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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Symbol 42 Classic Trawler

These days nothing ever seems to go the way I imagine. For example, when I strolled into the Seattle office of Holiday Marine Sales looking for Leif Bentzen, I was expecting a tall, young guy with Viking-type characteristics—like a full beard and fierce blue eyes. The Dane sorting paperwork behind the desk evinced none of these features, however. He was well into middle age, of average height, and clean-shaven. Moreover, his eyes were kindly, not fierce.

I recognized a kindred spirit immediately. While Bentzen may not explicitly resemble his seafaring ancestors, he’s obviously a boat guy of the first order. All the signs were there: baggy khaki trousers, comfortably broken-in deckshoes, deeply tanned countenance, and a powerful enthusiasm for the vessel we’d be dealing with for the rest of the day: Symbol’s 42-foot Classic Trawler.

“She’s out on the end of the dock,” he said, adding that our test boat had wood-cored stringers and bulkheads, unlike the all-glass version Symbol’s building today. Without further ado, we got boat-test bound, heading toward a two-stateroom, two-head vessel that, as we drew near, seemed to glow with the traditional tricabin design influences of West Coast trawler mavens like Ed Monk, Sr., William Garden, and others. I stood near her stern for a moment and gave the big, hefty vessel an appraising look, taking in her towering mast, her high, beefy bulwarks, and her broad-shouldered bow. In a way it seemed I was examining the trawler equivalent of the guy standing next to me—both Bentzen and his 42 were plainly time-tested classics.

We jumped aboard. The interior layout was the first thing to capture my attention—it was reminiscent of many other trawlers I’ve spent time aboard over the years, boats some folks might deem old-fashioned today. The location of the two doors in the saloon highlighted the arrangement. One opened onto the starboard side deck from a spot adjacent to the standard lower helm, the idea being to put the skipper close to a spring cleat during a starboard-side-to docking. The other opened onto the port side deck from a spot just abaft a long, straight stretch of galley cabinetry, the idea being to easily cross-ventilate the entire saloon in conjunction with the forward door without having to open the sliding side windows. In my opinion, this is way ahead of the two-doors-abeam-of-the lower-station setup so popular these days.

I checked the oil in the mains for Bentzen. First we lifted out two of the four heavy, teak-and-holly-paved panels in the saloon sole and set them aside. Then I dropped down onto the walkway between the twin 210-hp Cummins 220B diesels, checked the dipsticks, and proffered them for inspection—levels were perfect and, despite the fact that the boat was an older model with a few hundred hours on her engines, the oil was the sweet golden color of pancake syrup.

I looked around. Headroom was approximately five feet. Walls and bulkheads were covered with perforated, aluminum-laminated sound-absorbent material. The bottoms of the saloon-sole supports were mounted on shock absorbers to nix vibration. The number of through-hulls was low thanks to stainless steel collectors for drain lines from showers, sinks, and air-conditioning units that exited the boat via single seacocks. And there was a hatch in the forward firewall for fast, convenient engine-room checks underway.

Bentzen and I examined the rest of the interior once we’d put the saloon back to rights. Auxiliary equipment was plentiful and intelligently installed, from an optional stacked washer/dryer off the companionway leading forward to the VIP to the optional electronics at the lower helm. I especially liked that both the VIP and aft master had their own heads, each with a separate stall shower. One thing I found uninspiring, however, was the berth configuration in the master, with a double on the starboard side, a wide single on the port, and a big, armoire-like cabinet in between. A large, modern, island-type berth makes more sense.

I cranked the mains, and Bentzen did deckhand duty as I settled into a comfortable and adjustable Pompanette helm chair on the flying bridge and walked the 42 away from the dock. All it took was a couple of shots from the optional 10-hp SidePower bow thruster and a couple more from the outboard engine.

We did our testing on nearby Lake Washington, which was enlivened by a one- to two-foot chop. To get to the lake from Bentzen’s location, I had to navigate a narrow little stretch of water called Montlake Cut. Although there seemed to be little traffic in open water, the cut was chock-a-bloc with kayaks, canoes, runabouts, fishboats, and other recreational cruisers, both east- and westbound. The 42 proved her maneuvering mettle yet again, negotiating with aplomb.

Average top speed was 14.5 mph, an acceptable number considering the 2.45:1 gear ratio—deeper ratios tend to favor low-end torque over top-end performance. Sightlines from the helm were excellent, turning radius was broad, which is typical of inboard configurations in general, and cornering was virtually flat, with neither an inboard nor an outboard bias. I was a little surprised by this latter phenomenon and attribute it to a fairly low vertical center of gravity—the 42’s superstructure is balsa-cored to reduce weight aloft—and a keel that’s substantial enough to promote tracking, but not so large as to heel the boat outboard when cornering.

Since the actual sea trial took just a couple of hours, I was able to spend the rest of the afternoon driving Symbol’s 42-foot Classic Trawler around Seattle and its environs while listening to Bentzen’s commentaries on everything from Bill Gates’ house to the speed-to-length ratios of the seiners tied up at Fishermen’s Terminal.

It was a classic day on the water—one of the best. But then, given the great ol’ guy I was with and the fine boat I was operating, this was hardly surprising at all.

Symbol Yachts (Holiday Marine Sales)
(800) 525-1425

This article originally appeared in the April 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.