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Old 12-05-2009, 17:58   #1
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Trawler or Motorsailer?

I've been shopping for a motorsailer, thinking that the ability to sail would make cruising more economical. Other than economics, however, my preference would be for a trawler. I don't like the idea of spending time in a cave when its time to sit and relax and the weather makes the cockpit uncomfortable. Similarly, I've spent enough time on deck in foul weather in oilskins that I'd rather steer from a comfortable pilot house when it is cold and damp. Whereas most of my cruising will be near coastal, much of it in bays, sounds, and rivers, I'm wondering whether I would actually gain that much from sails and sailing. My wife and I are both 63, she's not very athletic, and I have never done any serious sailing. I hear about a lot of sailboat owners trading for trawlers. I'm hoping the folks on this forum can advise me whether I would really save much by buying a motorsailer compared to a trawler. Thanks.
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Old 12-05-2009, 18:37   #2
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<snip> I hear about a lot of sailboat owners trading for trawlers. I'm hoping the folks on this forum can advise me whether I would really save much by buying a motorsailer compared to a trawler.
That's a great question, Seasalt! And, by the way, welcome to Cruisers Forum - glad you're here.

You're right - it isn't uncommon for sailors to move to trawlers as they (the sailors) age. Sailing can be the most relaxing, easy pastime there is, but it can also be physically demanding. Of course, there are mechanical aids that can greatly ease that burden, so a person has to decide where to spend his money. As you will quickly discover, what you pay for a vessel is merely the entry fee.

And you're also right that there can be discomfort associated with the exposure of an open cockpit. That can be alleviated with a bimini, but there are those who sail in the higher latitudes, and a bimini isn't going to do anything about the cold.

You sound like you would prefer the trawler as your mode of cruising. There are some great trawlers out there, and like any other boat these days, careful shopping might unearth some real bargains. The Nordic Tug line is well-respected, and the Nordic 32 offers a neat little helm station with great visibility - and they hold their value better than most.

Another trawler I like, just for its salty, romantic good looks, is the Pilgrim 40. They aren't cheap, if you can find a good one, but you will appreciate the space a Pilgrim affords.

If you don't like the "motion of the ocean" that can roll a monohull trawler back-and-forth, you might look into some of the power cats (catamarans). One I'm partial to is the PDQ34. Unlike the two trawlers above, the PDQ34, like most cats, offers the benefit of two engines, widely separated. This affords excellent handling.

You would probably be astonished at how spacious a cat is. In addition to its inherent stability, you will love the visibility, speed and privacy of a cat. Be warned, however - if you have a vessel with all that room and comfort, yours will become the "party boat."

The upside of choosing a motorsailer over a trawler is that you will have given yourselves the opportunity to voyage well-beyond the typical coasting or island-hopping of a trawler. If you're pretty sure that you never intend to do any serious passage-making, though, opting for a trawler over a motorsailer can make a lot of sense.

Good luck in your quest, Seasalt. And again, welcome aboard.

TaoJones
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Old 12-05-2009, 18:56   #3
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That is a great question as I've gone around crunching the numbers and the overall needs between, motorsailor, pilothouse, trawler, powercat, etc..
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Old 12-05-2009, 19:25   #4
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As a sailor, I'd like to tell you that a sailboat is more economical than a trawler. It's a hard case to make. Sails, mast and rigging are expensive, require frequent replacement and are mostly made of oil. Worse, coastal sailors motor more than they want to admit - even to themselves.

I looked very hard at going to a trawler a few years ago and just couldn't do it (despite all of the trawler sales guys telling me that all trawler people were ex sailors and this was my destiny) Instead I'm planning on a motorsailer - but only because I can't give up sailing.

In my brief adventure into the trawler world I discovered the following that you might think about:

Trawlers roll - much worse than I expected. (obviously this isn't true of multihull trawlers). I was shocked coming from a sailboat where the sails steady the boat except straight downwind. We're talking a real hang-over-the-rail kind of roll.

There are two fixes to rolling - have a fast planing trawler and burn astonishing amounts of fuel (my wife said she wouldn't go on a boat burning that much fuel - too embarrasing ) or put in stabilizers that are really, really expensive and have a surprisingly bad reputation for failing at the worst possible moment.

