Transition to a Catamaran Trawler

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Decision and Selection

Our transition to a trawler probably began when we started to joke about how we used our sailboat. “Actually this is a trawler with a really high radio antenna” we’d tell people asking about our nomadic lifestyle living aboard. It was true. While exploring the Great Lakes and from Maine to the Bahamas the motor was on 95% of the time. Thoughts about switching to a trawler would surface only to be washed away by a rare day of great sailing. Slowly even that changed. We motor sailed on good sailing days just so we could anchor earlier. Enjoying a quiet anchorage swinging on the hook had replaced the joy of sailing.

Click on drawing to enlarge

S2 Measurement TrawlerCat
36′ Length 36′
12′ Beam 15′
66″ Draft 34″
51′ Bridge Clearance 13.5′
15,000 lb Displacement 13,000 lb
7,000 lb Ballast 0
70 gal Fuel 300 gal
70 gal Water 115 gal
30 hp Engine(s) 2 @ 125 hp
6 Knots Speed 12 Knots

Our cruising interests had slowly changed. Dreams of exploring distant islands of the Caribbean and sailing in the trade winds disappeared. Now we prefer poking along the ICW, exploring up rivers and finding new anchorages in out-of-the-way places. We’re itchy to again travel the Erie Canal, Trent Severn Waterway, Great Lakes, and rivers from Chicago to the Gulf of Mexico.

Increased comfort slowly crept into our thoughts. We weren’t uncomfortable, but realized we could be more comfortable especially with guests aboard. Tranquility, our 36′ S2 center cockpit sailboat was extremely comfortable for two, but tight with guests aboard.

The decision to move to a trawler came slowly. A year earlier, we had planned on attending the October Trawler Fest in Solomons Island, MD. Instead we stayed longer in Maine enjoying good sailing days. September a year later found us in Milwaukee, WI finalizing plans to have the mast taken down a few days later in Waukegon, IL as we continued on around the Great Loop route. We looked at each other and said almost at the same time “It’s time to change to a trawler.” We laughed at the coincidence but agreed we needed to change. Over a glass of wine, to celebrate our decision we started a list of what we wanted on our trawler.

Our first few list entries were the most interesting and challenging. The very first item listed was a washer/dryer. Using laundromats, even the ones located in marinas was not fun. It was the one aspect of living aboard we did not enjoy and wanted to change. Next came 360-degree visibility from the steering station. We both loved the view from our center cockpit and did not want to give that up. At the same time, we did not want a flying bridge. Walk-around side decks for easy docking and locking came next. We didn’t want to have to pass through the main salon while handling lines. We both wanted an island berth for ease of making and for convenience when getting up at night. A guest cabin was next in priority. We debated about two heads and decided against because of maintenance and wasted space. Instead we figured a single head with good physical separation from both cabins would be a better set up for giving everyone privacy while using the facilities. Main salon or cockpit seating for six for dinner went on the list. At anchorages we had a tendency to invite two couples and seating on Tranquility was tight for six. The list went on with more routine items such as single engine, bow thruster, stabilizers, good dinghy handling system, decent shower stall, etc.

Over the past few years we’ve spent many hours aboard different trawlers. Leisurely tours of Grand Banks, Krogen, Albin, Marine Trader, DeFever, and others, with serious discussions about each trawler’s merits and drawbacks provided outstanding background for our future search. Yet for all of our visits and discussions we had yet to find our next boat to dream about. We knew we liked pilothouse trawlers, but didn’t have a favorite.

Before purchasing Tranquility we knew what we wanted. Years earlier S2 center cockpit sailboats captured our imagination and dreams. When we decided to live aboard, we looked at many boats comparing each against the S2 we had dreamed about. Finally we selected Tranquility from S2′s for sale at that time. For eight years we enjoyed our choice and lived comfortably aboard for three years.

We had seen Nordic Tugs while cruising but had not been aboard. The new 37′ Nordic Tug caught our eye as an ideal live aboard trawler. We made an appointment to visit Midwest Nordic Tugs in Manitowac, WI. We liked what we saw and did sea trials. It was a bumpy day on Lake Michigan and the 37′ Nordic Tug rode the swells in fine fashion. We liked the performance and we liked the boat. We went aboard the 42′ model and liked it even better. However, it didn’t fit one item we hadn’t thought to add to our list and that was budget. We left happy and comfortable knowing we had found the trawler we would probably purchase. We knew we needed to sample other trawlers and make sure we had indeed found the right one.

