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Old 09-08-2012, 07:07 PM   #1
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How does a trawler take rough water?

I have been a sailboat owner for the past 30 years (Columbia 26 and then an Allied Mistress 39), and pretty much am familiar with doing rough water with a sailboat. But never have had a trawler. However, I'm getting older, and have so sold the Mistress (ketch) and am currently dickering to buy a trawler. In my golden years I want comfort. Most likely I will get one on the East coast and have to bring her through Okeechobee and up the ICW to Clearwater, Florida, and then do a direct 24-hour run from there to Carrabelle, Florida.

All of which is merely background information to ask if I am going to need to have flat calm Gulf waters to come across, or if a trawler can take reasonably rough water without all that much discomfort? Not going directly into seas, of course -- I know better than that. But if, for example, it is quartering 3-5 foot seas, which is fairly common on the Gulf, is that going to be a pounding?

I was assured when I joined this group a couple of days ago that there are no stupid questions, and although this one seems kind of stupid to me, I will take your word for it. :-)


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Old 09-08-2012, 07:20 PM   #2
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I think the answer depends largely on the length, hull shape and displacement.
We have a 47ft Selene with a near full displacement hull shape and 65,000lb displacement. It handles rough seas well, especially so with its active fin stabilizers.
We have made a number of trips in 6-10ft seas and 35+kt winds, though not usually by choice!!
The boat handles the conditions easily. We usually are glad to reach our destination but not too beaten up!!

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Old 09-08-2012, 07:22 PM   #3
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John, it depends entirely on the design and equipment of the trawler. The term "trawler" no longer means what it used to mean, as owners of coastal cruisers capable of 20 knots call themselves trawlers. Not sure what the term means myself, but in general, it seems to mean a vessel capable of crossing oceans on its own bottom and dealing with the weather one encounters on the way. We've sailed to Hawaii in a 36' heavy displacement cutter that I would feel fine taking around Cape Horn. Our current boat also seems perfectly capable to handle any kind of weather the prudent mariner would encounter. Other vessels that call themselves 'trawlers' I wouldn't take across Georgia Strait in a 25 knot breeze, which doesn't mean they aren't splendid boats and a joy to own, but rather that they aren't designed for blue water or adverse conditions if comfort is on the agenda.

So, define the trawler and you should be able to get an intelligent answer to an intelligent question.
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Old 09-08-2012, 07:34 PM   #4
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Sailboats carry/house people closer to the water/center-of-gravity than recreational "trawlers." Thus, relative movement will be greater in a trawler. Still, most sail and power boats are designed for coastal (run to harbor when bad weather is coming) and inland/protected waters. Trawlers with small windows and the ability to shed water are better when facing open-ocean fury.

The Coot is coastal, the above is ocean-going.
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Old 09-08-2012, 07:49 PM   #5
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John, what you were told is indeed the truth, there are no stupid questions, everyone has to start somewhere.

The replies so far are correct, especially the broad definition of "trawler". Getting the right boat requires you define as best you possibly can, how you will use it, than find the optimum boat for your purposes. My wife and I spent five years in our quest and recently took delivery of a new Ocean Alexander 54 Trawler.

If you want to learn more about the thought process behind our purchase and the outfitting of the boat, it is being featured in the October issue of Passagemaker magazine.

We also are based on the East Coast and have similar plans as you.

There are many power driven, extended range, voyaging vessels (trawlers) capable of confidently handling the conditions you describe.

Enjoy the search and keep asking questions!
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May you always have at least a hand's width of water beneath your keel!
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Old 09-08-2012, 08:07 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by jwnall View Post

All of which is merely background information to ask if I am going to need to have flat calm Gulf waters to come across, or if a trawler can take reasonably rough water without all that much discomfort? Not going directly into seas, of course -- I know better than that. But if, for example, it is quartering 3-5 foot seas, which is fairly common on the Gulf, is that going to be a pounding?

I was assured when I joined this group a couple of days ago that there are no stupid questions, and although this one seems kind of stupid to me, I will take your word for it. :-)

No, 3-5' quartering seas will not create an uncomfortable ride in any reasonably sized ocean going coastal cruiser.

