Spring up to Bremerton for Trawlerfest

Spring is definitely in the air and great cruising months of June, July and August are right around the corner.  No better way to get ready for the glory days of summer explorations in the Pacific Northwest than by attending TrawlerFest.

This will be the second year in a row that the NW TrawlerFest is being held in Bremerton. I think it is a fantastic venue; right by the ferry, classrooms for seminars a short walk across the plaza from the hotel, a tent tunnel filled with vendors pouring out to a dock load of trawlers.

JMYS will not have a trawler on display this year, but Jeff will be in town through Friday and would love to meet with you.

The in-water show and outdoor vendor tent is open Thursday through Saturday, 10am – 5pm.

If you are going to attend please send an email or call, either in advance or at the event.

Jeff will be giving two presentations, Dial-in-your-Trawler and Offshore Essentials as well as moderating the ever-popular Cruisers Roundtable group free for all.

Here is a link to Bremerton TrawlerFest for details about attending.


Here are the course descriptions for Jeff’s two seminars, please sign up and register soon as they are filling up.

Dial-In Your Trawler
With Jeff Merrill, CPYB
Thursday: 10:45 a.m. -12:30 p.m.

Over the years and through his experiences on hundreds of trawlers, yacht broker Jeff Merrill has amassed a collection of “good ideas” and “best practices” that trawler owners are using to better monitor their vessels. These simple and effective techniques apply to most power cruising boats. Tricks of the trade and helpful reminders will help take some of the guesswork out of tracking various systems and equipment on board your trawler. Little details like reference marks for needles on analog gauges, a dry-erase board in your engine room, anchor chain marking, and many other common-sense tips make this an engaging and informative seminar that you won’t want to miss. Merrill will share photos of these ideas and also discuss an assortment of products that you should consider using on your trawler that will not only make your life more enjoyable but may also favorably affect your eventual resale value.

Offshore Essentials
With Jeff Merrill, CPYB
Friday 8:30 a.m.-Noon

Traveling between ports requires understanding and knowledge of some fundamental skills to ensure a safe trip. This course is designed to be both an introduction and a refresher for owner operators and their crew. Yacht broker and all-around boat guy, Jeff Merrill will cover basics of weather forecasting, route planning, watch standing, engine room checks, pilothouse navigation/electronics operations, and much more. If you are interested in transiting between sea ports for overnight passages on your trawler this course will review the essential preparations required. Merrill has logged more than 14,000 miles offshore on trawlers and has spent the majority of that time training with clients on systems teaching them how to manage and operate their boats. His talk includes photos and illustrations and examples of checklists.

If you have already been to one of Jeff’s talks take a look at the schedule, there are some excellent speakers to chose from to increase your trawler knowledge.

Hope to see you soon in Washington!

Physics of Docking Videos

Physics of Docking Videos

It is an accepted fact amongst most trawler owners that docking is the hardest thing to master.  Seems funny that arriving in a slip after a day at sea or a long passage is a difficult exercise (and it doesn’t have to be) but slow, close quarter maneuvering requires patience and finesse – and many of us just want to glide in, tie up, attach the shore power cord and walk up the dock.

Anything you can do to improve your docking skills is a worthy pursuit.   Just like they say most car accidents happen closest to home, the same is true with your trawler and home slip – you spend more time nearby and the odds are greater that you may meet a “target” (stationary or moving).

The best way to get better at docking and to build you confidence is to practice.  Experienced skippers plan their approach, discuss in advance what they intend to do and what they want their crew to do, anticipate what positioning steps to employ and recognize the subtle shifts that will increase their success in making a safe landing.

Each trawler has its own arrangement of controls and handling attributes.   Every time you arrive in a new location you may need to draw upon lessons learned from a previous experience or practice session.   Before you just boldly pull into a slip, spend some time away from the confines of a tight marina to understand the various ways you can control your trawler by experimenting with how to get your trawler to circle in both directions, back in a straight line, etc. Pilots practice landings using touch and go’s, you should consider doing the same in an open area that doesn’t have obstructions. 

Docking maneuvers comes down to an orchestra of playing with propellers, rudders and thrusters;

  • How much rudder angle do you need to rotate?
  • How much RPM to press propeller wash against your rudder?
  • How do you control your positioning in relation to the dock and your surroundings?
  • When do you bail out if things aren’t lining up like you hoped?

All of this will become second nature (like learning how to ride a bicycle), and like two wheeling, you may first have to learn a bit through trial and error.

