The Northern Marine shipyard is at the end of a gravel road on Fidalgo Island, which is home to the city of Anacortes, Wash. It’s about halfway between Seattle and Vancouver, and a favorite departure point for boaters headed to the nature-rich San Juan Islands.
This is where the newest Northern Marine 57 (Hull No. 6 of the model) recently launched, with the builder calling it the best-equipped 57 with the most lavish interior to date. It’s also Northern Marine’s first build since reopening after the pandemic, under new ownership with Seattle Yachts.
All this context swirled in my mind as Stuart Archer, general manager of Northern Marine and a naval architect, met me outside on crutches with a banged-up knee.
The factory buzzed with workers as Archer walked me in, pointed out a Northern Marine undergoing a refit, a vessel that was formerly owned by one of only 24 astronauts who traveled from the Earth to the moon.
“We sort of refired up Northern Marine,” Archer told me.
About four years ago, an owner of a 57 bought the company. He then died, and the company was in a holding pattern until Seattle Yachts came along in 2019. Now, Northern Marine provides new builds and refit services.
“We have a mold for the Northern Marine 64s and Northern Marine 57s,” Archer says. “Other than that, everything we do is all-custom builds.”
Most builds take about two years, he says. Northern Marine uses infused resin and vacuum-bagging for construction (the hull, superstructure, flybridge, boat deck, mast, hardtop and hatches are all resin-infused) with Kevlar in the bows. “We build the hulls to withstand hitting a submerged container from a ship when out in the ocean,” Archer says. “That’s what everyone fears the most.”
The company has been able to bring back lead craftsmen from the late 1990s and early 2000s who built most of the Northern Marine 80s and 50s. The new 57 once again showcases their talents within the Northern Marine brand.
“We rarely have a boat that can [exhibit] at a boat show,” Archer says. “Normally, we launch the boats, and they go up to Alaska or Cape Cod, and they’re gone. So, having this 57 is a great opportunity to show what Northern Marine is.” (The 57 was slated to appear at the Boats Afloat Show in Seattle in late April and Trawlerfest at the Anacortes Boat and Yacht Show on May 17-21.)
The 57’s wheelhouse has reverse-raked windows inspired by commercial fishing boats, in a nod to the working roots of bluewater trawlers.
“These types of boats were fishboats, especially up in Alaska where they couldn’t have a breakdown,” Archer says. “We used the mentality of that ... and those systems, and built a first-class interior around it.”
Evolutionary tweaks include rounding out the sharp chines and adding a bulbous bow. The deck layout is asymmetrical, with a starboard side deck that runs the length of the vessel. The cockpit, protected by the flybridge overhang and high bulwarks, has numerous custom options (previous builds have foldable tables), with access to the swim platform via a set of stairs to starboard.
The foredeck has an integrated bench with space for a few couples to sip cocktails at anchor. The flybridge access to port has high handrails, and the covered helm has an unobstructed after end for tender stowage. Also up top are a fridge and guest seating.
Inside, the salon is nearly full-beam in its wide-body guise. There are two staterooms, with the master near the engine room for owner-operator access through a watertight door. Walnut trim is throughout the salon and galley, leading up toward the wheelhouse.
A hatch in the lazarette also accesses the engine room, where the single, continuous-rated, 325-hp John Deere 6090 diesel is easily accessed for repairs and daily checks.
“You have no idea how many people have walked into one of these engine rooms and they go, ‘Oh, wow! I wish my boat had this,’” says Dan Thompson, who runs Northern Marine’s interior design and carpentry department.
The rest of the space was just as user-friendly, with logical orientations and generous labeling. A hatch leads into the belly of the aft lazarette that also accesses the cockpit deck above.
Redundancy and erring toward overbuilding—qualities serious passagemakers often hold in high esteem—abound on the 57. Critical systems such as water pumps are redundant, and both AC- and DC-powered. Other systems tend to be oversized; for example, the black and gray water pumps are the same ones Northern Marine uses on its 150-foot builds.
“We try to accommodate those systems that someone might have a problem with when you’re 1,000 miles out, because there’s no marina out there,” Archer says. “You’ve got to be able to take care of yourself. That’s why the access to everything is wide open, and we use very robust systems.”
I really liked the push-button Get Home Drive feature, which is essentially a mini-engine attached to the prop shaft. It can run off the generator in a pinch and move the boat at 4.5 to 6 knots, Archer says.
“It’s an idea we’ve built over the years. It’s evolved into this nice button control from the pilothouse,” he adds.
More common in the motoryacht world are separate wing engines. Archer offered a few critiques of these wing backup systems, including the complexity and potential unreliability of a whole separate engine to start in a crisis, the vulnerability of an exposed smaller shaft and prop, a tendency for wing engines to crab, and a typical 2- or 2.5-knot performance that may not be adequate to the challenge of the day.
“The way we have it, we use the existing shaft. You get the keel to protect everything, and a 1½-inch cutter on a 42-inch prop. It’s probably not going to get damaged, in our thinking.”
The master stateroom differs from those aboard previous Northern Marine 57s. It is raised a few feet higher and has larger portlights, built with two layers of nearly half-inch glass, with polycarbonate between the glass layers. Western maple trim and maple burl countertops lighten the space. An en suite head with walk-in shower complete the space.
“This is the first 57 to have this,” Thompson says. “We wanted to make this room as big-feeling as we could.”
Conditions off Cap Sante Park were mild the day I got aboard, with less than 10 knots of wind, a 1-foot chop and a 1-knot current. The 130,000-pound boat has surprising maneuverability, with bow and stern thrusters that are handy in a busy marina. Even the turn radius underway felt nimble. Archer’s explanation? The articulated rudder.
“Normally, trawlers—especially full keel—they want to track,” Archer says. “They want to go as straight as they can forever. To counterbalance that, we’ve played around with rudders over the years. [We] tried twin rudders and [saw] some pretty good efficiencies and turns out of that, but then we used the articulating rudder. It kind of fools the rudder into thinking it’s a much bigger size that it is. … Now, [the yacht] can turn in about a boat length, so it is nimble.”
We did a few donuts at cruising speed (8.5 to 9.5 knots), and the limiting factor was the comfortable degree of heel. To me, it felt as if the 57 handled like a smaller motoryacht.
And, the bulbous bow helped to dampen the wave moment. Northern Marine’s bow bulbs are heart-shaped, with a fine entry on the bottom and flat on the top. They are also angled up slightly, so the boat doesn’t nose down as much. Although the day was too calm to say we really put the bow bulb to the test, the ride was smooth.
What also struck me was the quiet ride. The engine noise was barely a hum as we cruised at 9 knots. Even when we hit 11 knots, conversations were uninterrupted. It was similarly quiet underway in the master stateroom.
Northern Marine says range is 5,000 miles at 9 knots. Archer says dependability is another feature of the power plant. “A pleasure engine might have a life of 6,000 to 8,000 hours, but these continuous-rated engines will get to 20,000 hours,” he says. “And you can run them wide-open-throttle more.”
The Northern Marine 57 is an upscale trawler that can cross oceans in comfort and safety. Its passagemaking-concious design and build quality are a cut above. If Hull No. 6 of the 57 is any indication of what Northern Marine has planned next, then the yard’s comeback deserves some hype.