and Barbara Hansen have operated a fleet of trawlers
for charter on Florida's southwest coast for 15 years,
along with a school that teaches power cruising.
keys to their success are a "very friendly"
year-round cruising ground and a hands-on teaching
philosophy that stresses "nitty-gritty boating
skills" and "the personal responsibility
and attitudes you have to have to be a successful
charterer or boat owner," says Barbara Hansen,
co-owner of Southwest Florida Yachts and the Florida
Sailing and Cruising School in North Fort Myers,
Hansen's cruising ground encompasses both the remote
wilderness of the Ten Thousand Islands and the beach
resorts of Gulf Coast Florida's vacation meccas.
Florida's east coast is accessible from Fort Myers
via the Okeechobee Waterway, and those willing to
passage open ocean can cruise to the Keys. Except
for the trip to the Keys, most west coast cruising
can be confined to inland waters. The Hansens were
pioneers in trawler charters, introducing them in
1984. They had one trawler then and a fleet of sailboats.
Now they have a fleet of eight sailboats, 12 trawlersGrand
Banks 32 to 42and a 49-foot Hyundai motoryacht.
"Trawlers are becoming increasingly popular,"
are seaworthy, and because they are diesel-powered
and cruise at semi-displacement speeds, they are
economical to cruise. Their principal attraction,
though, is they are a good liveaboard boat, according
to Hansen. "They have all the comforts of home,"
she says air conditioning, generator, microwave,
television, sound system, ample refrigeration and
says many of her charter clients are about to retire
and want to try the "trawler lifestyle"
before buying their retirement boat. Some have little
boating experience; others have years of experience
operating small boats on lakes and rivers but have
never cruised before or handled a big boat. The
school, which lets students live aboard while taking
the course, brings them up to proficiency in boat-handling
and cruising. Courses range from basic powerboating
and powerboat cruising, to an eight-day cruising
adventure to Key West and back.
says some of her students and charter clients are
preparing to cruise on their own. Others have decided
they really can't afford a trawler and instead choose
to charter one. Still others are trawler owners
who put their boats into charter through the Hansens,
who manage the boat for them. Charter income offsets
the ownership costs, and owners can use their boat
whey they want.
estimates the annual cost of owning a trawler at
$40,000, which includes dockage, insurance and maintenance.
[the owner] don't make money at chartering [it out],
but it's better than having the boat just sit,"
she says. "When it's with us, it's well-maintained."