The Birth of a Classic
The idea that grew to become today's Nordic Tugs had its origin in the fuel crisis of the mid-1970s: build a fuel-efficient vessel that combined the attributes important to the cruising boater. It proved to be one of those rare ideas not only appropriate for its time, but an idea whose virtues are still relevant today.
Our story begins in the early `70s, when Jerry Husted purchased Blue Water Boats, a company that manufactured ocean ketches of the Norwegian "Ingrid" design, from Jim Musser. Musser introduced Husted to Lynn Senour, the naval architect who designed the interiors and rigs of Musser's boat.
That combination of circumstances proved prophetic.
The early `70s were plagued by oil shortages and high gas prices. Both Husted and Senour felt there was a place for a fuel-efficient powerboat. However, they had a hard time coming up with something original. It came to Husted in a flash of inspiration: a tugboat! Women would see it as cute and men would see it as rugged. And a tug looks good and is efficient going slowly, so people could save fuel.
Senour tentatively agreed to jump into the project under the condition that he could do what he wanted under the waterline, namely designing a semi-displacement hull that balanced speed with fuel savings. And so in 1979 Nordic Tugs, Inc. was born.
The Boat that Stole the Show
Lynn Senour got to work drawing the first Nordic Tug, a design that paid homage to the tugs of the 1930s. The appearance of the new Nordic Tug 26 prototype at the 1980 Seattle International Boat Show caused a frenzy of excitement. With an introductory price of $29,995 and a reserved spot on the production line available for a $1,000 returnable deposit, buyers couldn't help themselves. Thirty-seven (one every three hours) were sold at the show, with a total of 54 boats sold by the end of that month.
With the nostalgic appeal and notable fuel economy (1/2 gallon per hour at 6-1/2 knots), Nordic Tugs became an immediate success. Yachting Magazine had this to say about the innovative design, "There is something about a tugboat that makes people take to it instantly. Women want to mother it and grown men grin when they see one. Perhaps it's because so many of us learned to love `Lil Toot.` Tugs were always tubby, likeable characters, brightly painted and doers of heroic deeds."
Proving that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, two competitors — Sundowner Tugs and Lord Nelson Tugs — launched their own pleasure tugs at the following year's boat show.
Interestingly, in the early days about half the boats were sold as workboats. "They were considered kind of like a pickup," Husted explained. The most recent and perhaps last Nordic Tug workboat (a 26) was sold in 1992 to Pacific Gas & Electric for transporting work crews through the rough waters of San Francisco Bay.
Customers Clamor for More
Nordic Tugs went on to build two versions of the original 26' design. A cruiser, originally named the Red Apple, and the Cricket, a short cabin/open-aft deck model used primarily as a fishing vessel. The two boats were presented at the Oakland Boat Show where over 18,000 people stopped by to check out the newest boating sensation.
The stylish, well-built boats with their fuel-efficient design and flexible cruising speeds proved to have lasting appeal. In 1982, the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA) dubbed Nordic Tugs "one of the biggest success stories of a largely depressed pleasure boat construction scene."
Eventually, Nordic Tugs expanded its product line to include a 32' boat (1985), 37- and 42-foot models (mid-to-late `90s) and a 52-footer (2003). These models have since evolved to become the Nordic Tug 34, 39 and 54 with integrated transom platforms and fresh interiors. The Nordic Tug 49 was added to the line-up in 2009. With demand increasing for larger vessels, the Nordic Tug 26 was retired in 1997. The Nordic Tug 26 nevertheless retained a near-cult following and it was re-launched in 2009 as a limited production model. In January 2011, the Nordic Tug 26cr debuted at the Seattle Boat Show with an extensively modified interior yet keeping its classic heritage.
A Facility Worthy of Nordic Tugs
With the popularity of the tugs growing nationally, the original production facility in Woodinville, WA, reached capacity. In March 1990, Nordic Tugs moved its plant and corporate offices to Burlington, Washington, doubling the production area to 15,000 square feet and providing for separate fiberglass lamination and carpentry shops.
By 1998, Nordic Tugs moved yet again to a larger facility in Burlington to keep up with demand. The company expanded at that site in 2007, and in 2014 Nordic Tugs occupies a 80,000 square-foot two building facility that includes state-of-the-art manufacturing and environmental compliance equipment.
Nordic Tugs Today
In 2007, Nordic Tugs received National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) Certification for its entire product line — an important distinction in the marine industry. While all boats in the United States are required to meet U.S. Coast Guard regulations ABYC certified boats must meet more comprehensive standards and pass a rigorous third-party inspection to ensure that construction adheres to all of the applicable standards.
With interest and inquiries increasing world-wide, Nordic Tugs applied for and received Conformité Européenne (CE) Certification in 2007. The United Kingdom received the first exported Nordic Tug, a 37.
Today, Nordic Tugs are exported world-wide, and the company has added dealers in Europe and Asia to meet international demand.
Husted and Senour combined features most important to the efficient performance and comfortable livability of a trawler, and in the process, developed a completely new category of cruisers. Nordic Tugs' classic designs have withstood the test of time, and will continue to do so because excellence never goes out of style.