Tranquilo releases a sailfish in Costa Rica
JJ Slater

From Stem to Stern: Refitting Tranquilo

A tough tournament competitor gets a makeover

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fter five years of tournaments, charter fishing and countless thousands of billfish releases, the 57-foot Spencer Yacht Tranquilo is ready for some major work, and Marlin will be there to document every step. The work is being done at A&J Boatworks in Stuart, Florida, as the boat undergoes a complete refit, including engines, paint, electronics, an interior remodel and much more. “We built the boat specifically for charter and tournament fishing in the Pacific,” says owner Ken Cofer, who splits his time between eastern North Carolina and Central America. “The boat is much lighter than other Spencers because the hull is foam core rather than wood. It was Paul Spencer’s idea to keep Tranquilo as efficient as possible with the Caterpillar C12 ACERT power.”  

Tranquilo with a fish on in Costa Rica
A familiar sight in the Pacific: Tranquilo maneuvering on yet another billfish.© Los Sueños Resort and Marina / Pepper Ailor

The Story

The boat was completed at the Spencer yard in Wanchese, North Carolina in January, 2012, and began chartering out of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua the following month. "Once we were in Nicaragua for a full season, we realized the prime fishing was from May through September, but that the wind and weather was pretty unpredictable during that time," Cofer says. "In 2014, we brought the boat to Marina Pez Vela in Costa Rica from January through April, and what a season we had. Incredible fishing. We loved the country and the people, plus the conditions were almost perfect every day, so we made the decision to sell our home in Nicaragua, have Tranquilo flagged as a Costa Rican charter boat and move the business to Quepos."

Tranquilo wins the Bisbee
Among the team's numerous tournament wins was a first place release victory in the 2016 Bisbee's Black and Blue Marlin Jackpot in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.Courtesy Bisbee's Black and Blue Marlin Jackpot

In January 2016, Tranquilo started running charters out of Marina Pez Vela, Quepos. Along the way, Ken, his wife Amanda and daughter Chloe have amassed an enviable string of tournament victories throughout Central America. In the past few years, the offshore seamounts have become the center of attraction for charters in search of consistent blue marlin action. "We learned a lot from our charters and tournament fishing about the changes we wanted to make," says Cofer. "Now that we have over 7,800 hours on the engines, it was time to return to the U.S. for a major overhaul."

“We learned a lot from our charters and tournament fishing about the changes we wanted to make.”

In addition to repowering, the team plans to redesign the boat’s interior to add a half-bath, additional stateroom bunks, a new dinette with extra seating and wider couches to accommodate overnight trips, as well as a complete top-to-bottom repaint, a new suite of electronics including a chirp sounder and satellite television, bridge enclosures and seating, full refurbish of all teak, and more.

October 10-20, 2017 Update

Since her arrival at A&J Boatworks in Stuart, Florida, Tranquilo has undergone a significant transformation. All her fishing tackle and gear has been removed and the hull is being sanded and prepared for painting. All brightwork has been taped off and the electronics removed. Painting has now begun on the bridge.

Tanquilo getting prepped for new paint
Upon arrival in Stuart, Florida, in October, the boat was immediately prepped for painting.Courtesy Tranquilo Sportfishing

On October 15, 2017, C-Worthy Custom Yacht Canvas in Pompano Beach, Florida, arrived to begin laying out the mock-ups for the new upholstery on the bridge and elsewhere. The new top-quality cushions will not only add comfort and make the boat look better but they will also hold up to the tropical sun much better than the originals.

Tranquilo gets fitted for new soft goods
One item on the list was new soft goods and upholstery throughout the boat.Courtesy Tranquilo Sportfishing

A Look at C-Worthy

October 25, 2017 Update

All of the boat's removable teakwork, including the fighting chair, helm chair, rocket launcher and step box, has been sent to Release Marine in Savannah, Georgia, to be refinished. Release Marine is using a new Pop and Lock system for the Tranquilo helm chair.

