A Boat Owner's Insights - Seaton-Neville 55 Long Range Pilothouse Trawler Review
In this installment of our “A Boat Owner’s Insights” series, we speak with the long-time owners of a custom-built Seaton-Neville 55 Long Range Pilothouse Trawler, currently listed on our Boatshed Seattle website (link below). This is truly a one-of-a-kind vessel: classically attractive, affordable, capable and ready for safe and easy long-range bluewater cruising.
What motivated you to buy this particular trawler?
She is our third boat. Our first two boats were place holders — intended for us to learn about boats, boating and ourselves and to help determine whether our plan to spend at least a decade cruising abroad was feasible.
From the first two boats (a heavily built ocean capable 24’ Pacific Seacraft sailboat and an even more over-built 36’ Willard trawler) and from Robert Beebe’s classic book ‘Voyaging Under Power’ we learned what we wanted and needed. We didn’t know if we would ever cross an ocean, but we wanted the option to be able to do so. We spent months on both coasts searching for our long-distance cruising home. We looked for the characteristics Beebe stressed including full displacement and low AB ratio. We found very few production boats which could honestly claim either of those characteristics (though many did so with less than complete accuracy!), so we looked at many custom-built boats as well as some of the respected production models.
This beauty of a trawler was the clear winner — spectacularly low AB ratio, great tankage, a strong, reliable Caterpillar engine, immense storage, wonderful living-aboard spaces, an extremely robust build and large windows for enjoying the views at anchor. And, as a bonus, she was team-designed by Steve Seaton and Charles Neville, both of whom have serious credentials and experience designing long-range cruising powerboats. At the time we didn’t appreciate how effectively her Airex core insulates and how quiet she is underway due to subfloor and engine room sound barriers.
What have you most enjoyed during your ownership of her?
She has given us a very comfortable home at anchor and during our occasional visits to a dock, and earned our complete confidence as a strong, reliable and remarkably fuel-efficient vessel at sea.
What notable destinations have you traveled to?
We’ve gone to more than two dozen countries where we enjoyed beautiful and often very isolated anchorages. We’ve enjoyed everything from snorkeling remote reefs to a front row view of the Millennium fireworks in Miami anchored out not far from Madonna’s residence. We were surrounded again by fireworks during An˜o Nuevo in Acapulco, and on the Potomac watched the National July 4 fireworks from her flybridge. She has taken us up the Rio Chagres to watch and listen to bands of howler monkeys scream abuse at one another across the river while flights of toucans and oropendolas were silhouetted above. She has taken us to the Darien and through the Panama Canal. She took us to the Sea of Cortez to snorkel with whale sharks and manta rays and to the San Blas Islands of Panama (for 3 full cruising seasons and 3 other times as well) to experience life with the local Kuna Indians and snorkel for hours a day. Her robust hull, protected prop and shallow draft meant we were confident taking her in among the reefs even in uncharted areas. In several of our favorite destinations we were able to go more places than many other boats limited by their draft. Her very capable dinghy has taken us to innumerable native villages and up creeks and small rivers in search of wildlife, birds and native crafts, and sometimes many miles out to snorkeling and diving spots.
Beyond that, she has towed boats off reefs in Puerto Rico and the Barloventos (north of Venezuela); she has towed disabled sailboats many miles to a safe harbor in the Bahamas and Trinidad. Most recently she towed a gorgeous 1939 72’ 72,000 lb John Alden wooden schooner off a beach in the Sea of Cortez — stuck hard after she broke her mooring in a tropical storm.
Perhaps one of the most memorable evenings aboard was in a gorgeous, pristine anchorage off a tropical forest in southern Costa Rica. Just at sunset a flight of 24 scarlet macaws came chattering and squabbling overhead on the way to their nighttime roosting spot.
Cruising aboard this wonderful trawler for more than 14 years in the tropics has been the highlight of our lives. We have been aboard dozens of cruising boats for sundowners and whenever we came home to her, we’d realize again how incredibly lucky we were to find her — spacious, immensely capable, spectacular view windows and so many creature comforts.
What has impressed you most about her performance?
She is powerful and heavy enough to buck nasty head seas which would stop other boats. We took her the 'wrong' way from Panama east to Bonaire — a journey into wind and weather all the way. This 600nm passage even going the 'right' way is one of Jimmy Cornell's top five worst coastal passages in the world. We can't say it was pleasant, but the boat was not in the least challenged by it.
And, she is very fuel efficient — one unexpected benefit was that in the Caribbean we could cruise all season on one fill and choose to fill where the fuel was most affordable. The range of fuel prices there went from 6 cents a gallon in Venezuela to $6 in Martinique. One year we spent less on fuel for our 55' pilothouse trawler (despite running from Trinidad to the Virgin Islands and back) than we did for fuel for the dinghy where we had to buy at local rates. Having to stop for fuel has never been a part of our trip planning.
Her low draft allowed her to cruise up rivers and among reefs e.g. in Belize where we had no draft limitations, but many other cruisers had to skip large areas due to their draft. Her draft also allowed us to anchor tucked further in for protection than most vessels her size could.
On night passages, especially in Central America we appreciated her protected prop because unmarked or poorly marked pots and nets were a big hazard. In 14 years of cruising we never caught anything in the prop while underway.
What about this trawler is unique or notable compared to similar vessels on the market?
Firstly, she is a custom build — there is no other like her in the world. Compared to other 55' trawlers, she is fully equipped for tropical cruising in remote locations, which is pretty unusual.
She has a very high capacity water maker, two locations for storing the dinghy (one for passages and one for ease of daily use) and a large suite of anchors including a sea anchor, SSB and Pactor modem, long range. Then there’s the dual generators and huge supply of spare parts.
She is set up for anchoring out with minimal use of the generator, thanks to a large solar array and lithium battery bank. We ran our generators much less than most other cruising boats. Her second battery charger charges on any input and is thus truly international. Her isolation transformer and Electroguard system protect her from stray voltage and voltage spikes in marinas in the third world.
Most of the galley was rebuilt and is huge for her length, with enough storage for a 9-10 month cruising season. Her freezer also has storage capacity to last an entire season.
Why did you entrust the listing of your boat with Waterline Boats?
We picked Waterline Boats to represent our boat when she was still in northern Mexico. We considered selling in San Diego or San Francisco but could not find a broker online with the integrity that Waterline displayed on their website in the descriptions of both their vessels and videos. So, we contacted Scott Helker and after a long phone call we knew we had found our broker.
For complete listing details on this self-sufficient voyager, including well over 100 large format photos as well as videos and 360 Virtual Tours, please view our Boatshed presentation:
Our “A Boat Owner’s Insights” series serves to relay useful and noteworthy information about the vessels we currently have for sale, as shared by their owners. This is a unique opportunity to learn intimate details and stories about the boats in our inventory directly from the owners themselves, and is just one other method by which Waterline Boats / Boatshed makes the process of buying a boat a more informative and enjoyable one.