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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

American Tug 41

I was extra excited the morning I pulled into the parking lot of the Marine Service Center of Anacortes, Washington. The weather was crisp and clear—spectacularly Pacific Northwestern. To the east Fidalgo Bay sparkled like diamonds. To the west Mount Baker topped the Cascades with splendor. And in the marina out back, a freshly minted, dark-blue American Tug 41 with a 500-mhp Volvo Penta D9-500 diesel in her engine room and a couple of welded-aluminum fuel tanks topped off and ready to boogie nodded on her lines.

But here was the best part: I had the boat basically to myself for the whole dang morning. Although Carl Koals from Marine Service Center was planning to come along to do some open-water driving while I wielded my Stalker radar gun and other data-recording tools, I was otherwise free to do whatever I wanted. Cool!

The 41 is a big, beamy, muscular vessel—that was my first impression upon getting close to her. Her faux-carvel-planked bow seemed enormous and lofty, mostly due to a one-piece deck molding that adds to both gunwale height and stem-to-stern stature. Wide chine flats swept back from a straight, slightly raked stem, promising the sort of transverse stability that typfies the coastal-cruising hulls of Lynn Senour. And the stainless steel rails trailing aft along the side decks were so massive, I felt compelled to reach out and grab one. “Made of 11/2-inch 316L stock by Tanner Manufacturing over in Bellingham,” said Koals, walking up. "Stanchions are 11/4-inch stock. Don’t think you’ll bend ‘em much."

We hit the trail not long after, with the D9-500 purring softly and, from what I could tell, nary a whiff of smoke bubbling up from our exhaust port. Because at the onset we were docked starboard-side-to with one vessel immediately ahead and another immediately behind, I energized both the standard bow thruster and optional stern thruster (both by Side-Power) and used them to walk the 41 sideways into the fairway. Once clear, I continued to bump the Volvo Penta single-lever electronic control into forward to keep us moving through the twists and turns of the marina. I soon discovered that when necessary I could turn sharply with the wheel alone, thanks to a big (33"x161/2"), fully balanced, barn-door-style rudder.

Guemes Channel was virtually flat when we got there. With Koals at the helm, I recorded an average wide-open-throttle velocity of 20.4 mph—not a blistering figure of course, but perky by recreational-tug standards and certainly up to the task of outrunning bad weather under most circumstances. Once I’d taken back the controls I noted that open-water turns were sharp (again thanks to the big, barn-door rudder) and transversely stable, a phenomenon encouraged by a beamy hull form, wide chine flats, and a keel substantial enough to promote good tracking but not so large as to engender outboard heel while cornering.

Other virtues announced themselves. Visibility, for example, was excellent all the way around, thanks to large side windows and even larger windshield panels, with a glare-nixing forward cant. The Stidd helm seat was easily adjustable, and the dashboard was expansive enough to accommodate my favorite driving posture: legs extended, feet crossed. "What say we take a spin?" I asked Koals at length. His local knowledge, I figured, would perfectly complement our two optional Raymarine E120s. When Koals grinned agreeably, I pulled her out of gear for a moment while we each locked open a Diamond/Sea-Glaze pilothouse door. Then, with evergreen-scented air starting to circulate, we took off.

It was noon when we got back, and it was the task of actually docking the 41 behind the Service Center that put the finishing touches on my opinion of her performance. Since Murphy’s Law had kicked in during our absence, tossing in a tidal ebb in our direction along with a few extra boats obstructing the fairway, I had to spin the 41 within her own length and back up-current in order to get where I needed to go, an operation again facilitated by the large rudder as well as by a fast-biting, five-blade wheel and unparalleled sightlines astern. Believe it or not, with the transom door open, I was able to look straight through the saloon from the helm station and see the swim platform.

Following such a tour de force calls for engineering and craftsmanship of the first order, and I encountered three examples almost as soon as I shut down the main and embarked upon my dockside tour. First, besides being cavernous and easily accessed via a saloon hatch, the engine room contained saddle-style, welded-aluminum fuel tanks with a savvy but seldom-seen feature: Instead of traditional pickup tubes, there were hoses that gravity-fed off the tank bottoms. In league with oversize, duplex Racors, this arrangement presumably deals with dirt, microbes, and other bottom-dwelling contaminants in a timely, ongoing manner, thus preventing problematic goop buildup.

Second, behind cabinet doors on the forward bulkhead of the midship master stateroom were signs of a nifty electrical networking system that also features seldom-seen savviness. Instead of the complex relays used in many digital-type multiplexing systems on the market these days, I found plain ol', comparatively inexpensive analog Hellas. Got problems with the multiplex system on your 41? You'll find replacement parts at your local chandlery. And you can probably install ‘em yourself!

And third, I surmised within minutes of entering the 41's saloon that solid, careful craftsmanship was the defining characteristic of her entire, conventionally laid-out interior, from the pilothouse topside (with desk to starboard and lounge to port) to the galley/saloon on the main deck to the two staterooms below (each with an en suite head). I was totally impressed with the warmth of the Jatoba (Brazilian cherry) joinery, the fit and finish of the rail-and-stile cabinet doors, and the beefiness of the numerous drawers assembled with blind-dado joints and nine-ply marine plywood sides.

I finished with an impromptu test of generalized stoutness: I jumped up and down a couple of times in our American Tug 41's cockpit. The result was predictable, considering the features already noted as well as a construction regime that includes a one-piece Plexus-bonded stringer grid and a hull-to-deck joint secured with Bostik 940 hybrid-polymer adhesive, screws, and fiberglass tabbing.

"Rock solid," I proclaimed.

And indeed she is!

For more information on American Tug, including contact information, click here.

This article originally appeared in the April 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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