foot boats, with brokers selling them out of Seattle and Bellevue in Washington. Then, Ho Hsing went bankrupt after delivering a few 1985 models. The molds were sold to Chauson of Taipei, Taiwan, which built the boats under the Sea Tug and Regency brands. Valor Marine, Ltd. later built some Sundowner 32s, too. The Sundowners remain popular today, supported by an owners’ group and an online forum.
This article originally appeared in the January 2020 issue.