Second, trawlers are only economical when going slow - like 7 knots slow. While 7 knots on a sailboat feels fun and fast, it feels slow on a motor boat. At least to most people. I felt it too. Boring.

Many trawler builders (with a few exceptions) have responded to this market problem by installing two really big engines. I find the engine room intimidating. And if you actually go fast, you burn so much fuel that your wife get's off. Even the sales guys say that no one goes fast because it burns too much fuel. Of course you roll if you go slow. Unless you buy the stabilizer option for the price of a car.

So I if I was getting a trawler I'd get a single engine slow one - unless I didn't want my wife to come along in which case the fast one might be better.

As for the rolling. Rivers are good. Or a multihull.

Carl
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Old 13-05-2009, 03:58   #5
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As a sailor, I'd like to tell you that a sailboat is more economical than a trawler. It's a hard case to make. Sails, mast and rigging are expensive, require frequent replacement and are mostly made of oil. Worse, coastal sailors motor more than they want to admit - even to themselves...
In his seminal publication, “Voyaging Under Power”, Robert P. Beebe contended that the costs of passagemaking can be similar under power or sail.
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Old 13-05-2009, 06:25   #6
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Although you haven't given us much info on your budget, this is one answer to your question; DashewOffshore.com - the serious cruising sailor's website Read about her and watch a few videos...might be what you are looking for. As for learning to sail at 60+ and with little help, I'll defer to our more senior members. Can you learn everything you need to know about safe sail passage making at 60? I'll bet you can, if you are in reasonable shape.
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Old 13-05-2009, 06:40   #7
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Ive own both- a Trawler since 1992 and a Cat since 2006 and see the other posts have covered it about right- If I was not making long passages id get the Trawler with a single small engine , lots of good ones out there at the right price now
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Old 13-05-2009, 08:34   #8
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I agree with the posters so far. I bought a sailboat not only for the pleasure of sailing but because trawlers were at the time so much more expensive in initial cost (even for used ones). The 37' blow boat was 1/2 to 1/3 of the price of the same age trawler. This doesn't occur when comparing motorsailers and trawlers because they are very similar in price already. Trawler roll can be helped with the addition of small steadying sails or para-vanes. These options are not as effective as fin stabilizers but very low tech, low cost, and low maintenance. In your case, I would do the trawler. You will both be much happier. In the waters you mentioned you would be doing much more motoring than sailing anyway. Oh one more thing, you will also find that the flybridge will get much more use than the interior helm. Visibility inside most trawlers is non-existent.
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Old 13-05-2009, 09:48   #9
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I currently have my first trawler. In a perfect world I would have a motor sailor.... however, it would be more of a "trawler with sails" than a "sailboat with pilot house" if that makes sense. I like not having to go up and down the companionway ladder, the more open deck space etc, but would love to be on a beam reach occassionally! Sailboat Cockpits are so restrictive. I needed room for the pups to run around and not deal with the ladder! Of course a Catamaran is the best of both worlds.......$$$$$
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Old 13-05-2009, 10:13   #10
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I currently have my first trawler. In a perfect world I would have a motor sailor.... however, it would be more of a "trawler with sails" than a "sailboat with pilot house" if that makes sense. I like not having to go up and down the companionway ladder, the more open deck space etc, but would love to be on a beam reach occassionally! Sailboat Cockpits are so restrictive. I needed room for the pups to run around and not deal with the ladder! Of course a Catamaran is the best of both worlds.......$$$$$
It makes sense to me, Cheech, and I think it's the perfect description. Your post sums up my current thinking exactly. I would only add that a bridge deck is a necessity - just love amblin' along, sitting on a high perch, making my own breeze, watching the scenery slowly change.

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Old 18-05-2009, 07:28   #11
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My first sailboat was sold about 20 years ago, I tried to forget the joys of being on SF Bay. Two years ago started looking at boat, intent was a dock queen to have as a weekend get away, wife said no sail, power only.

