American Tug for non-owners, post 1: Deciding on an AT

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sjisailor

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American Tugs have an extremely devoted set of owners, but there is not a lot of public discussion of them in depth. The AT owners' forum is only accessible to current owners (starting from the hull number assignment with active construction).

Thus, there is not a lot of first-hand information out there for potential AT buyers, even on the great forums here. Because we have an AT in construction, I thought others might find it useful if I report some of my observations. I plan to post a few threads about different aspects of our process.

This is intended to supplement the great public record from Bruce and Dorsey Beard (Bruce B here). You can check out their blog posts that start here: Crossing to the Dark Side ... and also their threads on TF such as this one: American Tug 395, hull #12.... I won't be as detailed as Bruce & Dorsey have been, but will share various thoughts.

===

We started shopping for a new boat after a week-long trip where our previous 30 foot boat was claustrophobic. As coastal cruisers in the Pacific Northwest, our mission is to be comfortable for 2-3 people for trips of a few nights at a time, but with the possibility to stretch that into months of cruising. That suggested a trawler style, either full or semi-displacement.

We had previously seen an American Tugs boat at a boat show and loved it. Also, we had chartered a Nordic Tug 37 that we loved. We had seen and appreciated Aspen's boats and their innovative catamaran design; as well as Helmsman boats. We wanted a new boat ... well, just because.

All 4 brands — AT, NT, Aspen, and H — are great, and IMO one will do very well with any of them. With that said, here are some of my personal reflections:

1. We really wanted a boat built in America. It's great to be able to see it throughout production, and also to meet the folks who built it. That was a plus for AT, NT, and Aspen, all of which are built north of Seattle.

2. All of these boats are in high demand. We didn't worry about resale value on any of them. ATs seem to be in especially high demand judging from how few go up for sale.

3. The catamaran style of Aspen is polarizing. We ultimately felt that we would prefer a monohull due to the more traditional interior layout and dimensions.

4. The finishing details on Helmsman were not our personal favorite. That's not a dig on them, just a matter of style.

5. So that left AT and NT on our list. They are quite similar in dimensions, price, etc. Between them, we personally resonated more with the details on the American Tug boats. I won't go into all of those; mostly it's a matter of seeing them and judging your own reaction.

6. It takes a while. We made this decision in October of 2021 and signed a contract in November 2021. Delivery will be this summer of 2024. That's right — it is approaching 3 years and our boat is only now nearing the end of construction! Some of that delay was caused by the COVID rush, but it also reflects the high demand for AT in general. American Tugs builds fewer than 10 boats per year (across all models).

7. ATs are semi-custom. There are various things the factory is happy to do, such as considering personalized staterooms (for instance, we are getting a unique washing machine setup). However, there are other things they won't do, and they will explain why not (for example, they won't put stabilizers on the 36' or 39' models). This is not a matter of them being difficult. Rather, it is that they seriously think through the implications for maintenance over the long term that their boats are in service.

8. Helmsman, AT, and Aspen are all strong on personal communication. In the case of AT and Aspen, you'll be talking directly with the factory; and for H, very closely connected. The fact that NT has a stronger dealer model meant that they seemed less personal in our experience.

Key point: AT, NT, H, and Aspen are all great choices. The choice mostly comes down to personal style and which one you personally like. Every boat is a compromise and you should check them out in depth or even charter one if possible. And then, when you get a boat, it should be the one that will make you excited to walk down the dock and see it!

In future posts, I'll discuss some of the choices we made along the way. I hope this is helpful to someone down the road!
 

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Wow, after a 3 year wait you must be very excited. Looking forward to your future posts and cruising adventures.
 
AT lead time is currently down to 14 months per Tucker West in his newsletter recently sent out. I guess the supply chain bottlenecks have moderated.
 
AT lead time is currently down to 14 months per Tucker West in his newsletter recently sent out. I guess the supply chain bottlenecks have moderated.

I saw that too and yes, I think things have improved.

On the other hand, when we signed, the estimate was "mid 2023" (about 20 months) and it will end up being a year longer. So there is a lot of uncertainty. But the plan to increase production under KK should help that become more consistent.
 
Beautiful boat. Looking forward to future posts. Especially the anchor you choose.....;)

Thank you! Yes, I will post about that sometime ... and then hopefully with a field report soon after :)
 
All 4 brands — AT, NT, Aspen, and H — are great, and IMO one will do very well with any of them. With that said, here are some of my personal reflections:

1. We really wanted a boat built in America. It's great to be able to see it throughout production, and also to meet the folks who built it. That was a plus for AT, NT, and Aspen, all of which are built north of Seattle.

2. All of these boats are in high demand. We didn't worry about resale value on any of them. ATs seem to be in especially high demand judging from how few go up for sale.

3. The catamaran style of Aspen is polarizing. We ultimately felt that we would prefer a monohull due to the more traditional interior layout and dimensions.

4. The finishing details on Helmsman were not our personal favorite. That's not a dig on them, just a matter of style.

5. So that left AT and NT on our list. They are quite similar in dimensions, price, etc. Between them, we personally resonated more with the details on the American Tug boats. I won't go into all of those; mostly it's a matter of seeing them and judging your own reaction.

In future posts, I'll discuss some of the choices we made along the way. I hope this is helpful to someone down the road!
Interested in hearing your thoughts and watching this thread. I’m considering moving back to trawler world for Great Loop purposes after wife retires. As a huge Helmsman fan (you started with “H”… but let it slip ;) ), I am curious about comment #4 regarding finishing details. I realize you’re not looking to denigrate the other brands, which is respectable. But wanting to make sure we’re seeing the complete picture as we explore options. I do appreciate thoughtful comparisons.
 
