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Old 11-05-2020, 09:19 PM   #1
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Helmsman and American Tug

Hi everyone. I have been reading posts to this group for quite some time and this might be our first post. My wife and I are in the process of planning the switch from sail to steam. Prior to COVID-19, we jumped on many different types of trawlers (Nordic Tug, Selene, Helmsman Trawler, and American Tug). Scott with Helmsman and Tom at American Tug have both been phenomenal in very initial conversations. My wife and I have pages of notes and sketches from various websites, blogs, and YouTube videos.

I believe we have narrowed our search (still a year or so out from making decisions) to a Helmsman 38E and the American Tug 395. The general cruising plan is exploring deep into the Pacific Northwest and eventually heading down into the Sea of Cortez before returning to our homeport in CA. I'm guessing 90% of the time it will be the two of us aboard. There is no need for us to have a swift trawler as the average high cruising speed of our sailboat, in great conditions, is about 6.5knots and that's not a consistent speed. So, that will be our sweet spot.

Okay, lots of information for this question: It will be great to hear feedback and opinions from people who have compared American Tug and the Helmsman Trawler. Thank you so much.
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Old 11-05-2020, 09:39 PM   #2
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We have a Helmsman 43 and did a very similar exercise to you.

Both great boats, but apples and oranges when it comes to cost.

We are extremely satisfied with our Helmsman and it is of some of the highest quality we have seen in boats in this range.

Good Luck!
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Old 11-05-2020, 09:54 PM   #3
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I’m a life long sailor as well but for the PNW you certainly can’t beat the comfort of a trawler with heat.
I ordered a Helmsman 31 from Scott and can confirm that he is extremely honourable and that the yard is small enough that modifications to your requirements can be done. I have used solar for years on my SE sailboat and after giving the spec and desired location for my MPPT charge controller and wiring for the panel location, the boat was delivered with an exact...I mean EXACT cutout for the controller, wires not simply run as I’d asked, but run inside the upper rail allowing me to do a very neat install.
At. 6.5 knots (look at travels of Emma B.... I see a lot of territory at that speed yearly) you will have a very comfortable and economical cruiser.
The 38 is a great boat. Awesome layout and proven hull design.
Make a list of both wants and needs, then talk to Scott. I can attest to the spirit of cooperation as well as exceptional service ..... even 3+yrs after the purchase.
PS...”373”...a Beneteau?
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Old 11-06-2020, 12:26 PM   #4
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AdmiralS: I have followed your posts for quite some time and commented to Scott that you are a huge advocate for Helmsman. A possibility for us is to take delivery on the East coast. I grew-up on Eastern LI and worked in RI after college. It would be great to explore New England for a few seasons and work our way up the Hudson before heading to the Pacific Northwest. I went so far as speaking to Dockwise to get an idea of cost of delivering it from Florida to Vancouver. Thank you for taking the time to share so much about your Helmsman experiences.
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Old 11-06-2020, 01:09 PM   #5
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Both are excellent vessels- I've known Scott for quite a number of years, and am a fan of the Helmsman line.
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Old 11-06-2020, 01:45 PM   #6
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We also considered both of these brands before acquiring an American Tug, though we were searching in the 40-ft range, as we wanted 2 staterooms and 2 heads.
One difference is helmsman built in Taiwan whereas AT built in La Conner, WA: not too many trawlers still built in the US.
I’d say the AT customer service by the people at Tomco is unparalleled, even for people buying a pre-owned boat. They’re both good but for us it also came down to layout, storage, aesthetics. Have you had a chance to actually get aboard both boats? It really helps to get on one at a boat show or a marina event and crawl around everywhere on them to help decide if the layout works for you.
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Old 11-06-2020, 02:47 PM   #7
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Simplicity - is it safe to assume you are familiar with our friends Bruce and Dorsey and their AT 395 "Esmeralde?" I've not been on a Helmsman but have consistently heard all of the accolades expressed here. I have spent time on Esmeralde, crawling all around and it is obviously built at a very high level with great attention to detail. If you're not tapping into him already, Bruce would be a tremendous resource on that particular model.
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Old 11-06-2020, 03:30 PM   #8
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Both are excellent boats with good reputations here. It's a matter of which fits your preferences best.
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Old 11-06-2020, 05:14 PM   #9
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From everything I have heard (owners of both makes) you will happy with either one!
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Old 11-08-2020, 07:06 PM   #10
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Comparing Boats

Regardless of the boats you are searching continue to do your homework like you are. Asking both builders owners their opinion is always good and you likely receive bias opinions.

