It was a simple question in a trawler-related Facebook forum, and highlighted inexperience and the general lack of information out there to help someone wade through comments and recommendations from others on Facebook, who may have relevant information collected from experience...or not. It is sometimes hard to tell the difference.
But this kind of question is fairly common on social media threads, as it's been on the docks over the years. Once a couple begins to explore the idea of going cruising and living a simpler life, walking the docks is a good way to get a feel for what is out there. So I thought to expand on this fellow's questions and offer something a bit more than offhanded comments. There is actually more here than the obvious question, at least in my experience of talking to more than a few folks headed in the same direction:
The wife and I have begun to start looking for our retirement cruiser and liveaboard. I am partial to a Kadey-Krogen 42 and she likes the Marine Trader 40 Sundeck. The Kadey seems to have a better array of systems for distance cruising and the Marine Trader seems great for coastal cruising with more space for guests and family.
What are some common problems you have run into with these boats. If you have been aboard, which do you prefer?
There have already been comments made about vintage fuel tank materials and other causes of boat problems from the 1980s, and what to look for on a boat under consideration. I trust a proper survey would identify each of these issues and help answer the questions of buying an older boat.
But I want to take a step back here. To begin, it is important to understand that these are two very different boats, and I feel it important to differentiate how they differ despite apparent similarities in terms of performance and economy.
The Kadey-Krogen 42 is a full displacement trawler originally designed by Jim Krogen for Art Kadey in 1976 to offer power cruisers a comfortable seaboat with the economy and range of a single engine trawler able to carry the necessary fuel and stores for long distance and extended cruising. While the Krogen 42 did not enjoy the marketing and resulting track record of Nordhavn 46s that continue to circle the globe, it has been on the scene for a long time and proven itself on countless extended cruises where the owners remained self sufficient for long periods away from the hustle and congestion of modern facilities. Visit a quiet anchorage anywhere in the tropics, Mexico, and Alaska (and any number of far-off places for that matter) and no doubt a Krogen 42 was there before you.
The advantage of this hull shape is seaworthiness before everything else. You headed into serious bluewater territory? Go on a full displacement boat. While modern boat design will soon be tugging at that vaulted stature, right now it is full displacement all the way.
The disadvantage of this hull shape is that it is the slowest hull shape, often limited to 7 knots or so. Trying to get it to go faster is a waste of time and horsepower. A full displacement boat just digs a hole in the water and loses any efficiency it might otherwise enjoy. But stay within its performance envelope and you are rewarded with more sea miles under the keel at an economical fuel consumption. Enough to get to the other side of an ocean.
Another result of the full displacement hull shape is that these boats tend to roll in a seaway. While it is a supremely seaworthy characteristic, as wave energy passes under the hull, this doesn't help a crew uncomfortable with the rolling motion. So for extended passages, some form of stabilization is often fitted to this hull shape, either in the form of active fin stabilizers or paravanes fitted to booms on the sides of the hull. Both have been used successfully on the Krogen 42. Many Krogen 42s remain without stabilization, and the owners just put up with it on rolly crossings, only to be rewarded by a comfortable motion once back inside the protected waterways among the islands.
The full displacement Krogen 42 also has a deeper draft of similar length trawlers at 4'7". I don't see that as a negative, however, as it is a function of this beautiful hull shape with protected running gear that displaces almost 40,000 lbs. And it takes all of your belongings without a whimper.
The Marine Trader, on the other hand, is a semi-displacement hull shape, a classic hull compromise that provided the best balance of hull shape attributes, and by far the most popular cruising powerboat hull shape. The hull has flat sections aft and a bow that lifts for higher speed, offering a wide range of performance. While it is typical that many older semi-displacement trawlers come equipped with lower horsepower diesels for performance similar to full displacement trawlers, that trend really did not do justice to the semi-displacement hull.
When higher horsepower engines are fitted in these hulls, owners can expect a surprisingly wide range of speed from slow boat trawler speed to planing speeds that really get up and boogie...although at quite a larger fuel burn. Not a bad tradeoff if you want to get across the Gulf Stream or avoid a coming weather system. When the safety of your crew and the anxiety of impending weather hangs in the balance, who cares about the occasional big fuel bill???
