Luke Brown News

Nordic Tug 26 Boat Test

April 20, 2017

Brief Summary
There is no boat quite like the Nordic Tug 26, the little vessel that spawned several new companies and started a whole new type of recreational boat. She has been updated since she was introduced and is now called the "26cr" -- for "cruise ready." And "ready" she is, with nearly everything needed for a couple to go cruising to distant horizons. She is a single-engine boat made for the times and a couple can easily handle her without breaking the bank. We often say that dollar-for-dollar the best boating investment is a small boat and we think the Nordic Tug 26cr proves the point.

Key Features
Oyster color gel coat hull
Storage has deck hatch to lazarette with a sealing gasket
Bronze sea strainers
Convertible to full berth dinette
Engine monitoring with Yanmar analog gauge panel
Upholstery has choice of colors
Electronics includes Raymarine widescreen sonar panel

The Mission of the Nordic Tug 26cr
The builders of Nordic Tugs are strong advocates of people following their dreams. Further, they know that not everyone can afford to layout a million dollars or more for a cruising boat that will also churn through tens of thousands of dollars every year in fuel, maintenance and dockage. What if they could build a small boat that was seaworthy, easy to handle, affordable, and could be trailered to distant locations, or simply hauled out for the winter and stored in the back yard. If they could do all of those things then hundreds of people could follow their dreams and do serious cruising. The solution was the Nordic 26cr and she is a little boat that we think keeps the promise.

Distinguishing Features
While the Nordic Tug 26cr may look like other boats on the market in fact she is quite different. Many of the differences are subtle, but others are more obvious when seen in person. Either way, here is the extensive list of elements that make the 26cr not only different, but -- in our opinion -- the head of her class.

Greater Displacement
At 8,500 lbs. (3,864 kgs.) dry, the Nordic Tug 26cr is the heaviest boat in class with 37% more displacement than others. That weight means her hull, deck, stringers, bulkheads interior furniture simply contain 37% more material than other, lighter boats. It also means that the 26cr rides better, is less bouncy in a seaway, and will be more stable at anchor. 

Greater Beam
At 9'6' (2.89 m) the 26cr is a full foot wider -- nearly 12% -- than her primary competitor. Greater beam means more room in the cabin, in the head, in the salon, and in the pilothouse. It also means wider side decks, a wider foredeck, and a larger aft cockpit. It means much more stability both underway and at rest. Simply step aboard and see how much the boat inclines relative to narrower, lighter boats in order to recognize this important difference.

Full Length, Deep Keel with Rudder Shoe
The Nordic Tug 26 has a full length keel that connects to its rudder with a metal shoe. This design not only adds to stability and tracking ability, but also protects the bottom from grounding and the prop from fouling. 

Barn Door Rudder
The Nordic Tug 26cr has a large "barn door" rudder that is attached to a metal shoe. This traditional rudder makes docking and maneuvering easier than with a spade rudder which most inboard-powered boats use, which can also snag pot lines. 

Double Bottom in Keel
At the keel, the 26 actually has two bottoms -- the bottom of the boat itself and the keel which extends deeper. Part of the volume of the keel is filled with the boat's 20-gallon black water tank and another part is filled with foam or a void. In all cases the keel serves as the first line of protection in case of grounding. 

Two Side Doors
Only a few cruising boats of any size have a side door by the helm, but the 26cr has two of them -- port and starboard, a rarity. They mean that a skipper can quickly move to either side of the boat to tie up. It makes single-handing a snap. They also can get a good breeze going through the boat.

Use of African Sapele Wood
All interior doors on the 26 are solid wood, and the builder has lavished Sapele wood on cabinets and bulkheads to give the boat a cozy, rich look. Drawers are made out of ApplePly with Sapele facings. All woods are hand-stained and finished.

Lower Horsepower
Nordic Tugs -- the folks that invented the concept -- designed the boat to be economical to operate at displacement speeds to cover long distances on a single load of fuel, much like the real thing. At 8 knots she can travel 360 nautical miles on a load of fuel with a 10% reserve. At 6 knots, she can travel 540 nautical miles. Planing hulls need more horsepower and burn more fuel.

The Head Is Below
The head for the 26 is below where it should be, away from guests in the salon or cockpit aft. The wet head has an opening portlight for ventilation which is significantly away from the cockpit.

Semi-Displacement Bottom
Because the Nordic Tug 26 has a semi-displacement bottom rather than a V-bottom she is more stable at rest. Her hard chines resist rolling when underway or at anchor.

Robust Electronics Package as Standard
Nordic Tugs has included all of the electronics most cruising folks will need except an autopilot. See below for more information.