My boat is a typical coastal cruiser. 47' hull length, 15' beam, 4' draft, 30 ton displacement, raised pilothouse design.

In my boat I very frequently run into sea conditions like that. Any half way seaworthy boat should be able to handle 3-5' seas with no trouble, and be comfortable doing it. That is typical ocean conditions.

BTW, it does not take a passagemaker to make the journey you've described. You can go pretty much anywhere along a coastline in 90%+ of the boats on this forum. Remember that unless you are really crossing large open ocean areas that a long journey is a series of short trips.

A good example is the Gulf Of Alaska. that is a legendary rough stretch of water. Every non trailer boat in south central Alaska (hundreds of them) has at one time crossed the Gulf Of Alaska which is at a bare minimum 208 miles of open ocean and 260 miles between fuel stops, with many of the boats opting for a 320NM run to Seward. Yet, all of these boats are in the harbor safe. All you have to do is watch the weather, and it doesn't get smaller than 3-5' waves, ever. 3-5' is a dream come true crossing.
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Old 09-08-2012, 09:12 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by jwnall View Post
I have been a sailboat owner for the past 30 years (Columbia 26 and then an Allied Mistress 39), and pretty much am familiar with doing rough water with a sailboat. But never have had a trawler. However, I'm getting older, and have so sold the Mistress (ketch) and am currently dickering to buy a trawler. In my golden years I want comfort.
Exactly the questions I was asking myself with my changeover from 45 years of sail to power. My previous was an immensly strong seaboat owned and cruised for seventeen years, and the 'new' is a full displacement trawler. I've just setttled her in her home berth after a 400nm coastal run and I've noticed a couple of things.
Driving from the helm position well forward, the motion is very different and I felt quite removed from the what the hull was doing in larger following seas, needing to step outside occasionally to feel I had full 'situational awareness'. On the other hand, it was quite something to just keep going at 8kn in a straight line in dry, stabilised comfort whatever was going on 'outside'.
I'll need to see how we go in some more challenging sea states to feel totally relaxed, but I'm sure I'll get very used to the 'indoors' and no regrets about swapping boats, yet.
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Old 09-09-2012, 05:56 AM   #8
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Pitching is seldom a problem in power boats , but ROLL is the hassle.

Not usually a problem with a sail boat with lots of sail .

The solutions are

! enough sail to become a motorsailor , not a shaped flag on a stick, a big sail..

2 Install "flopper stoppers" , good bet as some are claimed to operate in a rolly harbor.

3. Install active fin stabelizers, big bucks and maintn required.

Easiest is to keep near shore and simply pick your weather window very carefully.,

and of course change course to east the roll.
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Old 09-09-2012, 05:57 AM   #9
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I'm sure with your thirty years as a sailboat owner, you've already figured out that watching the weather forecast when planning a boat trip is a good idea and you know that on some days it's wisest to stay in port.

You've been given some definitions of the term "trawler", but really, the definition of the term is pretty loose. I've had people insist that my boat is not a trawler but I just ignore them. It was manufactured and sold as a trawler and to me, it is a trawler.

I say that to say this - There are many different trawlers. Big ones, little ones, short ones, tall ones. Some are better suited to high seas than others. You ask if you need to have flat calm Gulf waters to come across. The answer is no, you won't, but I am sure you know not to head out into a storm.

For even an educated guess from others, you're going to have to narrow your choice down to a certain size range and perhaps style of trawler.

The othe question is, once you get this trawler home, what will be your cruising grounds? Protected waters, open ocean, or something in between?
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Old 09-09-2012, 06:51 AM   #10
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If you want to cross oceans you need a half million dollar trawler to do it as safely as a 50k sailboat.

We went from a 36' sailboat to a 32' Trawler. The trawler is fine for the inland and coastal type trips we take. The whole key to an enjoyable passage is planning on avoiding unpleasant weather. Some days the Ocean is flat as glass other times I would rather be anchored or docked and do some shore stuff.

The best part of the trawler is the large windows and flybridge. On the sailboat with only portholes and living below decks it was very cave like. Also fun to go under most bridges without opening. All and all the trawler is a great boat for ex sailors.

