Meet Aruna!

We bought a 50' 2003 Kristen Yachts steel pilot house trawler in late 2023. She is an amazing ship with tons of cool systems and a relaxing interior.
Steve Mitchell 12 min read
Meet Aruna!

Please welcome the newest addition to our family - Aruna, a 2003 Kristen Yachts steel pilot house trawler. She joined our family on December 30th, 2023, a day before my 50th birthday.

As with all of my other boats, I have a page with even more details that will always be updated with newer pictures, videos, and projects over time. You can find that below and in the main navigation on the website.
M/V Aruna
Aruna is a 2003 Kristen Yachts 50 Pilot House steel trawler that became part of our family in December of 2023. ⚠️I am still verifying some of this info and getting updated pictures and videos. Thanks for your patience! Aruna is a steel trawler hull, #3 built by Kristen Yachts

Quick Specs

Builder: Kristen Yachts of British Columbia, Canada
Designer: Greg Marshall

LOA: 54'
LWL: 46'
Beam: 15' 9"
Draft: 5' 9"
Weight: 85,000 pounds / 42.5 tons

Single Isuzu 320HP keel-cooled engine with 2-1/2" shaft and 4 blade prop
Cruise speed: 7.5 knots @ 4 gallons per hour

16kW Northern Lights generator with hydraulic PTO
Keypower get-home hydraulic motor with dedicated 1-1/4" drive shaft and Maxi feathering propeller
Keypower stabilizers
Keypower 25HP bow and stern thrusters

Fuel: 1000 gallons in 4 tanks
Water: 300 gallons
Waste: 90 gallons

Why a trawler?

In 2018 after over 20 years of sailing, I decided to go back to power, and wanted to find a trawler that had good fuel economy.

Sailing towards power...
I have decided to move to a power boat after years of sailing. The decision was a hard one, but also an exciting one as it will enable more projects and testing on a bigger platform.

We looked at a bunch of different models including DeFever 44/49's, Ocean Alexander, and others. Then we chose an Ocean Alexander 420 (Rendezvous) which wasn't really a true trawler - more of a fast trawler. And even after that, I fell in love with Kaos, a Symbol 55 pilot house that wasn't really a true trawler either.

I've done about 2500 nautical miles a year for the last 5 years, and that is increasing. I want a fuel efficient, full displacement trawler that can help make those miles cost effective and comfortable while both underway and at anchor. Aruna is that boat - we weren't looking for a new one having only bought Kaos 2 years prior, but when I saw her, I knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Why Steel?

I grew up on a farm and know how to weld relatively well. I've been around mechanical and electrical things all my life, including really big machinery, tractors, and the like. I have had a dream of having a steel boat - I thought I would eventually go the route of a reclaimed fishing trawler that I would upgrade and modify for recreational use, and much later in my lifetime.

man welding iron
Photo by Maxime Agnelli / Unsplash

There are a few reasons I've wanted a steel boat. First, my ability to repair and maintain it will be much better than with fiberglass. Not only am I terrible at anything with fiberglass, but I am deathly allergic to it. Even rubbing my bare arm against the interior unfinished side of a locker ends up with a full rash and hives.

Second, I wanted the weight and displacement that comes with a steel boat. You can get this with fiberglass boats by using ballast and other means, but with steel you sort of get this by default.

Finally, I wanted the safety of a full displacement, full keel, steel boat because of where I cruise. We have tons of debris and logs year round, and I've hit many things while underway. Thankfully none have done any major damage, but I would like the peace of mind of having a bit more protection here.

Things I love about Aruna

Build Quality & Serviceability

Everywhere I look, I find more and more that I love about the build quality of Aruna. From the high end woodworking to the fishing boat-like implementation of the keel coolers, she's built to last and with thought around expansion and maintenance.

There are really big cable pathways, and easy access to almost everything.

Expansion AC outlets are everywhere

I've found at least 10 AC outlets that are in places for expansion, but unused at this time. This particular one is above the pilot house in a void behind all of the radios and overhead instruments. I love how someone thought ahead of time about expansion and adding equipment, and while access was likely easier, simply added an outlet here for the future. It's exactly how I would build a boat myself.