The sundeck concept maximizes the accommodations within a given hull length. In the case of the MT 40, it allows a wide aft master cabin as well as forward guest cabin in the bow, each with ensuite head. A large saloon is bright and open and it is just a few steps up or down to reach the accommodations, the galley, inside helm, and the protected, covered aft sundeck located over top of the aft cabin. Crew can relax in this inside/outside area, with great views of the surroundings.
A sundeck style trawler provides the maximum living space for its owners, and it is just not possible to get any more living space,, which essentially has four levels of living, from sleeping quarters and galley, to saloon and inside helm, to sundeck lounge space, to flybridge.
This type of cruising powerboat is typically powered by twin diesels that offer single-digit cruising speeds and economy, although the running gear is not as protected as with a full displacement trawler. The MT 40's draft is a foot less than the Krogen 42 and displacement is also less at just under 30,000 lbs. That semi-displacement trawler offers similar cruising speeds as the full displacement trawler with economy of around 2 mpg, but the ability to run in the teens with larger engines.
Now let's look at things you might not notice right away. Given the sundeck arrangement on this and numerous other boat brands, consider the access onto the boat, especially compared to the Krogen 42. Each boat differs with the cruising territory, whether Great Loop cruising, Inside Passage, or island hopping.
When you are at a marina with "normal" pier and bulkhead access, it is a simple task to step aboard the sundeck trawler amidships by the saloon and inside helm. The Krogen 42 also has similar access outside the pilothouse doors. For normal dockside living this is what owners typically enjoy, complete with hookups for electricity and water. This is living aboard on a grand scale, the classic comfortable waterfront condo.
But when one is faced with floating docks or water access from water taxi or dinghy while at anchor, the Krogen 42 comes into its own and is a snap to board. It has a big swim platform transom door, while the sundeck arrangement forces crew onto the swim platform and a vertical ladder up to the sundeck past the transom and aft cabin. Imagine using that ladder from the dinghy with groceries, dog, dive gear, or older crew.
Another issue is ventilation. I have never been a big fan of aft cabins without natural ventilation. I suppose with the rest of the boat opened up there may be some measure of ventilation, but I'm sure most owners of such sundeck cruisers use air conditioning more often than not. Small opening ports may help in a marina with cross breezes, but at anchor, not so much. The Krogen style trawler with its forward master stateroom has a large opening hatch that is a nice touch at anchor.
Full displacement trawlers are generally on the hook more than the sundeck-style trawler, which is how the boats are set up. It is not a negative about sundeck cruisers, though, as they are way more popular than their full displacement cousins, because they are so comfortable at the dock, which is where most owners stop when they are cruising. As I mentioned, the vast majority of trawlers and cruising motorboats out there are semi-displacement boats, and their popularity is well justified. They are the most by far the most versatile cruising platform. Certainly, they can live on the hook for a period of time, likely running the generator to power the systems and to keep the domestic refrigerator going, and that is fine. But that is a fundamental difference between the trawler and the motoryacht lifestyles. The sundeck cruiser leans toward the motoryacht lifestyle, where comfort and convenience reign over simplicity and self sufficiency far from civilization.
Other points to consider when reviewing any boat include making sure there are sufficient hand holds inside and outside, usable by all members of the crew. Are there sturdy side deck lifelines or hand rails? Look for steps stead of ladders, which are more dog/child friendly and ease the burden of carrying stuff on and off the boat. Are there boarding gates and doors that handle varying dock and tidal situations? You must be able to get on and off the boat without outside assistance, or you are looking at the wrong boat.
How can you store, launch, or retrieve the dinghy? Is there storage for dock gear, fenders, and lines? Does the helm have proper visibility is all directions, and when backing into a slip? Beyond the ventilation issues with the aft cabin, are there sufficient opening ports in the rest of the boat for ventilation in different conditions?
Are there adequate attachment points for fenders along the side decks? Does the boat have a sturdy rub rail? If not, keep looking, as it is not a serious cruising boat option.
But ultimately the real discussion here is not about the boat, but rather the people and how they expect to use it. I already know that a couple expecting lots of friends and family as guests with be initially disappointed as hundreds agree that once they went cruising, the friends they came to enjoy in this lifestyle are the friends they made along the way with their own boats.
Cruising plans determine much of the boat selection process, which was decidedly missing from the initial Facebook post. If the couple wants to do coastal cruising and Great Loop travel, they have an entirely different dance card that those hoping to explore remote island groups with local natural beauty but not much else.
But it is all doable an can be figured out, with a bit of honest soul searching and careful planning.