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Old 09-09-2012, 07:17 AM   #11
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OK, I have gotten quite a few useful tidbits out of all the replies, and I thank you all. Waiting for weather, yes, most important of all. I had not thought about the fact that some of the trawlers can carry some sail, so appreciate that suggestion. And to answer someone who asked where I plan to use my trawler -- rivers, lakes, ICW and in general quiet relaxed waters. I've done the tough stuff already, with the sail boat. Worst one was crossing the Yucatan Channel from the West end of Cuba to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, with a cold front approaching. Turns out that north wind meeting the fast-flowing current of the Yucatan current does not make for a smooth crossing. That was back when I was on my learning curve.

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Old 09-09-2012, 07:29 AM   #12
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Always a big difference between comfortable/enjoyable and life threatening.

You can also sink and drown on a perfectly flat day too.

I'm sure some of your weather planning and seamanship skills will transfer just like they did for many of us. FF posted, roll will make llife uncomfortable and clear your flat surfaces of items but it would take more than brisk winds to make it dangerous.
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Old 09-09-2012, 08:07 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by jwnall View Post
. And to answer someone who asked where I plan to use my trawler -- rivers, lakes, ICW and in general quiet relaxed waters. ............
So your Gulf crossing will be a one time thing. Look for good weather for that crossing and focus on a boat that will suit your cruising area and your needs and wants.
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Old 09-09-2012, 08:40 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by rwidman View Post
So your Gulf crossing will be a one time thing. Look for good weather for that crossing and focus on a boat that will suit your cruising area and your needs and wants.
This is exactly what I was thinking. I just did most of the route you are considering about this time last year when I bought my 34' Mainship. I wouldn't and didn't do the Tampa/Carrabelle run in an unproven boat. Using Cedar Keys or Steinhatchee as a jumpoff point adds only a negligible time to the trip and gives you that security blanket feeling of "Hey I can swim to shore if need be!" for all but one 12 hour run. You only need a two day wind window. The rest of the trip can be done on the inside. Feel free to PM if you'd like more in-depth info about the trip itself. Good luck on the decision making of which trawler fits you best.
TIME well wasted
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Old 09-09-2012, 08:51 AM   #15
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I have made the trip from Apalachicola to either Anclote or the Tampa Bay entrance or back 5 times in my Monk 36, a single engine, semi-displacement trawler. Usually southbound in early March and northbound mid May. I do it at night to avoid navigating the crabpot infested waters just off the coast in darkness. One crossing was in flat seas, another was probably in 4' seas some of the time, the other three trips in 2' maybe a few 3' thrown in, these are not dangerous but will be uncomfortable if on the beam, especially at the upper helm. I usually drive from below at night, there is not much to see out there anyway. I watch the weather and won't head out unless the forecast is good, we enjoy Apalachicola and Clearwater/Tarpon Springs area so don't mind a couple days wait either way. I check the weather at different sources this is one of my favorites Tampa Bay Surf Report (STORMSURF),, click sea height in the control panel for the entire Gulf. Also there is a phone nr in Jax. FL that you can call for a NOAA person to give you the latest forecast and go over it with them the number is (850) 942-8833.
I believe the most uncomfortable ride I've has was in the shallow Mississippi sound, not big waves but it seemed they were comming from every direction at the same time.
To your previous post I think we are in very bad times to be selling a boat but it is a good time to be buying
Good luck!
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Old 09-09-2012, 03:12 PM   #16
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Here is my 2 cents I sailed a Jeaneu 36 for over 20 yrs on the great lakes I was very comfortable in all weather. However now that I am old {not older} I switched 5 yrs ago to a 38foot Ocean Alexander aft cabin trawler . There id no question that the sailboat handles the rough water [short choppy 5 footers] far better than the trawler im calm weather the trawler is nice and comfortable but it can be boring with no sails to trim A plus for a trawler is that it makes a great cottage when in port and the weather is bad.
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Old 09-09-2012, 03:50 PM   #17
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Just find a "boat" w a big keel and even bigger rudder. Then in quartering following seas you won't wish you had power steering and a bigger rudder.
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Old 09-09-2012, 04:00 PM   #18
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...Not going directly into seas, of course -- I know better than that. But if, for example, it is quartering 3-5 foot seas, which is fairly common on the Gulf, is that going to be a pounding?...
Directly into seas or going to weather (or quartering seas) happens. The big difference vs a sailboat is you have the power to do it, though you may have to back off on the throttle so you don't pound. You'll find the comfort zone. We cruised on a sailboat for 10 years before we bought Hobo. One of the of big differences (other than the ability to go to weather) was the motion from the cockpit. In the sailboat we drove from the stern. On the trawler you are pretty far forward so you feel the sea conditions more but the view is better.
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Old 09-10-2012, 05:13 AM   #19
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OK this is not a trawler , but a CAT which is an on the water like a motorboat, rather than "in" the water like a sail boat,

