When I first moved to Florida 15 years ago, I thought it was go-fast country and my displacement trawler would be out of place. After spending time on friends' boats and coastal cruising to the Bahamas and such, decided my Willard 36 (which was in San Francisco at the time) would be perfect with a few tweaks. Here's a list of attributes and changes I considered in making the decision.
Full keel is great for skinny water. I have a friend with twins and decent skegs but still managed to tap bottom.... Twice.
No brightwork. I had my caprails encapsulated with fiberglass and LPUd. Unless I drop a toothpick, there is no exterior woodwork.
Air draft. I now live in St Pete and my slip is on the ICW. The mast on the Willard 36 sports a useless steadying sail, but provides hoist for dinghy. I removed the mast and went with a Nick Jackson pip davit crane to reduce air draft by about 10 feet. In addition to clearing most local bridges without waiting for an opening, The Loop is now a possibility for us. If The Loop is in your future, this is critical for you. Otherwise it's mostly a convenience
Stabilization. Our plans are to cruise Bahamas and Central America. Stabilization is not an option to us. Even though the Willard 36 is very low and heavily ballated, we would not cruise a power boat that did not have some form of stabilization both underway and at anchor. We have cruised on a friend's power cat which was luxurious, but frankly we prefer the ride of a stabilized full displacement hull.
Layout. Our days of having a dozen friends aboard are done (fireworks in SF often saw up to 20 aboard). For us, having a Sedan layout is important as the indoor flows to the outdoor. Covered space in Florida's sun is key. Many pilot house boats are also workable, as would a power cat. The so-called Tri-Cabin or trunk cabin trawlers do not have decent covered outdoor space except for the flybridge which is disconnected from the rest of the boat. The Defever 48 is an interesting design in that its essentially a tri cabin with a hard top that flows over the side decks and trunk (greatly reduced head room).
Speed. We enjoy cruising at jogging speed. We have cruised with friends at 15-20 kts and did not like it, especially on the ICW when going through no wake zones and constantly powering up and down. I understand the appeal of speed, but for us, it somehow undermines the relaxing drone of just loping along at 7 kts. People talk of liking speed to bear weather. Maybe we've been lucky in our 10k nms of total cruising (and another 40k nms for me as a delivery captain of mostly ocean-capable trawlers), but weather is what the weather is and it's just something we plan for as part of the trip - for the most part, on passages, fast boats are never as fast as they think they will be. That said, I can think of three instances where speed is nice. First, go make a scheduled bridge opening if needed. Second, to power through strong currents such as those in the PNW. Finally, if you have exposed running gear in Florida, catching a higher tide.
In closing, to my mind, the GB36 is a wonderful boat - the gold standard for a family trawler. Big enough to weekend on small enough to easily manage. They are well designed and incredibly mannerly in close quarters. Despite my admiration, I would not chose one for cruising due to reasons above. If I owned one, I wouldn't sell it, but I wouldn't chose one as a purpose boat for cruising in Florida.
1970 Willard 36 Sedan Trawler
Current Location: Ensenada MX