STEEL(ER) BEAUTY

Trawler Tra­di­tions from Hol­land

Passage Maker - - Contents - ag Pike

Ithad been an early morn­ing rush, first on the flight from Eng­land and then on the train from the air­port to the heart of Am­s­ter­dam for my ren­dezvous with Steeler’s Ex­plorer 50. Feel­ing a bit fraz­zled, I turned the cor­ner onto the quay to see this trawler yacht slid­ing into the canal berth to pick me up. The sight made my hec­tic morn­ing trav­els worth it. Ap­proach­ing the berth was one of the most beau­ti­ful yachts I have seen. And ap­par­ently I am not the only one to no­tice: Steeler Yachts won Euro­pean Power­boat of the Year in both 2015 and 2016, and they were nom­i­nated again in 2017.

The Ex­plorer 50 is a no-com­pro­mise ves­sel, rem­i­nis­cent of the tra­di­tional fish­ing boats that were built from wood 60 years ago. Just as with those vin­tage trawler de­signs, the first fea­ture to draw your at­ten­tion here is the ver­ti­cal stem stand­ing out proud from the bow. This sets the pat­tern for the rest of the hull, and the Ex­plorer’s heavy-duty fender strip fol­lows a con­ven­tional sheer line. On this pilot­house ver­sion of the Ex­plorer 50, the bal­ance of the su­per­struc­ture is close to per­fect. But if bridge clear­ances are a con­cern, Steeler also of­fers a sedan op­tion.

About the Pilot­house 50

Most boats in the ex­ten­sive Steeler range, in­clud­ing its S-line and Next Gen­er­a­tion mod­els, are stylish de­signs that more closely re­sem­ble mod­ern takes on Downeast cruis­ers rather than tra­di­tional trawlers. Though Steeler’s other lines make heavy use of both alu­minium and steel con­struc­tion, the Ex­plorer hon­ors the past, em­ploy­ing a tra­di­tional all-steel build and hand­some, if a bit boxy, lines. The Ex­plorer is fit­ted out to to­day’s stan­dards for high­end propul­sion, con­trol, com­fort, and en­gi­neer­ing.

The Ex­plorer 50 weighs in at more than 35 tons. The hull and su­per­struc­ture are built up from nearly 2,500 pieces of steel, all care­fully welded to­gether. This al­lows for a multi-chine hull that mir­rors the rounded bilge shape of tra­di­tional work­ing boats. Her pro­nounced, ex­posed stem con­tin­ues along the hull’s bot­tom as a keel be­fore merg­ing into a skeg, which pro­tects the pro­pel­lers.

Al­though the boat’s hull looks tra­di­tional, it is fin­ished with a mod­ern paint­ing process. Shot-blasted prior to prim­ing, the hull is faired, then painted again be­fore an­other round of fair­ing turns the plat­ing true. Only then are fi­nal coats of fin­ish paint ap­plied. In or­der to en­sure the high­est qual­ity (and to re­as­sure the client), an in­de­pen­dent paint sur­veyor comes in unan­nounced to make pe­ri­odic checks on the paint­ing pro­cesses and is­sues a qual­ity cer­tifi­cate upon com­ple­tion.

In­te­rior Space

The gal­ley com­prises a large stone work­top with the hob and sink in­set. There was the usual fridge/freezer, dish­washer, and oven/grill in­stalled on the model I tested, but every­thing within rea­son can be cus­tom­ized.

Stairs down from the pilot­house lead to the sa­loon, which has been kept sim­ple and func­tional. A large L-shape set­tee sur­rounds a ta­ble that can ex­pand to ac­com­mo­date din­ing. The cock­pit—large enough to be com­fort­able—pro­vides ac­cess to a sun­deck via a fairly steep lad­der. The af­ter end of the sun­deck can be used to stow a ten­der; with launch and re­cov­ery by means of a mast-mounted der­rick. Or you could con­vert the sun­deck into a full fly­bridge in­stead. There are

many op­por­tu­ni­ties for own­ers to cus­tom­ize each boat’s lay­out.

For­ward of the helm, stairs lead down to a small foyer where there are lock­ers hous­ing a sec­ond fridge/freezer and a wash­ing/ dry­ing ma­chine. A few steps far­ther down, a door aft leads to the master cabin. Turn right at the bot­tom and there is the guest cabin. The master has hull-side win­dows and the large berth is set at an an­gle across the space. The en suite head has stone coun­ter­tops. There are twin V-berths in the for­ward guest cabin and here the bath­room also serves as the day head with ac­cess from the foyer.

There are other con­fig­u­ra­tion op­tions, how­ever, and a third cabin can be or­dered in lieu of the ex­tra fridge and wash­ing area.

Side decks are easy to ne­go­ti­ate and there is shore ac­cess through well-de­signed bul­wark doors. Stain­less steel bol­lards fixed to the bul­warks are a work of art and mounted at just the right height for easy use. Stowed in a hawse pipe is a hefty an­chor with a deck-mounted wind­lass and chain that looks solid enough to hold a bat­tle­ship in place. Large-di­am­e­ter stain­less steel rails top the bul­warks so you feel com­fort­able mov­ing about the deck. And I would like to see the same at­ten­tion to safety in­side as ad­di­tional hand­holds there would be use­ful dur­ing rough weather. (Editorial note: Since the au­thor’s sea trial, Steeler added pad-eyes in the lazarette and in­creased the num­ber of hand­holds for im­proved safety.)

