In the 1990s picking a passagemaking vessel was a relatively easy undertaking. Buyers had the same two choices they have today: sail or power. But if you wanted a powerboat—and blowing the entire cruising kitty on fuel in the first 500 nautical miles was a concern—you’d quickly find yourself looking for a trawler. With their fuel-sipping engines, these boats developed a loyal following among serious cruisers. There was a compromise, though: Most trawlers couldn’t top 10 knots, and the majority were happiest running in the 6- to 8-knot range. At least you didn’t have to raise sails.
Today, those in search of a powerboat for long-distance
cruising have more choices than ever. Full-displacement trawlers are still a smart choice for many, but a new breed of trawler yachts—so-called “fast” trawlers—offers an alternative to putting along at 7 knots. The majority of these nimble craft have the salty looks and accommodations trawler fans demand, but they gallop in the 13- to 20-knot range, often with reasonable fuel efficiency. The question for buyers then becomes, ‘Should we go fast or slow?’ To find the answer, we talked with builders and owners of these passagemaking dreamboats.
SUMMIT MOTORYACHTS 54
Larry Polster knows a thing or two about trawlers, having left his consulting job of 17 years in 2002 to work for trawler builder Kadey-Krogen. Today he is a partner in the company and serves as vice president.
The company turned a new page recently by launching a new brand, Summit Motoryachts, and splashing Hull No. 1 of its first fast trawler model, the Summit Motoryachts 54. Designed by naval architect Michael Peters, the boat is a departure from the full-displacement trawlers Kadey-Krogen has been building for decades.
“We wanted to create this boat so that our existing Kadey-Krogen owners could have a fast-trawler choice,” Polster says. “We had a lot of customers at boat shows who loved the offerings from Kadey-Krogen but did not have the time to go 8 knots. These are folks who work a lot, have limited weekend time and need the ability to put some distance under the keel more quickly. We didn’t want to lose those customers, so the Summit 54 was born.”
The modern but rugged-looking boat has a modified-V planing hull driven by a pair of 542-hp Cummins diesels. This setup provides a 25-knot top end and allows the boat to cruise swiftly at 15 to 19 knots or slow cruise at around 9 knots for best fuel efficiency.
The interior has three staterooms and two heads, each with an enclosed shower. The main salon is situated on two levels. The upper level has the lower helm station to starboard with a U-shaped lounge and table across from it. Two steps down is a full galley, which includes a breakfast bar and stools; it’s open to the cockpit.
Abovedeck, the Summit has plenty of teak decking; it’s on the swim platform, in the cockpit and at the forward cabintop. Above it all is the flybridge with lounge, sunpad and centerline helm.
Beneteau Swift Trawler 41
Rick Brown and his wife, Brenda, have been boaters for a long time, having owned pontoon and other lake- and river-style boats in Indiana for years before moving to Punta Gorda, Florida, in 2009. About four years ago, the couple started thinking about finding what Rick calls “Our first big-boy boat.”
They’d been looking at express-style cruisers from Sea Ray, Galeon and other builders, but it wasn’t until they saw a Beneteau Swift Trawler 44 Flybridge on the docks outside a restaurant that they focused their energy on this style of boat.
“We discovered that we didn’t have to go 8 knots to enjoy this style of boat, and since we didn’t need to go 30 or 40 knots, the Swift Trawler hit a sweet spot for us.”
That Swift Trawler 44 sported a pair of 300-hp diesels and topped out at 24 knots. It cruised in the mid- to high-teens on a modified-V hull.
After three years of exploring the Florida coastline and the Bahamas, a new boat grabbed the Browns’ attention. “The 44 was a great boat for us, but we decided to trade it in for a Swift Trawler 41 Flybridge,” Rick says. “It’s a better size for us and we’ve learned that we really like the utility of this style of boat. If it’s too hot, we can run it from the main salon in the air conditioning. If it’s nice, we can open everything up and run from the bridge.”
The 41 Flybridge has a three-stateroom layout with two private heads. On the main level, the salon is wrapped in glass and has a light and airy vibe. There’s a lower helm and a galley aft. One feature Rick loves is the sliding side-deck access door by the helm, which he says gives him an excellent view of the entire starboard side of the boat and aids in docking maneuvers.
The Browns’ 41 Flybridge has a pair of 300-hp Volvo Penta diesels riding inside a modified-V, semi-planing hull. Top end is around 24 knots, and the boat cruises between 13 and 18 knots.
