Tugboat. There are few other words in the English language that conjure up such clear images in the mind.
From childhood on, we know the role of the tugboat, through books read to us by our mothers and today's television shows for youngsters featuring tugboats with faces and rolling eyes. Tugboats are important and heroic. Even in science fiction fantasy literature, the futuristic star fleet still requires the tugboat for the moving of vessels and working around the docks in outer space.
The romance of the traditional tugboat was firmly planted in the mind of Lynn Senour when he penned the design for the first Nordic Tug 26, in 1980. The huge success of this model, which made its debut at the Seattle Boat Show, led to the introduction of the even more popular Nordic Tug 32 five years later.
Building on the experienced labor pool available from its sailboat-building parent company, Blue Water Boats Inc., Nordic Tug soon took over the facilities and staff as production of the double-ended ocean ketch "Ingrid" design came to an end. After building one ketch a month for almost 10 years, the assembly line was needed for the 54 initial Nordic Tug 26 orders.
The introduction of the Nordic Tug 32, also designed by Lynn Senour, was again built on the classic tugboat profile. With its nearly plumb bow, rounded stern and false smokestack (hiding a radar reflector), the design went against most of the then-current trends in boat design. While everyone else was rounding off their boat shapes, and finding room for as many staterooms as possible, the Nordic Tug 32 quietly and successfully went in another direction.
Attractive and Fuel-Efficient
The decision to build the semi-displacement hull with a tug's profile was simple. In the gasoline crunch of the early 1980s, an economical power boat was needed — and tugboats, unlike sleek express cruisers, look good going slow.
While other production boats were adding radar arches and bow pulpits, integrating swim steps and making their boats wider, Nordic Tugs was building the svelte 32 with an 11 foot beam, for easier movement through the water. In fact, the early 32 has almost the exact same waterline length as its overall length, making its displacement speed higher than most other 32-footers. Later models have even longer waterlines, with the addition of a swim step integral to the hull.
A classic boating joke reveals that the perfect boat "drinks eight, feeds four and sleeps two." The Nordic Tug 32 may very nearly be the "perfect" boat, based on this definition.
The saloon is certainly large enough to entertain a group of friends at the cocktail hour. At dinner time, a large settee and table are available for serving two couples. And while the settee folds out to make an additional double berth, most Nordic Tug 32 owners are couples traveling alone.
While the saloon is not huge, it is spacious — and it appears larger than it really is, thanks to large windows on the sides and aft, as well as the lack of a bulkhead between it and the pilothouse.
Over the years, a number of interior layouts have been used. Early models featured a galley amidships directly behind the long pilothouse bench. Later models have featured an enlarged L-shaped galley to port, with additional storage space, as well as side-by-side under-counter refrigerators.
The pilothouse is three steps up from the galley. In this all-weather boat, the skipper has good visibility all around. Teak doors on both sides of the pilothouse provide the only access forward, as the saloon is nearly the full width of the boat. Later models replaced the teak doors with glass versions.
The helm provides plenty of room for gauges and electronics, with an overhead area for flush-mounting radios and other equipment. The flat surface between the helm and the large windows provides additional room for larger electronics, as well as room to spread out charts. Everything is within easy reach for the skipper, and the adjustable helm bench seat allows for sitting and standing operation of the boat.
Forward of the pilothouse and down three steps is the master stateroom. Offered with either V-berths or a double berth to starboard with a seat to port, the master features plenty of room for clothes in large hanging lockers and additional storage under the berth. Nicely finished, this stateroom is neither dark nor cramped. It has a nice, open feeling, thanks to light wall coverings instead of the teak prevalent throughout the rest of the boat.
The head adjoins the master stateroom. Well laid out, there is a separate shower stall and room to dry off and dress in the head compartment itself. With 100 gallons on board, there is plenty of water to take long cruises and still enjoy regular showers.
Drawbacks to this master suite arrangement are that guests must enter the stateroom to use the head. This is an acceptable tradeoff since couples use the majority of Nordic Tug 32s without guests on board. The absence of a door to close off the stateroom means that you'll definitely want to make sure the berth is made before bringing guests aboard. (Some chores we try to escape at home still manage to follow us onto the water.)
Lynn Senour's design has captured the overall look of the classic tugboat, and the construction used by Nordic Tugs has proven to be as rugged and substantial as the boat's look implies.
The hand-laid fiberglass hull is available in custom colors, with deep red, blue and green often seen on these boats. Fiberglass stringers provide the backbone of the substantial hull.
An ivory-toned superstructure sets the Nordic Tug 32 apart from the polar white of other vessels, and gives it a warm inviting look. One inch stainless steel tubing is used for rails, and teak handrails are plentiful for secure passage around the boat.
A full keel protects the prop under water, and many Nordic Tug 32's were ordered with the now-standard bow thruster.
Early models feature 100 to 120 hp diesels, but newer 32s are delivered with 220 hp Cummins. Cruise speeds can be around 7 to 8 knots (with enviable fuel consumption of about 1 gallon per hour), and the 220 hp Cummins can push the boat to 15 knots.
Built in Washington, these are not inexpensive boats — and used models have retained a high resale value. It would certainly be possible to build a lesser boat, but Nordic Tug is following the path of quality. Satisfied owners gather at various Nordic Tug owners' rendezvous and share their cruising stories and adventures through various newsletters.
Through effective marketing and building a quality product, Nordic Tugs has developed a market for cruising tugboats, offering an alternative to traditional trawlers, and even sailboats, as many Nordic Tug buyers are ex-sailboat owners. Whatever their motive, when buyers purchase a Nordic Tug, they are ensured of getting a unique vessel — instantly recognizable as one of that universally understood breed, the tugboat.
Read more tugboat/trawler reviews.
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Nordic Tug 32 Specifications
|Fuel capacity||200 gallons|
|Water capacity||100 gallons|
|Standard power||220-hp Cummins diesels (in current models)|
|Typical used boat price||$70,000-$290,000|
|New boat list price||$260,400|
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