Several years ago Peter Jenkin and Nancy Miller, who are married lifelong sailors, starting thinking about a powerboat. “Our bodies were telling us that it was time to go to the dark side,” says Jenkin, a retired certified management accountant from North Haven, Connecticut.
They looked at motorsailers but in the end decided to put more into their gaff-rigged cutter, Ladybug, a Mystic 10-3. “We sailed her for another five years,” Jenkin says.
Last year, the search for a comfortable cruising powerboat became more serious. “My criteria were a sound engine, all working equipment and a solid hull,” Jenkin says. “Cosmetics were something I would not mind working on, but I did not want to purchase a boat that needed expensive mechanical work.”
With the help of Ben Wilde at Wilde Yacht Sales in Essex, Connecticut, they found a 1987 Nordic Tug 26 in Maine. They were familiar with the Nordic Tugs brand, so they made the trek Down East to have a look. The couple were pleasantly surprised: The boat was in great shape, with low hours on the diesel and many upgrades, including a Wallas diesel stove that doubles as a heater, a bow thruster, an Evolution drive system, special motor mounts and a custom trailer. They bought the boat in February 2015 for just under $100,000 and named her Badger.
The boat’s condition was a convincing factor in the decision. Jenkin had put a lot of work into his sailboat. “At my age, I didn’t want to get into another one of those rebuilding projects,” the 73-year-old says. “We may put her in the water next season if she doesn’t sell, just to have the option of sailing now and then. She’s still a beautiful classic yacht, but we’ve gone from a beautiful sailing boat to a cute tugboat.”
There were just a few things to take care of. Jenkin and Miller installed new day and night shades in the main saloon, replaced the macerator in the head and scrapped the old, ill-fitted anchor windlass. They also solved a problem with the refrigerator, which would cut out after a few hours of use. “We installed two 160-watt solar panels, the biggest that would fit on the pilothouse roof,” Jenkin says. “Problem solved. We now have ice cubes for happy hour every day.”
The 26-foot, 4-inch 7,500-pound boat is powered by a 77-hp, 4-cylinder turbocharged Yanmar diesel, which delivers a 6½- to 7-knot cruising speed at 2,600 rpm. “That’s where the boat feels comfortable,” Jenkin says. “At the end of this season I calculated that we burned an average of 1.25 gallons per hour. Top speed seems to be about 9 knots.”
LOA: 26 feet, 4 inches BEAM: 9 feet, 6 inches DRAFT: 2 feet, 9 inches WEIGHT: 7,500 pounds HULL TYPE: semidisplacement PROPULSION: single diesel TANKAGE: 100 gallons fuel, 50 gallons water, 20 gallons waste BUILDER: Nordic Tugs, Burlington, Washington, (360) 757-8847. nordictugs.com
Badger is built “like a tank,” Jenkin says, and has already proved her worth as a sea boat. “We have only had her out in rough water once, and she handles well,” he says. “Pounding into 3- to 4-foot waves can put green water right over the cabin, but she will obviously take rougher conditions than you would want to endure. I have a lot of confidence in her, should we be caught out in a sudden squall.”
Jenkin’s electronics include a Raymarine C120 with a chart plotter, GPS, radar, depth sounder and autopilot. “The radar can be overlaid on the chart plotter, which is a big help in learning how to interpret what I see onscreen,” Jenkin says. “I also input all my old GPS waypoints from my sailboat on this system, which worked out just fine.”
He’s still a firm believer in paper charts as a backup; one day the electronics went out. “By turning off everything in the boat and turning it back on again, we got it up and running,” he says.
Jenkin and Miller keep Badger on a mooring at North Cove in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, close to Long Island Sound at the mouth of the Connecticut River. “We envisioned using the Nordic Tug much as we used our sailboats, for coastal cruising,” Jenkin says. Plans include a trip to Chesapeake Bay and a Hudson River cruise.
The couple’s first two seasons as powerboaters have been good, with the Nordic Tug having one obvious advantage over the sailboat. “It’s a lot easier getting underway, and the same when arriving at an anchorage,” Jenkin says. “No sail covers to mess with, no gaff to haul up or get down, no running backstays or roller furler to deal with. We’re also dry and warm on cold, nasty days and cool in the pilothouse while underway on hot, sunny days with the doors open.
“So far,” Jenkin adds, “she has been all that we expected.”
The PowerBoat Guide calls the Nordic Tug 26 an “iconic pocket cruiser with a salty tugboat profile … super-economical … secure in the water and built to last.” Power comes from a single 77-hp diesel, delivering 6- to 7-knot cruising speeds. (An optional 100-hp diesel was offered.) The topside layout includes walkaround decks with rails, a prominent pilothouse and a cockpit aft.
The layout below is well-suited to a couple for cruising. A standard V-berth is forward, with a hanging locker and shelf space. The enclosed head compartment is amidships, to starboard, with a marine head and a sink with pressure water.
It’s a step up to the pilothouse. The helm is to starboard, behind a three-panel windshield. There’s a sliding door for deck access. The saloon aft is laid out for dining and relaxing. The galley is to port, with a stovetop, refrigerator and sink. Across the way is an L-shaped lounge. The cabin sole is teak.
Few boat models are brought back into production after they’ve been discontinued, but the Nordic Tug 26 is a notable exception. Designed by Lynn Senour, the single-diesel cruiser debuted in 1980 and helped popularize the trawler niche. It was the first model offered by the fledgling builder. (It was also offered in a workboat version.) In 1995 the boat was upgraded (dubbed the 2-26) with wider decks, a raked stack and other minor modifications. The model was discontinued in 1997, but popular demand brought it back in 2009. Today it remains part of the Nordic Tugs fleet, which ranges from 26 to 54 feet.
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue.