When Brad and Jaslyn Miller decided to "simplify" their lives, they knew the first step in that process was relocating from the Far East to the U.S. Pacific Northwest or British Columbia.
Once that decision was made, the Millers decided to look around for an investment. "We'd done some boating, but had never been involved in building," Brad said. "The Camano opportunity was a good investment, so we jumped in."
Camano Marine began production of its Bob Warman-designed Camano 31 in 1989. The market the company had identified at the time was the cruising couple, and the 31-footer sold well. When the Millers acquired Camano, though, they found there was a demand for a larger version of the 31.
"We did extensive research among both Camano 31 owners and owners of other cruising makes and found the typical cruising day was about four hours," Brad said. "People also reported they actually ran their boats only 10 percent of the time they were on board." Brad noted his research also confirmed what Warman had discovered 17 years ago — that most cruising couples prefer to travel alone, without friends or family on board. "If they're going to travel with friends, the friends travel on their own boat." That finding confirmed that the new 41 would have only one stateroom.
After reviewing the research even further, Brad decided the new 41 would be a sedan cruiser. In that vein, he approached interior design as if the boat were a cottage or a second home.
One thing Brad decided not to change from the start was what Camano refers to as the Keelform hull. Another Warman creation, the hull is technically interesting and has been one of the major factors in Camano's success. It is unique among boats of this size and class.
The Keelform hull has displacement sections forward and planing sections aft — not an uncommon design feature. Most PT and Air-Sea Rescue boats during World War II were designed that way, as are many current semi-displacements hulls.
Camano takes that basic hull shape and applies its own unique touch: displacement keel sections that support about 25 percent of the hull's weight. This feature allows the vessel to move smoothly through her speed range without the "stern squat" that many semi-displacement hulls experience as they increase speed. The Keelform hull, therefore, uses less fuel at the same speed compared to most other boats in its class. In fact, Camano claims that even a planing hull burns more fuel than the Camano 41 until the planing hull reaches 20 knots.
The hull design brings good handling and stability through the boat's entire speed range to 17 knots.
Keelform brings other advantages to the table. It's the ideal place to put the engine — and an engine placement that low in the boat significantly lowers the center of gravity. It also means that the down angle of the shaft is reduced, thereby improving the propulsion system's efficiency. With more of the shaft running inside the keel than other boats in her class, there is less likelihood of unfortunate contact with driftwood and other debris that proliferate Pacific Northwest waters.
Windows and Wide Space
Our test boat was the first 41-footer Camano had produced; she was moored in Vancouver Coal Harbour. Anyone familiar with the Camano 31 would have no difficulty picking out the 41 from the other vessels in the marina. She is distinctive and stands out, even among boats twice her length and cost. Camano's trademark, vertically straight windows and slightly rounded transom, combined with a traditional sedan cruiser style continues the Camano tradition.
As I approached the boat, I looked for another Camano feature, one experienced boaters prefer. There was no wood anywhere on the exterior of the vessel, a clear advantage from a maintenance standpoint. Following the Camano tradition, the exterior of the 41 is "wash and wear" — just hose it down with fresh water.
Boarding the vessel is easy, secure and comfortable through a transom gate. The cockpit is deep and secure and all deck surfaces are molded in nonskid material. A gently sloped ladder, complete with solid handrails, allows access to a large command bridge, complete with a full set of controls. Molded-in steps lead to the sidedecks. Stainless handrails make for an easy traverse to the foredeck, where the full railing starts.
Freeboard on the 41 is almost 7 feet forward and almost 5 feet aft, and she boasts a 14-foot beam.
Entry into the salon is through a watertight door, complete with marine-grade safety glass in the top half, offset just to the port of the centerline. When combined with the two large windows in the cabin aft bulkhead, this allows for excellent visibility astern. In fact, visibility from anywhere in the salon is 360 degrees.
Camano has maintained the wide-open space that sets its boats apart from most other trawlers. The design cleverly allows you, on entering the salon, to see right through to the forward stateroom bulkhead, as long as the stateroom door is open. The large degree of woodwork gives the vessel a sumptuous, expansive feeling. The interior of many mega-yachts is not as well-planned and finished. They may be more ornate, but not better fitted or finished.
There are a number of other interesting and useful features aboard the Camano 41. Controls for the 6.5 kw generator, water-maker and 2,800-watt inverter are in the galley — right where they should be, since those items are required when preparing food. There's no need for the cook to scramble to a central control panel. The galley, forward to the port side, contains plenty of storage for pots, pans and food — once again, no need for the cook to trek to a central pantry. The soundproofing is so effective that the cook and the skipper can chat without having to yell over the engine noise.
Under way, the 41 was solid and sure-footed. We ghosted quietly out of a very crowded marina without creating any appreciable wake and under precise control, a feature becoming more important as marinas become more crowded.
Once in the open fairway, Brad gradually increased boat speed as I checked over the transom. At no point did the transom try to dig a hole in the water. As speed increased, the water continued to flow smoothly from the boat bottom into the wake. Clearly, the Keelform hull did its job as well on the 41 as it did on the 31.
Spinning the helm from hard port to hard starboard produced a series of quick, precise turns with almost no lean, and doing the same at about 10 knots produced no lean at all. Unfortunately, water conditions were flat and calm, so we had to stir things up to produce a wake we could cross. The 41 did so with solid grace and style and absolutely no pounding.
With Brad at the helm, I crawled around the boat looking for rattles or flexing. This was hull No. 1, and she had crossed the finish line just in time for the Vancouver International Boat Show. I did not expect to find any hull deck or bulkhead flexing, and none was found. I did, however, expect to find some small squeaks and rattles; surprisingly, I found only one, caused by a head door latch not being properly adjusted. In testing a number of No. 1 hulls, this is the fewest number of issues I've ever found.
If I were making any general changes to the 41, I'd suggest including additional interior handrails in certain areas, and I'd like to see a stouter overhead handrail. The ventilation in the vessel — when closed up against the weather, for example — also could stand some improvement.
But remember, this was only hull No 1.
No Ego Necessary
When new owners take over from an existing boat builder, most of them rush to make changes that put their own "stamp" on the line. The Millers didn't do that. Instead, they did their homework and research and, at least in my view, have served notice to the industry and the marine public that they intend to produce a new, larger Camano, with all of the good features present on the 260 31-footers Camano has already built.
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