Thrusters have made docking much easier (and safer), but you really should know how to control your trawler without relying on thrusters, use them for the finishing touch, or in an extreme situation where they might be an essential tool. 

Jeff Merrill and Douglas Cochrane (career owner of multiple trawlers) have collaborated to create a series of videos to illustrate techniques and help you become more proficient at docking.  

We hope you will enjoy each episode of “The Physics of Docking”.

Physics of Docking – Side Ties

Physics of Docking – Preparation for Docking

Physics of Docking – Center of Balance

Physics of Docking – The Prop

Physics of Docking – Pivoting


Performance Predictions

How fast will my trawler go? What is my optimum speed? How far can I travel and how much fuel will it take to get there?  All of these are obvious questions to answer when you acquire a trawler.

One of the first things we recommend that you understand about your trawler is your underway performance. 

Each trawler has a number of factors that influence speed through the water and it is not as simple as, for example, driving a car. When we drive on land we push our foot on the accelerator, look at our speed in miles per hour, stay in our lane and ideally stay close to the posted speed limit. We monitor our fuel gauge to determine when we need to refill.

There are many more considerations with a trawler. Diesel engines require hands-on attention to fuel management, and you are operating in a floating environment where weather can have a dramatic effect on your ride and performance.

Underway there are some slow speed areas in protected waters (no wake zones), but there are no speed restrictions once you get offshore.  Closer to shore there are channel markers to mind, but once you get out in the open the only restrictions after following the right-of-way rules are based on fuel consumption and comfort of the crew.

Two trawlers that are the same exact model may have different performance characteristics based on fuel quantity, equipment load, cleanliness of the underwater surfaces, engine alignment, shaft friction, propeller trueness, etc. 

For several years, Jeff Merrill has presented seminars at PassageMaker magazine TrawlerFest events around the U. S. and shared his “Performance Prediction” spread sheet as a class hand out.  Now JMYS is making this spread sheet available on our website for everyone to download.

This is a very simple excel/numbers spread sheet that is designed to measure your speed through the water, fuel burn and key engine performance characteristics at RPM’s in increments of 100.

Here is the link: Trawler Performance Table.xls

With a clean hull bottom and your trawler loaded into normal cruise mode with fuel, provisions, gear, etc., we suggest you head out to deep water (with no obstructions) and collect the data to fill in the cells on the performance prediction sheet.

Get out in wide open water with about a mile clear for your forward heading and set up your heading on autopilot to steer a straight course.  Begin as slow as you can, at idle, and then estimate the details to fill in the information cells. If you have a modern engine with fuel burn you can determine your gallons per hour. If you don’t have GPH electronically you can use the engine manufacturer data sheet to estimate fuel burn once you get back to the dock.

After collecting your first 00 RPM data points, bump up the speed to the next 00 RPM, record the information and continue on up the scale until you achieve WOT (Wide Open Throttle).

Obviously if there comes a time during your run where you need to abort to avoid a collision, make sure you remain safe, and if you need to start over it is better to be safe than sorry.

With all of the spread sheet cells filled in one direction, slow down, turn 180 degrees and then repeat the process from idle to WOT.  The reciprocal course will make sure that you have good data you can average. 

With two sets of data, you can then summarize your numbers at each 00 hundred RPM interval (add both numbers then divide by two) this will eliminate any influence of wind, tide, currents, etc. and give you a real world set of data points you can use to chart your trawlers performance.

When you have crunched your numbers, you can then make more accurate travel plans, starting with the distance in miles you wish to travel, what speeds are optimum for fuel economy and you can realistically estimate your arrival time.

Whether your trawler hull form is planning, semi-displacement or full displacement you will be able to calculate your “sweet spot” the optimum balance between speed and fuel burn and over time you will likely gravitate to that RPM as your go-to speed for the majority of your cruising. Even when you have an RPM that you favor, it is still a good idea to adjust your speed and RPM on occasion to keep your engine(s) running at their best and most flexible.

Playing around with the numbers you can compare MPG (miles per gallon) vs. GPM (gallons per mile) and determine what your range and fuel burn is with a full load of fuel at various RPM’s. Long distance cruisers also allow for 10 – 15% in reserve (meaning they do their math to arrive with a reasonable amount of fuel left over) before heading out on long voyages.