With three years of experience under two keels, Rick says that they tend to cruise at around 15 to 17 knots, but he also adds that it’s nice having the extra bit of speed at times. “We don’t rush around a lot, but if there’s weather coming, or we have to get back to the dock at a certain time, it’s nice to know we’ve got some speed in reserve. It’s just the right boat for us.”
A recent and unique entry into the fast trawler segment is the Outback 50, which was designed in a collaboration between Andrew Cilla of Luke Brown Yachts, John Olson of Newport Beach, California-based Offshore Yachts and naval architect Michael Peters. “It’s a boat I’ve wanted to build for about 10 years,” says Cilla. The development of the Outback 50 provides a window into how a fast trawler hull is born. Cilla says his first discussions with Peters revolved heavily around the question, ‘At what speed do you want this hull to perform its best?’
“The answer to that question—speeds between 18 and 20 knots—is what the whole boat is built around,” says Cilla. “What the rest of the boat would become was somewhat secondary to the hull.”
Peters came up with a boat that has 45 feet of interior in a 56-foot hull with 52 feet of waterline length. With optional twin 425-hp Cummins diesels, the slippery Outback hull tops out at 24 knots and cruises between 18 and 20 knots comfortably. “The hull needs only 500 hp to hit 20 knots,” Cilla says. Alternatively, the boat can be throttled back to around 8 knots, which provides a 1,000-nautical-mile range—enough to travel from Norfolk, Virginia, to Miami, Florida.
“We designed this boat to perform like pilot boats, which must quickly and safely transit pilots to waiting ships in any conditions,” Cilla says. “It’s not only an efficient and quiet hull, but also a very seaworthy one. It’s so nimble and stable that I often say it’s like driving a big center console boat.”
The Outback 50 is built at Kha Shing Enterprises in Taiwan. Cilla built Hull No. 1 for himself around a three-stateroom, two-head layout (a two-stateroom layout with single head also is available) and currently lives aboard her in Newport, Rhode Island. Hull No. 2 has been delivered, and the third Outback 50 hull is underway.
AMERICAN TUG 395
Bruce and Dorsey Beard cruise their American Tug 395, Esmeralde, out of Jamestown, Rhode Island, with their Scottish terriers, Pepper and Mattie. They each grew up in sailing families.
“I was a sailor before I was even born,” says Dorsey, 60, who grew up on Narragansett Bay and has completed trans-Atlantic passages as well as a trans-Pacific voyage. She and her family owned numerous sailboats through the years, including an Ensign, a Rhodes 27, a 42-foot Tom Colvin junk-rigged schooner and a 1968 Bianca 27.
Bruce’s first boat was a Sunfish. Other boats he’s owned include an 18-foot Sovereign, a Cheoy Lee 30 and an Able Whistler 32. He’s a tinkerer who loves working on and maintaining boats.
Bruce, 58, who is retired, says the couple’s transition to speed came when they realized they were motoring their sailboats more than they sailed them. So the couple amped up their sailing speed with the purchase of a Sabre 386, which had a carbon rig and a Saildrive. “It was a significantly faster boat than the Whistler and could actually go to windward,” Bruce jokes. But the couple found themselves continuing to use the engine, and it was, as Dorsey says, “Making Bruce cranky.”
“It was a lovely boat, but it ultimately didn’t make sense for what we wanted to do,” Bruce says, “I approached the powerboat idea with Dorsey. She couldn’t even fathom the thought. She cried. I’m serious.” He continued to press his case, even after Dorsey was laid up following shoulder surgery. “That’s when we began thinking about a powerboat.”
They focused on a Sabre 42 at first because they liked the brand, but realized a tug-style trawler was what they really wanted. “We knew we didn’t need a displacement trawler because we’d just be motoring along at 6 knots again,” Bruce says. “We eventually fell for the American Tug 395 with a single 480-hp Cummins diesel, which allows us to cruise around 15 to 16 knots very easily and top out at about 19 knots. The sweet spot is 13 knots.”
For accommodations, the boat has two staterooms and a single head, with the master forward. A few steps up from that level is the wheelhouse with a starboard helm station and two bench-style lounges. Abaft the wheelhouse and down one level is the salon with starboard galley opposite a lounge with dining table.
A heavy-duty door opens onto the cockpit.
The Beards took delivery of the boat in April 2017 and spent a few weeks exploring the Pacific Northwest as a shakedown cruise. One evening, things did not go as planned.