Both boats are proven performers but not in the same class. The AT is designed to get up on plan cruise in the teens while Helmsman is designed for around 7 knots. Before deciding on the boat it may help if you think about how you plan to use the boat. I like to advise people to use the 90% rule or who and how will the boat be used 90% of the time. If your looking for a 6-7 knot boat then maybe the Helmsman is a better fit, if you have a need to cruise faster 90% of the time then maybe the AT is a better fit.
Another important thing to consider (and there are many more) may be “value”. I’m defining value in this case to include quality, performance, workmanship / craftsmanship, purchase price and resale price. For some people resale may seem less important during the time of purchase but unless this is your forever boat it may be worth considering. Simply look at the price a new boat versus completed sales of used boats and compare the percent difference. Talking from experience I can tell you that every boat we owned faired very well during resale, not by luck but because we did our home work.

It sounds like you are on the right track to finding your next boat. Keep us posted.

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Old 11-08-2020, 07:17 PM   #11
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No personal experience with any of the boats you mention. I know that when the Admiral and I walk the piers and docks at transient marinas we always seem to spend extra time gawking at American Tugs and Nordic Tugs. The only drawback, in my opinion, is that most do not have fly bridges, a "Must Have" for us.

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Old 11-08-2020, 08:28 PM   #12
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While the AT is a semi displacement hull that can get up to 16 or 17 knots, no one I know who owns one runs it that way. More like 7 - 8 knots. I run mine at 7.3. I could cruise at around 12 or 13 without exceeding the engine ratings, but it is expensive and noisy so I will not do it without a very good reason. The quality of the AT as measured in the trawler space is excellent.
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Old 11-08-2020, 10:05 PM   #13
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Congratulations on narrowing it down to 2 manufactures. We too charted an American Tug and loved it. Us having come from a Maxum it has been a pleasure slowing it down and enjoying the travel time without white knuckling to our destination.

In the end We chose the Helmsman for its heavy solid build, 7.8knt cruise speed, full width salon, second day head/shower, easy stairs to the upper deck, top side chariot style ride with useable upper seating and we just like the elegant lines of the boat.

Either way you go both boats are fantastic PNW cruisers. It's going to be fun to see what's fitting your needs most.
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Old 11-16-2020, 06:13 PM   #14
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Thank you everyone for the wonderful feedback. This group has been really helpful in reinforcing some of our currently held opinions as well as introducing a different type of thinking. It seems based on our goals and habits we will likely pursue the Helmsman Trawler. This will be our last boat and we plan on keeping it for many many years so we look forward to 'building' our own boat. I will likely touch base with this group around lots of details including the standard 250HP v optional 380HP (looking forward to seeing NMPG charts at 6.5 - 7kts.). I hope not to become overly bothersome and looking forward to one day being able to contribute and not just ask.
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Old 11-20-2020, 02:17 PM   #15
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We purchased our 2007 Mariner Seville Pilothouse 37 (Helmsman 38) from Scott @ Waterline Boats in Seattle in 2015. One of the previous post incorrectly stated that these boats are built in Taiwan. That is incorrect: the yard in in mainland China. Many premium builders moved from Taiwan to the mainland because of reduced labor costs. Immediately prior to inking our deal we had looked at several other trawlers including one built in California. We were stunned by the difference in quality that resulted in our choice of the Helmsman (I'm a retired former quality assurance manager for a fortune 100 manufacturing corporation, so I know quality excellence when I see it). A boat of comparable quality built in the U.S. is not available because the manufacturing cost would be prohibitive. Since owning our boat, we have had several offers to buy it from people seeing it on the dock, including 3 who did purchase Helmsman's. All have been very pleased with their choice. And we also concur with the positive comments about Scott.
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Originally Posted by Simplicity373 View Post
Hi everyone. I have been reading posts to this group for quite some time and this might be our first post. My wife and I are in the process of planning the switch from sail to steam. Prior to COVID-19, we jumped on many different types of trawlers (Nordic Tug, Selene, Helmsman Trawler, and American Tug). Scott with Helmsman and Tom at American Tug have both been phenomenal in very initial conversations. My wife and I have pages of notes and sketches from various websites, blogs, and YouTube videos.

