Trawlers, Passagemakers, & Motorsailers

Inshore Trawlers

I have to admit a fondness for this category, having spent many happy days cruising with three young children on a 1980 Albin 36. With wide decks and high railings, we were comfortable with the kids running around in life jackets while underway, using a code of announcements so their transits from cabin to flybridge could be monitored. The Albin 36 and 43 were very popular as less expensive alternatives to the Grand Banks 36 and 42, and in my mind a superior design with more beam and bow flair for a dryer ride, but certainly not of the overall build quality of the Grand Banks.

These are not oceangoing motor boats, but certainly a safe and economical way to cruise a family. The word "trawler" has wandered around the boat business, landing on all sorts of powerboats, including the phrase "fast trawler" which is the nautical equivalent of "jumbo shrimp." Generally the term refers to yachts with displacement or semi-displacement hulls, powered for economy and modest speeds.

Thousands of boats were built in this category, from 30 to 50 feet and up, some great, some awful. Even the best known example, the Grand Banks 42, has some very expensive issues which crop up based on maintenance and age. The principal two issues are fuel tanks and decks. Original fuel tanks were black iron and are susceptible to corrosion; decks are teak overlay, screwed into cored decks, and can be very costly to repair if the decks have been scrubbed hard for 20 years, or if water has entered the core.

The third big chunk of change could well be the engines. The most common, the Lehman 120 and 135, are very dependable but many are approaching 30 years of age, and may be ripe for replacement. At boatyard pricing, the perfect storm of these three issues could be $100,000. For a 1980 GB42, which also might need a new generator, air conditioners, heads, plumbing, systems, and electronic upgrading, the cost of repairs alone will approach (or exceed) the ending value of the yacht. Few sellers have embraced this math.

Larger motor yachts, like Flemings, Marlows, the Grand Banks Aleutian series, and others take the trawler category into another realm of elegance and begin to cross the line into the next category, particularly the Marlows and big Flemings.

Offshore-capable Powerboats

In 1989, Pacific Asian Enterprises, producers of the highly regarded Mason sailboats, launched a 46 foot motor boat, the Nordhavn 46, that was a real game changer. It was a boat designed to do what we had mostly only done in bluewater sailboats, cross oceans for the fun of it. Robert Beebe's book, Passagemaker, started the modern era of passagemaking in small powerboats; then Nordhavn presented the public with production boat that could take them around the world. Nordhavn has continued to serve that market, along with Kady-Krogen, Buehler's Diesel Ducks, and others.

FPB 64

The Dashews FPB 64 (from

Another fresh look at this came when the sailing Dashews became the motoring Dashews and they built their yacht Wind Horse. Their fundamental ideas for that yacht are now embodied in a series of aluminum fast passagemakers. See the link on the last page.

Of course, any of these yachts would make fine coastal cruisers; in fact, many of the type will do mostly just that. The great advantage to an offshore capable powerboat is that it can make that Maine-Bermuda-BVI run in a string of days instead of weeks.


In offshore powerboats, sail assist is available on all the yachts pictured, and also can be thought of as the "get home" engine. For the cruiser who likes his or her feet in both camps, I will leave you with a picture of the classic Hand/Davis motorsailer, Burma, which to me looks like a great way to travel. Nordhavn has a modern motorsailer and there are several Hinckley models that offer good speed and long range under power, such as the Hinckley 49 ketch, a personal favorite of mine.

© Peter Bass 2013-19