A good part of my boating experiences have involved living aboard and cruising traditionally styled boats, and working for a trawler yacht manufacturer. Such yachts, like any boat, often have shortcomings derived from designs first put to paper decades ago. Modern production yachts put comfort and function first, with amenities and layouts that are tough to beat, but their pull on the heartstrings can be a little weaker for some people.
A hybrid may satisfy those craving today's functionality and yesteryear's emotional appeal, and the Tarquin Trader 535 Signature is a noble attempt to create just that. Trader Yachts USA began importing the 44- to 120-foot line to the States a year ago, and attempted to maintain the 535's unique European elements while incorporating features and equipment that Americanize the model.
Take the interior accommodations. The 535 has a down galley, but Tarquin placed it abaft the saloon instead of in the more traditional area, forward of the saloon.
"If you're under way, it's one of the most stable places to be", said Ed Glover, president of Trader Yachts USA.
Furthermore, by placing the galley where the beam is the widest and the aft chine is flat, stowage and space are maximized. Our test boat's galley had American appliances, including a General Electric four-burner cooktop and a household-size oven (the owner can choose propane or 110 volt), a washer and dryer, a pantry and sufficient pot and pan stowage. Two opening ports bring in light and ventilation.
The interior woodwork is some of the best I've seen, with quality usually found only on more traditionally styled yachts. Although quality teak is becoming harder to find, the 535's is exquisitely matched, with drawer faces blending grain and color nicely into the furniture.
On a note of purely personal taste, it is nice to see solid, satin-finished teak instead of thin veneers that usually lose their luster after a few years in the marine environment. Ah, the pull of the heartstrings.
Tarquin also ensures the interior is not a dark teak tunnel. The full-beam aft cabin has two large opening hatches above the headboard and two opening ports for cross ventilation. The queen berth takes up only part of the cabin's 135 square feet, more than enough space for a cruising couple. The head has marble counters and a separate shower stall. Adding a grab rail in the stall would provide a safer shower for those bathing while under way.
A second head is forward for the VIP stateroom with queen berth and the guest stateroom with twin berths. It would be tough to improve on this layout.
Also refreshing is the amount of ventilation in the saloon. There appears to be a growing trend of eliminating this functional element in favor of styling, but not on the 535. Three sliding windows, a starboard sliding door adjacent to the lower helm and a passageway to the afterdeck provide fresh breezes. Chilled water air conditioning will also keep guests cool without overwhelming them with air handler noise.
Access panels throughout the interior make servicing hardware easy. The Lazy Susan mount lets the helmsman or mate view the chart plotter easily, but I would suggest drop-down panels for the electronics overhead at the lower helm. Additional electronics space is required, and the overhead panels would be convenient for instruments and radios if they could be easily serviced and installed.
I had no issues with the engineroom, where the 450 hp Caterpillar 3126s had more than enough breathing room. Our test boat also had a 12kW Northern Lights generator. Everything was labeled or color-coded, making service a little easier.
Production and semi-production builders are constantly battling customization versus the bottom line, but Tarquin builds only about 40 yachts each year, so disturbing the production line is less of a concern. The yard will customize each 535 to suit an owner's requirements. Our test boat's saloon, for example, had a 91-inch-long L-shape settee to port with a chair to starboard. A circular settee, barrel chairs or other preferences would be no problem.
The 535's exterior styling is a paradox, in a sense. Her linear profile flowing from the curved transom is similar to that of many current production motoryachts, until it branches out at the bow, providing the bow flare, raked stem and deep forefoot of a more traditionally styled yacht.
Amidships, 10 3/4-inch bulwarks keep feet aboard. The stanchions stand at 3 feet, 3 inches in the same area and taper to a respectable 2 feet, 5 inches at the bow. More builders should take note of this basic, but often overlooked concept of keeping people on board. Teak caps off the wide, walkaround decks.
One thing you won't find on a traditionally styled trawler is a covered sundeck, a feature often found on American-built motoryachts. This entertainment platform includes an L-shape settee, a grill, a sink, a refrigerator and easy access to the large swim platform.
The line of sight forward from the bridge is good. Backing into the slip will take some getting used to because the line of sight aft to the platform is compromised by the location of the sundeck's settee.
We reached a top speed of 21.6 knots, burning 23 gph per engine. Back her down to 13.5 knots, and the burn rate is about 10 gph per engine, according to her Caterpillar gauges.
In a 3-foot chop, her entry was soft and smooth with no pounding. With seas behind us, she continued to track well. Like a lot of semi-displacement designs, she took green water over the bow at higher speeds, but at less than 16 knots, she was dry and comfortable.
The folks at Tarquin Trader have produced exactly the boat they set out to create, and they build her well at the Taiwanese yard. Priced about $800,000 fully equipped, the 535 Signature is one hell of a value.