A month later found us at Trawler Fest in Solomons Island, MD. A perfect fall day made for enjoyable trawler inspection. We revisited many trawlers we knew from visits aboard friends’ trawlers. New for us were Eagle, Ocean Alexander, Pacific, and Mainship trawlers. These we’d only previously seen in ads and magazine articles. All were very nice, but nothing grabbed us. A second reality was becoming clear; we’d probably needed to go to 42′ to have the increased level of comfort we wanted.

One trawler on display looked out of place. It was low compared to the trawler next to it. The top of its radar antenna matched the bottom of windscreen on the flying bridge of the next trawler. This trawler had a 10′ advantage for going under bridges. The dinghy hung across the stern from davits sailboat style. As we looked closer, we realized we were looking at a catamaran. Stepping aboard we learned we were looking at an Endeavour TrawlerCat 36. People say you don’t select the boat, the boat selects you. This one selected us. As we looked around, the Nordic Tug we had been so positive about faded away.

From the dock, the TrawlerCat seemed small; it wasn’t. A comfortable cockpit provided our desired 360-degree view from the steering station. Both the salon and cockpit are comfortable for six for dinner. Below were 3 cabins providing generous space for overnight guests. We overheard a couple commenting to each other “not for us, too sailboatish.” For that same reason, we felt this was the boat for us. Its sailboat feel combined with the comfortable space appealed to us. Where the TrawlerCat looked small from the outside, from the inside we felt we had the space equivalent of 42′. Later we confirmed our impression by scaling floor plans obtained from the Internet and overlaying them to compare living areas. The pictures show how we compared our present S2 with our planned TrawlerCat.

Not everything met our specifications. Gone was the island berth. We thought about that a long time but felt all the plus features we found outweighed that drawback. I spent quite a bit of time looking at the engine set up. We average over 1,000 engine hours a year and easy maintenance, especially oil changes are significant to us. It wasn’t on the list, since I’d been expecting a large engine room such as you find on most trawlers in the 36-42′ range. Here both engines are in compartments under the berths. Rolling back the mattress and lifting an access panel allows for routine work. For major work the mattress and access panels lift out exposing the entire engine. Optional oil change pumps make for easy oil changes and eased my concerns. We were sure we had found new trawler, but were reluctant to commit. We needed to let some time pass and look again.

Two weeks later we were at the Powerboat Show in Annapolis. We’d again toured trawlers to see if something would again select us and replace the Trawlercat. Two new catamaran trawlers were on display. The Maryland 37 and Venturer 38 were impressive but not quite what we wanted. Most importantly to us, we spent a number of hours at the show talking with people, learning about the expanding interest in catamarans and their popularity in Europe, New Zealand and Australia. We left comfortable with our potential decision.

Two months later in Florida we went for sea trials on the Endeavour TrawlerCat 36. It was a great day for sea trials, windy and choppy. We were impressed with the stability, liked the ride, loved the shallow 34″ draft, were impressed with the skeg-protected propellers and felt the engine sound levels were equivalent or lower than our present boat. We finally handed Endeavour a check to begin our formal transition to a trawler–a catamaran trawler.
June 2000 Update

Odyssey on Erie Canal Steering Station Library
Galley Looking Aft Office/Guest Cabin Salon
Head/Shower/Work Room Head looking Aft Engine Access

We took delivery of Odyssey in March 2000 and have taken her from St. Petersburg, FL on Tampa Bay to Fairport, NY on the Erie Canal. Coming north we’ve sampled quiet waters of the ICW and canals, a rough passage down Delaware Bay and offshore swells as we rounded New Jersey. When we weren’t moving, we enjoyed anchoring out and found a few places to try that took advantage of our shallow 34″ draft. Ride, handling and stability has more than met our expectations. Our low profile is especially pleasing as we pass under a number of bridges we’d expected to have to open. Cruising speed is an unanticipated surprise. We’d thought we’d move from a 6-knot sailboat to an 8-knot trawler capable of 10 knots if pushed. Instead we cruise easily at 12 knots and can run at 15-18 knots if we want to spend more on fuel. Our daily cruising distance has doubled. The washer/dryer is a hit. Now we do laundry underway. Now we even have a library, the bookshelves in the forward cabin give a very library feel to the cabin and main salon. When we don’t have guests aboard, we convert the port stateroom to an office by adding a shelf for our laptop at the foot of the berth. For our live aboard cruising lifestyle we have picked the right boat.

