By John Shinnick
Nordic Tug 32+: Sea Trial
Nordic Tug 32+: After 17 years of success, a stalwart undergoes a design transfusion.
It was an overcast Pacific Northwest summer day, with layers of gray clouds that made Mount Baker only a hazy memory.
In Anacortes, Washington’s small Seafarer’s Memorial Park clubhouse, Jerry Husted — the affable elder statesman and founder of Nordic Tugs — was entertaining a group of marine journalists with a story about the 1980 Seattle Boat Show. The OPEC oil embargo had crippled the power boat market seven years before, and he, a sailboat builder, was about to launch an economical power boat.
“We were advised by our marketing people to set a goal for the 10-day show,” he remembered. “We decided three boats would be a good sales target.
When the show opened, we sold a boat in the first hour. Taking refundable $1,000 deposits, we sold 50 boats over the course of the 10 days.”
The next year, two other tug builders exhibited in the show, but Nordic Tugs’ timing had put the company in the right place at the right time. Today, Nordic Tugs builds 45 boats a year and is adding a new 52-footer to the mix for 2003.
In 1985, Nordic Tugs had perceived a demand for a larger boat — and production efficiencies favor larger boats — so they launched the 32. By 1989, the 32 accounted for 50 percent of Nordic’s sales. By 1994, that figure approached 90 percent.
By 2001, Nordic’s management team realized they were building the “17th annual 1985 model Nordic Tug 32,” according to Jim Cress, the company’s president. “Our customers wanted something different — and the easiest way to get in trouble in the boat building business is to not listen to your customers.”
Nordic Tugs, which now employs a staff of 120, went back to the drawing board to rethink the most successful boat in its line. Its designers tweaked the interior, shifted the engine and played with everything but the profile.
The Plus Side
The result of Nordic Tugs’ re-engineering process is the 32+, a boat with an island berth, and a larger head and shower. The company also added a hanging locker, a separate shower stall in the head and a new helm console layout with a single-handle electronic Morse Model KE4 shifter. The 32+ also offers larger engine hatches in the pilothouse sole, a new galley layout with an under-counter refrigerator/freezer, a deck box for fender storage, a sliding transom door and a boarding platform that essentially extends the hull and waterline length.
Now, the question is: How do you manage to extract more room from a 32-footer that has been in production since the mid-1980s? You do it by moving the engine and engine room bulkhead back 18 inches. The effect is increased ergonomics, more living space in the sleeping quarters and more room for a separate shower.
At the same time, Nordic Tugs has virtually eliminated its options list for the 32+ and for its big sister, the 37 (now available as a either a convertible with a washer/dryer compartment or as a single-cabin model). Much of what was once listed as optional equipment is now standard.
In place of the options list are two variations on the 32+ that recognize the regional differences in the way the boats will be used. There is a Cold Climate model with an Espar heater, a defroster system and a propane Force 10 stove; as well as an All Climate model that has a generator, an air conditioner and an electric range.
Of course, this raised a question of whether the expanded standard item list would increase the price. Jim Cress quickly pointed out that the new standard features effectively bring the price down for the buyer, who usually adds many items after buying a new boat.
Once the company “standardized” the former options list, Nordic Tugs negotiated better volume discounts with suppliers. It is also more efficient to install hardware on standardized wiring and plumbing templates at the time of assembly, rather than to add them later as an aftermarket item.
As a result, the 32+ sticker price may be higher, but in the new model compared to the old model — feature for feature — the price is actually lower than what a buyer would pay for the former boat with installed options.
Raising the Standards
Standard power for the new 32+ is a 270 hp Cummins B Series diesel engine — providing 50 hp more than the previous model offered. Also standard in the engine room is a Reverso oil change system and a Fireboy fire suppression system.
On deck, now standard are a Lofrans windlass, 1 inch stainless rails and a washdown system for bow and stern use. On the systems list, the Jabsco variable-pressure water pump (which eliminates the accumulator tank and the pulsing that has driven most of us crazy at one time or another) and vacuum-flush heads are now standard.
In the saloon, Ultrasuede fabrics are now standard. In the galley, Corian countertops and a Nova Cool side-by-side refrigerator/freezer are both standard items.
The effect of the changes is a familiar look. It looks, feels and acts like a Nordic Tug, only different. The joinerwork is flawlessly crafted teak throughout.
While there’s more interior teak than ever, less wood is used in the hull and deck. More coring and composites keep the boat’s weight low, for improved fuel economy and speeds.
While the original 26-footer and its early 32 foot sisters were displacement-hull chuggers, more recent versions of this boat have let their hair down, moving at very un-tug-like planing speeds (which fit the flat underbody sections and decidedly non-round bilge shape).
The hull is still the same: very flat at the transom with a fine entry, but carrying a long deep keel, which separates it from the usual deadrise-style deep-V hull. With a hull this flat, it is not surprising that the boat performs a lot better than a displacement cruiser.
We took the 32+ out for a spin from Skyline Marina to Cap Sante Marina. We had five people, a full tank of fuel and a full tank of water aboard. Two of us were in the pilothouse, while three were in the saloon.
The bow came up as soon as we left displacement speed range, rising to 5 degrees and staying there for the rest of the cruise.
While the wind was light, Puget Sound currents were tricky — pulsing, swirling, churning, stacking up waves in the shallows and complicating speeds on two GPS units.
Cummins suggests a maximum sustained pleasure-use rpm of 2,400, though 2,600 rpm is available for short runs. We recorded an economical high cruise speed of 15 knots at 2,200 rpm and a fast 17 knot cruise at 2,400 rpm. An economical low cruise, at displacement speed, would be at 1,000 rpm — at approximately 7.6 knots.
Under way, the sound level in the pilothouse was comfortable and conversational, the result of additional soundproofing efforts that also included the move to Morse electronic controls (with the added safety feature of a mechanical backup).
When we arrived at Cap Sante Marina, Jim Cress gave a quick pulse of the bow thruster, spinning the 32+ in its own length and putting the boat alongside the dock with ease.
All in all, the new 32+ is a well-mannered, comfortable coastal cruiser. It’s precisely what we have come to expect from a Nordic Tug.
Nordic Tug 32+ Specifications
|Fuel capacity||200 gallons|
|Water capacity||100 gallons|
|Standard power||270-hp Cummins B-Series diesel|
|List price for All Climate model||$260,400|
|List price for Cool Climate model||$243,100|
|Top speed||19.7 knots|
|Miles per gallon at 7.6-knots cruising speed||4.44|
|Estimated fuel cost for 100 miles at 7.6-knots cruising speed||$33.78|
|Range @ 7.6 knots cruise||888 miles (to empty)|
|Sound level at cruising speed||70 dB|
(Estimated fuel cost based on a fuel price of $1.50 per gallon.)
Hull features hand-laid fiberglass below the waterline.
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