Review of LeTrawler 54
Bonjour de la Méditerranée!
by Judy Waldman
Hello from the Med! The GT-54 "Le Trawler" by Garcia Yachts is an entirely new entry in the trawler yacht market
and she's about to make a big splash in the US, arriving on her own bottom from Cannes, France,
just in time for the Annapolis Boat Show and the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show.
Garcia Yachting has been building aluminum sailboats for over 40 years. That experience has recently been transferred into building a 54' aluminum trawler that offers precision engineering with a contemporary style that is ever-so Euro. Le Trawler, under the umbrella company of Grand Large Yachting (grande large is French for “offshore”) was built at Garcia's northern yard in Normandy and launched in August 2012. Le Trawler immediately departed Cherbourg, fueled in Guernsey, and headed for the Cannes International Boat Show. She made her first leg near flawlessly, 1100 nautical miles in 5 1/2 days at 8 knots to her first stop: Gibraltar. Her next port o' call 3 1/2 days later, 700nm at over 8 knots, was at La Grande Motte where Grand Large Yachting builds their Outremer FRP catamarans. It was at this French Mediterranean coastal port where finishing touches were put on Le Trawler and where YachtForums' trawler specialist Judy Waldman was flown in for a sneak preview and a premier review.
The beginning of Le Trawler by Garcia starts with Jean-Louis Garcia. The Garcia shipyard in Normandy, France has built more than 300 aluminum sailboats over the last forty years ranging from 50 to 115 feet. Jean-Louis sold Garcia Yachting in 2010 to Stephan Constance and Xavier Desmarest. Stephan and Xavier were experienced sailboat builders having founded Allures Yachting in 2003. Allures are aluminum sailboats in the 40 - 50 foot range and are also built in northern France, in Cherbourg. In 2007 Stephan and Xavier bought Outremer Yachting, famous for their bluewater sailing catamarans. So the Stephan Constance and Xavier Demarest partnership created a fleet of sailboat yards including Allures, Outremer, and lastly Garcia yachts.
Now, it was time to cruise uncharted waters, which was soon to become Le Trawler by Garcia. Jean-Louis Garcia was bored with retirement after selling Garcia Yachts and approached Stephan and Xavier with the idea of building a new boat, one for himself. And as the course that many accomplished sailors tend to take, Jean-Louis was thinking of a fuel efficient trawler. Stephan and Xavier had discussed building a trawler and Jean-Louis became the catalyst with his signed order for a 54' aluminum trawler that would provide the equivalent experiences of his sailboats.
Le Trawler was a hull designed for a program. The philosophy of building Le Trawler was that it would be a smooth and better way of getting through the water with long distance capabilities, low fuel consumption, designed stability, and safety as foremost requirements. The premise was to build the vessel around the propulsion to determine what was needed for hydrodynamic efficiency, maximum power at full speed, and then custom design a propeller combined with a reductor for complete synchronization; then subsequently design the hull for optimal movement, establish a desired weight, and finally build the yacht around the parameters given. Voila! Le Trawler!
Jean-Louis Garcia’s background in sailboat racing allowed him to take his boats through the ultimate tests. He knew that 100% reliability wasn’t good enough - he expected 110% reliability. Aside from experience and a high caliber team of naval architects, a foremost ingredient included simplicity. The marine environment is one of the worst for sophistication. These guiding principles are the DNA of the Grand Large Yachting boatyards and would assure the Le Trawler owners that no matter what happens, this boat will take you to port.
Aluminum construction offers the advantage of reduced weight, structural resistance to impact, ignition temperature above 1800 degrees, durability, low maintenance, and my personal favorite: anti-aging properties. What appears to be water reflected on the hull is actually the non-painted topsides. Of course yacht-finish hull paint is an option, but with the skilled welders creating a fair hull where even washdowns become optional, why choose masochism.