Me­chan­i­cals

A pair of Ve­tus Deutz diesels pow­ered the test boat, each one pro­duc­ing 170 horse­power. The en­gine room is lo­cated un­der the sa­loon, and there you will also find the com­pre­hen­sive hy­draulic sys­tem that pow­ers the bow and stern thrusters and the mast-low­er­ing sys­tem. The en­gine com­part­ment is well laid out with easy ac­cess from the lazarette or via a dou­ble-door en­try at the af­ter end of the master cabin. It is a tidy lay­out de­signed for re­li­a­bil­ity, and while Ve­tus Deutz diesels are fa­vored in the Nether­lands, Steeler of­fers a wide va­ri­ety of pow­er­plants, in­clud­ing more pop­u­lar en­gines in the States, such as Cater­pil­lar and Cum­mins, with power up to twin 270 horse­power.

The lazarette can be ac­cessed from the af­ter­deck and pro­vides use­ful stowage space. How­ever, the steer­ing gear com­po­nents are ex­posed and loose gear could get en­tan­gled with any num­ber of mov­ing parts. Steeler as­sured me that there will be a pro­tec­tive screen erected around the steer­ing me­chan­ics, but I would also like to see some fas­ten­ing points in the deck for any loose items.

On the Wa­ter

The Ex­plorer that I tested was fully func­tional but still wait­ing for the fi­nal in­te­rior fit-out. So the pilot­house was ba­sic, all the es­sen­tials for nav­i­ga­tion and con­trol in­stalled but no bells and whis­tles. The panoramic dash had a large Ray­ma­rine dis­play flanked by smaller con­trols such as the au­topi­lot. The bow and stern thruster con­trols were on one side and the en­gine con­trols on the other. The dash was kept sim­ple and most other switches were hid­den from sight un­der a flap be­neath the dash. Steeler has switched to digital con­trol for most of the sys­tems, which are han­dled via a touch­screen dis­play. The main elec­tri­cal switch­board and backup con­trols were in a locker un­der the dash. A hand­held con­troller al­lows you to re­motely con­trol en­gines, thrusters, and steer­ing from any­where

aboard. This is great for sin­gle-handed op­er­a­tion. Sight­lines from the pilot­house are ex­cel­lent with the ex­cep­tion of a view astern as you have to duck down to see un­der the gal­ley’s cab­i­nets.

On the sea trial we headed out across the Zuiderzee, a large in­land sea. De­spite the fresh breeze only a lit­tle sea had built up and con­di­tions were un­in­ter­est­ing. Steeler says they have tested the Ex­plorer 50 in 10-foot­ers in the North Sea where the boat’s sta­bi­liz­ers lent a smooth and solid ride.

Con­clu­sion

The Ex­plorer 50 rep­re­sents the more tra­di­tional side of Steeler’s of­fer­ings. The yard also builds in alu­minium and of­fers an ex­ten­sive range of de­signs with more than 20 dif­fer­ent con­cepts and op­tions, all of which have been built. Many of th­ese de­signs are based on semi-dis­place­ment hulls and have been tai­lored to yacht­ing in warmer cli­mates. But the one that caught my eye when I vis­ited was a won­der­ful new 65-foot build that was just reach­ing the fit­ting-out stage. Cus­tom de­signed for an owner whose child uses a wheel­chair, the ves­sel had been re­con­fig­ured for easy wheel­chair ac­cess, among other spe­cial ar­range­ments. This demon­strates the level to which Steeler will go to ac­com­mo­date its cus­tomer’s needs.

The Ex­plorer 50’s won­der­ful curves in­tro­duced into the rounded tran­som are a joy to be­hold and demon­strate the yard’s mas­tery of steel work. The flared bow is also a de­light and should of­fer a dry ride even in ad­verse con­di­tions. On the draw­ing board is a Trawler 50, which is one of the most sea­wor­thy-look­ing trawlers I have seen. An­other ap­proach to trawler yacht de­sign is seen in the Of­froad 60, which is like an off­shore sup­port ves­sel with its pilot­house set far for­ward.

Steeler is set to de­liver their first yacht to North Amer­ica, which will come to Seat­tle in 2018. With the com­pany’s wide va­ri­ety of pow­er­ful de­signs, its steel yachts should be ap­peal­ing to the U.S. trawler mar­ket. Th­ese hulls are great for those se­ri­ous own­ers who want to ex­plore parts un­known. Not only is steel ca­pa­ble of match­ing com­pos­ites in its ver­sa­til­ity, but it can of­fer an equally long life. As Steeler has shown, you don’t have to sac­ri­fice style when you build in steel.

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Out­side and in­side, the Steeler 50 mim­ics the char­ac­ter­is­tics of tried and true work­boats.

This photo: A Sim­rad dis­play is flanked by small con­trols.

Be­low: The en­gine room is tidy and well ar­ranged.

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