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My next boat – Tom Neale

I’ve had more than two dozen boats, and I’d still like to get another. My boats have ranged from 8 to 53 feet and have been of many types. My primary boat now is a 53-foot Gulfstar motorsailer that is one of the best I’ve ever owned or ever will own.

I’ve had more than two dozen boats, and I’d still like to get another. My boats have ranged from 8 to 53 feet and have been of many types. My primary boat now is a 53-foot Gulfstar motorsailer that is one of the best I’ve ever owned or ever will own.

So why am I thinking about another boat? It’s in our nature.



Mainship 43 Aft Cabin Trawler 

What would I want? I haven’t seen anything that fits the bill, but I can tell you some of the features it would have. Before doing that, however, I should give my bias.

Prior to getting a boat, you should know what you want to do with it. Unfortunately, many people base their choices on a dream, rather than reality. Like the retiree who’s dreamed all his life of sailing around the world and buys a boat built to do that. But he isn’t about to cross an ocean and soon wishes he’d spent his money in a different way. The boat that’s good for one person may not be good for another.

My wife, Mel, and I use Chez Nous for full-time living aboard and cruising up and down the East Coast and to the Bahamas. We like to be able to travel the Intracoastal Waterway and in bays and sounds, as well as offshore. We’re not interested in taking our boat across the Atlantic or the Pacific. We also like to be independent. We’ve spent months without going into a marina except to take on fuel. This means we need room for a lot of supplies, a good generator, large batteries, a watermaker, high-capacity inverter/chargers, and much more. It also means we need to be able to safely and easily carry and launch a large, heavy-duty tender.

Our larger boats, since the late 1960s, have been slow, with maximum cruising speeds from 4 to 8-plus knots. To us, traveling by boat is at least as enjoyable as reaching a destination, so speed hasn’t been an end-goal. But if you do long-range cruising, a slow boat can become unrealistic. Getting to that destination sooner rather than later becomes more important if it’s far away and if you have anything else in your life to do. Also, speed can contribute to safety, if it’s not gained at the expense of such issues as sound construction.

Lately, we’ve begun to feel that we could enjoy cruising more if we had the option of going a little faster. If we had a 12- to 15-knot boat, for example, we could go to Nassau from Fort Lauderdale with a two-day weather window instead of three. We’d still look for that three-day window, but as we left the coast, we’d worry less about it slamming shut on the third day, as so often happens. Also, more speed would enable us to use more inlets as we travel up and down the East Coast. Using inlets isn’t just a matter of depth. It’s a matter of getting in before darkness or getting in before the weather or swell pattern changes. For example, many times we’ve been stuck inside the long stretch of ICW between Beaufort Inlet and Masonboro Inlet at Wrightsville Beach, N.C., because there wasn’t enough daylight to make it in late fall or early spring, or we were worried about the weather changing at the end of the day.

More speed also would give us more anchoring options. There are many stretches where we have to go to a marina because we can’t make it from one good anchorage to another in the time we have. (We avoid running at night in the ICW.) And more speed would make it easier to outrun storms when, despite our best efforts, we’re caught out as one is racing toward us.

But we don’t want to give up seaworthiness or comfort for speed. When we do get caught out, we want a boat that can handle it. Having a really light boat to gain speed wouldn’t be good for our use. And forcing a heavy, large boat through the water at high speeds would burn too much fuel. That’s why 12 to 15 knots would probably fit our needs.

There have been quite a few boats billed as “fast cruisers” that accomplish that goal essentially by throwing larger hunks of metal into the engine room. They go faster, though very inefficiently as to fuel and performance. We see them pushing through the water, digging holes and throwing tsunamis. It’s been our observation that you can’t successfully take a displacement hull and turn it into a faster hull without making changes in lines, balance and other aspects of design and construction. That quickly cuts some boats from our list.

One of those “other aspects” is weight. I feel I could cruise today with less weight than in the past. For example, in earlier days I insisted on carrying large quantities of water. But I’m not as anxious about that now, because reverse osmosis watermakers are much more reliable than they used to be, much more efficient and much easier to maintain. And while I strongly prefer heavy, slow-turning, old-fashioned diesels, I know the lighter-weight diesels are becoming more efficient and reliable. I still don’t like them — having a “computer-controlled” propulsion diesel is, in my opinion, very undesirable — but I guess I’m in the minority. And the “experts” — usually the people selling them — heartily disagree with me. So I’d probably be able to rationalize, albeit begrudgingly, a more modern, lighter-weight engine. Lastly, while heavy, thick glass makes me feel good, I know that other materials can make a strong, light hull. I’d seriously consider aluminum or steel.

The issue of one or two engines wouldn’t be a determining factor. If I found a boat I otherwise liked, I would go for it regardless of the number of engines. Both configurations have their benefits and liabilities. For example, with twin engines, usually the props are hanging out unprotected, there is less room in the engine room, and there’s more to maintain, not to mention that they burn more fuel.

A single engine provides less maneuverability than twins in close quarters, but it also means a lower purchase price and extra space around the engine and other equipment. The latter is an absolute must for me. I do most of my own work, and I want to be able to fix things at sea. Bow and stern thrusters can overcome the maneuverability problems of a single screw, and, having lived for several years with a Side-Power thruster in our bow, we’re sold on this concept (as long as you know how to maneuver without them). Stern thrusters make it even better.

