9.1 Full-displacement Trawlers - A Comparison With Other Boats.

This is an article written by Ed Buddemeyer and published in the Krogen Cruisers newsletter, Spring 1991 and Summer 1991 issues.


TO: Yacht Dealers/Brokers
FROM: E. Ulric Buddemeyer
RE: Powerboat Characteristics

Like cars, horses, and women, a yacht may be fast or comfortable, but not both. Unlike the others, a yacht also has to go to sea. The constraints, then, are speed, comfort, and seaworthiness, and the design is a compromise depending upon which attributes are most favored. Before falling hopelessly in love with a fiberglass-lined hole in the water, it is well to have a hard look at the form which necessarily follows the function.

When comfort is the leading consideration and seaworthiness can largely be ignored, what follows is a design which does fine tied up securely to a pier. Generally known as "motor yachts," they might as well be described as marine conversions of shore-side motor homes. That's what they're built for and they look it. In profile view, they appear to be a couple of boats high, the better to accommodate fore and aft staterooms with heads and showers, raised saloon, galley, and lounge and flying bridge with extended hardtop covering the lot. Side decks and aft cockpit are sacrificed for the sake of greater room below, so that it is awkward to handle lines when coming alongside. To support all that tophamper, even at rest, they must be broad in the beam and nearly flat bottomed all the way aft to the transom. To persuade such contraptions to move through the water at all requires a great deal of power;to get them to move fast takes even more. Power is available at a price, though, and with enough of it, together with trim tabs to make up for the tendency to squat when pushed hard, even ungainly hulls can be driven 15 or 20 knots over calm waters. On the down side, they behave under way with all the grace and agility that might be expected of a buoyant box wrapped around an apartment. When it blows the least bit, they are dangerous at sea and better off in their slips. I can't put up with that constraint.

When speed is the leading consideration, seaworthiness a real concern and the accommodation fitted into the space left over, the result is a sportfisherman or something very like it. At my own yacht club, one such specimen of the breed is named "NO COMPROMISE," a forthright declaration of no-nonsense purpose. To engage effectively in the business of sportfishing, a yacht must necessarily be strong, powerful, fast, and able. While lavish accommodations are always nice to have, the hull and topsides cannot be bent all out of shape for the sake of superfluous creature comforts without spoiling the performance. The yacht is a sportfisherman, appears to be a businesslike vessel and can't be mistaken for a floating condominium. Were I more interested in fishing, or even just getting around in the Bay in a tearing hurry regardless of expense, that's the way I'd go.

Where comfort and seaworthiness are major concerns and speed can be neglected, trawler yachts are often thought to fit the bill, but most are disappointing. Real trawlers are pure displacement hulls built to heavy scantlings and designed to keep the sea. Yacht trawlers imitate the real thing in appearance and in that they are ordinarily operated efficiently at displacement speeds, but there the resemblance to their seaworthy sisters ends. Most are built with the so-called "semi-displacement" hulls, a compromise which means that if anyone is fool enough to load them up with excess horsepower, they might struggle up on their broad, flat, heavy behinds onto a laboring semi-plane at a blazing ten or twelve knots. Their behavior in a following sea is, if anything, worse than the faster sort of dockwalloping motor yacht, as the trawler cannot possibly outrun the waves and so gets shoved around by the stern, tripping over the bow and constantly threatening to broach. Such misbehavior is characteristic of slow, flat-transomed, semi-displacement hulls and can get dangerously out of hand in seas of no more than moderate size. I've had quite enough of that.

There are a few designs which might be called "no compromise" trawlers. These are full displacement hulls with no pretensions of speed. They can be laden with all sorts of creature comforts with negligible effect on their sedate pace through the water. Since there is no intention of lifting the whole works onto any kind of semi-fast plane, the after sections need be neither broad nor flat. All boats are fine at the bow but displacement hulls may also be narrowed and rounded aft as well so as to yield to overtaking seas without stumbling. At displacement speeds, deep draft is not an impediment, so that the hulls can be fitted with a proper keel having a firm grip upon the water, large attached rudder, protected prop and inherent directional stability. Power requirements are modest, operation is economical and the range is therefore very long. When speed can be sacrificed, the sea-kindly, full displacement hull is the best way to go the distance in reasonable safety and comfort, altogether a sensible arrangement for anyone who expects to spend a considerable amount of time away from the shore.

There is yet another alternative worth considering for the man who wants to go to sea in safety, get there and back at a smart pace, and doesn't require all the luxuries of home along the way. That is the yacht version of the "Down East" work boat. Out of that sturdy heritage come hulls built with serious purposes in mind, among which are sea-keeping ability together with a good turn of speed, both obtained in economical operation. They are long, lean, and low with rounded chines, full-length keel, protected prop, and attached rudder. They track hot, straight, and true in following seas. Going to weather, they slice through the waves without much pounding, albeit with a good deal of thrown spray. They are easily driven with a single engine to speeds of twenty knots or so. For use as a yacht, their most significant drawback is that they cannot be heavily burdened with massive creature comforts without spoiling their seakindly behavior. As a result, the accommodations tend to be on the spartan side when compared with other motor yachts of similar length or equivalent cost, certainly not the kind of boat that charms the ladies, say. Even so, if I had the time and money to go through another interlude before settling on the ultimate yacht with live-aboard accommodations, I'd love to try out a handsome, fast and able Down Easter for a spell.

Here, then, is the sum and substance of my interest in power boats. Forget the so-called "motor yacht." If I didn't care all that much about how a boat looked or behaved, I'd as soon have a houseboat (which I don't want). A sportfisherman would no doubt be a thrill to bash about in, but I'm not into fishing and don't want to bear the cost associated with that indulgence. A semi-displacement "trawler" is neither fish nor fowl, doesn't ordinarily exceed displacement speeds and even the best of them behave so badly in following seas as to give daunting meaning to the "small craft" warnings that were formerly cause for rejoicing when I was sailing. Find me an able, full-displacement hull with creature comforts (e.g. a Krogen 42) at reasonable cost and my business is yours. A handsome "Down Easter" might be tempting, but the performance* would have to be impressive enough to make up for the limited accommodations, and I'd have to be convinced that the boat could be resold locally without unreasonable loss.


* If it won't go twice as fast as a trawler (a solid 15 knot cruise on a single diesel) then the sacrifice of creature comforts and fuel economy together with the noisier operation and jerkier ride is not worthwhile. Also, if it requires the complications of twin engines to cruise, it is not a Down Easter and has neither market nor operational advantage over a common sportfisherman.