LOA 49 ft.
Beam 15 ft., 10 in.
Draft 4 ft., 10 in.
Displacement (full) 42,480 lbs.
Fuel 640 gals.
Water 200 gals.
Engines (as tested) Cummins QSL9, 8.9L, 405 hp diesel
Base Price $899,500
Standard Equipment
Cummins QSC 8.3L 550 hp diesel, 9 kw Northern Lights genset, Sidepower bow and stern thrusters, Steelhead Marine WD800 crane, propane cooktop, refrigerator, freezer, convection microwave, ice-maker, hydronic diesel furnace, air conditioning and much more.
Optional Equipment
See builder for complete list.
American Tugs, La Conner, Wash.;
(360) 466-2961, americantugs.com
West Coast Dealer
American Tugs, La Conner, Wash.;
(360) 466-2961, americantugs.com

American Tug 485

Posted: August 1, 2014  |  Boat Type: Trawler

A tough, capable, pedigreed trawler with more than just a touch of style

By: Roger McAfee

When Tom Nelson “semiretired” as one of Nordic Tug’s principals, he found he was not good at semiretirement. So he decided to get back into the boat-building business, and American Tug was born.

Nelson wanted to produce a pleasureboat based on the small, tough, rugged hulls used in the Alaskan salmon fishery, one of the most brutal and demanding fisheries in the world. He was lucky enough to find not only the ideal hull but also the hull mold and tooling. The vessel had been designed by the well-known and highly respected Pacific Northwest designer Lynn Senour, who died in 2004.

The tooling was owned by La Conner Maritime, whose owner, Ed Oczkweicz, had personally fished a vessel from that mold for six years in the Alaska salmon fishery. He had installed a “dam” in the 34-foot mold to shorten the vessel to the regulation 32 feet required by the Bristol Bay fishery regulations at the time.

No Fishing Time Lost

A number of years ago, Oczkweicz told me the vessel was so well designed that he never missed a day of fishing because of the weather and that he could cram 24,000 pounds of salmon on board.

Nelson bought the tooling and combined it and Senour’s design with solid construction, so it is little wonder American Tug weathered the recent recession and continues to develop vessels experienced boaters are willing to buy.

In 2013, American Tug, which currently employs 41 people, dissolved its dealer network and began selling factory direct to the public and developed a brokerage market for used American Tugs. In fact, four of the new 485s have already been sold.

A Salty Design

Our 485 test boat — the second hull of the new model — has a great dock presence. It stands out among much larger vessels in the marina. Its well-proportioned hull and upper works, complete with aggressively forward-raked pilothouse windows, give the vessel a traditional husky, broad-shouldered look, yet a subtle shear line, sweeping slightly downward from fore to aft, takes away from the blocky look of similarly styled commercial tugs. The overall salty look will appeal to traditionalists as well as boaters new to this type of vessel.

The 485 is a lengthened version (by just more than 5 feet) of American Tug’s very popular 435, and the models share the same hard-chine hull design. The new boat also shares the 435’s basic hull structure: solid glass below the waterline with cored glass from the waterline up. In fact, that construction is common to all American Tug vessels.

The 485 also shares other American Tug construction methods. The entire upper works, including the decks and cabin tops, are molded as a single piece, which reduces the likelihood of leaking and, with adequate coring, produces a light, strong deckhouse that doesn’t generate internal condensation.

Fantastic Features

Access to the vessel is through a transom gate from a swim step positioned about the same height as the dock. This makes getting on and off the vessel safe and easy for family boaters with small children. An additional feature is a staple-style handrail system at the aft of the swim grid, which provides additional security when loading on board and makes it quick and easy to tie up a dinghy or other water toy when the 485 is at anchor.

The deckhouse can be reached through a large Diamond-Seaglaze door off the cockpit or into the wheelhouse through port and starboard doors. There is plenty of window glass in the upper works, ensuring exceptional visibility all around and plenty of natural light.

