Nautical Expert

Motorboat magazine

Why your next yacht should be a trawler

Nordhavn Yachts 86

Updated on March 9th, 2024

The trawlers are amazing. Any sailor understands this. Trawler yachts have deep roots in the all-weather work boat lineage, born in harsh sea conditions where no compromises should be made.

Initially, it was these fishing vessels, capable of dragging a heavy trawl net in the midst of a storm, that were converted by private enthusiasts into motor yachts, which laid the foundation for a whole direction of the industry. Until recently, all these boats calmly went to sea at a time when fashionable motor yachts were in a hurry to hide from bad weather in the nearest port.

Today, the line when a motor yacht becomes a trawler is completely blurred, and almost any displacement, semiplaning or even planing boat can be called a trawler, if the manufacturer so chooses. Now it is not necessary for it to have a steel hull with a very deep “V” and a Scandinavian-type cabin, so that even an ordinary sedan can suddenly become a trawler. This is not so bad, because the choice is now truly huge, and the market forces companies to compete with each other for a place in the hearts of buyers.

It can be said that today a trawler is not so much a type of boat as a philosophy and way of life, which is based on non-attachment to a specific place, self-sufficiency and the desire for autonomy. Freedom, in other words. The classic displacement trawler yachts provide a huge number of advantages. One way or another, almost all seasoned sea lovers eventually come to them.

Unlike sports planing yachts with bizarre (and often incredibly terrible) design solutions, trawlers retain the romance of the sea and therefore become a completely natural and predictable choice among cruising sailors who are tired of sails and a spartan lifestyle in cramped, damp cabins, but do not want to go ashore.

In addition, trawlers are very affordable. And, unlike fashionable toys such as sedans-gliders, these will be really seaworthy and high-quality boats, many of which are ready at any time to make a safe transat without refueling. Trawlers are a kind of mini-explorers that occupy the most interesting niche among motor yachts up to LWL 24 meters, which you can steer alone, without resorting to the help of a professional crew. And then their older brothers already follow: ice-class expedition yachts with helipads and sightseeing submarines in their garages.

But to find a good boat with maximum autonomy and long range, you will have to do some homework. Most buyers of trawlers, and especially pseudo-trawlers (of which there are no doubt more on the market), are unlikely to ever venture into the open waters at all. Therefore, apparently, the cruising range for the modern owner is not so important.

If in the past this type of vessel was always associated with a cruising speed of no more than 8 knots and a maximum speed of no more than 10 knots, but with a huge supply of fuel, today the buyer expects speeds of 20 knots or more. Naturally, this can only be achieved by changing the contours of the yacht’s hull, up to a fully planing type, with an increase in engine power and a parallel reduction in weight due to everything that is possible. And first of all, of course, due to the volume of fuel tanks.

Thus, at the output we get a lot of sports boats sold as trawlers, which at the same time cannot go to the open sea and go only in coastal areas, not far from gas stations.

If you are buying a new 18 or 20 meter trawler with the intention of using it in blue water or deep coastal sailing, you will find that most of these vessels carry only 2500-4000 liters of fuel, which at a cruising speed of 8-10 knots gives a cruising range of range from 700 to 1000 nautical miles. In addition, experienced boaters know that having a 20% reserve of fuel for emergencies is more than just a good idea.

What do the promoted manufacturers offer us today? Beneteau Grand Trawler 62 has a cruising range of just over 900 nautical miles.

Beneteau Grand Trawler 62
Beneteau Grand Trawler 62

The Absolute Navetta 64 has a range of 750 nautical miles at 8,5 knots. And no more than 300 nautical miles at 18 knots.

Absolute Navetta 64
Absolute Navetta 64

However, this does not mean that these are bad boats. On the contrary, these are excellent and high-quality family cruisers that fully meet the needs of the consumer, including comfort, luxury and, of course, speed: their maximum speed exceeds 27 knots! In addition, they are quite beautiful, and the trawler layout allows them to have an incredibly large living space. But this is not the type of trawler that true nautical adventurers might be looking for.

A slightly different category includes Nordhavn, Selene and other established names from around the world. These boats have a more serious cruising range, which often exceeds 3,000 nm.

Nordhavn 68
Nordhavn 68

These are fully displacement vessels, as close as possible to the generally accepted concept of “trawler”.

Selene 62 Ocean Trawler
Selene 62 Ocean Trawler

Everything in them speaks of readiness for exploring the sea and unknown shores: a high deckhouse with a reverse “anti-reflective” slope, wide aisles on the sides and large deck spaces for placing cranes, boats, life rafts and other equipment. And fin stabilizers on many models are also available.

The Grand Banks, Fleming, Endurance, and other trawlers aren’t quite as dedicated to ocean cruising as the previous boats, but they’ve made a lot of big crossings too.

In the near future, we expect a dramatic increase in the autonomy of all types of motor yachts, as innovations in the field of electric drives and batteries with high energy density, combined with more efficient solar panels, generators and hybrid combustion engines, have already made a big leap compared to the propulsion systems of the recent past.

It would be great to stop spending evenings calculating the amount of fuel needed for the next trip, and while cruising, do not pay attention to the diesel level indicator in the tanks.