“We tied up at a rundown marina and realized we had to get out of there,” Dorsey says. “There was a storm coming and we needed to make about 20 miles to get to a safe marina. We put the throttle down, tied up just as the weather deteriorated, and were safe and sound for the storm. We couldn’t have done that in a 7- to 8-knot boat. That’s when we realized that speed is not just a luxury thing—sometimes it’s a safety feature.”
Esmeralde was trucked back to the East Coast. The couple began exploring New England up to Maine, spending almost 6 months on the boat in 2017. After another summer cruise around New England in the summer of 2018, they ran the boat down the Intracoastal Waterway to Key West, Florida, where they wintered in 2019. The repeat trip to Florida the following year got interesting very quickly.
“We were in Key West and watching things with Covid-19 falling apart fast,” Dorsey remembers. “States started closing down, and we realized we needed a plan. While we can make offshore hops, we have to factor in dog pit stops. With the pandemic, we worried we’d get turned away from fuel docks and marinas. It was pretty scary.”
Thanks to the speed and range of the American Tug 395, the couple made it to Charleston, South Carolina, and then to Norfolk, Virginia, before hopping to Cape May, New Jersey, and then home. The ability to throttle down was a distinct cruising advantage for this couple once again.
Bruce and Dorsey have big plans for the future once the Covid-19 hurdle is cleared. “We hope to get to Georgian Bay and the North Channel, some of the northern canal systems and Lake Champlain,” Dorsey says. “Eventually we plan to truck the boat out to the Pacific Northwest so we can explore that area more. It’s such a gorgeous place, and our boat is perfect for it.”
KROGEN EXPRESS 52
Brad Hurlburdt grew up in Burlington, Vermont, on the shores of Lake Champlain, and quickly fell in love with being on and around the water. Among his memories are building a mahogany-framed, canvas and fiberglass canoe with his Boy Scout troop at age 14. “We were always playing around the lake, but building that canoe gave me an appreciation for the pleasing lines of a nicely designed
watercraft,” he recalls. “My first real boat wouldn’t come until much later.”
Brad took the keys to an 18-foot bowrider when he was about 30.
“We enjoyed using the boat on Champlain for a couple of years. Eventually, we upgraded to a 23-foot Sea Ray with a full enclosure, which was great for boating on the lake, he says.
In 1986, Brad moved from Burlington with his wife, Karen, son, Keenan, and daughter, Casey, to South Florida, attracted by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. “We took the Sea Ray, but later replaced it with a center console,” he says.
In 2007, the couple bought a Monk 36 trawler, which they used around Florida and eventually ran north to Lake Champlain and back. “That was our first big trip,” Brad recalls. “It took us 21 days at 8 knots to get there. It was a good boat for a lot of reasons, but we felt we were outgrowing it.”
The couple began looking around at boats again. “We were wandering around the West Palm Beach Boat Show in 2015 and came across a Krogen Express 52,” Brad remembers. “The boat was gorgeous; we both loved how it looked. We learned a hull would be arriving soon, and we sort of just said to ourselves, let’s do it.”
Since the purchase, the family has made trips to the Bahamas and back, as well as to locales around South Florida. They’re happy with the performance. “It’s nice to have that extra speed when you need it,” Brad says. “In the right weather, we can go from West End in the Bahamas to North Palm Beach in four hours. Plus, the stabilizers give us a nice, flat ride.”
The semi-displacement hull is propelled by a pair of 480-hp Yanmar diesels that are capable of pushing the Hurlburdt’s boat to a top end of around 21 knots. The boat cruises efficiently between 15 and 18 knots.
Brad says the extra speed of the Krogen Express would have come in handy during past journeys. “I recall being stuck in Cape May, New Jersey, one time aboard the Monk because of weather,” he says. “It’s likely a problem we could have avoided with an offshore hop, but that wasn’t something we felt comfortable doing in that boat.” Additionally, Brad’s tall frame fits nicely inside the Krogen Express.
Accommodations include two staterooms, with the master in the bow. Abaft and to starboard of that stateroom is an office-style cabin with convertible berths. The raised wheelhouse, above the accommodations level and salon, has a centerline helm, bench-style lounge with table and port and starboard doors for sidedeck access. The salon features an L-shaped galley.
The couple is now planning a long-range trip to Lake Champlain and back in the 52. Their plan is to to spend six to seven weeks steaming north, stopping for a couple of weeks to explore Chesapeake Bay and its many tributaries along the way.
“We’re hoping to have kids and family come for a week at a time to visit and enjoy the cruise,” Brad says. “We’re really excited about what lies ahead with this boat. It’s given us a lot of confidence to do more on the water.”
This article was originally published in the November 2020 issue.