Customizable From the Factory
Nordic Tugs will customize the 26 in any way it reasonably can, which means in ways that do not require the moving of a bulkhead or modifying the interior fiberglass liner. See below for examples.

Strong Rub Rail
Rub rails come in very handy when laying up against a fixed dock with pilings. Pilings can wreck havoc with the side of a boat unless it has robust rub rails at the widest part of the freeboard which is often not at the sheer. The 26cr has them right where they should be.

Sea Trial
The folks at Nordic Tug tell us that its techs sea trial every 26cr it builds before shipping to the dealer. This is unusual in such a small boat, but as it is nearly as complex as much larger boats this procedure is an important differentiation from most other boats this size.

"cr" Means "Cruise Ready'
The new the Nordic Tug 26cr is not identical to the old 26. The company has made some important changes, such as creating a fiberglass liner for the interior and switching to Diamond Glaze sliding doors instead of wood ones. Further, it has incorporated a long list of standard features that make this boat as "cruise ready" right out of the box as any boat we have seen on the market, no matter what the size.

Robust Electronics Package
The 26cr comes with a Raymarine e7D wide screen that displays depth readings from the B60 bronze transducer and chartplotter which is connected to the Raystar-125 GPS antenna. The 26cr also has a Raymarine 4kW 18" radome with mount that displays on the multi-purpose screen. A Raymarine VHF radio with antenna is also included. The only important item of electronics not included is an autopilot, however the valves and fittings for the autopilot's hydraulic pump are already installed which will lower the cost of installation should an owner choose to buy an autopilot.

Apples-to-Apples Pricing
We are impressed by Nordic Tug's inclusion of all of this electronic equipment as standard equipment. As the builder can buy the equipment at wholesale prices it looks to us as if it is passing along much of the savings to the consumer. We also like the fact that the equipment is installed at the factory and not by the dealer or a third-party electronics vender. That means that the equipment is more likely to be installed correctly in the first place, and without disrupting the finish-work of the boat.

Other "Cruise Ready" Gear
As noted above, we are amazed at the amount of necessary gear that comes standard with this boat that most builders leave up to the owner to purchase in the aftermarket. That means that the price of the 26cr more accurately reflects what the boat will ultimately cost and comparison shoppers should make sure they are matching apples-to-apples. Equipment that caught our eye includes-- ♦ A 1000 Watt Lewmar Pro-Series H1000 anchor windlass ♦ Cockpit shower ♦ Racor fuel filter for the main engine with a 10 micron element ♦ Bronze sea water strainers ♦ Heating system with three outlets ♦ Ritchie D-55 compass with binnacle ♦ Three heavy-duty pantograph-style windshield wipers ♦ 12 VDC fan for the helm windshield for defogging ♦ Side-Power SE40/125S bow thruster with 88 lbs. (40 kgs.) of thrust ♦ Xantrex HF1055 Inverter/Charger, 1,000 W at 110VAC/55a 12 VDC charger ♦ 30 AMP shore power connection with 50' of cord ♦ Two fire extinguishers; 1 5 lb., 1 2 lb. ♦ Gray water sump for shower with an 800 gph pump ♦ Two coats of ablative anti-fouling paint are applied to the bottom.

Cruising the I-5 or I-95
By making the beam 9’6” (2.89 m) and keeping the dry weight to 8,500 lbs. (3,855 kgs.) the boat is trailerable with only a "Wide Load" permit (no need for an escort or special state police permission). This opens up cruising grounds anywhere there is a serviceable road and a launch ramp, which includes British Columbia, Baja California, the North Channel and Georgian Bay, Nova Scotia, the Chesapeake Bay, Pamlico Sound, and the Florida Keys, for example, in North America. Double or triple-axle trailers are made for the 26cr by EZ Loader and are an option.

The Bahamas, Anyone?
One of the advantages of having a boat that is both seaworthy and trailerable is that it can be trailered to a "jumping off point" by road for some serious offshore cruising. For example, from anywhere between Palm Beach Florida to Miami is close to the Bahamas, just 54 to 70 miles away depending on the landfall. From Bar Harbor or Eastport, Maine the 26cr can leave to cruise Nova Scotia and the Canadian Maritime Islands. Any number of jumping off points in Washington State can lead to British Columbia and the Alaskan panhandle. Even though the boat is only 26' LOD she is up to these passages because of her design and construction.

