|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
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
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.
||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”
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
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!