By Eston Ellis
Tollycraft 48 Motor Yacht
Tollycraft's 48 Motor Yacht was the founder's personal choice.
R.M. “Tolly” Tollefson, the long-retired founder of Tollycraft Yachts, was always much more than a boat builder. Tollefson was a boater — and a serious cruiser, at that.
He didn’t believe in building boats that would spend more time hosting dockside parties than going out cruising. Tollefson built boats that could take their owners anywhere — whether they wanted to fish or to explore the remotest of anchorages from Alaska to Mexico.
Beginning in 1936, Tollefson built boats that he, himself, would enjoy going boating aboard. What Tollycraft boats lack in Euro-style curves and gadgetry, they more than make up for in practical cruiseability and ergonomic design (incorporated before anyone in boat building ever started using that phrase).
Tollefson has spent much of the last 15 years since his retirement cruising the Pacific coast — and most of that time has been spent aboard one boat: his very own 48 Motor Yacht. Now, after 70 years of boating, Tollefson is ready to spend a bit more time on shore — and he’s put his personal cruising machine up for sale.
This month’s Modern Classics will take a closer look at the 48 Motor Yacht — and at Tollefson’s personal boat, which he customized to meet his own boating needs.
A Boat With Good Bones
Tollycraft’s 48 Motor Yacht was designed by Bainbridge Island, Washington-based designer Ed Monk Jr. Monk gave the boat a seakindly semi-displacement hull, with rounded chines and a long keel. This gave the 48 Motor Yacht a solid, stable ride in a wide range of sea conditions — and a moderate cruising speed of around 16 knots, with a pair of 320 hp Caterpillar diesels. The top speed was around 20 knots — and while this definitely wouldn’t break any records on the water, the 48 was considerably faster than the also-cruiseworthy trawler yachts available in the 1970s and 1980s.
Tollycraft built two generations of 48 Motor Yachts. The original version, in production from 1976 to 1986, was updated only slightly in 1991, when a few styling changes were made to the flybridge. The 48′s original 320 hp Caterpillar diesels were replaced with newer 300 hp Caterpillar or Cummins diesels that were more fuel efficient — and optional 375 hp Caterpillar diesels were offered, to provide a faster 17 knot cruising speed.
In 1995, a revised interior layout was introduced, putting a double berth in the forward guest stateroom, instead of a V-berth. Production ended in 1998, when Tollycraft stopped building boats.
All of the 48 Motor Yachts have one thing in common: They are remarkably practical and well engineered for West Coast boating.
The 48′s full walk-around sidedecks are protected by high bulwarks and rails, for secure access fore and aft — even while the boat is under way. Side doors provide instant access to the saloon’s inside helm station. The aft cockpit is large enough for sportfishing (although this boat is definitely not a sportfisher), and a transom door provides ready access to a wide swim step.
The flybridge — accessible from both the saloon and exterior steps, aft — offers a commanding 360-degree view, full instrumentation and room for guests to join the skipper. Abaft the bridge, the 48′s aft deck has ample space for a large dinghy and a davit.
In the interior, you’ll discover a large saloon with an L-shaped settee and an optional high-low table to port. A fully equipped inside helm station is forward, to starboard. Large forward and side windows offer a good view of the water. A breakfast bar that adjoins the boat’s galley is opposite the helm, to port.
The U-shaped galley is located a step down, so that it does not impede the view. A dinette is opposite the galley, and forward doors lead to a guest stateroom with a large hanging locker and a guest head.
Abaft the saloon, a few steps down, the boat’s almost-full-beam master stateroom is spacious enough to offer a walk-around queen-size berth, nightstands, hanging lockers and abundant stowage — and on some models, a washer/dryer is housed here. The stateroom’s en suite head provides a separate shower enclosure.
In short, the 48′s accommodations are comfortable enough for a couple to spend a lot of time aboard — which is ideal, if long-range coastal cruising is your goal. This is an activity Tollefson truly enjoyed — and the 48 Motor Yacht is the boat he has spent the most time doing it aboard.
Tollefson’s 48 Motor Yacht, as you might expect, has been highly customized to meet his personal needs.
One of the biggest changes Tollefson made to his 1991 model was to add a bridge enclosure, which was installed at Sidney, British Columbia’s Philbrooks Shipyard. The new hardtop was constructed of fiberglass, with an incorporated sunroof. The entire unit is strong and lightweight, and the vessel retains a low center of gravity.
His boat has typical Northwest comfort amenities, including an Espar forced-air diesel furnace and five electric heaters. The interior teak is highly varnished, the hull is professionally soundproofed and a full array of cruising electronics is installed on both lower and upper helm stations. Three windshield wipers help the skipper navigate through even the sloppiest weather.
Whether or not you’re looking to customize your own boat the way Tollefson did, the Tollycraft 48 Motor Yacht makes an ideal vessel for exploring the Pacific Coast. While Tollycraft has been out of business since 1999, many Tollycraft 48 Motor Yachts are available on the brokerage boat market. Prices range from $189,000 to around $625,000, depending on age and condition.
At press time, Tollefson’s personal boat was for sale through Venwest Yachts in Seattle — and it may still be on the market, if one of the many Tollycraft enthusiasts in the Northwest hasn’t already snapped it up. His highly customized vessel is priced at $399,000.
If you’re looking for a production boat model that someone who really knows West Coast boating chose (and keep in mind that he could own just about any boat he wanted), consider the Tollycraft 48 Motor Yacht. As they used to say in the old Packard motorcar ads, it’s always a good idea to “Ask the man who owns one.”
|Approximate weight||38,000 pounds|
|Fuel capacity||740 gallons|
|Water capacity||180 gallons|
|Standard power||twin 320-hp Caterpillar 3208TA diesels|
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