By Harold Duffield - Florissant, Missouri - USA

In a past article I related a tale of tripping down the Mississippi River in two different sail boats, one being converted to a trawler without the sails. I referred to this boat as a “Terminal Trawler”. I have gotten a number of emails asking for a follow-up on the “Terminal Trawler” concept.

A “TT” is an old sailboat with tired or non-existing sails that can be made into a power boat using the sailboat’s displacement hull which requires a much smaller motor to drive. The sailboat hull also gives a number of unique advantages. Sailboats usually have larger interiors for each foot of length. They also provide a very safe and seaworthy boat. Old tired sailboats are usually incredibly cheap compared to their counterparts.

Having owned a sailboat marina for a number of years allowed me to observe a number of such boats and the features each offers. In my opinion, any old sailboat will work well, but some offer more features than others. I’ve found the best ones have good space below and large cockpits that can be shaded with canvas. This shading can be a bimini or any other structure that gets you out of the sun.

There are two boats that I feel best meet my test. For a larger boat that is not trailed much, the 25 ft Irwin 10-4 would be my choice. This boat has a shallow keel that draws around 30 inches which is not much for a displacement hull. It is steady as a church and could be navigated in any lake, river, or costal area in the world. Standard inboard power is usually a 15 hp Evinrude thru hull out drive or a small diesel outdrive. Cost for the 10-4 can be all over the place. I bought one in Dallas a few years back for $2,950 with the gas engine, but plan on spending $5-10k in today’s market. When you compare this cost to traditional power boats in this size range, you can see it’s acceptably cheap for an ideal Terminal Trawler.

25' Irwin 10-4

The boat is 10 ft 4 inches wide and around 30 ft long with its bowsprit. It has a catboat hull shape with a short fixed ballasted keel and a centerboard. It can be trailed but takes a truck, a substantial trailer, and a wide load permit to move.

Living space inside is like that of a 30 footer and can easily accommodated two couples or a family of five. The cockpit is roomy and easily shaded for comfort.

Irwin 10-4 Cockpit
Irwin 10-4 Setee Berth
Irwin 10-4 Inside
Irwin 10-4 Galley

For those wanting to cruise extensively the Irwin 10-4 is an unbeatable choice. It can easily be used as a live aboard home. The main disadvantages include a keel requiring thirty inches of water and a wide beam requiring a permit to trailer. They are also rare to find and relatively costly when compared to other TT choices. However, it’s a choice worth making and a very sound investment. You will never have a problem recovering your investment in an Irwin 10-4, especially one with the small diesel power.

For those wanting to trailer the boat and store it in your garage or back yard, my choice is the 23 ft Aquarius. They require less than one foot of water with everything up. This allows launching like a jon-boat. The boat has a steel centerboard that gives both ballast and sailing ability. The centerboard can also be lowered and used as an anchor in shallow water.

The boat is stable and safe as any boat you may have. The interior is large and open with sleeping for four or more. The boat shown here, and in the previous article, is the Aquarius 23 that I purchased for $1,250. There is also an Aquarius 21 which works as well. The old Aquarius sailboats are usually very cheap, especially with bad or non-existent sails.

Put a huge bimini or shade on the beast and you have an unbeatable TT! Power can be from 10 hp up to 16-20 if you have a motor now. If you need to buy a motor, I’d go with a good electric start 9.9 hp four stroke. The motor mounts in a stern notch making it very easy to handle. The rudder mounts in a well in the cockpit and must be raised when launching the boat. I removed the rudder on my boat and steered with the motor.

Hannibal Marina
Galley Aquarius 23
Aquarius Inside Looking Aft

Other boats to consider, especially if you need to go really cheap, could include the 23-25 foot Ventures or McGregors. These are usually the cheapest boats to buy, but they can work well as TT’ Old Catalina 22’s or 25’s and Columbia 22’also work well as “TT’s”

Venture 23

It would not be unusual to find one of these for as little as $500 - $600. It’s amazing how many of these old sleds there are that can get you on the water for your dime. You might get one for free if you place an ad in the boats for sale section of your local newspaper. “Wanted Free Sailboat-Will Haul Away”

If you find a boat with good sails and rigging, you may be able to recover your cost of the boat by selling the mast, the rigging and the sails to another owner whose boat has been damaged or has sails that need to be replaced.

But just where can you find a suitable boat to be converted to a “TT”? Most old boats are not advertised in the normal way through BoatTrader or broker listings. Instead, you will find them sitting in the weeds on marina and boat storage back lots. Take a drive around boat storage lots in your area and take a look out back for sailboats with the mast down. Once you find a prospective candidate, ask the storage Owner for the name of the boat’s Owner. . Many times the boat has been abandoned and can be purchased for a fraction of what a comparable boat would cost. You can also check your local charities to see if any suitable boats have been donated. If you have a specific boat in mind like the Irwin 10-4, you may have to spend a little more to get just what you want.

Whatever boat you choose, be sure to do three things: Go Small, Go Cheap and Go Now!


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