The U-shaped galley to port and all the way forward has plenty of food prep surface area, a lot of both drawer and cupboard storage, and a double-basin stainless sink. The galley also features a top-load in-counter freezer and a cooktop with a microwave/convection oven under it.

Plenty of Useful Space

Directly across from the galley is a very comfortable four-person settee. It is an ideal location for dining and would serve as a great work space, with plenty of room on the table for a laptop. The table could also serve as a chart table, able to accommodate full-sized paper charts. Even more significant, anyone sitting there has a direct line of sight to the helm, so the skipper can order food or drinks without having to raise her voice. American Tug will also fit this space out as a bar if an owner wishes, but the space as it is on our test boat works unbelievably well.

Aft of the settee and the galley, to starboard, is a comfortable reading/lounging area complete with a swivel chair and an ottoman. To port, directly across from the lounge space, the owners of this vessel have installed a U-shaped couch with a moveable coffee table that can double as a seat.

The pilothouse is up a couple of steps from the deckhouse and features a single, top-of-the-line helm seat, a separate settee and a table. Port and starboard doors provide easy access to ample sidedecks and good ventilation when they’re open.


Two staterooms and two heads are down a staircase from the pilothouse. The amidships master takes advantage of the full beam to feature an island queen bed with night tables on each side and an en suite head with an electric toilet and a separate shower stall. The guest stateroom, forward of the master, has a double side berth with a single upper. The en suite has an electric toilet and a separate shower stall. There is also plenty of storage space.


We fired up the Cummins QSL9 405 hp diesel, and it started instantly, without smoke, rattle or hunting. Modern computer-controlled diesel engines such as this one have become very easy starters, unlike many diesels in the past. This particular 542-cubic-inch (8.9L) Cummins, with its high-pressure common-rail fuel-injection system, is generally used in commercial or long-range trawler operations. The standard engine for the 485 is a Cummins QSC 8.3L (505-cubic-inch) 550 hp diesel.

One of the obvious differences between the two engines is the 8.9L produces its maximum torque at 1400 rpm while the 8.3 produces its at 1800 revs, which means the larger engine is slightly more fuel efficient at maximum torque.

With Corrine (the better half of the couple that owns the boat) at the helm, and the engine ticking over at idle — 600 revs — our noisemeter, set immediately above the engine in the main salon, read 70 decibels, the same as a normal conversation. In fact, during our entire test, regardless of engine speed, our noise level varied only about three decibels. As experienced cruisers know, a loud boat can be incredibly tiring during long passages. The 485 is not a loud boat.

Our fuel burn was 2.2 gph at 1000 rpm and our speed was 6.7 knots. With the throttle set at 1500 rpm, we moved along at 9.1 knots while burning 7.3 gph. When we tapped the throttle up to 2000 revs, speed increased to 11.2 knots and the fuel burn was 16.2 gph. Wide-open throttle, 2140 rpm, gave us 12.2 knots and a 20.4 gph fuel burn.

The owners, experienced cruisers, generally cruise at about 7.5 knots, and that translates to 1060 rpm with a fuel burn of 2.7 gph — about 2.78 knots per gallon — good mileage on a vessel of this size and type.

As noted, our test boat is equipped with the optional 405 hp Cummins, and we did not get an opportunity to test the 485 with the standard 550 hp Cummins. However, a Cummins test of 485 hull #1 with the larger Cummins installed showed a top speed of 17.35 knots.

All speeds were calculated on an independent GPS and fuel-consumption figures were generated by the engine’s onboard computer.

Tester’s Favorites

The American Tug 485 is the largest in the builder’s four-model lineup, and the extra space provided by the increased size has been used wisely. The integrated interior has been laid out for experienced boaters by experienced boaters and felt comfortable immediately upon entry. We didn’t have to “get used to it,” as is so often the case with a new, larger model. This is particularly important for boaters who plan to spend extensive time on board.

The vessel is quiet at all speed ranges, and the fit and finish throughout is very good. Visibility all around is excellent, and there’s more than enough storage and stowage throughout. It’s a tough, capable, pedigreed trawler with more than just a touch of style.

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