Making a List, Checking it Twice!
By Jim Favors
It must have been a dream, maybe even a wish that I would get a trailerable trawler for Christmas! I suppose, in reality that would not have been a realistic way to go about acquiring our next dreamboat. Besides, we had not even made a “list” yet of what we wanted in our next boat let alone checking it twice.
When it comes to buying a boat, new or used, it’s important to know what you’re looking for before you get too serious. Not only is it important to know what your desires are in a boat but just as important (probably even more so) are what your significant other’s desires or needs are. For me, I need to make a list of what’s important, what’s not and what we, Lisa and I, cannot do without. So, you see making a list and checking it twice works well whether it’s during the Christmas season or looking for a boat at any other time of the year.
This Rosborough RF-246 has three power plant configurations, including a single outboard, a diesel I/O, and the twin outboards shown.
Over our lifetimes, Lisa and I have owned about 15 boats between the two of us; the list includes everything from a small sunfish sailboat, ski boats, and flybridge convertibles to the Fathom trawler we recently sold. Heck, I even built a hydroplane boat from scratch in my high school shop class during my senior year however during all this time of boat ownership it’s hard to believe we’ve never set foot on a trailerable trawler. With that in mind, it’s even more important to start putting together a wish list of specs and equipment we want on our next boat. After the list is completed, our goal would be to compare the specs on the trailerable trawlers we’ve been gathering information on. Let the fun begin!
First things first – for the guys out there – If you’re married or have a significant other in your life it’s really important that you are both involved in the decision process. I found it made my life easier if I followed this one simple rule. I learned this lesson a long time ago with a non-boating choice I made arbitrarily without Lisa’s knowledge or input. I decided to, and did, buy a new truck. When I brought the shiny truck home and presented it to her for the very first time I noticed she seemed to take a deep breath before she slowly said the following: “Nice truck, but let me see if I have this correct, just so I have a clear understanding for future reference. You went out and bought an $18,000 truck (1995) without consulting me or even informing me, so naturally it stands to reason that it would be OK with you if I went out and bought something for myself, or us, for about $18,000 without asking or informing you?” I thought about that for a moment and decided right then and there that it would be better for our long-term relationship (and our financial well being) if we both included each other in major decisions, the kind you both have to live with for a long while.
This Nordic Tug 26 photo displays the advantages of a raised pilothouse I wrote about.
There’s no such thing as the perfect boat, all one can do is try to get as close as possible. I’ve learned you may have to give up on some things to get the boat that achieves your overall objectives. In our case, we’ve narrowed our new “dreamboat” down to a trailerable trawler; we are somewhat limited (without special permits) to 8 feet 6 inches or under on the width and the length to around 29 feet or under. With the playing field starting to narrow a bit, the real work now begins.
We’d prefer a small diesel inboard with a hull that has a keel for added stability and protection for the running gear. The new diesel engines are quiet, fuel efficient and very durable. The only downside I might find in a 25-29-foot boat, with an inboard, could be the limitation of storage. If the boat’s design were such that storage is so minimal that outboards make the boat more desirable then I’d welcome powering our boat with these gas workhorses. With that said we’d have to wait this one out until we have our onboard inspections. We prefer a diesel inboard but gas outboards will certainly work for us.
One of the advantages of a trailerable trawler is more clearance ability when going under bridges. See how tight the clearance was, for our old Fathom trawler, under this bridge in Chicago.
I’m not a professional engineer by any means but based on what I’ve read it’s my understanding that the longevity and durability of fiberglass has come a long way in recent years. One of the big problems fiberglass boats can have though is the gel coat blistering on the hull on boats, which stayed in the water for long stretches of time. In older boat construction gel coat was more susceptible to becoming porous thereby allowing water and chemicals to absorb through which in turn would cause the blistering. Vinyl ester resin is used in most new hull construction today because it is more resistant to chemical and water permeation than the traditional polyester resin. In addition, the vinyl ester resin has better bonding capabilities and an overall higher strength. Because we do not plan to leave our boat in the water for long stretches of time I’m not too concerned about blistering but the added feature and benefits of vinyl ester’s bonding and strength would definitely be a plus looking forward to resale considerations.
A pilothouse with sliding doors to port and starboard would be ideal for us. The doors allow easier access to the bow for anchoring or docking, especially when solo cruising, (yes, there may be times when I will have to move this boat without Lisa’s help) along with providing great cross through ventilation. We also like raised seating for better visibility. The Rosborough has sliding doors while the Nordic Tug and North Pacific have both a raised pilothouse and sliding doors. The C-Dory and Ranger Tug do not have these features, but another feature may take precedence over this configuration, so, it’s not a deal breaker, as any final decision will depend on many other factors on our list.
It’s said that knowledge is power, especially when you get it from the pros.
The standard or optional equipment on our list would include: a bonded electric system; a windlass with helm and bow controls; microwave; stainless sink; refrigerator; bow thruster; drip-less shaft; 6.5 feet of interior head room; aluminum fuel tanks; bronze sea strainers; stove w/oven; generator; inverter/charger; house batteries; electric head w/holding tank; hot water tank; air conditioning with reverse heat; enclosed shower; non skid decks and a dual racor fuel filter system (if we end up with a diesel powered boat). This is just a partial list of desired components, as we start our research in earnest we’ll add to it. The important thing at this time is for us to start the list, have ongoing discussions and eventually come to a mutual agreement on the order of importance so when we physically start to inspect the boats we’ll have a better idea on what to expect. Then we should easily know if we should continue to consider a boat or not.
Ideally, it’s important that we have done some initial research before we actually step onto a boat. Some of the best places to gather data prior to visiting a boat show are to talk to current owners of trailerable trawlers. By doing a search on the Internet, I was able to locate several blogs of such owners. In checking the company websites of C-Dory, Rosborough, North Pacific, Ranger Tug and Nordic Tug I also found that each had, either a list of owner blogs, owner groups, or forums. For my money, I don’t think there’s a better place to glean information about a product’s quality, reliability, and customer satisfaction than with current owners. With this in mind, I’ve been reading several blogs and have made contact with a few of these owners.
The durability of a 22’ C-Dory was chronicled in River Horse, by William Least Heat-Moon about his cross-country boating adventure!
Another place to find an experienced owner is to walk the docks of marinas in your home cruising grounds or during your travels. When you’ve spotted a model you have an interest in you not only get a chance to visually inspect it but if the owners are aboard it will give you a chance to ask about their personal experiences. In addition, keep an eye open for current boat reviews in any of the leading boat magazines such as PassageMaker, MotorBoating, and Lakeland Boating. They can provide an independent technical analysis that typically covers fuel burn, handling characteristics and much more. As an example: John Wooldridge wrote “Adventure Ready,” a very informative article that covered his personal experiences while piloting a Ranger Tug 27. This article appeared in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of PassageMaker and is a good example of the kind of boat review that is helpful when looking at buying a boat. I also found that you can do a Google search by simply typing in the boat make, size and the word “review.” I was amazed at how many boat reviews showed up.
While surfing the boat builder’s websites, I discovered that each of them had an extensive list of their respective boat’s standard and optional equipment. When comparing boats, it’s important to compare apples to apples in order to obtain a fair financial comparison and that’s really the ancillary benefit of the “list.” By taking the time to gather this information we’ll develop the knowledge needed to make a more informed boat buying decision once we actually step onto the boats. We’ve made our list, we’re checking it twice so, let’s get on to the boat show!