Trawler Ticks

We really enjoy sailing Kintala. She sails beautifully downwind on just the genoa, but flounces her skirts when called for and digs in to sail hard on the wind with all the canvas flying. Some day we'll miss that, because we realize that sailing Kintala is a young person's game that doesn't play well with old, stiff joints and rapidly failing balance. So as we move about the cruising grounds we've decided to spend some time talking to the owners of different trawlers, finding out who of them started out on sailboats, why they moved to a trawler, and if they regret it. We've been doing this for several months now and the unofficial results are that most move due to the same reasons we will probably do so: aging bodies that need a break. Some are pushed there faster than others by the onset of some particular health issue such as a fall that broke a hip or failing eyesight or a back issue or heart attack. A trawler is the next step to staying on the water they love when they can't handle the rigors of sailing any longer. Not. A. Single. One. regrets the move. So as we travel, we've been accumulating what we call "Trawler Ticks", ticks off a list of benefits that a trawler would provide to this lifestyle we live. The reality of it is that we spend less than one day moving for every ten days we sit at anchorage, on a mooring, or on a dock. And of that 1 day moving in 10 we spend much less time sailing than we do motoring.

Cost always comes up in the discussion since you're using much more fuel. While that's an issue, for sure, we're still buying a lot of fuel on Kintala because we have to motor so much. We have also bought sails (over $6000 worth), standing rigging (over $9000 worth), running rigging (over $1000 worth), all of which are not necessary on a trawler. Sure, there are more systems on a trawler that will need repaired and/or replaced, but $16000 buys a lot of fuel. In addition, with a trawler we would be inclined to spend less time on a dock since we would be much more self-sufficient. Less time on a dock means substantially less money spent. The cost difference between the two is not as pronounced as you may think.

Surely, many of the readers of this blog will scoff that we even have this page on here. But The Retirement Project is about learning to live on the water in such a way that we enjoy, that is safe and that is sustainable. So here's the Trawler Ticks list for those of you that might be facing the same decision somewhere in the future.

  1. Protection from the elements. One of the most difficult aspects of sailing is the fact that we're outside in the cold, in the rain, in the snow, in the wind. It wears on you and makes you tired, more so for Tim than for me because he does all the deck monkey work. Being able to steer from a pilot house would greatly enhance the distance we could travel and the safety of doing it. One of the trawler owners we spoke with said that they frequently traveled with a trawler when they still owned their sailboat. After arriving at a destination, their trawler friends were ready to go hiking, kayaking, swimming, but all they could think of doing was going to bed because they were exhausted. I get this.
  2. Room. We have this really nice aft cabin for guests that we can't ever use because it's always full of the stuff that would normally go in cockpit lockers if we had bigger ones. Kintala's pinched stern means that we only have two very small lockers, one of which is a dedicated propane locker and the other of which has to hold everything else. A more modern style sailboat with the wider stern would certainly eliminate this issue but the idea of changing to a different sailboat after all the work we did on this one is daunting. Having enough room to store adequate provisions for a month would be liberating.
  3. Comfort. The cockpit on Kintala is not comfortable. It's not comfortable for sitting at anchor, it's not comfortable for guests, it's not comfortable for being underway. The interior furnishings are not comfortable to relax on. Tim longs for his comfortable padded recliner, something we routinely see in trawlers. I long for a seat that I can get comfortable in with my back issues, and one that I can touch the floor with my feet without a stool. 
  4. Engine access. As you age, wrapping yourself around a Westerbeke 50 installed backwards to accomodate a V-drive arrangement is not a pleasant experience. Changing the oil on Kintala means a certain trip to the first aid cabinet. Having a walk-in engine room with place to store tools, spares, a water maker, etc., is one of the top ticks on the trawler list.
  5. Solar Real Estate. A trawler has plenty of room to install solar and wind generation capabilities. You could be completely power independent with the flat real estate available.
  6. Dinghy Ease. Getting the dinghy off the boat takes us about a half hour. It really isn't too difficult at the moment, but there will come a time when getting the dinghy off the boat and the outboard installed will become an issue. Having an electric motor do the job...well it's a no-brainer.
  7. Electric Windlass. Yes, I know we could install one on Kintala, but at some point putting any more money into this boat just doesn't make economic sense. Having an electric windlass is going to be a top priority soon to give the deck monkey a break. Pulling up a 65# Mantus every morning is good exercise for sure, but hard on the back.
  8. Full-size Appliances. Tim says if we move onto a trawler it will be because he hates digging into the top-loading fridge for a beer which somehow always seems to migrate to the bottom. Having a full-sized refrigerator with a freezer for ice cream is a dream of his.
  9. Room to Sew. I do canvas work on the side to make cruising kitty money. I can do it in the salon of Kintala but it takes over the whole boat and nothing else can be done while I'm working. A trawler would have adequate room to permanently install my machine somewhere to work, meaning I would do more of it.
  10. Room With a View. One of the most difficult things for me on this boat is that I can't see outside. All of the ports are up high except for the one in the galley which I can see out of because the galley is on a slightly raised platform. Kintala is well-lit, the ports providing plenty of sunshine and breeze, they're just too tall for me to see out of and this requires climbing up the companionway stairs to see what's going on. It would be tremendous to do anchor watch from the comfort of the salon with a cup of coffee rather than huddling in the dodger.
  11. Safer Navigation. Most trawlers come equipped with radar, AIS, GPS and autopilot installed as an integrated system. Yes, again, we could do this on Kintala but it's just not cost effective.


Terry said...

We went through the same thoughts with our Westwind 38 sailboat. We wound up with a catamaran so we can still sail but enjoy the benefits you mentioned, plus not heeling. SV LUX

Deb said...

Terry - we would be on a catamaran if we had the money. We looked at quite a few of them when we were shopping for Kintala, but they were just out of our reach financially. Hopefully when the time comes we'll be able to find a trawler in our budget.