Forward Cabin
By limiting the mission of this boat to a cruising couple, a lot of normal compromises are immediately eliminated. Yes, in a pinch she can sleep four people by lowering the dinette table, but that is not how we’d use the boat. The 26cr was intended for a cruising couple and that is how she functions best. For day trips the boat can easily handle six people for an outing.

More Room
The standard double bed is to starboard. By eliminating the traditional V-berth, the builder has opened up this cabin, making it much more user-friendly. That leaves the port side available for a bench seat that is a good place to sit to put on one's shoes and socks. There is more deck space which makes it easier for two people to move around.

Closet and Storage Space
To port are two hanging lockers, one of which is quite large. This is a feature that is unusual in this size boat. This is a detail that boaters often overlook as they rush through boats at a boat show. When cruising every cubic inch of storage space will be prized. Under both the seat and the bed there are large storage spaces with plastic bins which keep the things stored there dry and easy to reach.

The Wet Head
The toilet is an electric flush-type, using raw water. Waste goes to a 20-gallon blackwater tank in the keel of the boat. Both the shower and the sink have hot and cold pressure water. Gray water is pumped overboard with a 800 gph pump from the sump.Note the wide counter space with molded-in fiddle adjacent to the sink in the photo above. There are three cubbies behind the counter for toiletries.

Other Details
There is a 16" hatch with screen in the overhead. Forward is a hatch to the anchor locker which is a god-send when trying to untangle rode. There are Halogen overhead and reading lights. Headroom is 6'0" (1.83 m).

The boat can be customized with a berth to port in place of the bench seat. In this way there can be a single berth to port and a double to starboard. This arrangement has its advantages.

Noteworthy is the fact that there are port and starboard sliding doors (Diamond Sea Glaze) on the raised pilothouse. This makes single-handing easier as the skipper can quickly pop out on either side to tie up. There are three pantograph windshield wipers and a 12 volt fan for defogging the skipper's windshield.

Heating System
Since the builders are from the Pacific Northwest they are concerned about heating, and there is a standard hot water system that uses engine heat to warm the boat. There are valves in three different places around the boat with which to control the heat. Headroom at the helm is 6'2" (1.88 m) which means most skippers can stand at the helm. Those who are taller can lean back using the seat as a bolster and be comfortable. There is a footrest on the helm console.

The Helm
The pilothouse is raised and the bench helm seat is wide enough to hold two people. There is another companion seat facing forward on the port side. This is a feature somewhat unusual on even much larger boats. Couples will probably sit port and starboard.

Abaft the helm is a booth dinette that will be more comfortable for two than for four people, unless two of them are children. This is the lowest part of the accommodations, it is amidships, and should be the most comfortable place to sit in a seaway. Because the side windows are large, passengers will have a good view of the horizon while underway from here.

The galley has a two-burner propane stove as standard and there is a 2.6 cubic foot (68 L) refrigerator and a stainless steel sink. Tables are wood, doors and trim accents and molding in the boat are sapele. There is a household-type GFCI-protected outlet by the counter to plug in appliances. A window over the stove opens for ventilation. By having an open counter space between the stove and the sink there is room for food prep.

All three doors to the house and all of the windows are Diamond Sea Glaze and are powder-coated. The two helm deck doors are sliders and the one aft is hinged. The overhead is vinyl and foam backed as are the bulkheads that are not covered with wood. Headroom is 6'4" (1.93 m).The builder will customize the salon, galley and helm so long as bulkheads or interior fiberglass liners are not affected.

Aft Deck/Cockpit
The cockpit of the Nordic Tug 26cr is nearly 8' (2.43 m) wide inside and about 4'8" (2.20 m) fore and aft. That makes it large enough to set up two or three folding chairs, such as directors' chairs. There is even room for a small table for coffee cups or drinks. This will be a comfortable place for a couple to relax after a day's run. The builder calls this area a "sun deck" and we would certainly agree. For that reason we would install a foldable Bimini top here in the aftermarket.There is a 1" stainless steel railing that is 30' high around the cockpit coaming. Bow railings meet ABYC standards for height. There are standard stainless steel rails on the pilothouse roof and on the salon roof. This means that when moving from the cockpit to the bow there is something to hang on to the whole way.

Access to the lazerette is in the middle of the cockpit sole. The laz is gel coated and ventilated. The steering gear is here along with the fuel tanks and two water tanks. There is also enough room for stowing other items like foldable chairs and table for the cockpit. The lazerette hatch has a rubber seal to keep water out and the cockpit is self bailing.

Top Hamper
Live aboards and long range cruisers will probably stow gear such as a roll up inflatable or a kayak on the roofs of either the pilothouse or salon or both. The builder will make optional equipment such as rails and ladders available for that purpose. Because the pilothouse is nearly three feet higher than the salon roof, a lot of gear can be lashed down here without significantly disturbing the profile of the boat.

