Used Boat Review: Krogen Express 53
By Capt. Richard Thiel
A lot of experienced cruisers will tell you that the term “fast trawler” is an oxymoron: A real trawler must have a displacement-style hull, and any boat that is fast must have a planing hull. Never the twain shall meet. And yet those same cruisers will also admit—often grudgingly—that there are times when they really wish their trawler could manage more speed or their planing boat burn less fuel.
Because a fast trawler has to be capable of two contradictory tasks, compromise comes with the territory: It’s unrealistic to expect one boat to be stable, seakindly, and efficient and also run smoothly at double-digit speeds through less-than-ideal sea conditions. It is how a boat designer crafts this difficult balancing act that dictates just how successful a fast trawler will be.
In this world of hybrid hulls it is widely recognized that some of the best designs have come from Krogen Express, which introduced its first Fast Trawler, the 49, in the 1990s. A couple of years later it offered it with a four-foot cockpit extension as the 53, a fine example of which Luke Brown Yachts (www.lukebrownyachts.com) has listed. In 2003, the 49/53 was replaced by the 52, which remains in production today. Although extensive changes were made to create the 52, including new tooling and a new factory, the hull and hydrodynamics remained basically unchanged.
That’s important because this hull design has over the years proven to be uncommonly successful at combining the seakindliness and efficiency of a displacement vessel with the speed and maneuverability of a planing hull. It was drawn jointly by the well-known naval architect Jim Krogen and his son Kurt, and it performs. Power & Motoryacht tested the 52 but never the 53; in its listing Luke Brown quotes manufacturer-supplied test data that bear out the success of the Krogens’ design: “She can cruise at 8 knots with a fuel burn of only 3 gallons per hour. If you would like more speed to get out of the path of a storm, make a bridge, or get home quicker, the 420-horsepower Yanmars can provide a speed of 16 knots with a fuel burn of approximately 20 gallons per hour.” Luke Brown lists her top speed as 23 knots and cruising speed as 19 knots.
A Krogen Express on the brokerage market is a rarity; owners tend to hold on to them. (Krogen says that of the 16 52s built thus far only two have ever been up for sale.) Luke Brown’s listing, Black Swan, is as of this writing one of only two 53s on the market, and she is a gem by any measure. Her name derives from her gleaming, clear-coated black hull, though her white topsides shine as well thanks to a recent Awlcraft 2000 paint job. Both her flying bridge and cockpit have teak-overlaid decks, but maintenance should not be an issue as the listing describes the amount of her exterior brightwork as only moderate. It benefits from a recent high-gloss varnish job.
Black Swan displays a number of upgraded features, including a custom flying-bridge hardtop complete with frameless windscreen, and although she is a 2001 model, her comprehensive electronics package is totally up to date; it features Furuno NavNet, Leica, and Raymarine E120W GPSs, along with a Simrad AP20 autopilot. Another especially noteworthy option is her electronically controlled Naiad fin stabilizers, which combine with her sophisticated hullform to ensure a comfortable, stable ride in all but the most adverse conditions.
Although 13 years old, Black Swan has been very well cared for. In just 2014 alone, her twin Yanmar mains received their three-year service, which included sonic cleaning and pressure testing of all coolers. One of her Twin Disc marine gears was replaced—it now carries a two-year warranty—and her Panda 12-kW Mini generator was also replaced. Other maintenance this year included new bottom coatings, Awlbrite exterior varnish, Awlcare Polymer sealant to the painted hull, and refurbished interior stairways.
Speaking of the interior, Black Swan’s is in superb shape and maintains the high standards of joinery and finish that characterize all Krogens. The accommodations plan emphasizes owner comfort; the large master is in the forepeak and features a walkaround queen-size berth and en suite facilities. Directly aft and to starboard is a guest stateroom with stacked bunks, an ideal layout for a family. Engine room access is fully aft on this level, through a watertight bulkhead door; headroom inside is near 6 feet and there is excellent access to the Yanmars. To ensure the smoothest ride, Black Swan uses the AquaDrive propulsion system, which absorbs propeller thrust and allows the engines to sit on softer mounts, transferring less of their vibration to the rest of the boat.
The entire interior is finished in flawlessly executed cherry, with teak-and-holly soles providing accent. Nowhere is the woodwork better displayed than on the main deck, which gets plenteous light and fresh air from large side windows. Being on the same level as the saloon and well forward, the galley is easily accessible and a pleasure to work in. Meals can be taken immediately aft and to starboard, at the four-person table, or on the covered upper deck where a flying bridge helm offers superb sightlines and repeaters for all the major electronics that appear in the pilothouse. Up here both shade and sun are available, as are a davit and cradle for a RIB.
Besides great performance, a smooth vibration-free ride, and a head-turning profile, Black Swan has other features that make her a great cruiser. Her wide side decks and port and starboard doors make line handling much easier for a small crew. A 4-foot draft means shallow-water destinations like the Bahamas are both practical and safe. And with a bridge clearance of just 21 feet 8 inches, Black Swan is a perfect candidate for The Great Loop.
Offered at $579,000, Black Swan puts truly comfortable cruising within reach—whether you want to go fast or slow.
Power & Motoryacht spoke to three brokers each of whom had listed a boat similar to the Krogen Express 53 online. Read what each had to say about the advantages of owning a fast trawler here ▶
DISPL.: 42,000 lb.
FUEL: 600 gal.
WATER: 300 gal.
YEARS BUILT: 1996 – 2001