Lifted from boat design net

Richard Wood's initial report
As some of you probably now know, we are no longer on board Eclipse but on navy frigate USS Ford where, apart from saving our lives, everyone has been really friendly and welcoming.

We left Nicaragua on Friday 13th, which probably didn’t help matters, and had a very frustrating sail along the coast of El Salvador and then Guatemala. Frustrating, as the weather was really changeable. For example we went from motoring to sailing under reefed genoa alone in under 2 minutes. But we did have some nice sailing for a couple of hours each day – then followed by several hours of motoring. So it was taking longer than we wanted to get to Mexico and we were both getting tired, but Jetti, as always, was preparing good food. There was a time constraint as we knew there would be a bad gale coming through the Gulf of Tehuantepec on Wednesday afternoon, and we had wanted to get past that area by then. Sadly we didn’t quite make it.

The wind got up very quickly from south 7-10 knots to north west 30. As we got away from land the wind increased more. There are several proven, accepted, techniques for handling bad weather in a catamaran. If the wave and wind are not too severe, one can just heave to or take down all sail and lie ahull. But as the wind increases and especially as the wave height increases, this is no longer a safe option. So the next stage is either to run before a gale towing warps, or to lie to a sea anchor. The problems with the former are that a) you are going with the weather system so you stay in it longer b) if the wind increases you eventually cannot go slowly enough so you begin to surf and overtake the waves ahead c) you end up a long way downwind, at say 50 miles a day d) it would mean that I would be hand
steering all the time, as Jetti is not experienced (or in the event as we found later, strong enough) to steer in big seas. So I have always preferred the sea anchor streamed from the bows. However, in 45 years of sailing and around 70,000 of offshore sailing, I have never had to stop sailing because of bad weather. So it had all been theory for me, until now.

Anyway, at 8pm we decided to stop sailing and use our parachute sea anchor. I had first got this when we did the Azores race in Banshee in 1987, but had only ever used it for practice. This was the first time for real. It took sometime to sort out the bridle so that the boat would stay head to waves. It tended to swing 40 degrees each way and was scary (or so I thought at the time) when we got near-abeam of the waves. Also, from time to time the parachute would collapse, and we’d drift backwards until it reset, which was even more worrying.

We spent the night like that, with no sleep of course. Next morning the wind and sea was much worse. Certainly a full gale, but not so bad that I thought the Eclipse was in real danger. Tests, theory and practice have shown that a catamaran can only capsize if it beam onto waves that are as high as the beam of the boat. So we are 100% OK in waves under 20 feet high, and these were 10 feet.

I kept checking the warps and bridles but as the boat swung, the loads on the bridles were very high and eventually first one and then the other 12mm anchor warp bridle broke. Apart from holding the boat into waves the bridle also spreads the load onto 3 wear points. Now, all the load was on one bow roller and the parachute warp was beginning to chafe. I rigged up a second line with rolling hitches, which was rather wet to do on the foredeck. At some stage the forward trampoline started to tear but was still useable with care. (I had planned to get a new one this year as they have about a 5 year life). The wind and sea state had been steadily increasing. Every hour we said, “It can’t get windier can it?” By now it was probably a steady 40 knots and 10-15 foot seas breaking over the boat every 10 minutes or so. Our safety depended on our parachute sea anchor holding. But in case it failed, I set up the 2 main anchors to be used as drogues behind the boat.

