Trawlers are often associated with grand cruising plans, but you don't always need a yacht-sized model to achieve your dreams of traveling to distant ports in comfort and efficiency. There are plenty of models under 40 feet that can take you places without depleting the retirement savings account. Here are a few we like.

great harbor trawler

The Great Harbor is a trawler that's ideal for couples who plan on cruising for the long term.

Great Harbor N37
It’s been called the ideal liveaboard boat, a trawler that couples an incredibly roomy interior with the reliability of a commercial workboat. We like its origins: The idea for the N37 came to Ken Fickett when he went searching for a boat he could cruise aboard with his own family for a year. When he couldn’t find what he wanted, he enlisted the help of naval architect Lou Codega, who helped Fickett design what would become the N37. This full-displacement model was the genesis for the Great Harbour series of trawlers built by Mirage Manufacturing in Gainesville, Florida. The robust build is a signature feature, with a cored superstructure and deck that possesses enough buoyancy to keep the vessel afloat if things get bad out there. It’s powered by twin 54-hp diesels, too, which means you can steer a course off the beaten path knowing you’ll be safe with a second get-home engine. Standard tankage gives the GH37 a range of 1,500 nautical miles. That Maine-to-Miami range is complemented by an interior suited for long stays aboard. There are three decks of living space, and accommodations include an owner’s and guest stateroom. LOA is 36’10”; beam is 15’10”. Read our full review: Great Harbor N37: A Trawler for Two.

See listings for Great Harbor trawlers.

For more information, visit Great Harbor Trawlers.

nordhavn n40 trawler at anchor

A Nordhavn 40 is the smallest trawler offered by this builder, but it still has ocean-crossing capability.

Here’s a trawler under 40 feet (39’9” LOA, 14’ 6” beam) that has impressive cruising credentials. The N40 has established itself as one of the most capable ships in its size range with both a circumnavigation and an Atlantic crossing under its waterline. And the owners of this salty trawler are among the most serious cruisers you’ll meet. The N40 is the smallest model in the Nordhavn fleet of ocean-crossing motor vessels, so it has true offshore pedigree. It features a full displacement hull, a 900-gallon fuel capacity and range of 2,400 nautical miles at seven knots. Then there’s the seakeeping ability. The high bow is buoyant and makes for a dry ride, while a forefoot beneath the surface eliminates pounding. To further improve comfort for passengers, order Nordhavn's Towed Passive Stabilizers that minimize roll in beam seas. The ride is just one benefit of the Nordhavn. So too is the way the builder engineered the layout to provide a number of social and private spaces. As the builder notes, if the cruising lifestyle is to be successful, it's important that every member of the crew have a place of his own to go. On the N40, those places include the wheelhouse, salon, upper deck and aft deck. For accommodations, there are two cabins. Read our full review: Nordhavn 40: A Trawler that Goes the Distance.

See Nordhavn 40 listings.

For more information visit Nordhavn.

ranger tugs r27 trawler

If you want a pocket trawler you can trailer, the Ranger Tugs R27 is ideal.

It’s been called one of the cleverest designs on the water because the builder managed to fit the necessities and many of the comforts of a larger cruising yacht into a trailerable package, while maintaining a comfortable ride. Ranger Tugs is experienced at building small-but-capable boats, as we've seen in past models like the R31 pocket trawler. The R27 is even smaller, though, (8’6” beam and 27’1” LOA) perfect for a simple sunset harbor cruise or a weeklong run on Chesapeake Bay. The bottom design is what you might expect in a semi-displacement vessel of this type, which is more trawler than planing boat. The hull has a keel that starts about a third of the way back from the bow, and then bulges slightly in the bottom to allow the Yanmar diesel to be placed lower in the hull, which makes the shaft angle only six degrees. While the boat can run in the high teens at WOT, if you throttle back to 13 or 15 knots, you could get a range on the order of 200 miles—which means you can travel two eight-hour days between fuel stops. (Fuel capacity is 100 gallons.) Although it’s compact, engineers managed to free up 50 square feet of deck space aft. Cruising features include a V-berth and a midship berth, galley, dinette and head. And since price starts just over $150,000, this is one of the least expensive trawlers with such capabilities. Read our full review: Ranger Tugs R-27: A Mini-Trawler that Maximizes Space.

See Ranger Tugs R27 listings.

For more information, visit Ranger Tugs.

american tugs

The American Tug's heritage includes both cruising and commercial fishing.

The 365 is a relatively new design, but it’s based on the popular and proven American Tugs 34 from Tomco Marine Group in Washington. The inspiration for the 34 was an Alaskan fishing boat hull designed in the early 1980s by Lynn Senour of Seattle. To get commercial fishermen out to sea and home quickly, Senour created a boat with a wide beam of 13’ 3”. To increase the stability inherent in that beam and reduce roll, he added flat, sharp chines. The result was a fishing boat that could carry big loads and, with sufficient horsepower, scoot to fishing grounds and back to port. American Tug realized the design features that work for fishermen could work for recreational boaters, too, so they commissioned Senour to adapt that hull for their customers. The first American Tug 34 was launched in August 2000, and it found a loyal fan base. It’s evolved to become the 365, with features that enrich its mission as explorer-cruiser including a pair of panoramic windows in the salon. With an LOA of 36’ 6”, the 365 has two cabins and a convertible berth in the salon. Power ranges from 330 to 380 hp. With a 370-hp Volvo top speed is 18 knots. Read our full review: American Tugs 365: Cruising, Pocket Trawler Style.

See American Tug 365 listings.

For more information, visit American Tugs.

helmsman 37

The Helmsman 37 trawler offers a surprising amount of space, speed, and cruising capability, for the cost.

With a 38’11” LOA and 13’11” beam, it’s small enough for a couple to operate and maintain yet also of sufficient size and range to allow voyages measured in weeks, if not months. It’s the newest addition to the line of Helmsman Trawlers, which are built in China and range up to 43 feet, and it’s based on a hull design by Canadian naval architect Leonard LaPierre. Standard power is a single 230-hp Cummins QSB common-rail diesel, but power ranges up to 480 hp. With a 380-hp Cummins, the Helmsman will run at a semi-displacement speed of nearly 13 knots. That’s a good pace if you’re hustling to make port ahead of a squall or bucking a current in the narrowest reaches along British Columbia’s Inside Passage. You can also throttle back to displacement mode, at which you’ll easily triple cruise range compared to the full-throttle burn rate. Efficiency is coupled with nautically inspired interiors and packaged with a competitive price of $339,000. That includes two staterooms: a master and guest, which doubles as an office. Thoughtful cruising features include an L-shaped settee opposite the helm.

See Helmsman trawler listings.

For more information, visit Helmsman Trawlers.

For information on even smaller trawlers with big capabilities, read Pocket Trawlers: Five for Value and Versatility. You can also read these current trawler reviews:

Editor's Note: this article was updated 11/2016.