Lately, while reading letters from readers and strolling the docks at boat shows, I’ve been disarmed by the growing number of folks who enjoy this magazine, yet have trouble connecting with how most of us define a traditional trawler. It’s not that the desire for function has changed; the dream of safe, long-range cruising, for the most part, remains the same. The derivation seems to be in the form.
For working families, especially those with young kids, time gets in the way. We may dream of crossing oceans, but our ever-busier lives dictate other arrangements.
I find my own boating plans regularly derailed, sidetracked by three young boys who need to be ferried to baseball games, tennis lessons and soccer practice. While we might prefer the safety, comfort and calming pace of a traditional trawler, 7 knots sometimes can’t get my family where we want to be, when we need to be there.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s no replacing the traditional trawler—those full-displacement machines that Robert Beebe so eloquently defined decades ago in Voyaging Under Power, etching the blueprint for comfortable world-cruising vessels. For many, that’s what passagemaking is all about. But our cruising universe is evolving at an inexorable pace. Changing tastes and technologies, and a pinch of Madison Avenue, have rebranded the word trawler as a lifestyle rather than a hull form.
As a result, we’re seeing all sorts of new boat models popping up—even on the docks at Trawlerfest in Baltimore a few weeks ago. We’re seeing stronger, lighter hull shapes run efficiently at higher speeds, and designs that prioritize what our founding editor, Bill Parlatore, described in the inaugural issue 25 years ago as the trawler lifestyle: “quality of life, self-sufficiency, economy of operation, modern conveniences, cruising capability and true comfort aboard.”
Like any parent, I hope the boating thing sticks with my kids. And someday, I look forward to slowing everything back down to 7 knots. But for now, flexibility and the need for speed beckon. Sure, the form looks nothing like what Beebe drew up, but the functionality is tangible, especially for those of us whose lives move fast nowadays.
What a remarkable age of boating we’re beginning to navigate.