One last reminder; engines like to be run hard periodically. We know many owners who, when the coast is clear and typically near the end of the day, will run hard for 5 minutes or so to load up the engine and burn off soot, we endorse this practice as a good routine to follow.



Safety Aboard

“Safe boating is no accident”. A very appropriate saying and words to live by.  Boaters by nature are typically cautious and prepared.  Every minute you are aboard, safety needs to be your priority as it is essential to your boating enjoyment.

USCG Safety Minimums

The USCG (as do most government maritime authorities) enforces minimum safety requirements. 

As the owner of your trawler it is your responsibility to make sure you have all of the necessary safety equipment and are current with expiration dates on items like flares and fire extinguishers.  Life jackets (PFD’s) must be USCG approved. 

The US Coast Guard offers a free booklet, “A boater’s guide to the Federal requirements for recreational boats”.  You can download this as a PDF, here is the link:


The regulations that apply to trawlers are:

  • Personal and throwable floatation devices
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Registration/Documentation/HIN
  • COLREGS (Collision Regulations) Rules of the Road book for navigation*
  • Visual distress signals
  • Sound producing devices
  • Pollution regulations
  • Marine sanitation devices
  • Navigation lights

When you are boarded, remember that the USCG officer has the discretion to send you back to shore if your safety items are incomplete.

*The Navigation Rules of the Road booklet is available as a downloadable PDF.  Here is the link: Navrules.pdf

Safety Requirement Locations

We create a JMYS Safety Gear inventory/location document for our clients. This list is something we think every boater should develop so that you not only confirm you have the minimum safety gear required, but also know the location aboard where these items are stowed. 

Our safety gear list is based on the minimums for boats over 40’ (whether our client owns a trawler over 40’ long or not) and also includes some additional safety related information.  Your safety gear list should be kept in your ships papers documents binder, ready to produce if you are boarded by the USCG for an inspection.

A sample of the JMYS Safety Gear blank list is available here as a PDF download. 

Trash Management Plan

All boats over 40’ in length need to have a written “Trash Management Plan” that explains your procedure for accumulating garbage, who collects it and how you properly dispose of waste. This should be reviewed with all guests and crew aboard.  A signed copy should be prepared and be readily available to the USCG when you are boarded.  There are many trash/waste management plan examples available on the internet. A copy of the JMYS Trash Management Plan blank sample that you can fill in and use is available here.

State Regulations

Each state that you operate your trawler in may have additional specific regulations that you need to comply with. 

State mandated Vessel Operator Card’s (boating licenses) are also becoming more common.  We suggest you research what is mandated by the states whose waters you frequent.

Sign up for a Courtesy Examination

When you have your boat ready for adventure we also recommend that you schedule a courtesy examination with the US Coast Guard Auxiliary. You can normally set up an appointment with your local Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteer for a weekend inspection. Your vessel will be evaluated, and you will know if you are out of compliance without being issued a citation.  If your vessel passes, you will be presented with a VSC decal to display.

Here is a link for the USCG VSC (Vessel Safety Check).

There is also a “virtual” safety check you can complete over the internet.

Float Plan

Before you take off on a trip it is wise to inform family and friends about your intended course, destination and arrival plans.  This simple practice is a safe guard to make sure that you have people ashore who are going to be concerned about your wellbeing if you don’t keep to your predicted schedule.  There is a Float Plan form that you can complete and send to your contacts (don’t send this to the USCG) by visiting this website, www.floatplancentral.com

Here is what the USCG says,

“FLOAT PLAN. INSTRUCTIONS: Complete this plan before you go boating and leave it with a reliable person who can be depended upon to notify the Coast Guard, or other rescue agency, should you not return, or check-in as planned. If you have a change of plans, or will be delayed, notify the person holding your Float Plan.”

We recommend that our clients become familiar with preparing float plans and develop a reliable shore-based contact crew as part of their travel planning routine.  The USCG float plan form includes a smart pre-departure overview including a check list for safety gear, a list of passengers, travel waypoint itinerary, and expected departure / arrival and check-in times. 

Here is a link to the actual USCG Float Plan PDF document.

On page three of the form there is a “Boating Emergency Guide” that your shore-based family and friends can follow to notify the USCG if you do not check in within a reasonable amount of time of your predicted arrival.

Small Craft

Most trawlers have a tender and additional “toy” water craft to support the “mother ship”.  Stand up paddleboards, kayaks and dinghies with outboards are quite common.  There are safety rules for each of these water craft as well.  Life jackets may seem to be an inconvenience or unfashionable when at play, but they can save lives.  

