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Cost of Cruising: Trawlers vs. Sail By Captains Chris and Alyse Caldwell

It does cost more to cruise in a trawler than in a sailboat.


here! We fully admit that comfort and space do cost a bit more…but not much more…really! The cost of $ail$ and their accompanying equipment aside, we will focus here on the budgetary engine requirements of trawlers as compared to sailboats. “But sailboats sail!” you say. Maybe on a Wednesday race night or during an open Gulf crossing there is the opportunity to raise the sheets and truly enjoy the wind. Unfortunately, most sailboats we see on the ICW are not only motoring, but their sails are hidden away, tucked under covers to protect them from the elements. Wow. You’re still reading along with us? Now that we poked the hornet’s nest, we will try to soften the blow (we just couldn’t resist the pun). To compare apples to apples, let’s decide on the mission and budget goals for your cruising trawler or sailboat, and then we will compare the cost of cruising aboard each. No matter what the issue with marine vessels, there is always the mission. What do you want to do with your boat? Cruising off into the sunset with no set course or time restrictions is perfect for the sailboat owner, but if you plan to get from one point to the next in bayous, narrow rivers or tide-driven waterways, then you will need your engine for a significant portion of time on your cruise. Try tacking back and forth when the constricted channel is crowded with go-fast boats, and the wind is not in a favorable direction. While we realize that the vessel under sail often is the stand-on vessel (has the right of way), many boaters have never taken even one safety course—and we all have stories to tell about that. Then there are the vessels fishing with nets…tacking is not always the best solution. The spacious outside decks of a trawler also allow maneuverability without having to walk around, over or under standing rigging, dodgers and booms. Our muscles hurt just thinking about some of the acrobatics necessary to wrangle all the lines and sheets crossing over the cockpit combing or cabin top. Much of that dexterity is needed even when the sails are down and the engine is in use. Bow and stern thrusters make docking a snap, but some operate hydraulically, requiring the support of a generator. If battery-operated, then they are recharged by generator unless you are back at the dock and plugged in to shore power. Continuing with the mission, do you or your mate appreciate lifestyle comforts such as generator-powered air-conditioning? A walk-around queen berth and a roomy 38

August 2013


It does cost more to cruise in a trawler than in a sailboat—but not much more. Photo by Steve Morrell.

shower stall make all the difference when we want to feel civilized, but the shower isn’t much fun when you run out of hot water! We can agree that most trawler owners enjoy climate-controlled interior living quarters with voluminous storage and terrific views, rain or shine. Then again, these comforts are often powered by generator engines, sometimes larger than those found on the sailboat of a similar length. So now we start to peek into the budgetary issues. If you are like most of us cruisers, then you are a snowbird, traveling north and south with the seasons. Trawlers and sailboats alike often select a city or marina to enjoy for a few months at a time. Your vessel insurance may consider the premium prices of particular latitudes during the hurricane season. When can we leave our homeport and head to the southern climates? Typical cruising areas are Florida or Bahamas in the winter and the Chesapeake during the summer, or hurricane season. These insurance costs shown on our chart are more dependent on the value and age of the boat and not the type: sail, power, single or twin engines. Marinas also reflect pricing related to season and location, location, location. Summer in the Chesapeake Bay varies extensively with Annapolis at $807 per month for a 40- to 45-foot boat, while downtown Baltimore reports

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