Surprisingly it was not the warp that broke, but the parachute. This was a 10ft cargo-style parachute specially made for use as a yacht sea anchor. I pulled it on board, the boat drifting beam on at this stage, and on quick inspection found it had shredded and that several parachute lines had pulled out. As I said earlier, I had only used the sea anchor in calmer conditions for an hour or so, just to practice. It seemed an excellent idea, the boat would just bob up and down, just like being on a conventional anchor, but in a real gale the loads were much worse, and the boat was being pulled and jerked as the waves passed. I didn’t like it, and I don’t think I would recommend a sea anchor again.

We threw the anchors over the stern and also added the shredded sea anchor. It was very difficult to steer, but eventually I got the boat moving downwind. We were sailing at 5-6 knots despite the drogues. We let out more warp which helped slow us to 3-4. I think that might have still meant surfing down some of the bigger waves which would have the potential for a disastrous broach. However the real problem was now the following waves could catch us up and break into the cockpit. For the first time ever on any catamaran I’ve sailed we had to close the companionway door. The first wave broke into the cockpit. The second wave was much bigger and swamped the cockpit. Even worse it filled the dinghy which we keep in davits. The water weight broke some of the straps, and we had to cut the dinghy loose and so lost it. Clearly running downwind was not an option.

So we now decided to try towing the anchors from one stern. This would allow the boat to lie at a 45 degree angle to the waves. Despite this temporary arrangement it actually seemed to work better than the sea anchor had done. Of course all the time the wind was increasing. We went below again to recover and see how the boat was handling the conditions. An hour later the wind suddenly got up even more. It was now screeching and the rig began vibrating which I had only noticed once before, when tied up in a marina during a 70 knot gale. The waves were now often over 20 feet so it was definitely getting to the dangerous, life threatening stage. We began to discuss the option of abandoning ship. Unfortunately our Raymarine wind speed indicator was obviously only designed for inshore sailing because it was still reading 32 knots. So I don’t know how windy it really was.

By 1pm the waves were now consistently over 20 feet, maybe occasionally 30 feet. I know I tend to underestimate wave heights, partly because everyone normally over estimates. For example when sailing in Alaska in the summer I thought we were in 2-3 ft waves, but our skipper wrote 6ft waves in the log. It was getting more and more serious as there didn’t seem to be any limit to how high the wind and waves could get. By 1.30pm the wind really got up. The sea state changed and the whole surface was covered in flying spume, all the wave tops were blown off. It was much the worse conditions I have ever seen, even when standing on a beach looking out at 100 knot winter gales. When I went outside I couldn’t stand up except by holding to a tether line. I could feel the skin on my face distorting in the wind. I guess there is a known wind speed when that happens, but I’d never felt it before.

That was when we decided to send out a Mayday, as we knew it would be several hours before any chance of rescue. Of course it was particularly hard for me as Eclipse is not insured. And of course no one likes the idea of abandoning a boat – usually boats are picked up later undamaged. I can always build another boat, and I had earlier said to Jetti that we might not survive. Accordingly we set off our EPIRB but also called Pip using our satellite phone. He gave us the UK’s Falmouth Coastguard phone number, and we called the Coastguard direct. We called back every hour to check on progress and to give a weather update and position check. We heard that Mexico was sending out a launch to stand by.

By 6pm it was dark so we could no longer see the waves. We could still hear them crashing onto the boat, but so far, apart from the lost dinghy and torn but useable trampoline there was no other damage. The inside was beginning to become a mess. Normally on a catamaran one can leave cups on the table; there is no need for fiddle rails, etc. Now everything was being thrown around. There seemed little point in putting everything back in place, so most just stayed on the floor or was put on the bunks. The inside stayed dry though, no water had got below except for the one wave when we were running downwind and lost the dinghy. So it was dry and warm below.

But all the time a wave/wind squall could have our name on it. We wouldn’t survive a capsize. We were still expecting the Mexican coastguard to call up on the VHF to say they were enroute. So it was a great surprise to hear a female American voice at 11pm saying she was in a helicopter and 10 miles from us. This was the first we knew that the US was involved. We kept in radio contact as they flew in and then set off a flare and made visual contact, although I suspect the pilot had seen us long before through their night vision equipment.