Our first sea trial commenced at 5:00 from an inside dock at the Port of La Grande Motte on the Cote d’Azur. France is known for being one of the prominent sailing countries in the world and it was evident as we meandered our way through the tight marina whose slips were filled with sailboats, small cruisers, and yachts in the small to medium range – by the hundreds. The captain barely tapped the bow thruster and didn’t use the stern thruster at all as he easily maneuvered the single engine 56 footer out to open water. Manning the helm was Jean-Pierre. Jean-Pierre is the Outremer turnover and delivery guy. With every Grand Large Yacht sold, there is a program of client training. After days to weeks of client instruction, Jean-Pierre, or his Allures counterpart, turns over the new vessel to the owner. Then there is the come-back period. After 30 to 45 days of cruising, the owner brings the yacht back to the yard and Jean-Pierre re-trains or fine tunes where the owners might need some instructional tweaking, as well as reviews any new boat bugs which in general seem to be both few and minor. This was Jean-Pierre’s first time at the helm of Le Trawler so he was excited about experiencing her performance.
There were 251 hours on the 185hp Caterpillar engine which was not many more hours than it took to get from Cherbourg in the north of France to this touristy ship-building port in the Med. The 75hp Volvo wing engine meter was reading 25 hours, all mostly accumulated from check-out and testing time. Once in open water, the mainsail was raised. The primary purpose of the mainsail on Le Trawler is for use as a stabilizing sail whether underway or at anchor. There was a slight discernment of movement change with the sail hoisted, but the built-in stabilization and hull design preclude any stability concerns in moderate to heavy weather. The gennaker is designed to be used when the winds blow in the 20 to 30 knot range, but the forestay rigging had not been completed at this point so I didn’t get to see Le Trawler under full sail. During this sea trial, we only had apparent wind of 18 knots, during which we maintained speed at 8.3 knots at 1600rpms. Of course when I took the helm, I had to try WOT and in 18 knots of light blow, we maintained a speed of 10.5 at 2200rpms. Going to the other extreme, we ran Le Trawler on her wing engine only and at 1900rpms were recording a speed of 4.9 knots.
The seas were calm with a small chop and small waves and Le Trawler had an easy time of gliding through the water. The motion was noticeably different from most trawlers I have sea trialed. I am used to pushing through the water in a trudging or plowing forward movement or, unfortunately, have hobby-horsed my way over course, but this 30 ton full displacement hull felt like she was lightly gliding through her surface – a most pleasant and easy ride. The yacht was not only stable on forward (and reverse) movements but surprisingly so on tight turns. She did a 360 degree hard turn in about a boat length to a boat length and a half without any noticeable heeling. I thought maybe it was a fluke the first time so I asked for a few repeat circles and reverse circles. It was fun as well as impressive. The wheel was 4 ½ turns lock to lock, tracking was excellent, and the only complaint about this hour-long sea trial was that it was only an hour long.
With no complaint going unaddressed, we set sail for a sunset cruise the next evening. We left the Le Grand Motte marina around 6:00 with both crew and vin cru aboard. Attendees included 6 members of the Le Trawler team, but also included Jean-Louis Garcia, the founder of Garcia Yachts and the owner of this new Le Trawler by Garcia, and Jean-Louis’ son. Capt. Marina was manning (womanning?) the helm. Although waiting for seas that no sea trials ever produce, this was a cruise – a sendoff being that Le Trawler had her finishing touches finalized and was preparing to soon depart for the Cannes International Boat Show which was commencing in a few days. As we left the port and entered open water, I was concerned no one was stowing the loose items. The prone to gravitational pull items mostly consisted of bottles of water and wine (mostly wine), wine glasses, and trays of delectables. There was an open liter bottle of water on the starboardside seat on the aft deck and that became my tiltmeter. Seas were relatively calm on our leisurely cruise at 8.9 knots in 12 knots of apparent wind enroute to our first POI which was Port Camargue. As we nosed into port, we saw an exiting sailboat with passengers doing an arm flailing number at us. Turns out it was a 30 year old Garcia sailboat and the owners had recognized Jean-Pierre standing on our bow. After poking around this maze of marinas which incredibly housed 4,600 slips, we headed back westward to another distant shore. In spite of the picturesque sunset, a small storm blew in but Le Trawler didn’t show any effect from the choppy seas and whitecapping. Nor did it matter when 6 men were all on one side of the boat. And of all of the now empty champagne and wine bottles sitting around, the inclinometer finally registered: after 3 hours, just short of return to port in heavy rains, the half-filled water bottle on the aft deck seat finally tipped over.