Once before we’d purchased a new boat and swore we’d never do it again. Working with the dealer to get factory mistakes or oversights corrected was a huge aggravation. Many items we had to fix ourselves or pay to have them corrected. If we could have found a used, debugged trawlercat around, we might have considered purchasing used. We had huge reservations about what would happen once we’d taken delivery and began debugging. Our worries were unfounded. Endeavour was superb in handling all the little and big items that came up during sea trials without any hassle. Their support added to our enjoyment of making the move to a trawlercat.

June 2002 Addition
What and Why provides a description of what we ordered o have added now that we are starting our third year living aboard.

Equipment: What and Why We Chose

This list covers what we chose when we had Odyssey built, added later, and are working on as future improvements. The list is not in any order.

Second Bow Roller: Many of the places we stop have moorings. We use the second bow roller as the attachment point for the mooring line. We carry a second anchor, but rarely use it and it is stowed in a locker instead of on the second roller.

Anchor windlass: Very convenient. We went with the Endeavour recommendations and find the Delta anchor and 30’ of chain to be fine for ICW and river anchoring. We’ve had to redo the rope/chain splice twice. First time we found it pulling out and I redid the splice. After tearing up the stripper arm and talking with Maxwell I learned I’d made the splice too long and hadn’t tapered it. I had a professional in Oriental do the splice. Now it’s very smooth going through the windlass.

Anchor Wash Down: Went with fresh water and are pleased. If I were doing the boat again I’d consider having both a fresh water and seawater wash down option.

Deck Cleats: 6 cleats are standard. We had two additional cleats added on the stern rail. They are used to tie down the dinghy when underway. We also use then when tying up at a dock. They are handy for moving the dock line outboard to get a better angle on the dock line. We use them all the time and would add them again. We saw one other boat that had two cleats mounted aft just forward of the aft deck entrance gate. There have been a few times when those cleats would have been handy for running spring lines and keeping the line from running in front of where you step aboard. I’d think about adding them if we did the boat again, but don’t consider them as a high priority item.

Window Shades: Both for privacy and for keeping the sun out of the interior. We had shades installed on all windows and ports except for the opening port in the main saloon, galley window, and two aft facing opening ports over the berths and starboard workroom.

Washer/Dryer: A great convenience when living aboard full time. Sure beats hauling laundry. The washer/dryer doesn’t hold much but works well. It uses more water than we expected, but now we always go into a dock so we are using shore power and have unlimited water available when we use it. It has to be installed during construction and once installed, the only way to take it off the boat is to cut a hole in the deck to remove it. It can however be removed from it’s working location for service.

Additional Shelves: see our article about adding shelves in the port forward area near the washer/dryer. We also had bookshelves added in the aft starboard cabin. Endeavour was able to add in a total of 3 shelves and we are very pleased with them. We had Endeavour leave out the door they normally install between the galley and forward berth. Haven’t missed the door, it just seemed to us to be in the way.

Galley Storage: Standard is a storage compartment aft of the microwave compartment. A sister ship had added second compartment added forward of the microwave. Had we known, we would have requested the second compartment. It makes access to that area much easier than working through the main salon settee access.

Hassock: It’s a storage compartment, coffee table (use the galley stove cover as the hard surface) and extra seating for guests. Endeavour matches it to settee fabric.

Solar Panels: Either get none, or get the maximum number of panels. We have 300 watts and if there was room, I’d go for 400 watts. Panels are only worth the investment if you like to anchor out and don’t want to have the noise of the generator to keep the batteries charged. Even with 300 watts of solar power we still need to run the generator every other day to heat water for showers and to bring the batteries back up a bit.

E Meter: Provides a read out of amp hours used on the house battery. Provides a great way of knowing where we are at in terms of battery status when we are anchored out for a number of days.

Interior Lights: Overall lighting was fine. One reading light was standard over both berths. We had a second reading light added to both berths.

Fans: We had all the fans Endeavour recommended installed and use them all at various times.

Dinghy Davits. We are very pleased with the davits and swim platform. Endeavour may now extend the davits out further. We had to have them extend ours out another 6 inches to have the right extension for our and most 10’ dinghy beams.

