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TrawlerFest: Woodstock For Cruising High-Achievers (VIDEO)

Get a taste of the TrawlerFest event series with contributors Peter Swanson and Dennis Caprio as they look back at the most recent stop in Riviera Beach, Florida.


Ask anyone cruising under power today to trace the origins of their boat-centric lifestyle, and you are likely to be told that their moment of clarity happened during a TrawlerFest somewhere. They may have come for the seminars, or to go aboard the boats, but after they arrived, something else happened. They met each other. Cruisers are some of the nicest and most interesting people. The thought of living in each other’s company as they navigated our waterways and crossed chunks of ocean proved irresistible. Today, experienced cruisers continue to attend TrawlerFest not only to refresh their skills, but because it gives them a chance to mix with like-minded people.

Read on to find a sampling of the seminars, people, places and boats that make TrawlerFest the ultimate cruising event.


Some of the favorite vessels that graced our Riviera Beach docks.

VRIPACK 54,Lady Galathea

Lady Galathea starboard profile

Steel is real, and few people do it better than the Dutch. Lady Galathea, built by Vripack in 1993 and extensively refit in 2013, is quintessentially Dutch. Her proud bow reminds us of the commercial North Sea trawlers and hints at her go-anywhere performance. Her displacement hull has a full keel, skegs to protect the propellers and bilge keels to damp roll.

The hull and deck are steel; the superstructure, aluminum, which reduces weight aloft and enhances lateral stability. The decks are paved with teak, nature’s best anti-slip surface. She’d also be a good choice for cruising the Great Loop, Lake Champlain and Canadian canals or many of the rivers and canals in Europe, because her light mast folds to give an air draft of 18 feet. With the arch hinged down, it is less than 16 feet.

Lady Galathea sleeps six in three cabins with en-suite heads. The interior joinerwork is beautifully crafted teak finished with a satin varnish. Cabin soles are varnished teak and holly throughout, countertops are Corian and the heads have marble-tile soles.

Her Portugese bridge provides protection and storage and adds to her seagoing character. The chain locker is accessed from a watertight Freeman hatch on the foredeck. Visit www.outerreefyachts.comfor more.

WETSIG 40, Ernest Hemingway


Ernest Hemingway, one of the favorites among the visitors to TrawlerFest-Rivieria Beach, is a Class C Tug built by the owner, Paul Wetsig of Wetsig Yachts. Commissioned December 1, 2011, she has the honest shippy look that makes folks want to go to sea. To back up her looks, she rides on a USCG/USN ice-rated Arctic Survey Boat (ASB) hull. Her construction meets U.S. Navy Mil-Specs and exceeds ABYC standards. The latest digital-stabilization system improves the ride and comfort to the extent that she feels twice her size in a seaway and that in a stiff following sea she could save your life. Her hydraulically activated watertight stern hatch provides access to a drive-in tender garage, which is unusual for a vessel of this size.

The pilothouse gives you a fine 360-degree view from 18 feet above the water, a wonderful vantage point for negotiating shallow waters. A head and daybed keep the helmsman and watch-mate confortable on long passages.

All of the major components, engine among them, can be removed from the boat without cutting a single hole. Woodwork was fashioned from a single 65-foot plank of old-growth mahogany—very rare, indeed. Visit

WILLARD 30,Abenaki

Stuart Boat Show -1

Abenaki may be the purest manifestation of character afloat. Who could resist the businesslike superstructure, paravane stabilizers and canoe stern? Purchased from Willard Boat Company in the middle 1980s, and later modified with extra layers of fiberglass in the bilge area, this 30-foot displacement cruising vessel spent the first several years of her life in Sausalito, California. Her second owner cruised her on the West Coast for two winters and then shipped her to Rockport, Maine.

The wheelhouse features a centerline helm with instruments either side. High settees aft, one each side, provide good sightlines, footrests and stowage lockers beneath. A companionway on center between the settees leads belowdecks to accommodations for two to three. An enclosed head with shower is to port, followed by the galley with a two-burner propane stove, sink and a Norcold electric refrigerator/freezer. A dinette along the starboard side seats two, and the table may be lowered to form a single berth.

Spacious aft quarter-berths on each side are a good place for standby watch-mates to catch a few winks. The interior is finished in off-white paint with varnished mahogany trim. Large opening bronze ports and cowl ventilators with Dorade boxes bring fresh air to the interior. A Wabasto diesel furnace heats the interior and the domestic hot water. Visit


After TrawlerFest-Riviera Beach in Florida, Peter Swanson had conversations with some of the attendees.


PassageMaker:You two seem to be pretty motivated. Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but didn’t I see you at one or two earlier TrawlerFests, none of which were anywhere near Michigan?