Sleek is not usually a term associated with trawlers, but the streamlined bow defies the slugboat stereotypical characteristics. The Lewmar deck hatch, Lofrans windlass and aluminum bollards are the only above deck appurtenances other than the grand viewing venue from atop the forward storage lockers.
The painted finish gives a polished look to the 5mm thick aluminum superstructure. Comfortable walk-around side decks and high bulwarks add to the maneuverability and safety. The flybridge has easy access to open-air cruising and covers all the requisites: safe rail heights, port and starboard gates for dinghy launching and retrieval, ease of rigging, stowage for bulky items, drink fridge, and party seating.
No shortage of space for sun worshipping. Sunny side up? The flybridge helm provides good visibility along with the station for navigation electronics, engine instrumentation, and operational controls. As well, it extends the real estate space aboard by a deck level.
Le grand entrance into Le Trawler is through sturdy sliding glass doors with manual stops. This owner wanted 360 views from the pilothouse but most ocean crossing trawlerites will prefer watertight doors from the aft deck and pilothouse.
When stepping inside, you know the euro styling is meant to appeal to those with interest in a contemporary milieu rather than the defining traits of the traditional trawler interiors. The large windows allow for plenty of natural lighting as well as fresh air ventilation from the 3 opening windows. Starboard side has two large seats, hide-away Samsung flat screen TV, and numerous large drawers and cabinets for stowage. Port side provides seating for 8 at the large hi/lo dining table. The beneath seats storage has finished cabinets with oak veneers, as do all of the storage cabinets throughout the boat.
The lightness and brightness is heightened by the use of white faux leather headliners and wall coverings and synthetic marble countertops. The light oak cabinetry is grain matched and well executed. The 6’5” headroom is carried throughout the interior cabins.
The galley is sleek and neat and has lots of smart concepts maximizing the French chef's cuisine couture. Facing the salon, the chef can do dish duty while participating in salon chatter, yet there's a visual separation provided by a service counter with built in acrylic canisters above the large, overly deep square stainless steel and smaller rectangular sinks. Beneath the opening window portside is the Bosch 3 burner stove, oven, and more cabinets. Large cabinets and drawers are starboardside beneath a convenient prep area that can also double as a service platform. The forward side of the galley has the Isoderm refrigerator and freezer with large storage bins above concealed by stylish easy swing-up doors. Countertops have either molded fiddles and/or have sculpted inserts where items can be inset on their own or placed on the fitted trays which double as serving trays. Compactness made convenient.
The views from the pilothouse are indeed panoramic. The 10 large tinted 12mm Triplex tempered glass windows provide great visibility; cross-ventilation is provided by the one opening window and the open starboardside entry door. In addition to the demisters, the windows are electrically heated for those venturing into colder climes. There are several chart drawers; cabinets are well placed in all available spaces. The ergonomically designed L-shaped settee, with large storage bins beneath, comfortably seats 6 and also coverts to a pilot berth, but the seat of choice is the helm.
Night lighting and light deflection was still being tweaked, but this helm lacked nothing in the way of all that's needed to get you there, wherever "there" might be. The navigation and electronics console presents the Caterpillar and Volvo engine displays and controls, Onan displays and controls, as well as the Furuno suite of electronics for charting, navigating, and communicating. The Max Power controls are for bow and stern thruster cheats as needed.
The clean lines of the console don’t inhibit the inclusion of more operational goodies like Hepworth wipers with speed controls (and yes, they move in unison regardless of speed), Jabsco remote search light, fuel filter gauges, tank monitors, and a Lecomble & Schmitt hydraulic steering system.
Access to the lower deck accommodations is by way of stairs from the pilothouse which curve down to a foyer with immediate access to the day head to starboard. The forepeak guest cabin with ensuite head is plenty comfortable with a king-size centerline bed, desk, drawer and locker stowage, and multiple lighting alternatives.
The ensuite head makes good use of allocated space. Restyling might include a segregated shower for subsequent hulls which would be easy to do by incorporating the day head area.