Oil Change pumps: Make oil changes much easier. We’re glad we have them on the engines. Ask if you can get one for the gen-set, it wasn’t offered, but now I think it is available.

AM/FM Radio:
If we were doing our boat again we’d get a Sirius satellite AM/FM radio in place of a regular radio. We listen to radio extensively enjoy NPR and jazz stations. We’re looking at adding it to our boat now just for the wide variety of commercial free music available and NPR and other news stations available. Monthly cost is $13/month for Sirius or $10/month for XM satellite. As part of the AM/FM radio package Endeavour installed our cockpit speakers in the aft seat sides. Endeavour is now installing overhead speakers so people sitting in front of them do not block the sound.

Television: We had the boat wired for cable and phone hookups. We didn’t have the external amplified TV antenna added. Now we find there are occasions where it would have been advantageous to have the external antenna. We’d have that added on a new boat and may add one to ours to improve reception on those occasions when we end up using internal rabbit ears. We’ve considered satellite TV but after a session at a dock with cable hook up, or a session ashore with cable in hotels we find that after a few days we’ve become bored with TV and leave it off, so satellite TV for us remains off our list.

Cell Phone: We had Endeavour add a roof cell phone antenna and run the coaxial cable to the shelf above the water tank. We then connected in our speakerphone system so we have a speakerphone set up in the main saloon for talking with family and friends. 2010 update: Don’t use it anymore since newer cell phones work without it.

Head: We went with the Vacuflush toilet and are pleased with it. We’d put it in again.

VHF: We like the radio. The remote mike is great. We didn’t specify location and Endeavour mounted it on the left side of the cockpit panel. In it’s present location it’s easy for the helmsman to hear but difficult for the passenger to hear. Now I think it’s on the right side of the panel so it’s easier for the passenger to hear and or use. We are going to either add another remote mike to the starboard side (first choice) or just a speaker so we both can hear the radio more easily.

Instruments: We have a Raytheon radar (black & white), depth sounder, and autopilot. We are very happy with the Raytheon equipment. We asked for a Garmin GPS and mounted it on the port starboard side. We’ve had Garmin GPS on our previous boats. The Garmin is interfaced to the VHF, autopilot and radar. We also had Endeavour run GPS output cable to the port aft cabin and to also leave one in the cockpit. We then added a serial port connector to each cable so we can connect in our laptop. The laptop interconnect allows us to upload and download waypoints to the GPS.

Now everyone seems to be going with the integrated Raytheon daylight visible color charting, radar and GPS system. That system uses C-map chips for charting and I’m impressed by it. However, if we were doing another boat I’d still go with a setup similar to what we have and add a daylight visible computer monitor screen at the helm. The reason is that we presently use Nobeltec navigation software, are happy with it and have a significant investment in electronic charts.

When we are underway we always have Maptec Chartkit or the equivalent opened to the current page with a marker showing our current location. Our electronic aids are secondary to our visual review of our charts.

Cockpit Lights: We use the 3 led courtesy lights all the time. The two overhead fluorescent are fine for working, but too bright for mood lighting for dinner in the cockpit. We now use two halogen lights we plug into 12-volt outlets, shield with soup can with both ends cut out and use to shine indirect light back up onto the overhead.

Cockpit Threshold Strip: When it rains water from the back deck collected in a puddle on the port side in the cockpit under the table. Two years ago it seemed to be a common problem because when I mentioned it to Endeavour they knew all about it. They had a suggested solution that we went with and are happy with the results. They glued a Kingboard plastic strip across the aft end of the cockpit floor. It’s about a half inch high and looks like a door threshold plate with it’s tapered edges. It blocks the water from draining forward into the cockpit area. When you take delivery, hose down the aft deck and check the drainage.

Cockpit Carpeting: The white cockpit floor is difficult to keep clean. We added outdoor carpeting and are pleased with it. We are going to try adding the same carpeting to the area around the dash around the companionway to cut sun glare.

Water maker: Our one bad selection. We’ve have one aboard and have never used it. If you are planning on one, we can give you a deal on our never used unit. We had debated about a water maker for a long time. Thought we’d make good use of it only if we went over into the remote areas of the Bahamas which we had plans of doing. Shortly after taking delivery we both admitted we’d enjoyed the Bahamas, but didn’t have the burning desire many have to return every year. Traveling along the ICW it’s better not to use the water maker because of all the stuff in the water and there is no real reason since we go into a dock on a regular basis for supplies.

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