A couple of things worry me as a boat guy. I worry that fewer young people are getting into boating than ever before, and I worry that the market for full-displacement boats is declining. Saving my first worry for later, let me explain the latter.
Kadey-Krogen, Nordhavn and the elite group of full-displacement boatbuilders are facing stiff competition from their own vessels in the used market, precisely because they are so well made and could continue in service for literally 100 years. Nordhavn’s answer is the recently introduced Coastal Pilot 59, the company’s first semi-displacement product since producing a CP 35 with a turn of speed at the turn of the millennium.
More than a decade ago I worked as communications director for an eccentric Florida boatbuilder (but I repeat myself) named Ken Fickett. Most of what Mirage Manufacturing was building back then was its line of Great Harbour trawlers, heavy full-displacement boats.
Many if not most boatbuilders you encounter nowadays came at the business from sales, marketing or project management. Not Fickett. He’s been sniffing styrene and sawdust for so long, it’s affected his thinking, but I mean that in a good way. Coming out the recession—which was unkind to the industry in general and his company in particular—Fickett was ready to go in a whole new direction and it involved outboard motors, trailers and running speeds that he would compare to that of a “scalded dog.”
By the time his company had entered its second phase, when he had segued from building kayaks by himself, to building racing sailboats with a small crew, Fickett had become an expert in fiberglass and core. He perfected the art of building light with a separate company that made experimental aircraft.
To the point: Mirage Manufacturing has brought to market the TT35, the initials for trailerable trawler. The idea itself is not new. The people at Ranger Tugs and Cutwater have been hugely successful with their inboard trailerables, and, as everyone knows, trailers and outboards go together like beans and rice. But Fickett, who has one best engineering minds of anyone who never spent more than 15 minutes in college, has come at the concept from a completely different direction.
The boat is amazingly light. Cored from keel to cabin top, stem to stern, the TT35 weighs just 6,000 pounds. You might think her underpowered with twin Suzuki 60s, but Fickett claims speeds in excess of 20 knots (scalded dog) with 10 people on board, though otherwise lightly loaded. These motors are spaced as far from the centerline as possible, making for superb maneuverability in close quarters. She also boasts go-anywhere 15-inch draft.
What Mirage Manufacturing has also achieved, as well as anyone, is a trailerable boat with a trawler look. The design looks like a skinny version of Fickett's N37 slow trawler. I joked with him that the look is only an asset if you think the N37 is a handsome boat, a notion some have disputed.
Quick as a wink, he replied: “That’s branding.”
I would imagine my friends at PassageMaker magazine will be taking a closer look at the TT35 in the near future, but I thought you might enjoy a quick preview from someone who has spent a little bit of time at Fickett’s factory of peculiar dreams.
Watch this sea trial of the unfinished prototype from a few months back. Note how trim she flies.