Trawler vs Keelboat for liveaboard

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Looking for thoughts on this dilemma. Retiring in a year, been on the water all my life. Owned multiple boats. Cruise the Pacific NorthWest. Keep wavering back and forth between a 36-39' sailboat vs 36-42' Trawler (Grand Banks style). Looked at every conceivable pro/con for both. Read through countless forums on this highly debated topic. I'll be on the boat 4-6 months a year.
Help convince me one way or the other.......
 
Welcome aboard. Trawler. Can go straight to your destination. Has more room and light below. Simple.
 
Lived on both, cruised on both.

Sail has some advantages, but only if you actually use it as a sailboat.

As far as comfort, the trawler probably wins hands down unless the sailboat is more motorsailer or big or unusual design and has some of the same comforts.

Sailboats in general are for agile people when moving around when underway so tend to become uncomfortable as one ages.

Been doing both for a long time and I still love both for what they are.
 
Welcome to TF. You've found the right place - large percentage of us are recovering sailors.

First, if you haven't already, you may want to read "Voyaging Under Power," the bible for trawlers. it will give information not just on the design characteristics, but why certain designs are important.

There are some goals where sailboat is absolutely the right choice - Pacific Puddle Jump to Marquesas comes to mind. There are not many powerboats capable of that type of run, and they are damn expensive. But beyond that, choices are more practical or personal.

If your cruising grounds will be the PNW, hard to build a case for a sailboat over a trawler. If your cruising grounds will be the Virgin Islands, a sailboat becomes pretty attractive. But either have been cruised comfortably with the sail/power counterpart.

Personally, I got tired of sitting in a cockpit cold and wet in foulies (San Francisco). I also got tired of putting sail cover on. Trawler is sort of plug and play - got me on the water very quickly. I was hooked.

Good luck -

Peter
 
We were in your position four years ago and bought a 42 foot sailboat in Anacortes. Goofed around in Gulf Islands for a summer then headed south to Mexico. It was the adventure of a lifetime!

However, we just sold the sailboat and bought a 42 foot trawler. Why? Because we realized we weren't going to sail to Polynesia and we liked the comfort of a powerboat. Sit inside no matter the weather and enjoy the view! No more searching for perfect sailing weather. Try being close-hauled for 12 hours in your 60's... it's challenging.

And to be honest, most the sailboats I saw in the PNW and now see in the Sea of Cortez are motoring. Unless you're a seasoned sailor, you'll find the sailing conditions on the Pacific coast are challenging with either too much or not enough wind.

So if you want to see the world... cross oceans... then by all means buy a sailboat. Otherwise do as Comodave suggests and go straight to your destination.
 
Thanks all, some very very great points. Trawler is winning, hands down. Recall that trip from Gibsons to Comox on a big wet southeaster, heeled over, and the autopilot was on the fritz.....in Oct! Not bringing back great memories. But then that trip from Comox to Desolation sound, 12knot wind on the beam, engine off, blue warm skies....bliss! "squirrel" lol
Now time to start to edumacate' myself on full displacement trawlers......
Thank you for the wealth of knowledge and experience you have shared......
 
Was there a year ago, all prepared to buy and "turn left" all the way down the coast to the Sea of Cortez.
 
Looking for thoughts on this dilemma. Retiring in a year, been on the water all my life. Owned multiple boats. Cruise the Pacific NorthWest. Keep wavering back and forth between a 36-39' sailboat vs 36-42' Trawler (Grand Banks style). Looked at every conceivable pro/con for both. Read through countless forums on this highly debated topic. I'll be on the boat 4-6 months a year.
Help convince me one way or the other.......


No universal answer...

We spent decades working in buildings with no windows, so don't like living in a cave. Three "stories" as in a GB (or whatever) with flybridge, even better.

Some trawlers are keelboats. Although boats with a shallower draft can be an advantage in some places, depending on your intended cruising grounds.

Some boats that "pleasure trawl" (?) don't look like trawlers at all. (See avatar.)

-Chris
 
No universal answer...

You know what? I think there is a universal answer. OP asked about liveaboard, not best mode of travel. From a liveaboard perspective, I cannot think of of one thing a typical 40-foot monohull sailboat offers that's an improvement on a typical 40-foot powerboat/trawler. Getting on/off the boat? Trawler. Stow, launch, board a dinghy? Trawler. Protected outdoor space? Trawler. Comfortable bunks? Trawler. Room for solar and power? Trawler. Dedicated stall shower? Trawler. Tankage including water and waste capacity? Trawler. Sure, there are exceptions to all these, but you get the idea.

If you want to add-in open-water conditions, that's where a sailboat starts to shine. But stationary? Not really a close call, at least intellctually. Heart may be solidly with sail - nothing wrong with that. But from a pure objective plus/minus perspective, this one's easy.

Peter
 
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I can give you a pretty universal answer, "Buy a trawler".