The amidships master stateroom is ideally located for full beam maximization and comfortable underway snoozing. The stateroom, with king-size walk around bed has dual function with a work area to starboard with a slide-out desk, numerous cabinets and shelves, and large underbed drawers. Nightstands with drawers flank the centerline bed. Incredible stowage with the understairway space behind cabinet doors is utilized as a walk-in closet with hanging locker and dresser.
The port side of the stateroom is dedicated as the spa area and is tastefully concealed with wall-size sliding panel doors. The separate head with washer/dryer is forward.
With the sliding doors open, the visual space is enlarged; the practicality of this ensuite concept seems to becoming the prevalent layout. Behind privacy doors is the full-size glass enclosed shower with wooden bench seat and flooring insert.
The closed window blinds offer privacy should a dinghy be passing by for an up close and personal peek. With the window dressings raised and the panel doors open, 3 vertical windows offer a spectacular water view on port side, and on starboard provide for idyllic viewing while performing desk duties, as well as letting copious amounts of natural lighting bathe the suite.
The watertight aft deck hatch provides entry to the lazarette. The lazarette forward bulkhead houses the watertight entry door to the engine room, thus creating two watertight compartments below deck. The engine removal hatch in the salon is bolted watertight and soundproofed. With 4’6” engine room height, the engine room allows for maneuverability with all servicing items having easy accessibility. The height of the engine room was considered as a factor for stability, and the philosophy of Le Trawler goes against the engine room height necessitating “wedding cake” boats that require additional stabilizing systems such as active fins and flopper-stoppers.
Organization in the engine room includes grouping of systems. All water related equipment is on port side; Victron Energy System and electricals are on the aft bulkhead. Reverse cycle air conditioning and secondary diesel heating is on the starboard side. Easily accessible heavy-duty gray and blackwater extractor pumps (with manual back-ups), and exhaust for main engine, wing engine, and generator are starboardside.
The friendly Cat is fed from the baffled fuel tanks to port. The 3056 is a professional marine continuous duty engine designed to run 20,000 hours between rebuilds, or good for about 6 circumnavigations. Fuel filtration consists of 3 filters for the main engine with the ability to change filters without switching over to the wing during the process. The complete synchronization of the propulsion system includes the 185hp Caterpillar, ZF reduction ratio of 2.9:1 and the 4 bladed 34” x 24” custom New Zealand prop. Quiet operation is assured with the cushioned mountings, Centaflex couplings, and the wet exhaust via Halyard reinforced polyester silencer water separator and flexible exhaust hose.
The Volvo 75hp sail drive engine is also seawater cooled with wet exhaust. It is electronically controlled from either the pilothouse or flybridge. The Volvo 4 blade folding prop is wing engine designated.
The GT54 is definitely an ocean-going, new addition to the trawler community, crossing the Atlantic on a near maiden voyage to attend the Annapolis and Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Shows. With exceptional Euro-style, low fuel consumption and Plan-B provisions, it's a welcome new entry to the US and abroad. As I flew back to the States, writing this review in an oh-so-cramped, last class seat, I began to appreciate my time aboard the GT-54; a boat that may (and will!) change perception of what a trawler should look like and how this new entry to the market could very well push trawler sales past displacement speed.
Le Trawler achieves a max speed of 10.5 knots, a max draft of 5’5”, and displaces 32 tons laden. With a LOA of 56’4” and beam of 16’1”, Le Trawler provides a comfortable interior for plush living quarters. After spending about 20 working hours aboard the GT-54, over the course of 3 days, I can confidently say that the Garcia Yachting team consists of a group of professional, extremely bright, energetic, creative, young entrepreneurs who have been able to combine their sailing passion into successful boat building. It was both educational and inspiring.
by Judy Waldman
Length: 17.20 m
Lwl : 16.50 m
Bmax: 4.90 m
Draft: 1.68 m
Displacement: 26 tons light - 32 tons laden
Engine: 185 HP
Max speed: 10.5 nds
Cruising speed: 4000 nds
Water capacity: 540 L
Architect: Saillard / Darnet et le Quément