I’m somewhat of a novice who for some time now has been looking at used trawlers. As I plan to live aboard a good part of the time, it seems to me that an aft-cabin design would be practical. However, I noticed that very few, if any, of this design have been made in the last 20 years. Is there something I don’t know that caused them to become unpopular?
You’re absolutely right that what is now referred to as “the traditional tri-cabin trawler” was, and continues to be, for many boaters, a very practical vessel. They got their name from the fact that there were three distinct spaces, or cabins, on the boat. The first, down and forward, usually contained a small forepeak stateroom, a combination head/shower and storage. Aft and up from that was the main salon, which usually contained the inside helm, a galley and a dinette. Down and aft was the third cabin, which often contained two berths and plenty of storage. This design allowed for two separate private accommodation spaces.
These vessels were the first that were brought in from Taiwan in the 1980s, and they were popular for years. They faded from the market, not because there was anything wrong with the design, but because boaters began wanting bigger vessels, and they could easily borrow the money to buy them.
One of the features that drove people to larger boats was the lack of a useful cockpit on the tri-cabins, even though some of them had short cockpits. While this was not a problem for cruisers, it was perceived as a problem for fishermen and for people who wanted a quick and easy way to launch water toys.
The interesting thing is that with the downturn in the economy, the tri-cabins are making a comeback. Note the sea trial on the Corvette 340 (January, p. 26). This vessel, now commonly known as a “baby Fleming,” is a typical tri-cabin design from the late 1970s but built with modern materials and equipment. It has one of the most attractive aft master staterooms of any of the tri-cabins ever built.
There will be more new tri-cabin trawlers in the under-40-foot range appearing on the market if the economy stays in the doldrums much longer. And that’s a good thing — the trawlers, not the economy.