One proviso though. What is your age? If you are in your late 60's get a trawler, any younger you still may enjoy the extra work involved in owning and cruising on a sailboat.

pete
 
Looking for thoughts on this dilemma. Retiring in a year, been on the water all my life. Owned multiple boats. Cruise the Pacific NorthWest. Keep wavering back and forth between a 36-39' sailboat vs 36-42' Trawler (Grand Banks style). Looked at every conceivable pro/con for both. Read through countless forums on this highly debated topic. I'll be on the boat 4-6 months a year.
Help convince me one way or the other.......

I have cruised and lived full time on my 41' sailboat for the last 6.5 years and am now considering changing to a trawler.

The only reason to get a sailboat is because you want to sail! Then even if you want to sail you need to consider where you going to cruise and determine IF you can sail in conditions acceptable to you in those location. Plus the you have to be willing to wait for a sailing weather window verse just a transient weather window.
 
I have cruised and lived full time on my 41' sailboat for the last 6.5 years and am now considering changing to a trawler.

The only reason to get a sailboat is because you want to sail! Then even if you want to sail you need to consider where you going to cruise and determine IF you can sail in conditions acceptable to you in those location. Plus the you have to be willing to wait for a sailing weather window verse just a transient weather window.

Personally, for fun:work ratio, cannot beat dinghy sailboats such as a Laser. Hot setup is a trawler big enough to carry at least one Laser and sail around the anchorage. Truly the best of both worlds, and I have no idea why no one does it.

Peter
 
You know what? I think there is a universal answer. OP asked about liveaboard, not best mode of travel. From a liveaboard perspective, I cannot think of of one thing a typical 40-foot monohull sailboat offers that's an improvement on a typical 40-foot powerboat/trawler. Getting on/off the boat? Trawler. Stow, launch, board a dinghy? Trawler. Protected outdoor space? Trawler. Comfortable bunks? Trawler. Room for solar and power? Trawler. Dedicated stall shower? Trawler. Tankage including water and waste capacity? Trawler. Sure, there are exceptions to all these, but you get the idea.


Heh... that'd be my preference, too (or at least sorta, given our actual boat)...

But I felt necessary to recognize some folks just prefer a sailboat... whether it has any advantages or not.

:)

-Chris
 
Depending on when we start boat shopping in the PNW I want to take a good look at some under 40' motorsailors. Motor or sail and enclosed pilothouse helm usually in addition to cockpit helm. I understand they aren't the best at sailing and aren't the best at trawling but does solve the problem of independent back up propulsion (get home).
 
Personally, for fun:work ratio, cannot beat dinghy sailboats such as a Laser. Hot setup is a trawler big enough to carry at least one Laser and sail around the anchorage. Truly the best of both worlds, and I have no idea why no one does it.

Peter

Yes!

Or if your space constrained something like a PT-11 nesting dinghy would be ideal - rows like a dream as well so if you're just a couple you can use as your only/primary tender as well. Vastly more enjoyable to sail than an overloaded liveaboard S/V. My retirement vision has me pooting around anchorages in that thing.

We switched from S/V to M/V four years ago as our family outgrew our First 405 (which was a fantastic sailing boat). I miss the sailing, but the reality was that for coastal cruising in SoCal, we just couldn't make enough progress under sail & motored whenever we had a destination. Might have been different if we were based in LA or Santa Barbara where you can get to the islands on a beam reach in an afternoon.

If we ever upgrade it'll likely be to a lightweight ~50' sailing catamaran, which has a *lot* of advantages over our current setup for our use case but is also ~5x the capex.
 
And while I like all kinds of sailing, had my fill of small sail, love that feelin' of "We got eighty feet of the waterline.... Nicely making way".

The sound (or nearly lack of) and the surge of wind power is what pulls me back....

My main problem is I can't afford anything with an 80 foot waterline.... :D
 
I'll add my voice (and experience) to the chorus. I have a 45' sailboat that I kept in the PNW for 4 seasons, living onboard for a few months each summer season. Then I sailed it home to California and bought a trawler for the PNW (first powerboat I've ever owned). Up there, they call sailboats "trawlers with masts" for a reason: the sailing conditions are typically poor, and it rains a lot. If you are just living on it at the dock, a trawler is more comfortable, a houseboat would be better still.

If you are cruising the area, you will find the wind very undependable, usually light, blowing either up or down the channel you are traveling. Neither is good, light headwind means VMG is poor, light downwind is very slow (AWS very low). Add to that that there are strong currents, passes that must be hit on the clock at the slack, and lumber in the water making travel after dark hazardous. I sailed every minute it was possible, which turned out to be about 5% of the time.

Buy the trawler.
 
Here is my take on the subject. Smaller sailboat start off cheaper than smaller powerboats with the same livability space. Some were around the 40’ range sailboat and powerboats with the same livability space cost the same. Larger than 40’ and the sailboat becomes more expensive than powerboats for the same amount of livability space.

So the answer is very different if you are looking at 34’ of sailboat vs looking at 45’ of sailboat.

In most cases it would take about 55’ of sailboat to provide the comforts of a 40’ powerboat.
 
