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Choosing wisely

The course from a cutter to a Grand Banks 32 was carefully plotted

Selling Mallard was a difficult decision. I had built the 26-foot wood-and-epoxy gaff cutter in my spare time over a five-year period, but after 10 years of use it was time to let her go.

The cockpit was a real selling point for these sailors switching to power.

We enjoyed sailing her very much out of our homeport of Freeport, Maine, but we needed something with more room. Mallard’s low coach roof looks great, but the limited headroom means you can not stand up straight in the cabin, and for an extended period on board there was insufficient room for all of the necessary stuff.

My wife, Rita, and I are self-employed, and we needed a vessel that would allow us to enjoy life aboard yet still have space to set up a laptop, something that was lacking on our beloved Mallard.

As a marine journalist and surveyor, I had a jumpstart on searching for a new boat. I get on board a lot of boats during the course of a year, and this allows me to see the good and bad, but most of all get a feel for what we might want in our next boat.

Rita and I visited boat shows and took tours of many boats. We seriously considered a large catamaran, but although we loved the boat, it was beyond our price bracket. Other boats we liked the look of included a motorsailer and even one of Sam Devlin’s stitch-and-glue boats. I could build that myself, but I knew what a major undertaking this would be in terms of time.

Little by little, we came to realize that perhaps we should consider a used trawler. This type of boat has all of the living space we wanted, would be economical to operate, and best of all we would have space to invite friends and family aboard. We liked the look of the 42-foot American Tug. It has a proper pilothouse, a separate engine room, a sleeping cabin and saloon, and seemed to fit all of our needs perfectly. But our budget would be stretched to the breaking point.

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About this time, I had the opportunity to deliver a Selene 53 up the East Coast to the Newport boat show in Rhode Island. The boat was no racehorse, but adverse wind and current made nary a dent in our progress toward our destination. We had a fantastic trip, and it confirmed our desire that a trawler, albeit a slightly more modest one than the Selene, was the ideal boat for us.

We had certain criteria on our wish list: a single engine for ease of maintenance, quality construction, moderate to heavy displacement, economical operational costs and a solid reputation. Little by little, we used this list to whittle down our choices to an older Grand Banks, and we looked at 36s and 42s from the 1980s.

We were impressed by the build quality. The abundant teak would give us something to take care of in the winter months, engine room access was good, and both models had all of the living space we would need. The one thing they did not have, however, was any sort of cockpit.

Initially we had discounted the GB32 as being too small, and although this boat doesn’t have a separate aft cabin, it does have a huge V-berth forward that can be made even larger with an infill. With only one head there is less to go wrong, and best of all it has a sensibly sized cockpit. Finally, here was the boat that we wanted. We looked at a bunch of them and must have inspected most of the boats on the East Coast. Some were well used and needed extensive work to bring them back to tip-top condition; others had issues with the teak decking or fuel tanks, both time-consuming and expensive fixes.

Eventually we put in an offer on a boat in Boston. An initial inspection during the frozen months of this past winter showed that the boat had been well cared for, but she didn’t have a generator or air conditioning — things we would likely have to add if we were to take the boat south at some point in the future.

Mallard was pretty, but the owners needed more space in order to work aboard.

A scan of revealed two boats on the Chesapeake that were worth looking into, so through our broker, we arranged to see the boats during a long weekend. They were from the late 1980s, and both were listed at just over $100,000. We liked them, but one was stunning. It had been kept in a covered slip, so the varnish and teak decks hadn’t suffered from the weather. It had all that we could have hoped for: a generator with only 150 hours on it, a new air conditioner, and a clean and tidy engine room. We flew home knowing that we had found our boat.

We withdrew the offer on the Boston boat and placed an offer on Water Music. Our offer was accepted, and I flew down several weeks later for the survey and sea trial. There were a few minor issues to deal with, but these were sorted out during the next couple of weeks. Water Music, now renamed Seaglass, was ours.

Many powerboaters like having two engines, but coming from a sailboat with a single for the past 20 years, I find one engine not to be an issue. A short burst of throttle will kick the stern around, and the long keel keeps the boat from slipping sideways in a crosswind. Seaglass has a hydraulic stern thruster but no bow thruster, and this helps to push the stern around to make close-quarters maneuvering easier.

We generally cruise at about 1,800 revs [rpm ?], which is approximately 80 percent of maximum for the 135 Lehman and equates to 7.5 to 8 knots. This seems to be the sweet spot for this boat, and other owners also seem to run their boats around this mark — pedestrian by some standards, but almost twice as fast as Mallard under power. With a full load of diesel (250 gallons), we have a cruising range of more than 1,500 miles, so fill-ups will be a once-a-year event for us, rather than a monthly chore. And although the boat is in great condition, the electronics are out of date. There are one or two other jobs that we need to do, but these can wait until time and finances allow.

Mark and Rita appear to have happily made the transition to power.

I’m a lifelong sailor who has owned some sort of sailboat for over 40 years, so transitioning to a powerboat has been something of a culture shock. I like that I can get to a destination with greater expectation of making it by a certain time, but I do miss the chuckle of the water under the bow as the boat slips along on a broad reach. Having said that, I think trawlers have a certain appeal to boaters who are swapping from sail to power. I’m not sure why that is, but ours suits us very well.

See related article:

- On board the GB32

August 2014 issue