I believe we have narrowed our search (still a year or so out from making decisions) to a Helmsman 38E and the American Tug 395. The general cruising plan is exploring deep into the Pacific Northwest and eventually heading down into the Sea of Cortez before returning to our homeport in CA. I'm guessing 90% of the time it will be the two of us aboard. There is no need for us to have a swift trawler as the average high cruising speed of our sailboat, in great conditions, is about 6.5knots and that's not a consistent speed. So, that will be our sweet spot.

Okay, lots of information for this question: It will be great to hear feedback and opinions from people who have compared American Tug and the Helmsman Trawler. Thank you so much.
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Old 11-20-2020, 04:43 PM   #16
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I also owned an American Tug and loved it. Virtually all other AT owners feel the same way. Mine was a 2006 model 34 and it was a terrific boat. We owned her for more than five years and I'd buy another in a heartbeat. Like many others, mine was powered by an electronically-governed Cummins QSB engine, which allowed her to reach an 18-knot top speed, but we cruised here 98% of the time at speeds from 7 to 9 knots. The AT34 and follow-on AT365 are essentially the same boat, with the 365 a more updated version. They make terrific one-couple boats, but with a single stateroom and a single head they're not made for overnight guests--though in a pinch you can pull out the settee in the main cabin and make it into a double bed. As the old design brief says: they drink six, eat four and sleep two. Period.

There's a very active American Tug Owners Group (ATOG) which has more than 200 members and is a ready source of both inspiration and technical assistance for owners. It's open only to owners. If you buy a AT, by all means join up: https://groups.io/g/ATOG/

I found the builder's chief engineer, Kurt Dillworth, a terrific, knowledgeable source of information on all AT matters. He always has time to talk to AT owners about technical issues or answers to questions.

I loved my AT and just about every other member of ATOG feels the same way. At one time or another I talked or emailed with most of 'em because I ran founded and ran ATOG for several years.

Go American Tugs!

Milt Baker
Nordhavn 4732 Bluewater

Former American Tug 34985 Bluewater IV









Quote:
Originally Posted by sledge View Post
We also considered both of these brands before acquiring an American Tug, though we were searching in the 40-ft range, as we wanted 2 staterooms and 2 heads.
One difference is helmsman built in Taiwan whereas AT built in La Conner, WA: not too many trawlers still built in the US.
I’d say the AT customer service by the people at Tomco is unparalleled, even for people buying a pre-owned boat. They’re both good but for us it also came down to layout, storage, aesthetics. Have you had a chance to actually get aboard both boats? It really helps to get on one at a boat show or a marina event and crawl around everywhere on them to help decide if the layout works for you.
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Old 11-20-2020, 09:28 PM   #17
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Tug or Trawler?

We looked into a lot of boats before buying our GB32. The tugs seemed to have a lot of space eaten up by the wheel room. One cannot do much more than house people up there. Having the flybridge on the trawler is so advantageous, like when coming into a dark marina, or when you want to be outside at the helm on those rare sunny days in the Pacific Northwest. And you can see logs a lot easier.
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Old 11-21-2020, 12:41 PM   #18
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I can not speak to American Tug though I love the lines of the boat. I recently purchased a pre owned 38E Helmsman Trawler in 2019. This boat has been very economical to own and run. For me though, the best asset has been Scott from Helmsman Trawlers. Though the boat was preowned he treated me as a purchaser of a new boat.

No matter which boat you purchase, you can't go wrong.
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Old 11-22-2020, 06:48 PM   #19
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Don’t overlook NorthPacific trawlers.
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