Some say that once a diesel starts running it’s going to keep running, thus you only need one. They must live blessed lives, most of the time ashore. Diesels break down while running just like any other mechanical device, even if the fuel supply is good. Therefore, if I had only one engine, I would want to have a come-home system from a generator. This would be done with a hydraulic PTO (preferable) or an electric motor connected to the main drive. But now let’s shift gears and get out of the engine room.

We’re tired of being prairie dogs. Cruising friends once used this term to refer to people who live on sailboats and some motorsailers. Prairie dogs live underground but pop up to look out whenever something’s going on. We’re tired of living in a tunnel, although it’s great to be down here during storms at sea, waterspouts and hurricanes. But we would like to be able to simply look out a window at the view, rather than peer out a porthole or pop out a hatch. As you’ve surmised, this is beginning to sound a lot like a trawler or similar cruising powerboat.

A trawler has other benefits over a sailboat or motorsailer. They’re more square and don’t have that egg shape to the hull that’s necessary for the typical sailboat. This means additional room for living, stores, equipment and access. Also, a trawler can pass under many bridges that now delay us, sometimes to the point of danger. Many trawlers have relatively shallow draft, which is becoming increasingly critical on the ICW.

Many trawlers roll in a sea, and we’ve often been thankful for our “big white stabilizer” as we move along, powered and steadied by sail. But mechanical stabilizers are reliable and effective (except at anchor), and while we’re spending all this money in our dreams, we might as well throw stabilizers into the mix.I haven’t actively been looking for a boat for a very simple reason: I don’t have the money. To buy another one I’d have to sell the one we live on now, and I love this one. We like our three staterooms when our two daughters and friends and dogs come to visit, so we’d want to have at least one guest stateroom and a convertible space (in the pilothouse, dinette or settee). We like her size and her brute toughness and the fact that she’s really a little ship. But we can’t help but notice specific features we like about the boats we pass on the water and see in marinas. The fact that we like one or more features on these boats doesn’t mean it’s “the boat” for us. Often the boats with features we like also have features we don’t like. This all reflects our opinions, which may or may not be relevant to you and which may or may not give an accurate description.

We like the way the new Mainship 43 Sedan Trawler moves in the water. I certainly haven’t done a tank test and don’t know about the numbers, but I do know that as she moves at her “fast” speed in settled water she doesn’t throw a huge wake, and it seems natural for her hull. We also like the way the builder handles various creature comforts. And the systems are installed with a lot of owner maintenance in mind. Mel, who has long maintained the teak trim on our boats, appreciates the lack of such on new fiberglass boats like this Mainship. We aren’t happy with its setup for carrying tenders, but not all would want a heavy tender. The older Mainship 43 aft cabin, built on the same hull, would be a more affordable option if purchased used. Or the smaller sedan model, the Mainship 40, might give enough space and comfort and also could be bought used.

We’ve also appreciated the creature comforts and maintenance features of the Camano 31, another sedan model. There seems to be a lot of attention to quality in these boats. But we’ve been aboard some on the ocean when it’s relatively rough and felt they were too small and light for our needs out there. However, Camano recently introduced a 41-footer that may be of more interest to us, except that it’s still a single stateroom model. This gives a lot of comfort space for a couple who doesn’t plan to have guests — but we do.

Further in the new boat category, we like the pilothouse design of the twin-engine Symbol 45 fast trawler. Its layout is attractive and roomy, although we’d prefer a master stateroom that isn’t placed forward. It seems to have high-quality equipment, and it goes very fast when needed. The smaller but similar pilothouse designs of the Nordic Tugs 42 and the American Tug 41, both semidisplacement boats with single engines, also are attractive. Their interiors appear to be very homey and comfortable, with guest cabin and convertible sleeping space. We’d want the flybridge versions of these and any other boat. A flybridge is very helpful when reading the water, adds another pleasure dimension, and can make it easier to see all around while maneuvering in tight quarters.

Having owned three aft cabin, center cockpit sailboats, we’ve grown accustomed to complete privacy in our stateroom. But we also like the idea of having a cockpit. There are some older semidisplacement boats that have separate sleeping accommodations aft as well as a cockpit. Among them are the Tollycraft 48 and 44 aft cabin/aft cockpit. (Tollycraft ceased production in the late 1990s.) We’ve been aboard both and, of course, prefer the larger, but the 44 is comfortable. We like the galley-down with convertible dinette on the opposite side. Many have highly customized interiors. There is no access directly to the cockpit from the aft stateroom, a minus to us.

Another design we find appealing is the Offshore 48 Yachtfish, which has an aft cabin, aft cockpit and various interior layouts. (We’ve seen several semicustom interiors advertised, some with galley-down, some with two and some with three staterooms.) We haven’t seen inside the engine spaces on these boats, but I would guess there is a tradeoff in the amount of working room around the twin engines. Engine spaces on other semidisplacement boats in this size range that we have seen have been crowded, and we simply wouldn’t buy a boat that didn’t have good access to all systems.

Some “mature” boaters dislike the many steps up and down to the different levels in pilothouse and aft cabin boats, especially with a flybridge, and prefer the sedan type design for that reason. We like the various levels. They provide more privacy and define each area and its function, and the exercise is good. Another advantage they often provide is added engine access space or living space.

Your dreams may be far different than ours, and so your ideal boat may be far different. Analyze your dreams, temper them with hard reality, then research carefully the boats that may fit. The research will be enjoyable. And so will the boat.