Thank you, @Phyrcooler! Although I don't have deep experience with H [elmsman] , my impressions of their fit & finish was very positive, nothing negative. The difference I intended to communicate was about the visual styling details. The H style is more traditional and a bit ornate for our tastes (that's not a negative, just a perception) whereas AT is somewhat simpler and lighter.

The following is not a great comparison, but it's sort of like French Provincial furniture vs. Amish furniture. Both are great, just different in their visual complexity. To bring it back to the boating world, H is somewhat more akin IMO in its interior styling to Selene or GB (say), whereas AT is somewhat more akin to Nordhavn. FWIW, Nordic Tugs are in-between (as I see it), where older ones are more towards the H / GB direction, while new ones are more toward the AT / N side.

Again, those are just rough analogies — and they are comparisons of visual design similarity, not quality. (Although TBH, I feel like the AT quality is extremely high, with no shade thrown on anyone else). HTH!
 
Excellent summation. Hope to meet you at future AT events. We are at present cruising in S.E. Alaska in our AT 34, but plan to attend the Roche Harbor gathering.
 
We hope to be there! Boat will be at most 6 weeks old. Enjoy your cruising. Always love seeing your beautiful boat (we've passed by a few times over the years in previous boat).
 
American Tugs have an extremely devoted set of owners, but there is not a lot of public discussion of them in depth. The AT owners' forum is only accessible to current owners (starting from the hull number assignment with active construction).

Thus, there is not a lot of first-hand information out there for potential AT buyers, even on the great forums here. Because we have an AT in construction, I thought others might find it useful if I report some of my observations. I plan to post a few threads about different aspects of our process.

This is intended to supplement the great public record from Bruce and Dorsey Beard (Bruce B here). You can check out their blog posts that start here: Crossing to the Dark Side ... and also their threads on TF such as this one: American Tug 395, hull #12.... I won't be as detailed as Bruce & Dorsey have been, but will share various thoughts.

===

We started shopping for a new boat after a week-long trip where our previous 30 foot boat was claustrophobic. As coastal cruisers in the Pacific Northwest, our mission is to be comfortable for 2-3 people for trips of a few nights at a time, but with the possibility to stretch that into months of cruising. That suggested a trawler style, either full or semi-displacement.

We had previously seen an American Tugs boat at a boat show and loved it. Also, we had chartered a Nordic Tug 37 that we loved. We had seen and appreciated Aspen's boats and their innovative catamaran design; as well as Helmsman boats. We wanted a new boat ... well, just because.

All 4 brands — AT, NT, Aspen, and H — are great, and IMO one will do very well with any of them. With that said, here are some of my personal reflections:

1. We really wanted a boat built in America. It's great to be able to see it throughout production, and also to meet the folks who built it. That was a plus for AT, NT, and Aspen, all of which are built north of Seattle.

2. All of these boats are in high demand. We didn't worry about resale value on any of them. ATs seem to be in especially high demand judging from how few go up for sale.

3. The catamaran style of Aspen is polarizing. We ultimately felt that we would prefer a monohull due to the more traditional interior layout and dimensions.

4. The finishing details on Helmsman were not our personal favorite. That's not a dig on them, just a matter of style.

5. So that left AT and NT on our list. They are quite similar in dimensions, price, etc. Between them, we personally resonated more with the details on the American Tug boats. I won't go into all of those; mostly it's a matter of seeing them and judging your own reaction.

6. It takes a while. We made this decision in October of 2021 and signed a contract in November 2021. Delivery will be this summer of 2024. That's right — it is approaching 3 years and our boat is only now nearing the end of construction! Some of that delay was caused by the COVID rush, but it also reflects the high demand for AT in general. American Tugs builds fewer than 10 boats per year (across all models).

7. ATs are semi-custom. There are various things the factory is happy to do, such as considering personalized staterooms (for instance, we are getting a unique washing machine setup). However, there are other things they won't do, and they will explain why not (for example, they won't put stabilizers on the 36' or 39' models). This is not a matter of them being difficult. Rather, it is that they seriously think through the implications for maintenance over the long term that their boats are in service.

8. Helmsman, AT, and Aspen are all strong on personal communication. In the case of AT and Aspen, you'll be talking directly with the factory; and for H, very closely connected. The fact that NT has a stronger dealer model meant that they seemed less personal in our experience.

Key point: AT, NT, H, and Aspen are all great choices. The choice mostly comes down to personal style and which one you personally like. Every boat is a compromise and you should check them out in depth or even charter one if possible. And then, when you get a boat, it should be the one that will make you excited to walk down the dock and see it!

In future posts, I'll discuss some of the choices we made along the way. I hope this is helpful to someone down the road!
AT's are great boats. Bought a used 2005 AT41-09, 12 years ago and love it. Great built boats and handle really well in all weather. Boat takes a lot more than we can. The guys at TOMCO are really responsive and great to work with. Doesn't mater if you bought your boat new or used, they are always helpful with valuable advice.
 
Thank you, @Phyrcooler! Although I don't have deep experience with H [elmsman] , my impressions of their fit & finish was very positive, nothing negative. The difference I intended to communicate was about the visual styling details. The H style is more traditional and a bit ornate for our tastes (that's not a negative, just a perception) whereas AT is somewhat simpler and lighter.

<snip>

Again, those are just rough analogies — and they are comparisons of visual design similarity, not quality. (Although TBH, I feel like the AT quality is extremely high, with no shade thrown on anyone else). HTH!
Well described. I understand your thoughts. Ironically, the traditional wood finishes on the interior is something I like/prefer about H. But I also appreciate simplicity. Thank you for your response.
 

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