It's not often you get to see a new boat with the new owners on board, so I jump at the chance when I can. That's how I met Bill and Betty Walker of Stafford, Virginia, the proud new owners of a Mariner 38 Orient trawler laid out with an aft-cabin configuration. They were about to take delivery from Mariner Yachts based in Kent Narrows on Maryland's Eastern Shore. According to Mariner's Steve Smith, the company builds the trawlers, two versions of the 38 and two versions of a 34-footer, on Mainland China.
The Walkers both work for the Prince William County government in Virginia, and are toying with the idea of living on the boat after they retire. 'We'd been boating since we were kids growing up on Long Island,' Bill recalled. 'We did a little bit of boating on the Potomac River on our Phoenix sportfisherman, but we always said someday we'd own one of those things. Now here it is. We like the room and style a trawler affords, and this has the lines and the traditional look we like.'
The Mariner 38 was also in their price range, with a base of just $219,000 and about $280,000 decked out with a single Cummins 330 Diesel engine upgrade, trim tabs, 7.5 kw generator, air conditioning, windlass, deck shower, Bimini top for the flybridge, and other options.
But Mariner's ability to do some semi-custom redesign on the interior layout was also a strong selling point. The traditional double-cabin layout actually has the galley three steps down from the main saloon, with the windshield high overhead doubling as a skylight, but Steve Smith had the galley installed in the saloon to accommodate the Walkers' taste. 'Everything we saw was a big saloon with the galley down,' Bill explained, 'and we wanted a galley up. Betty does a lot of the cooking and she wanted it so she could entertain as well.'
Still, the main saloon is plenty roomy, and with the teak paneling and windows all around, it's quite an attractive area. The well-appointed galley station fills the aft starboard corner, and the L-shaped settee to port has an adjustable, folding table and this converts to a double berth.
The lower helm station has a comfortable bench seat forward of the galley with a traditional ship's wheel and a big dash. There's a sliding door just there leading to the starboard side deck. Six separate hatches in the teak-and-holly sole lift up to provide excellent access to the engine. An aluminum grid system holds these in place and are also removable.
Head down the companionway forward and at the foot of the steps, the door to the cabin is to port, opposite the door to the guest head. The cabin features an offset double berth, an attractive vanity/desktop with drawers and a mirror, and hanging lockers. This is quite a cozy space.
From the saloon, there are two steps down to the aft cabin, with a center island full-sized berth, surrounded by drawers and cabinets and a deep hanging locker, all with louvred doors. A removable stair leads up to the hatch leading out to the aft deck with a sliding companionway hatch overhead to provide ready access up and down, even for a boater with gimpy knees like mine. The head compartment has a separate curtained shower stall and a small sink. Both heads are completely finished in molded fiberglass, making for easy clean-up.
'The aft cabin and everything is big enough to suit us,' Betty noted. 'It's just roomy enough so we're not tripping over each other,' but not too big for her to handle comfortably.
'This is a boat for two that gives us accommodations for when guests and family come aboard, but that's only temporary,' Bill quips. 'The grandchildren can stay,' Betty adds.
Up on the foredeck, the cabin top serves as a comfortable lounging area, but there's also a nice teak hatch-cover bench across the bow, under the unique bow pulpit arrangement. This is somewhat elevated so the anchor rides on top of the tall bulwarks. There's a serious four-by-four stainless king post and a hefty 900 Series Horizon winch as well.
The side decks are only about a foot wide, not quite wide enough for anything but sidling along, but they are protected by the high bulwarks, stainless-steel rail, and are equipped with remarkably large scuppers as well.
The deck on the aft cabin top has plenty of room to stow a tender, and you can use the mast and boom to hoist it. It's two more steps up to the flybridge that has a full 100 square feet of space, with its fore-and-aft back-to back double bench seats and the starboard helm station. This area is protected by a broad canvas Bimini top.
Heading out of Piney Narrows, through the narrow channel, we were doing 6.9 knots at 1200 rpm into the 18-knot wind. Out in the open, around the mouth of the Chester River, we found a good cruising speed at 2200 rpm, which gave us 8.6 knots on the GPS against the incoming tide and the one to two-foot waves. We got a top speed of 11 knots at 2800 rpm. Heading back in, we were doing 8.5 at only 1800 rpm and 12.3 knots wide open.
The ride was surprisingly spry for a 23,500-pound displacement hull with a full keel. Turns were tight with relatively little banking, and very little 'wallow' broadside to the troughs. Visibility running from the lower helm station is predictably good forward and to the sides, and the one square window looking aft gives you at least some indication of what's coming from behind. However, the upper station on the flybridge has exceptional visibility all around. The cabin top over the aft cabin is aligned so that you get a perfect view of both stern quarters. Driving from up there gives you additional feel for the speed at full throttle. The 330 Cummins provides quite a good amount of acceleration for such a big boat.
Once they settle in, the Walkers have big plans for the boat, which they're calling Tuscarora. 'We're going to cruise back home around Long Island,' Betty said. 'And maybe in the spring we'll take it down to visit some friends in Belhaven, North Carolina.'