If the old adage about all boats being compromises is true, then one of the obvious keys to success in boatbuilding is to minimize the compromises in a boat intended for a specific demographic. After spending quite a bit of time aboard the Island Pilot IP535 fast trawler, I’m left with the impression of a coastal and island cruising boat with very few compromises, possibly the ultimate fast trawler for a retiring Baby Boomer couple.
Sure, the label “fast trawler” is a bit of an oxymoron. Aren’t trawlers, by definition, full-displacement boats generally limited to hull speeds directly related to their waterline lengths (and usually in the mid- to high-single digits)? Well, yes, but in recent years the label has been extended to a number of boat designs that look the salty, trawler part, and are capable of cruising at hull speeds, but which also can take advantage of higher horsepower motors and flatter aft hull sections to “fast-cruise” in the mid- to upper-teens. Examples of this design philosophy include Nordic Tugs, Ranger Tugs, and yachts in the Grand Banks, Fleming, and Marlow lines. Some of these, particularly those in the upper size and price ranges, are really raised pilothouse motoryachts. Some are even capable of cruising in the mid-20-knot range.
The Island Pilot family – currently the 434 and 535 (with a 335 due in 2012) – is significantly faster than any of those. All powered by the Volvo Penta IPS propulsion system of pod drives, they top out above 30 knots, yet they also cruise at displacement speeds, with fuel economy comparable to real single-screw displacement trawlers. In the newest model, the IP535, the compromises are further minimized by designer George Petrie with a layout that features two large staterooms, separated by a “great room” of sorts that includes a mid-level galley and a lower-level dinette space. The space is open all the way to the main deck overhead, and is lit by a plethora of windows and ports, including the huge windshield. There is absolutely no sensation of being submerged below the waterline in the dark.
You board the tall IP535 from the swim platform, which has three steps up to the aft cockpit on both sides. In the cockpit there is a large, U-shaped settee with table. Forward to port is a wet bar with room for a fridge or storage below, and to starboard is an aft-facing padded bench seat and a door that leads down into the engine room. You step up from the cockpit a couple of steps to the main saloon deck level. To your right is the stairway up to the flybridge and boat deck, while to port is the propane barbecue.d
Heading inside, you will find a large U-shaped settee to starboard, while opposite is the entertainment center, with large flat-screen TV on a lift, flanked by two barrel chairs. The helm is forward and to starboard, with two big chairs for helmsman and critic. The large dash panel has plenty of room for the two standard Garmin 15” displays, and the engine controls and joystick are on right-hand flat. There are sliding doors both port and starboard; the one right next to the helm enables the helmsman to step outside while maintaining a hand on the joystick for close-aboard maneuvering dockside. Of course, there’s also another set of engine controls on the port side of the aft cockpit for another docking option.
There are a couple of steps down, forward on the port side, that lead first to the mid-level galley on that side, and then farther down a few more steps on the other side to the lower-level dinette. The galley is an airy, pleasant space in which to work some culinary magic. The early model I was aboard had a propane stove, and while I love cooking with gas, I would choose an optional induction cooktop, which can be surprisingly frugal with electricity, even though I might have the generator running for a different reason. There’s plenty of room for the dishwasher, fridge/freezer, and trash compactor.
In the galley sole is a hatch to a “utility room” of sorts below, where non-propulsion systems are located, including the SeaKeeper gyro stabilization system. More on that later.
This galley-dinette combination is the “great room” mentioned above, and although you are not at waterline level, you won’t need any artificial lighting until after dark; it’s that bright. There is a separate washer and dryer in this space, as well. The dinette space also serves as the passageway between the VIP stateroom forward and the master stateroom aft. The VIP forward has a true queen-size island berth, with a real mattress, and an en suite head with shower that can also open onto the passageway and serve as a day head.
Aft of the great room is the master stateroom. It really feels like a comfy sanctuary, with the big queen bed set athwartships, TV and love seat across from the foot of the bed, and roomy private head and shower with twin sinks (yes!). The engine room is aft of the master, but there’s no access from there, only a good amount of storage space and insulation to keep engine noise to a minimum. With well-protected engine-room access from the raised aft cockpit, I really don’t think access from the master stateroom is required.
Speaking of the engine room, it’s a lovely space that makes the powerful Volvo Penta IPS 900 engines and pods seem small. There’s plenty of room to work around the engines. Although it’s not full six-foot standing height, I didn’t feel hemmed in at all, and it’s easy to get back behind the engines to check the pod drives and trim tab motors. There’s also a beautiful fuel system manifold on the forward engine room bulkhead that is well-labeled and easy to understand and will prevent an accidental backfeed – and eventual overboard vent dump – of an already full tank. The IP535 has two 7kW generators, which makes sense given the requirements of the SeaKeeper M7000 gyro. The system requires about 3kW of power while spooling up, and then from 1.5kW to 2kW while running. Since it is perfectly capable of providing zero-speed stabilization (such as while at anchor) as well as while underway, you might be running it in a rolly anchorage.
The hefty Mastervolt AGM battery banks can handle most of the other electrical loads, but it’s nice to be able to run only a smaller, more fuel-efficient genny if you don’t need lots of juice. Reuben Trane, principal of Island Pilot and the mastermind behind the totally green Island Pilot Hybrid DSe, probably knows more about electrical management than any boatbuilder today. Just get him going on the topic and you’ll learn more about real-world possibilities than you could have imagined.
Reuben Trane reports that initial tests of the IP 535 demonstrated a 1 NMPG fuel burn at 8 knots. As he is quick to note, that’s pretty close to the same fuel efficiency as a traditional, full-displacement, single-screw trawler. The IP535, however, will also run at more than 30 knots at top RPM (2415 RPM). It cruises comfortably at anywhere from 18 to 25 knots, and will likely get about 0.6 NMPG at those speeds, which is more typical of a light, express-style yacht than a fully found, completely outfitted cruising yacht.
According to Reuben Trane, the goal was to deliver a boat “big enough for retiring Baby Boomers, that has all the stuff you need to live already aboard.” All boats are sold with a complete dual-screen Garmin chartplotter display at both lower helm and flybridge. The boat also comes with LED-backlit LCD TVs, a KVH 7HD satellite dish , and, most impressively, a Mercury Amanzi 11.5’ RIB with 40-HP, 4-stroke Merc outboard, and the Brower electric davit to launch and retrieve it from the boat deck aft of the spacious flybridge settee. That flybridge, by the way, with its gorgeous centerline helm and complete set of controls and instruments, would be where I would spend most of my time piloting this boat.
Just imagine heading out from Government Cut in Miami, passing the sea buoy, and setting the autopilot (and auto-trim Humphrees Interceptor trim tabs) for a nice two-hour ride across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas, then spending a week there, completely independent and living in the lap of home-style luxury. If you think of this boat as a luxury mobile waterfront home, the $1.5 million price tag seems perfectly reasonable.