Kirsten Guenther:Have you been to Michigan in January? It’s a little challenging to shop for boats when our lakes are frozen and covered in two feet of snow, so it didn’t take much to get us to come to Florida! Riviera Beach was actually our second TrawlerFest adventure.

John Knoedler:As a complete newbie (she’s the boater), I was pretty excited to have the opportunity to see all these trawlers in one place. The revised engine class was also a huge draw for our first TrawlerFest in Baltimore. Once we saw the other seminars offered, we knew we had to come.

PassageMaker:Was there any one seminar (or two) that you found particularly useful?

Guenther:Since our focus is on boat buying right now, we chose seminars that would help us in that mission. Honestly, it’s hard to pick just one or two, but I’d have to say Nigel Calder and Steve Zimmerman’s Diesel Engine course and Steve’s “Ten Things Every Boat Owner Or Buyer Should Know About How Boats Are Built.” I grew up on boats and understand cruising culture, John has a background in open-wheeled racing and knows a lot about engines, but neither one of us knows much about boatbuilding. In Steve’s seminar, he walked us through the boatbuilding process from the ground up, highlighting the pros and cons of each choice a builder makes, helping us come to a more educated decision about what the best boat for us would be.

Knoedler:The engine seminar was fantastic. Nigel has so much real-world experience, and he constantly encouraged the group by saying, “You can do this.” We both really learned a lot more than we expected, especially with extras about fuel and electrics. My other favorite, as new recruit, was the Boat Handling course. However, it was a bit more intimidating seeing you and Ben Ellison sitting on the dock my very first time in.

PassageMaker:I believe you told us that day that you had placed an offer for an American Tug. Is that a done deal?

Guenther: Not yet. They countered and we increased our offer a few days ago. Still waiting to hear some news from our broker.

PassageMaker:Well, good luck with that. See you at a future TrawlerFest or on the water.

CHARLES TRUTHANof Ocala, Florida

PassageMaker:You just bought a Great Harbour N37. Is Pelican your first trawler?

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Charles Truthan:Yes, and the new name will be Insandity. Care to be there for the renaming ceremony?

PassageMaker:Insanity or insandity?

Truthan:With the “d”—Insandity. The Admiral likes to walk barefoot in the sand and the rest of the families think we are insane—hence Insandity! It turns out that we are the second documented vessel with that name. Darn, I thought it was pretty original.

PassageMaker:What are your cruising plans and how do they relate to the seminars you attended at TrawlerFest?

Truthan:We have sold our home and are moving aboard. We’ll be cruising the Great Loop this next year. After that, who knows!


TrawlerFest-Riviera Beach, by the numbers:

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(1) two-day seminar

(2) all-day seminars

(1) all-morning seminar

(3) two-morning seminars

(16) two-hour seminars


Here are some of the main points attendees took away from seminars at TrawlerFest-Riviera Beach in January:

Diesel Engines

- Diesel engines don’t work like the gas engine in your car.

- Because of that and the fact that they have marine cooling systems, maintenance requirements are different and include, for example, fuel filter and pump impeller changes.

- Common failures can be avoided if you know what to look for.

- Turning a propeller requires a drive train with unique design requirements and best practices regarding prop nuts, bearings and packing glands. Owners should be familiar with these specifics even if a boatyard is doing the work.

- Troubleshooting engine electrical problems is one of the most valuable skills a cruiser can have.

Bahamas Bound

- Cruisers going to the Bahamas need to be more resourceful and self-reliant than those who remain in U.S. waters.

- The rewards of a Bahamas cruise far outweigh the difficulties.

- Legal travel to Cuba will create another “loop” cruising pattern, The Bahamas-Cuba Loop.

Boat Buyer’s Survival Guide

- Buying a boat is complicated.

- Self-knowledge is a key trait for success in boat-buying.

- Failure to pay attention to details can cost a buyer a lot of money.

Boat Handling Basics

- Practice, practice, practice.

- Wind and current are the enemy.

- It is better to learn from other people’s mistakes.

- Go in with a plan, and when the plan doesn’t work, improvise.

- Did we mention practice?

Soup-to-Nuts Navigation

- Charting has been up-ended over the past decade, from a top-down model of government-to-consumer to an exercise in crowd sourcing.

- Even in the age of electronics, paper-chart plotting makes an excellent knowledge foundation.

- Most of the marine electronics today are well-built with excellent performance, leaving little downside when choosing one manufacture’s suite of products over that of another.

Admiralty lawyer, Todd Lochner, giving his taxman seminar in Riviera Beach.

Admiralty lawyer, Todd Lochner, giving his taxman seminar in Riviera Beach.