The Connecticut River in Essex sets the stage for the highly efficient performance of the Nordic Tug 37...

The small town of Essex, Connecticut, is pleasantly quiet on a Monday morning in July. At 8:50 a.m., there are more white picket fences along Main Street than there are cars or people. The sidewalks of this New England village can get crowded with tourists during summer weekends, but today, those traveling on foot are heading off to work.

Essex is a waterfront community, and many make a living here in small businesses that support the marine trades. The town has long boasted a close connection with the sea, having given birth to vessels for the Revolutionary War and battleships for the War of 1812. In some ways, that commercial boating legacy makes Essex an appropriate place to sea-trial the Nordic Tug 37. Although it's a pilothouse cruiser at heart, it's also a pleasure-boat version of a tough, utilitarian tug. Those boaters who operate this vessel will never use it to nudge the nose of a cargo ship or ocean liner into a busy port, but chances are they like to entertain those working-man fantasies.

Fiberglass tugs like this one are popular in the Northwest and here on Long Island Sound, where people like the way they look as much as they admire the highly efficient performance of boats built to travel long distances. The 37 is one of three models from Nordic Tug, yet the company says this salty, mid-sized cruiser is the most efficient boat in the line. Powered by a single 330-hp Cummins diesel, company performance tests report that the vessel can travel at least 900 nautical miles between stops. That efficiency is guaranteed at a cruising speed of nine knots, but fans of Nordic Tugs prefer to travel at a laid back pace anyway.

I make my way from Main Street to Wilde Yacht Sales, where owner Ben Wilde and Bob Sharnek, sales manager for Nordic Tugs in Burlington, Washington, are getting ready to cast lines off the 37 for a run on the Connecticut River. The river, which runs up to Hartford, is only about 25 miles long, but at the south end it dumps into the Sound, where cruising options are numerous for an adventuresome crew. A typical float plan for a long weekend could include cracking lobsters in Newport, R.I., followed by a swim off Block Island, N.Y., and on another day, shopping at trendy boutiques in East Hampton.

Nordic Tug 37 Performance SpecsThe 37 is well-suited for this type of coastal cruising, thanks to its running surface, which is a semi-planing hull with hard chines to eliminate roll. There's also a full keel to enhance stability, plus a stainless steel shoe that protects the running gear. The 37 is the first in the Nordic Tug line to feature a molded- in swim platform that also functions as part of the running surface, thereby extending hull length and increasing efficiency and speed. The company is so pleased with the platform on this boat that there are plans to incorporate one on the 32, which is the smallest model in the builder's line.

Heading up the river, Ben opens the throttle so I can measure speeds with a radar gun. At top end, we run 17 knots, which is impressive when you consider that we're chugging along in a boat with what looks like a smokestack on its bridge. The stack is just for show; its real mission is to house a radar reflector. Nevertheless, it's just one element of detail that distinguishes this vessel from so many other fiberglass cruisers. No boat for shrinking violets, the Nordic Tug 37 gets noticed.

Driving from the pilothouse, where there are two double benches, Ben puts the teak ship's wheel over to starboard, pointing our bow toward Hamburg Cove, one of the most picturesque places along the river. Beautiful homes are built into the leafy hillsides, their facades reflected in the water that turns a shade of olive green when the sun hits it in a certain way. According to Ben, Hamburg Cove is a favorite stop for boaters. Many will get there by sundown and then dinghy over to Essex for dinner at the historic Griswold Inn, there Yankee fare, a handsome taproom and banjo music are big crowd pleasers.

Using short bursts of the throttle, Ben brings the boat close to shore for a series of photographs. He doesn't need the standard 6-hp bow thruster for this maneuver, but he'll rely on that piece of equipment back at the dock. While he mans the helm, I step out of the pilothouse through one of two sliding doors and onto the sidedeck.


You can learn a lot about a boat by its rails. If you see a single piece of welded stainless steel, you're probably on a high-quality vessel. This type of hardware is all over the Nordic Tug, from the cockpit up to the bridge, where 1 3/4" stainless surrounds a sundeck aft. The sundeck is an option ($5,000 and that includes a ladder with access to the cockpit) that can be fitted with davits or simply used as an open entertaining area. The sole is covered with an offshore-grade, heavy-duty nonskid. Forward, the upper helm station provides 360 degrees of visibility.

It's no longer considered cool or smart to spend extended periods of time in the sun, but it will be hard to resist on a boat with a foredeck like this. The raised cabin provides a wide, comfortable seat; in fact, Shamek says many of his clients custom-order cushions for this area. For more utilitarian purposes, the foredeck features a raw-water washdown so you can rinse off the muddy anchor. The sidedecks are slimmer than some found on boats in the same LOA range. Adults won't have a problem maneuvering forward and aft, thanks to the grabrails placed high on the cabin's superstructure, but children and pets might. The trade-off for narrow walkways, however, is more usable space in the cabin.

The L-shaped galley to starboard boasts home-style appliances that are arranged into an efficient work triangle. A double sink, three-burner stove with oven, upper/lower fridge and cutting board are here. Teak cabinets in the galley and throughout the cabin are standard, as are teak handrails and trim. Wood accents in the cabin enhance the traditional appeal of this boat, there's very little teak on the exterior, which means less work for the owner.


There's room for six to overnight aboard the 37. The L-shaped settee in the salon converts to a double berth when the high/low table is dropped into place and a filler cushion is inserted. Forward, the master stateroom has a double berth with a thick, six-inch mattress. Abaft the master, the standard layout in the guest cabin calls for two bunks, but an optional layout specifies Pullman bunks, which fold down to form a settee that faces a "secretary." This is a nice arrangement for those of you who tend to pack paperwork in your seabags.

Back in the pilothouse, Ben and Bob point out some of the interesting features at the helm, including a chart table and full-beam instrument console overhead; it's hinged for easy access to wiring and stowage. Oversized windows on three sides, plus a pair of ports aft, provide excellent visibility. We're running with the sliding door open today, but when the weather starts to cool, this area is warmed by forced-air heat from the engine's freshwater coolant system. As for engine access, you can get to the iron through a hatch in the sole. Clean, gel-coated surfaces are in the engine room, another indication of a good-quality boat. 

We pass an osprey nest neatly constructed on top of a channel marker as we head north along the river. We have a variety of cruising options. We can take a run by the Goodspeed Opera house in East Haddam, for instance, or pull in near the hillside castle that was built by actor William Gillette with the money he made portraying Sherlock Holmes. There's no rush to make a decision, however, since we're all enjoying the ride and the view. Cruising aboard the Nordic Tug is a fast way to learn the pleasures of life in the slower lane.


This review/article originally appeared in Motorboating & Yachting Magazine, May 2003 and was written by Jeanne Craig. For more great yacht reviews, visit their website and subscribe at:

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