Built in Safety

In addition to carrying the USCG minimums, your trawler should be equipped with some built in safety equipment such as a bilge pump system, an air horn and a VHF radio.  Many trawlers also have fire suppression systems installed.  Ground tackle – anchor, chain and windlass should be also viewed as an important safety feature.  Propane systems should have leak sniffer alarms.  Hot water heaters normally have anti-scalding features.  As you go through your trawler look around to confirm what built in safety features you have make sure they are in good working order.

Beyond the Minimum

Starting with the USCG requirements, there are a number of other items that we believe you should consider as smart safety gear to have aboard your trawler.  We advise our clients to supplement the bare minimums with such items as; First aid kits, Sea Sickness Products, Defibrillators, EPIRBs, Life Rafts, Personal Locator Beacons, Life Slings, Immersion Suits, Ditch bags, Drag Devices, Paper charts, Carbon Monoxide / Smoke Alarms, Inflatable Harnesses and Tethers, Fire Blankets, Whistle/Strobe on Life Jackets, Floating Strobe attached to the Life Ring, etc.   

Since we travel all over the world on trawler business, we pay attention to what other countries demand.  This is an interesting subject worth exploring as you will learn tips like that in South Africa you are required to have a metal bucket and in Canada you need to carry an axe.

What Could Happen?

The potential for a problem aboard is omnipresent.  Plan for the worst and hope for the best may give some solace, but what is your plan?  Some of the worst-case scenarios for you to consider and prepare for are:

  • Fire
  • Man overboard
  • Serious injury requiring medical treatment
  • Running aground
  • Fouling underwater gear (nets and lines)
  • Flooding due to a hull puncture
  • Collision
  • Lighting strike / navigation and communication disabled
  • Primary equipment failure (engine quitting)
  • Anchor stuck on sea floor
  • Severe weather
  • Towing, getting towed
  • Abandon ship

What else would you add to this list?

Vessel Assist and Tow Boat/US

Most of us have an auto club AAA membership so that if we get into a problem with our vehicle we can pull over to the side of the road and call for help.  We advise our clients to join a vessel towing service as precautionary hedge in the event of a mishap.  Towing service membership is not inexpensive; however, it is a bargain when you need it.  It is worth looking into the cost of a hiring a towing service just for a reality check – you will be surprised how quickly the costs for a non-member tow back to safe harbor can skyrocket in price.

Ocean Navigator articles

Jeff has written two safety related articles for Ocean Navigator magazine.  You can read these by clicking on the links below:

The first piece is called Sea Safety and was featured in the April/May 2015 issue.

The second article was called Safety Minimums from the November/December 2017 issue. 


This safety subject is potentially controversial, but we want to at least mention that fire arms, knives, bear spray, wasp repellent and other defensive tools to ward off intruders and protect your family is one more important safety area for you to review.  This is such a personal choice that we don’t make any recommendations except to make sure that if you carry any of these items be aware of the different legal restrictions in different states and countries. 

Here’s a related “it’s amusing now, well after the fact” true story.  During his Nordhavn career, one of Jeff’s clients sent him a photo of some Russian ammunition found behind a bulkhead that was discovered years after the purchase while doing some remodeling.  The photo was accompanied by a request to contact the previous owner to inquire if any other such unknown caches remained aboard.  The trawler in question had been in and out of several countries, completely clueless to the fact that they were harboring illegal weaponry.  The response was well written and indicated no knowledge of any such armaments and went on to say that “in theory” if you hired a captain to deliver a boat and told them to dispose of these bullets in these areas when in deep water, then you would certainly expect the captain to have done so.   This was, of course, a cleverly worded map of where to look. Just a word of caution that when you do buy a used trawler it is important to look it over thoroughly and ask telling questions.  



Trawler Skills

Trawler Skills has been created to offer insights and recommendations for current and future trawler owners. This section is trawler-centric, but much of what is covered should be relevant to most power and sail cruisers. Proper preparation should include a basic understanding of many topics such as; safety, first aid, navigation, weather, underway performance, anchoring, docking, dinghies, engines, generators, fuel management, electricity, running at night, heads, plumbing, cooking, maintenance, standing watch, engine room checks, etc. There are a seemingly unlimited number of details to attend to…every day can reveal new projects requiring special talents. We are highlighting some of the responsibilities we find prepared owners consider important through our series of videos and collection of documents.