Hatch details

There are a lot of small things that all add up, like hatches. Every edge is routed and the edges smoothed and turned down so that there are no sharp edges, and everything fits very easily and snug with no binding. That might seem like an odd thing to notice, but it is one of many that show the craftsmanship and thought put into things.

Water works room

Serviceability was definitely something they thought about when building Aruna. Access to everything is pretty easy - headliners are secured with industrial outdoor velcro, and can be easily removed to access things. There are also awesome spots like the water works room that contains the hot water heater, expansion tank, all of the various pumps for fresh and sea water, vacuflush bits, valves for just about anything you can think of, and more. All easily accessible and in one place so you can work on things without running around.

Lounge and pilot house with forward sloped windows

The layout of the pilot house with the salon (we're calling it lounge) is a favorite part of the boat for me. I love how people could be hanging out in the lounge while underway and essentially be in or adjacent to the pilot house, and it's not a small settee area, it's a great place for everyone to hang out. We need to add a high/low table in the middle of the seating area, but that's pretty easy.

Pilot house looking forward

I also love the layout of the pilot house itself and the forward sloped windows, which I think makes a trawler look super bad ass, besides being more functional.

View from the lounge with my desk

There is also a built in, beautiful desk that I'm actually using right now to write this article. It has a phenomenal view right out the side of the boat.

Walkways and Windows

Since I'm out on the water a large part of the year, and much of it single handing, having a safe way to manage the boat outside is key. Aruna has a wonderful side decks that are super safe with overhangs to keep the rain off of the windows (pet peeve). Speaking of windows - all of them are flush with the boat surface, which I love the look of, but it also makes it easy to clean. And, they are dual pane windows, which is rare to see in any boat, even modern ones, and will cut down on condensation and temp issues.

Dual pane windows

Birds eye maple

View from pilot house back astern

I seem to be a rarity in the boating world as I prefer lighter woods over the traditional teak look. The birds eye maple used on Aruna was one of the first things I fell in love with when I first saw her. Not only is it lighter, but the level of craftsmanship is higher than most boats. You can tell that someone spent a lot of time thinking about every aspect of the build and put a lot of time and effort into it.

Single keel cooled engine with get home hydraulics

Bottom of Aruna with keel cooler loop on hull

I was actually OK with having a dual engine trawler as long as the fuel economy and engine size was reasonable. Having two engines gives you redundancy, and usually with two engines on a trawler that size, they're naturally aspirated, simpler versions of some of the larger engines, which means a lot more longevity.

Aruna has a slightly different config with a single 320HP Isuzu continuous duty industrial engine married to a 2-1/2" shaft with a 4-blade propeller. Isuzu aren't as common in the US in boats as they are in Canada, and Klassen Diesel did the conversion and installation of the engine, and are still around to provide support. The engine has a much longer oil change cycle (500 hours), and is cooled by two large keel cooled loops on the hull, which apparently is over-designed for the amount it needs. The exhaust is still wet / raw water, and goes out a small exit on the stern. Raw water is used to cool the hydraulic system and oil, but touches nothing else other than the exit through the exhaust.

Get home shaft and prop are to the starboard side

In addition, there is a hydraulic system that can be run off of the generator that in the event of a main engine failure, you can use with a dedicated 1-1/4" shaft and Maxi feathering prop to get home. During sea trials we clocked 4 knots while using this, which is pretty impressive given the weight of the boat.

Hydraulics for lots of things

The main engine has a PTO pump that runs all of the hydraulics, but you can also run them all from the 16kW Northern Lights generator. I love that redundancy.

Keypower get home control in foreground, Keypower stabilizer control screen behind

Besides the get-home hydraulic pump and shaft, the Keypower bow and stern thrusters as well as the Keypower stabilizers are all hydraulic running off of the same central system.

The Maxwell 3500 windlass is also hydraulic, which I have wanted for a very, very long time. Given how much I anchor, I have always wanted to have a hydraulic windlass as they seem far more efficient and longer lasting with the design.

