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Eye of the Beholder

Eight knots and the truth,” a salty type said to me one recent morning as we ogled a steel-hulled, 60-something-footer in her slip. I nodded and listened as he related a chat he’d had with the boat’s owner/captain, who told him they had made their way from Dana Point, Calif., to this marina in Stuart, Fla., bound for Maine. They planned to summer there (I’m envious of those who use seasons as verbs) before heading to parts unknown.

“She told me they’ve only refueled once since leaving Dana Point,” he related. It was a fact that I found incredible, yet fitting for a boat that likely ferried 2,500 gallons of diesel in her belly. Thinking back on our brief chat, and the many boats that have graced these pages during my tenure as editor-in-chief, I began to wonder: What exactly defines a trawler?

For many, the definition begins and ends with a full-displacement hull, a sizable fuel capacity and perhaps some ballast, granting stability and the range to go well beyond the bar.

Above the waterline, her workaday lines cannot be denied. Add wide side decks and an uncluttered foredeck for handling the lines, pulling the anchor and dropping the fenders. Astern, a davit (or some other surefire method to launch a dinghy) should ensure easy egress when it’s time to explore a bit.

Her elevated pilothouse is the catbird seat, with a reverse-raked windshield that offers unobstructed views in all directions. Some designs may also include a Portuguese bridge, the ideal spot for stargazing on the open ocean while on watch as the crew rests belowdecks.

The mission of these craft is simple: multiweek passages across large expanses of water in all types of conditions, with the accommodations and stowage to feed and house your hungry crew.

While I agree with all of that, I also welcome an expansion of the definition. Take the Turkey-built Numarine 22XP
(see “Bridging the Gap,” page 56) which looks quite different from a traditional trawler. Her voluminous accommodations are matched to a displacement hull—with a bulbous bow and a full keel—and she’s powered by fuel-sipping, commercially rated diesels. At 8 knots, the 22XP burns just 8 gallons per hour, delivering a range of 2,000 nautical miles before refueling.

Another factor in my thinking is that many people don’t have the ability to cruise for months at a time like so many trawler die-hards do. For today’s cruisers, there are a multitude of fast trawlers, planing-hulled coastal cruisers and multihulls that offer a decent top-end speed, and an impressive range at displacement speeds. They provide ways to enjoy the trawler lifestyle, one weekend at a time.

Of course, if you have the time to cruise like that 60-footer—maybe winter in Florida or the Bahamas—life at 8 knots is a dream. In the end, it’s the love of cruising that counts the most. It is the thing that defines us all. 

This article was originally published in the October 2022 issue.

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