Nordic Tug 39: Designed for a Carefree Life Aboard

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Monday, 06 June 2011 15:02

The Nordic Tug 39 Carefree stems a strong head current on the Connecticut River.

I recently met the Steeles at in Essex, Connecticut, where Carefree was tied to a floating dock, undergoing final commissioning before the couple heads to their homeport in Red Brook Harbor, Cataumet, Massachusetts. I had come to sea-trial this updated version of the NT-37 and document the changes to the boat, but after learning about Carefree’s purchase process and commissioning, I came away with a much better feeling for not only the changes in the design but why they would be important for a cruising couple.

The Purchase
Kevin Steele had been a fisherman for many years, first aboard a Grady-White, then with a larger Tiara, powered by twin Crusader gas engines. After a couple of years of racing around southeast New England, converting expensive gasoline to speed and noise, the couple decided they wanted a slower pace and something more akin to a mobile waterfront home, with room to cook and entertain. So they went to a TrawlerFest in Warwick, Rhode Island, where they first saw the Nordic Tug 37.

While their first impression was positive, Kevin wanted to be careful and did an enormous amount of research. They considered a slower, full-displacement type of trawler but decided that the fast tidal currents of many local cruising areas would put too many restrictions on them. They kept coming back to the same solution – a trawler that could also cruise in the mid-teens.

The Nordic Tugs dealers for the Northeast, Wilde Yachts, impressed them with their willingness to walk them through the decision process. Kevin and Donna were also impressed with the dealer’s commitment to an extensive training and familiarization process. When I met with them, they were on their third straight weekend living aboard the boat, having had long sessions with a training captain on the water, the electronics tech who installed their Raymarine gear, and a Cummins rep who spent several hours with them going over engine-related systems and maintenance.

The saloon is open and airy, and offers excellent all-around views for the helmsman.

The Boat
The NT-39 is the same hull and deck mold as the original NT-37, but has several key changes inside. The saloon entry from the aft cockpit has been moved to starboard by several inches, enabling a redesign of the port-side settee to a U-shape that adds more room for seating without taking away much from the starboard galley. A redesigned folding table allows several people to eat comfortably while at the settee.

The galley now features a deep freezer under the countertop and a deep, roomy stainless sink. The Steeles chose an Amtico™ flooring material, which should be perfectly dog-resistant. The Nordic Tugs factory, coming back from a recent shutdown during the recession, hasn’t lost any of its skilled workforce. The oiled teak woodwork throughout the boat was beautifully cut and matched, even when trimmed around compound curves and window frames.

Forward, there’s an expansive new helm dash panel with room for all the electronics a captain could want. This real estate came from swapping the head and second stateroom below. The stateroom with more overhead room is now to starboard, on the same side as the helm above, while the head has moved to port. The helm now also features a captain’s helm chair, while a nice two-seat bench is to port, with the stairs heading below between them.

Belowdecks, the master stateroom forward has a nice island queen berth. The relocated head has an expanded countertop for the sink that will keep the shaving cream from landing on the deck. The second stateroom features a pull-out double, or an optional bunk bed arrangement. It’s cozy but comfortable enough for occasional adult guests or cruising kids.

Other updates to the NT-39 include a new forward windshield with dramatically improved visibility, along with much larger windows in the saloon. All lighting is now LED; a Mastervolt DC charging system with AGM batteries is standard, as is the Maretron NMEA 2000 network monitoring system. The genset is an Onan 9kW unit on boats with air conditioning, or a 5kW unit on boats with heat (Pacific Northwest boats, generally).

The expanded helm station offers more room for both electronics and paperwork.

Special Details
The Steeles had a special four-panel solar installation laid on the roof of the pilothouse, which will keep the batteries topped off nicely while Carefree hangs off her mooring in Red Brook Harbor. They chose not to order the flybridge version of the NT-39 because they felt they wouldn’t use it enough in the cooler climes of the home cruising waters, and they really wanted the flat spaces for a solar installation.

They did choose to add an electric davit on the starboard side of the boat deck, which shelters the aft cockpit. There was also one of KVH’s newest TracVision satellite TV antennas on the mast, behind the Raymarine radome. Another feature the skipper was keen on was the Maretron monitoring system, which has a fully customizable display of all the tanks aboard Carefree, in addition to a couple of other systems. What a joy it would be to have a truly reliable black water tank monitor.

The Sea Trial
Long Island Sound was quiet on the afternoon I visited Wilde Yachts, so we decided to stay in the Connecticut River, where the rain-swollen current and tide together were racing downstream. The NT-39 shares a couple of distinctive traits with its fleet sisters. First, it tracks like it’s on rails, or on a single rail, with the big, full-length keel below. Second, it’s profoundly quiet while running. Even with both side doors open on a windy day, I never saw anything above 75 dB-A on the sound meter. Finally, these boats, with their slippery hulls and electronic diesels, burn very little fuel. The NT-39 will run along at about 5.5 knots burning 0.6 gph; cruise at 7.5 knots and just 2 gph, and transit at high speed at 13.5 knots at 9.7 gph.

I had tested an NT-37 in Miami a couple of years ago, and the new NT-39 is even nicer to pilot, with its bigger dash and improved visibility through the new windshield, and also back through the saloon windows when docking. I like the new Dutch door in the saloon, which can be half-opened (with a screen in place) for better ventilation while running or at anchor.

The boat has a low center of gravity, particularly without a flybridge, and leans very little in turns. Around the docks, the relatively heavy weight and deep keel mean currents are far more important than winds when calculating an approach, and the bow thruster and highly effective optional stern thruster installed on Carefree made the final docking child’s play — almost carefree.

For a waterfront home that you can move among limitless waterfronts, the typical price of about $565,000, fully equipped, sounds eminently reasonable.