Construction and Equipment
Nordic Tugs uses conventional hand layup of knitted fiberglass and resin. There is a vinylester skin coat to avoid blistering. Stringers are foam cored and run the length of the boat. The swim platform/boarding platform is supported by through-bolted stainless steel brackets. The boat has two automatic 2000 gph bilge pumps in two compartments and there are manual switches at the helm. The deck is chemically bonded to the hull in addition to being thru-bolted.

Propulsion System and the Engine Room
The Nordic Tug 26cr is powered by a single Yanmar 4JH4 HTE4 100-hp engine. The builder says she has a WOT speed of something around 14 knots, depending on her load and sea conditions. The engine drives through a 1-1/2" stainless steel shaft to a 4-blade bronze prop measuring 21” x 19.50”. The large rudder has a stainless steel shoe with zincs. Both the prop shaft and the rudder post have dripless seals. The engine has a raw water sea strainer. There is a starting battery (100 amps) and 2 house batteries (220 amps), all of which are in the engine room. A fourth battery for the bow thruster is forward.

Engine Room Details
The engine room is located under the helm deck and is lined with 1" sound insulation with a barrier and has a silver Mylar finish. There are two lights in the engine room which is reached by removing the stairs from the salon to the bridge deck. Engine room air intakes are on the side of the pilothouse abaft the sliding door. This location is better than having them in the hull side which is more apt to be hit with green water.

We haven’t tested the 26cr so we can only hazard a rough estimate of her speed. Our best guess is that she will cruise comfortably at from 7 to 8 knots and should burn about 2 gph. Her hull speed at 1.2 times the square root of her water line length is about 6 knots and it is there that she will get the best fuel economy burning less than 1 gph, according to the builder.She has a fuel capacity of 100 gallons which gives her a range at the above performance numbers of 540 nautical miles at 6 knots and 360 nautical miles at 8 knots. She is said to have a top speed of 14 knots.

Bow Thruster
For those readers who are concerned about docking a single-screw boat, please note that Nordic Tugs has made a bow thruster standard equipment. Even without the bow thruster, docking a single-screw boat is just a matter of technique and practice. Remember, thousands of single-screw boats are sold each year without thrusters and boaters have been handling single engine inboard-powered boats for 90 years.

Options to Consider
Regular readers know that we like colored hulls and the 26cr is no different. Eight gel coat hull colors are available as optional and they run about $3,500 extra. Some colors are slightly more. Boaters in the tropics might want to consider air conditioning and the builder has a small generator and A/C package made for the boat. Cruising folks making long hauls will probably want an autopilot and the builder will be glad to install a Raymarine ST70 SmartPilot X-10, but other brands can be added in the aftermarket. Those wanting to cruise the interstate system can opt for an EZ Loader trailer. That's about all most people might need, although many more items are on the Nordic Tug's optional list.

Not for Everyone.
Boaters wanting to go planing speeds in the 20 mph range or more, need to look elsewhere. This is not a boat for high speed and high fuel-consumption operation. Boaters wanting to cruise comfortably with a second couple or a couple of teenagers should also probably look for a bigger boat. The Nordic 26cr was intended for a cruising couple that really wants to spend some time on their boat and take pride in her design and sea-going capabilities. At home she is fine for taking a limited number of guests out for a day-boating adventure.

Seaworthy and Economical to Operate
Nordic Tugs wanted to build a little cruising boat that was seaworthy, had long range, and was inexpensive to operate. That meant it had to have an enclosed cabin, have sufficient beam, displacement and a low center of gravity to be able to handle nasty conditions that might crop up unannounced -- and have a prop protected by a deep keel. Range and economy could only be accomplished with a single diesel engine operating at displacement speeds.

Biggest Little Boat on the Market
The 26cr has a LOA of 28'9" (8.76 m), counting her swim platform and anchor roller, which is the way many boat builders measure their boats for designation purposes these days. She has a 25'2" (7.70 m) LWL, which is more waterline length than many 30-footers have, and ditto for her displacement which is in the 30- range of many pocket cruisers.

Sensible Design
Thankfully her designers resisted the urge to put too much in the boat. This is, after all, only a 26' boat and expectations have to be calibrated accordingly. Trying to put too much into any boat often can destroy its primary utility. When all of these considerations are boiled down she makes a sensible cruising boat for a couple that wants to do far more than putter around home port. The Nordic 26cr may be small, but she's got legs.