Finally, and this was not on my must-have list, but I'm already liking it, the Steelhead SM1500R davit is also hydraulic. It is nearly silent which is awesome compared to all of the previous electric ones I've had. Additionally, the Steelhead has full control for all movement axes which means a lot more safety for me given that I single hand almost always, and won't have to muscle things on/off the boat.

Minimal through hulls

I was pleasantly surprised with the lack of through hulls and the design around managing them.

There are two redundant intakes into a manifold distribution system for raw water. These supply the generator for cooling/exhaust, and the main engine for cooling only the hydraulics and oil, watermaker raw water supply, plus they supply raw water for washdown purposes around the boat. These intakes have electric valves that you can control from the helm which I consider to be needlessly complex, and I plan on simplifying them. The intakes themselves don't have any sort of grating on the outside of the hull, which is a different approach - a "salt shaker" or slot sort of setup is more normal, so that could be an issue for sucking in seaweed or jellyfish. However, I had a lot of issues with the salt shaker style intakes over the years clogging with jellyfish at times during the year, so maybe this will be better.

Owners Cabin

The owners cabin is a delight with very high ceilings, plenty of storage, a beautiful wood wall headboard, and a big built in desk area. These pictures are from survey, and aren't the bedding we are using, but you get the idea behind the layout. The bed is accessible from all sides without any boat yoga, and is a nice height that does not require pole vaulting to get into. The stairway to the owners cabin is separate from the other berth, which is nice for privacy.

Areas of Investigation

These are areas that I think need to be reviewed or improved or just figure out whether I like them or not.

Solar Panels

Bullfrog 11.5' dinghy on upper deck

These appear to have been put on by the previous owner and were poorly wired, had cheap solar controllers with incorrectly set up charging profiles, and a host of other issues. I already replaced the solar controllers with Victron MPPT versions and set the correct charging profiles so I don't continue to damage my batteries, but the wiring is a mess with some exposed connections, hanging all over the place on the rails, and generally just poorly done.

In addition, some of the panels are covering storage areas and a hatch which I might actually want to use, and two that get shaded by the davit. I'm considering removing a few of the panels and replacing the remaining ones with bigger panels to simplify things. Right now there are 8x 100W panels from 4 different manufacturers and 2 or 3 different sizes.

Bullfrog dinghy

I love the utility of the bullfrog dinghy, but I'm not completely sold on it overall. It's very rugged and easy to use, but it takes some getting used to in terms of curb appeal. I'm also curious how she will perform with the 30HP Honda engine. Bullfrog list that as the maximum HP for this model, and it seems to have a lower overall weight capacity than previous sized dinghies I've had.

I do like how easy it is to work on, the big fuel capacity, and the aluminum hull - I beach my dinghies a lot, and this will be nice.

Cork floor and countertops

I have had cork floors in a beach house and really like the durability, but I am not a fan of the color of the floors in Aruna. In combination with replacing countertops and potentially some work with the headliners, I'd like to see the floor replaced with something lighter colored - probably still cork, but maybe a different pattern, etc. This flooring is everywhere throughout the boat, so it will be a moderate project to replace.

Counter tops

The counter tops throughout the boat are all some sort of Formica or similar, and the pattern doesn't seem to match the rest of the boat. I'm not a fan of the color or pattern, so this is something I'd like to change.

Outside storage / access

There is almost zero storage outside on the main deck. There are a few hangers in places, but that's about it. Nowhere to put lines, anchor bridle, hoses, or fenders. I am thinking I'll need to add some sort of storage box or system on the port side walkway where it ends on the asymmetric side.

In addition, there is no way to access the lazarette from outside. You have to go into the galley and use the hatch right inside that goes down into the engine room. Then back through a door into the lazarette. I'm contemplating adding a hatch in the cockpit somewhere.

Wrap Up

I am beyond excited that Aruna has joined our family. After having dreamt of a steel trawler for years and years, thinking that I would only ever get there if a miracle or happenstance occurred, it really seems like a dream come true. Aruna is not only a steel trawler, but she has excellent systems with lots of redundancies that I would have added myself, is built like a fishing trawler in terms of construction choices, but has a very warm feel inside. I can't wait to share more about her in upcoming walk-throughs and videos, as well as the projects and upgrades that you know I'll be working on!

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