Find­ing a cus­tom so­lu­tion for a work­boat-in­spired steel build.

Passage Maker - - Seamanship - Story & Pho­tos Bill Ja­cobs

Deb­bie and Alan Wag­ner are fans of mu­sic, es­pe­cially the songs of leg­endary folk singer/ song­writer James Taylor. And in the open­ing verse of his song “Se­cret of Life,” the cou­ple found a name for their cus­tom-built trawler. Re­cently they sub­mit­ted their boat’s name, Pas­sage of Time, to Pas­sage­Maker’s boat name con­test. Thank­fully, they also in­cluded a pho­to­graph of her. A month later, I was driv­ing over the bridge to Davis Is­lands, a se­cluded neigh­bor­hood near downtown Tampa, Florida, to visit with the Wag­n­ers.

Denise and Alan are na­tive Florid­i­ans, both born on the Davis Is­lands. Boat­ing runs in their fam­ily, and their own first boat was a typ­i­cal Sea Ray cruiser com­mon on the west coast of Florida. It was a great starter boat for their young fam­ily, but as their son and daugh­ter grew up they needed a larger boat. So the Wag­n­ers bought a 44-foot Gulf­s­tar trawler in part­ner­ship with a fam­ily friend. But hav­ing both a son and a daugh­ter, they de­cided they would pre­fer a boat with three sep­a­rate sleep­ing ac­com­mo­da­tions to fa­cil­i­tate pri­vacy on longer cruises.

Alan started look­ing for a good re­source on trawler in­for­ma­tion. For­tu­nately, his part­ner was in the process of mov­ing and was look­ing for a new home for his ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of Pas­sage­Maker mag­a­zines. Alan gladly took the ar­chive is­sues home and be­gan read­ing about trawlers, start­ing with the orig­i­nal is­sue of the mag­a­zine from 1995.

“Pas­sage­Maker be­came my key source of all things about trawlers,” said Alan. He found that a three-state­room boat was dif­fi­cult to find in a pro­duc­tion boat un­der 50 feet, and the ex­pense would also be for­mi­da­ble. So he and Deb­bie also be­gan to make the rounds at boat shows along the East Coast. Along the way, Alan bought Alan Beebe’s in­com­pa­ra­ble Voy­ag­ing Un­der Power as well as Ge­orge Buehler’s The Troller Yacht Book, 2nd Edi­tion, which spec­i­fies the process of de­sign­ing and build­ing your own boat. Alan and Deb­bie be­gan to make lists, cut pho­tos, and sketch out the fea­tures they would like to have in their dream boat.


Be­ing an ex­pe­ri­enced on­line re­searcher, Alan be­gan a search for a yacht de­signer who matched the cou­ple’s aes­thetic and func­tional re­quire­ments. They ul­ti­mately nar­rowed their choice to two de­sign­ers who seemed to have ex­pe­ri­ence in the kind of boat they were in­ter­ested in build­ing: Michael Kas­ten and Ge­orge Buehler, both of whom leaned to­wards tra­di­tional de­signs that in­cor­po­rated long-dis­tance dis­place­ment trawlers. They ul­ti­mately hired Kas­ten in April 2004, and the project be­gan in earnest.

Af­ter re­view­ing a num­ber of Kas­ten’s pre­vi­ous de­signs, the Wag­n­ers chose to use the Valde­mar 53 con­cept as a start­ing point. A two-state­room alu­minum trawler yacht with a pri­vate head and shower in each state­room, the Valde­mar 53 also fea­tures a large berth in the af­ter sec­tion of the pi­lot­house, ar­ranged so it can be en­closed to cre­ate a third cabin for ad­di­tional guests. The aft deck pro­vides a cov­ered outdoor liv­ing area.

Though Pas­sage of Time is quite sim­i­lar to the orig­i­nal Valde­mar de­sign, it is clearly a cus­tom build. The ex­te­rior looks like the orig­i­nal but with the sub­se­quent ad­di­tion of out­rig­gers in lieu of ac­tive sta­bi­liz­ers. The hull de­sign also pro­vides a full keel to pro­tect the prop and twin cant­ing bilge keels al­low­ing a ver­ti­cal ground­ing in tidal zones.

The mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the for­ward in­te­rior cabin in­clude an owner state­room off­set to star­board, a unique open sa­loon con­tain­ing an L-shape gal­ley to port, an ex­tended coun­ter­top that curves into the sa­loon, and an es­pe­cially large and

com­fort­able L-shape set­tee to star­board. The largest head with an iso­lated shower is lo­cated aft of the gal­ley mak­ing it easy to ac­cess from the pi­lot­house above. While the ab­sence of a dining ta­ble is un­usual, it ful­fills the in­for­mal na­ture of the space and their lifestyle. A sep­a­rate dining ta­ble is pro­vided on the aft deck un­der the ex­tended hard­top. In­for­mal meals can also be en­joyed in the pi­lot­house.

Deb­bie was re­spon­si­ble for se­lect­ing all fur­nish­ings, fab­ric, light­ing, and ap­pli­ances through­out the boat. In my opin­ion, one of the more out­stand­ing fea­tures is the cabin sole made from Brazil­ian cherry, with con­trast­ing maple strips. They are thick, beau­ti­ful, un­usual, and seem­ingly re­quire lit­tle main­te­nance as they looked per­fect af­ter eight years of use. All of the cab­i­nets, wall pan­els, and sur­faces are done in a nat­u­ral cherry that has ma­tured over the years. And the fact that one man, Steven Nor­ton-Ash­ley, did all of the work him­self makes the in­te­rior all the more im­pres­sive.

Nor­ton-Ash­ley was part of the Yacht­smiths In­ter­na­tional team that built the boat in Hal­i­fax, Nova Sco­tia. Con­struc­tion be­gan in De­cem­ber 2005. Alan and Deb­bie made trips from Tampa to Hal­i­fax ev­ery few months dur­ing con­struc­tion for­ward­ing hun­dreds of pho­tographs to Kas­ten at his home in Ore­gon. Note that this project was un­der­way dur­ing the 2008 re­ces­sion, and if that weren’t enough, in April 2008 there was a fire in the boat shop, de­scribed best by Alan:

“On Mon­day dis­as­ter struck. In what ap­pears to be a freak ac­ci­dent, a weld­ing spark bounced off of some­thing, through a

port­hole, and into a small garbage bag that had some trash in­su­la­tion in­side that im­me­di­ately roared into a fire that could not be con­tained. The smoke and flames were too much to han­dle. The un­fin­ished cherry caught on fire and that was all she wrote. Pas­sage of Time was de­stroyed.

“The builder, in whom I have the ut­most con­fi­dence, was as sad as Deb­bie and I were. It was bad enough for us to hear about it, but they had to watch it burn. It looks like we will have to start over from frame one!”

The com­plex­ity of the in­sur­ance set­tle­ment was man­aged by Alan, who, thank­fully, is an at­tor­ney. The ma­jor­ity of the hull struc­ture was care­fully in­spected, tested and was able to be reused. Work on the bal­ance of the boat be­gan, and the orig­i­nal com­ple­tion date of Septem­ber 2008 even­tu­ally changed to Au­gust 2010. When com­pleted, Pas­sage of Time was de­liv­ered to Bos­ton, then cruised by fam­ily and friends to her home port in Tampa.

Our time to­gether on the boat in­cluded in­spec­tion of the yacht and her equip­ment. Spec­i­fi­ca­tions are listed above, but one item that stands out is the propul­sion sys­tem con­sist­ing of a sin­gle John Deere 6068FM 175 HP en­gine mated to a Frey­den­bro Sabb HVP 65-E trans­mis­sion. A cor­rectly sized con­trol­lablepitch pro­pel­ler is able to be ef­fi­cient over a wide rpm range, and over a wide range of ves­sel load­ing. The pro­pel­ler’s pitch can be ad­justed as needed in or­der to ab­sorb all the power that the

Op­po­site: A cozy Pull­man-style dou­ble berth graces the aft sec­tion of the bridge. Cus­tom draperies can be po­si­tioned for com­plete pri­vacy. Top Right: The view from the mas­ter state­room shows the con­sis­tency of de­tail through­out the cus­tom cab­i­netry, all fin­ished in nat­u­ral cherry. Be­low: The unique sa­loon pro­vides more space for en­ter­tain­ing than a tra­di­tional dining lay­out.

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