Powered catamarans add fresh touch to fleet

New breed offers space, comfort, fuel efficiency

Trawlers

October 10, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Trawlers long have been stately, self-sufficent vessels in which to cruise for days or weeks on end, a yachtsman's answer to the question of whether to sail or power.

Afterall, the big diesel engines are reliable and economical, teak decks and varnished hand rails give a yachty look, and the lines of traditional trawlers are sweet to the eye and kindly in virtually all sea conditions.

"The trawler market is a mature market -- firmly established for at least 25 years," said John Shannahan, owner of Oxford Yacht Agency, a dealer for Grand Banks and Albin. "It will take an enormous revolution to change that."

But as the U.S. Powerboat Show (Oct. 14-17) opens in Annapolis, a newer breed of trawler is making slight gains in the market, the powered catamarans.

"At the moment, we are still in the early stages, even though there has been tremendous interest," said James McMaster of Advance Yachts in Annapolis, dealers for the Crowther-designed Venturer 44 and brand new Venturer 38. "And, of course, people are conservative, especially boaters."

And to traditional boaters the catamaran trawlers can appear big, balky and unorthodox.

But in Australia, New Zealand, Asia and Europe, McMaster said, powered catamarans have been well received in commercial markets. The recreational market is an offshoot, he said, much as traditional trawler designs were developed out of hulls used in commercial fishing.

The traditional trawler market, especially in top-dollar production boats like Grand Banks, Shannahan said, is made up of experienced boaters who are interested in a "cruising condominium."

Power catamarans, Shannahan said, "can't be 100th of one percent of the [total] market," especially on the East Coast, where boating is very traditional.

Shannahan sees several drawbacks to powered cats, including difficulties in mass production, low potential resale value and appearance.

"What you see and I what I see probably are different," he said. "But they are ugly and won't have high resale value. A boat can't be too ugly or people won't buy it."

But what Shannahan sees as an ugly duckling, McMaster sees as the trawlers of the future.

The advantages of cat trawlers, McMaster said, are space and comfort, fuel efficiency, speed and shallow drafts, which allow access to more areas than deeper draft traditional trawlers.

"Typically, we are seeing people who have become tired of the rock and roll of monohulls," said McMaster. "People who want to go places and get there in comfort and at speeds to 20 knots."

The Venturer 38 has a base price of about $275,000 and base for the 44 is about $427,000. But, McMaster said, buying a good trawler -- whether monohull or cat -- is a far cry from buying a base 20-footer.

"In this case, base means everything you need to go to sea. What people add are discretionary add-ons, like air conditioning, generators and specialized electronics," McMaster said. "It is not inexpensive by any means, but it is a great deal cheaper than a Grand Banks, which is at the top end of the numbers."

The power cats have their own display area at the Annapolis show, and among the trawler cats scheduled to be on display are: Endeavour Trawler Cat 36 (U.S.), Prout Panther 64 (Great Britain), Fountaine Pajot Maryland 37 and Trawler Cat 34 (France), Transcat 46 and Aquacruiser 38.

Traditional trawlers, too, will be displayed in a separate section of the show, and every major builder will be on exhibit, including:

Independence 50, Nordhavn 50, Kady Krogen 48 and 39, Sabreline 47, Grank Banks 43, 42 and 38, Nordic Tug 42 and 37, Eagle 40, Pacific 37, Monk 36 and the new Pacific Seacraft 38.

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