Came to a trawler forum to ask if you should get a trawler or a sailboat? Have you asked the same question in a sailboat forum? Otherwise your sampling pool may be a bit skewed.:rofl:
 
Came to a trawler forum to ask if you should get a trawler or a sailboat? Have you asked the same question in a sailboat forum? Otherwise your sampling pool may be a bit skewed.:rofl:
Ah yes......except a sizeable percentage of trawler owners own or have owned sailboats. The inverse is not true.

Peter
 
We would have preferred another sailing vessel

But it had to be comfortable like a small apartment, carry a decent cruising load, have space for big solar, big tender and big household style refrigeration and still be able to actually sail.

That is a very rare and expensive unicorn.

Plus areas where we intend cruising mostly have either no wind or too much wind.
Observations over several decades have sailboats motoring like mad on calm days and mostly not going anywhere when there is wind.

They may as well have bought a comfortable motor cruiser that actually motors well.
Most would be better off financially and, be more comfortable doing it.
 
Our C & C 40 is a VERY sweet sailing machine and we intended to keep it in New England. Went back last year to spend the summer. Finally admitted to ourselves that we motored way more often (75%) than we wanted to and realized we were done with cave cruising. She is on the market.

Cave living was never an option. Hence Rogue.
 
I think the real advantage for sailboats aside from the pleasure of sailing is that they scale down better than trawlers for long distances; you can get a 30-35' sailboat which will take you safely around the globe (slowly) for $30k. And at that size everything is pretty inexpensive. There's no equivalent for trawlers; the closest equivalent will be an order of magnitude more expense.

This throws a lot of people off - buying a boat is emotional, and the idea of setting off to cross an ocean is romantic, though few actually do it.
 
It makes a difference where you are. In SF Bay where I now keep my sailboat, a trawler is relatively useless. The wind (and corresponding steep chop) are very dependable, distances are short unless you want to go somewhere else, then a long way away in open ocean. The last boat I kept here for 15 years and used about 40 gallons of diesel in that time, used (sailed) frequently. On my current boat, brought down from the PNW in 2018, I'm still using the diesel I purchased up there. The engine is fired only for getting in and out of the berth.
 
The mentioned agility was a very big deciding factor is going to trawler for me. Agility is much more than working on deck. Stairs and ladders are typically steeper and fewer steps. That gets old fast.
The biggest factor is working on them. In sailboats the engine room and other spaces tend to be much more cramped and the surfaces much more uneven and sloped making it very difficult to get into any kind of a comfortable position to work on them. The result is pain, cramps and fatigue. Your screen name would suggest that this is probably important.
 
Thanks everyone, really appreciate the insights. Yes, CharlieO - posted on a sailing forum too, seems much more of a "cult" sailing group over there, not trying to offend anyone, just doing due diligence. The romance of sailing hits hard up against the reality of navigating these waters of the PNW as many have eluded too. Dead calm up Jervis Inlet motorsailing the 40km may as well have been in a Trawler. I mentioned my trip back from Gibsons on a wet southeaster :-( I like the idea of provisioning for a month at a time, harder to do in a 37' sailboat (storage issues) as well as power (generator on a trawler) Solar is hit and miss at the 50th parallel. Enough rambling, thanks for the dialogue!
 
I have been a lifelong sailor and lived on my sailboat in the Caribbean for a few years. I just went to a trawler. More creature comforts for the size. Get there sooner. More access to locations due to less draft (air draft on the ICW) and my offshore days are pretty much over.
 
For years, I tried to convince my good wife to buy a sailboat; but, when we chartered she would say that she didn't like being wet and cold, didn't like the "tilting" deck and when we got to a nice anchorage felt like we were stuck in a dark basement.

"What about a powerboat?", she would ask. I would grumble that they weren't as seaworthy... to which she would ask: "Why don't the Coast Guard and the fishermen have sailboats?" I had no good answer for that.

Anyways, eventually, I realized that unless I listened to her, we'd never have a boat. Like the OP, we live on Vancouver Island and could have access to several lifetimes of remote and scenic coastline exploring.

We bought a Nordic Tug 37 and this has opening up a wonderful world of coastal cruising for us. Having a boat that cruises comfortably and economically in all sorts of weather at 8 - 9 kts and can push up to 17 in a pinch means being able to time tidal slack-time windows or transit Johnstone Strait in a single tide cycle before the next bad weather moves in. With the time constraints of jobs and family, we can enjoy a wider cruising range with our holiday time than many of our sailboat friends.

When we get to nice anchorage in December, we can enjoy happy hour with a panoramic view from the pilothouse. No more dark basements or being wet and cold.

As to seaworthy? Our boat is remarkably good in snotty sea conditions or in the occasional open ocean transit. The boat can take a lot more than we can.

I don't see us ever going back to sail.

p3822831512-6.jpg
 
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PNW? No question trawler. We spent 4 "seasons" (Mid April to Mid Oct) sailing from Sequim Wa, to AK, and then back. Cal 46 (modified) is as much as equal sail/power "motor sailer". In the PNW we were under power 90%. Sailing down the coast, and thru the Panama Canal and then up to Pensacola, we sailed 90% of the time.
 
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