We looked at a bunch of boats during that time and were drawn to more traditional boats, double enders in particular. Our reasoning, probably with room for lots of error, was based on observations and discussion. Being in San Pablo Bay, we noted power boats went out fairly early and back before the afternoon winds. The Channel was a parade of boats about 2 o'clock, power boats returning, sail heading out.
We started asking why and found the local sea condition were not friendly to semi-displacement hulls and, with winds daily in the small craft advisory zone, twin Lehman 120s could leave a boat with that much windage underpowered. Even with that, we noticed a lot of sail boats were going without sails or clearly motorsailing. The more exposure we had the more we were interested in actually getting out on the water again. The Admiral relented on the no sailboat rule.

The Banjer 37, based on the N Sea Fisherman, apparently what the Fisher line of motor sailor is based on, caught our imaginations from first sight. saloon large and well ventilated, pilothouse with excellent visibility and comfort, and a decent cockpit for enjoying pleasant weather. Best of all, plenty of headroom for two extra tall folks.

The Perkins 4-236 produces plenty of power for hull speed and the sails can move her along reasonably with our winds, but work best to steady the motion. We are much more comfortable with her motion in a seaway than we were on the semi-displacement boat sea trials, though out learning curve is still steep. She points like an old gaff rigged barge, which is, not at all.

Compromises abound, but what little we have experienced so far this boat serves us well, comfort in the seaway and at dock.

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Old 18-05-2009, 08:48   #12
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We pondered the same question when looking for our most recent boat.
I've always thought of a 'motorsailer' more as how a boat is used than designed. If your boat sails well, and has a diesel to push it hull speed, than it's a 'motorsailer'. There's a tendancy to call sailboats with pilothouses that don't sail well, "motorsailers". We certainly use ours as a motorsailer, but I don't think the designer intended for that.
The big factor for us was the second means of propulsion. I just couldn't reconcile myself to a single engine, the only backup being a call for help on the radio. Yes, there's the third means of propulsion, a good dinghy and strong outboard, but that's only viable in good conditions. In my opinion, there's a world of difference between the twin engine trawler and the single screw. The cost of the twin engine then puts you in the league of catamarans. So for us, in the price range of single engine trawlers and monohulls, the second means of propulsion provided the sense of independance which outweighed the drawback of a big stick in the air and a deeper draft.
And I have to disagree with those who stress the cost of a rig and sails, it's no where near that of an engine. We spent 7 years travelling on our last boat and never spent a single penny on the rig or sails. Just used what came on the boat. Same case now, so for the casual cruiser who's not all into performance sailing, the sails really are a cheap way of moving the boat. Not to forget also, it's always more comfortable motoring with a sail up than without, even when there's barely a wisp of a wind.
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Old 22-05-2009, 18:30   #13
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i am surprised no one mentioned Nordhavns 56 motorsailer. seems to be a great package of Trawler, and beam-reach, downwind sailer. but i am a newb, so what do i know!


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Old 22-05-2009, 19:37   #14
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I don’t disagree with anything that you’ve heard so far. If your primary interest in motorsailors vs. trawlers is economy issues, well it all depends on your location and intended use. You’ve more or less described your intended use, but not your location.

FWIW, when my wife and I set out from Florida to the Bahamas/Caribbean in a 34' sloop, we were determined to use the engine as little as possible. Unfortunately, the trip required a lot of easting which in good weather was against the prevailing east winds. The result was that we spent far more time motoring or motor/sailing than we ever imagined.

I doubt that your described use would result in much savings by having limited sail capability. But, do not make the mistake of thinking that you will get $2/gal fuel for your trawler. Marina fuel prices are ALWAYS significantly higher. And as of today, $5/gal is not uncommon in Bahamas/Caribbean ports.
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Old 11-04-2011, 20:09   #15
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Re: Trawler or Motorsailer?

I am in the same boat so to speak. We just moved to north Alabama on the Tennessee river and would like to buy a boat to cruise the river which we can go from here to Florida or to the Great lakes. We want some with a lot of room obviously, small 25-30ft. I had a sailboat and do not like living underwater, so we started looking at trawlers with 20-30 hp diesel engines but they are not easy to find, most people around here have sailboats or power boats. I like the power boat cruisers but I only want to cruise and don't know if it would heart an engine running at low rpm for hours or if it would be economical. I don't want to invest more than $20,000
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