At JMYS, our focus is trawlers and our clients are our priority. We are in a relationship business; working with sellers to promote their trawlers and guiding our buyers to acquire trawlers. For buyers, our after-sales support is unique in the yacht sales industry as we believe that an important part of our yacht broker duties should be to include training and familiarization after closing. Our indoctrination approach has been organized to enable you to more quickly adapt to your role as an owner/operator.

JMYS has no intentions of becoming a trawler school (there are plenty of good sailing and seamanship institutions available that we can recommend) and we are not all licensed captains (we can suggest quite a few accomplished captains who can run deliveries and supplement your education).

One of our immediate objectives after your trawler purchase is to serve as your training coach using our product knowledge and years of on board experience to provide you with a detailed orientation of systems and equipment. Spending time with you aboard your trawler, conducting hands-on, one-on-one instruction, has proven to be the most effective way for our clients to successfully embrace trawler ownership. We benefit too, becoming better yacht brokers by working closely with you and sharing what we know (while learning from you as well!).

During the past twenty-five plus years selling and cruising aboard new and used offshore vessels, Jeff has developed a proprietary teaching curriculum that includes organization, training, planning, check lists, practice, procedures, labeling, etc. This love of coaching goes back to his teenage summer vacation employment as a sailing instructor and has remained important to him throughout his marine industry career.

Our techniques are constantly refined and improved. We know each of our clients has a different boating background along with varying concerns and we are very aware that every individual learns at their own pace. We customize our instructional content with flexibility to cater to your priorities, to practice those things that you want to improve, all with the end result to better prepare you to be a capable trawler owner.

Our lessons are especially helpful for couples as we want both of you to have a broad understanding of the big picture as well as a general appreciation for a wide variety of important skill-sets. We expect that you will naturally gravitate to roles you are most at ease with. We find that most couples divide up responsibilities with one of you better than the other when it comes to projects like: cooking in the galley, driving the boat back into the slip, computer navigation planning, tracking the weather, doing maintenance in the engine room, etc. That is a natural division of labor, but we recommend that both of you be acquainted with chores that are not your specialty.

We encourage our trawler owners to strive for self-sufficiency. You are responsible for the safety and well-being of your crew AND your trawler. There may come a time when you need to single hand your trawler, so it is essential to become comfortable and know that you are ready. Increasing confidence in your abilities and proficiency to perform various tasks on board will allow you to better enjoy the freedom and independence that the trawler lifestyle affords.

One of the most fascinating aspects of owning a trawler is realizing that there is always something new to learn. Even veteran trawler owners freely admit that their knowledge base is continually evolving as they develop new trawler skills. The materials shared here are presented to both introduce new concepts and reinforce your know-how. We welcome your feedback on what you would like to see included. Please check back regularly as we continue to add new material.

TrawlerFest Talent Scout


Spotlight on Instructor Jeff Merrill

By Peter Swanson
April 9, 2018

Today we acknowledge one of the key players in the TrawlerFest universe.  Jeff Merrill (above left) is a CPYB yacht broker, trawler specialist and polished public speaker.  You will find two of his seminars on the menu at TrawlerFest in Bremerton, “Dial-In Your Trawler” and “Offshore Essentials,” which represent a distillation of wisdom from tens of thousands of miles underway.

Additionally, Merrill serves as moderator for a freewheeling Q&A seminar “Cruisers Roundtable,” which features a panel of offshore experts, including power cruising pioneer Bruce Kessler.

Lastly, he is a reliable talent scout who finds speakers from the cruising public.  Folks such as retired veterinarians Valery and Stan Creighton (above right) give aspirational talks that provide proof-of-concept to couples trying to decide whether to drop out and just go.  The Creighton’s Bremerton seminar, for example, is called “How We Went from Knowing Almost Nothing to World Cruising.”

“Dial-In Your Trawler” provides a boatload of simple tricks to better monitor and maintain the ship’s systems.  Merrill as almost two-hours of tips such as reference marks for needles on analog gauges, a dry-erase board in the engine room, anchor chain marking techniques.

“Offshore Essentials” is a longer course, four hours covering the basics of weather forecasting, route planning, watch standing, engine room checks, pilothouse navigation and electronics operations.  Anyone interested in transiting between sea ports requiring overnight passages will learn essential preparations and best practices.  

Here is a link to the original posting on www.PassageMaker.com :