The last book I had read was Perfect Storm, so I knew all about the skills and training of naval rescue personnel. We had earlier prepared some dry bags which we filled with passports, money, ship papers. All those can be replaced, so what else? What I really wanted to take was my computer with all my work on it. But I felt it was too big. So Jetti took her makeup bag, I took our CD’s. In hindsight we could have taken more. We tied the bags to each other and put on shoes and inflated our lifejackets.

The US navy helicopters have a SAR (search and rescue) swimmer who jumps out of the helicopter and swims to the stricken vessel with a lifting strop. It looked very scary to me. A brave man. Eclipse was still moving around quite violently in the seas, but the conditions were fortunately not nearly as bad as they had been when we put out the Mayday. Ironically we probably were over the worst of the gale. Jetti was the first to jump into the sea and into the swimmer’s waiting arms. Five minutes later it was my turn. As I was hoisted out, I looked down and back at Eclipse and hoped I would see it again.

I had not flown in a helicopter before. They look big on the outside, but are cramped inside and very noisy. Our flight back to the USS Ford lasted about 10 minutes. We watched the in-flight movie: the night vision viewer of the frigate as we approached was fantastic. Jetti was shown the weather radar and saw that Eclipse was right in the centre of the storm.

We landed on the ship and faced a welcoming party of apparently the whole ship’s company, despite it now being 3 in the morning. A quick debrief, medical check, shower, and then into a set of navy issue jumpsuits. Next, a massive breakfast. We are not sure if it was put in front of us as a test, but it was the biggest meal I’ve ever eaten. Jetti finished her plates as well. But then neither of us had eaten anything for 36 hours except a few slices of bread. Then a 3 hour sleep.

In the morning we had discussions with the crew. The helicopter pilot said she had great difficulty controlling her helicopter as she was flying at 50 knots to stay in position and going up and down 20ft to stay with the waves. Independent confirmation that it was still a full gale, if not F9. Even so, it was far less severe than earlier in the day. She also said it was her first real sea rescue. She, like the swimmer, had only done simulations in weather this severe. She also admitted that her helicopter had not been airworthy the day before as the rotor blades were being changed. We met the captain who said he had been steaming his frigate away from the area to keep away from the bad weather. He considers this area worse than sailing round Cape Horn.

Even now as I write on board USS Ford, it’s hard to keep in my chair as the ship is rolling and pitching. Yet, looking outside, the sea state looks relatively flat compared to what we had been in yesterday.

We have 24 hours before getting to port. We are desperate to see if we can salvage Eclipse. It is undamaged and will probably float for ever. Currently it is only 50 miles from a big fishing harbour, and we hope to find a salvage operator there to tow Eclipse in.

Despite all that happened, I was very impressed with the seaworthiness of Eclipse. No real damage (we didn’t like our dinghy anyway), and the boat had survived a major storm without capsizing. Certainly life would have been much more uncomfortable on a monohull, and ultimately I think had we been on one, we would still have put out a Mayday, as did the yacht in the Perfect Storm.

I’ll finish this by thanking all the crew on USS Ford. There will be more about them later.

We don’t know what the future holds now. In a few days we will know about Eclipse. If it is salvaged, clearly we have to sort that out. If not, we will fly home.

That’s it for now.

Richard and Jetti, no longer on board Eclipse

Edit Note by Brian: I've underlined a few of the items that may prove important in evaluating this incident
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Old 09-13-2012, 09:04 PM   #20
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I took the roughest passage I've ever taken in St. Andrews Sound in GA in December of last year. It was not fun. We got the Shit Beat out of us. A few 36 foot sailboats came through with only getting really wet and bumping around some.

I'm in a 36 foot TT (Monk 36) and it is OK on good days, but I now draw the line at 15 knots. If more than that I don't go outside. Nobody onboard liked any moment of that passage.

IMHO my boat is made for inland travel. I've done the 5NM journey outside to Cape Lookout, but I had a close eye on the wind and weather and also tide. A sailboat would not have worried at all, and would have actually hoped for more wind!

Egregious is offline   Reply With Quote

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