Release Marine Pop and Lock

Oct. 26-31, 2017 Update

The full Garmin electronics package has been finalized and ordered this week as the old gear is removed from the boat and new housings fabricated for the updated package.

The owners of Tranquilo elected to go with Garmin for the company's noted reliability — critical when running over 250 charters a year in Central America — as well as for their ease of operation and integration.

First up: A pair of GPSMAP 7616 displays. These 16-inch units will sit side-by-side at the helm, enabling the captain to rotate through a variety of feeds including chartplotter, sounder, radar, night vision and camera feeds and more. They are fully network capable for the Garmin Network and NMEA 2000, with built-in wifi and a dedicated CAN port for receiving engine data.

garmin gpsmap 7616
A pair of Garmin GPSMAP 7616 displays will serve as the primary navigational gear, displaying chartplotter, radar, sounder and other inputs.Courtesy Garmin

A secondary unit, a GPSMAP 7612, will sit to the left of the helm in a custom enclosure. This will serve as a backup unit to the primary navigation systems, as well as provide an option for a third display. "We expect to run the chartplotter and split the radar or sounder on the main displays," Ken Cofer says, "then we can use the smaller unit for night-vision displays when traveling at night, engine room cameras or any other input."

One of those inputs will come from the GMR 2526xHD2 radar. This incredible 25kw radar has a 6-foot open array and a range of up to 96 nautical miles. The automatic Bird Gain setting will enable the captain to locate and track birds even down to the surface of the water, and the dual range capability can show both short- and long-range targets simultaneously.

garmin gmr2526xhd2 radar
With its 6-foot array and 25kW of power, Tranquilo's new radar will be a powerful tool for locating birds over the schools of spinner dolphins off Costa Rica.Courtesy Garmin

By incorporating the GHP Reactor Autopilot with the radar, the display can be overlaid on the chartplotter with exceptional accuracy. Shadow Drive technology automatically disengages the autopilot if the captain overrides a course. You can pair it with a Garmin Quatix GPS marine watch or wireless remote to operate the autopilot from any location on the vessel.

garmin ghp-reactor autopilot
The GHP Reactor autopilot will also allow the radar to overlay on the chartplotter display.Courtesy Garmin

To hold the bottom, the GSD 26 uses Garmin’s broadband spread-spectrum signal technology to send and receive significantly more data per unit of transmit power than earlier-generation sonars. As a result, the sonar can provide detail of the bottom structure and fish from depths to nearly 10,000 feet. Captains can also manually tune frequencies from 25 kHz to 210 kHz for enhanced target imaging.

Because of the time they spend well offshore at the seamounts, Tranquilo will now have an AIS system. The AIS 600 helps aid in collision avoidance by tracking anyone in the area with an MMSI number. The AIS 600 integrates with a Garmin chartplotter and VHF radio via NMEA 2000, giving captains the ability to initiate a call to any MMSI target directly from the chartplotter by selecting the "call with radio" function. A pair of VHF 210 radios will top off the boat's communications package. They will be housed in a custom glove box at the helm along with other switches and engine controls.

custom electronics enclosures
With the old units removed, a custom panel was fabricated to house the new 16-inch displays.Courtesy Tranquilo Sportfishing
custom electronics enclosures
A smaller Garmin display will reside in a custom enclosure to the left of the main units. This will allow the captain to have a third input for night vision cameras or other feeds, including satellite television.Courtesy Tranquilo Sportfishing

November / December Update

This was a big milestone for the Tranquilo refit project, with her new MAN engines and a Seakeeper gyrostabilizer going in the engine room. The boat's owners elected to replace their CAT diesels with the new inline six-cylinder MANs for several reasons, including reduced maintenance costs and better fuel economy. Plus, we have to admit, they look pretty cool too.

Seakeeper Installation

According to the owner, the new MANs will be quieter, smoother, very fuel efficient, virtually smoke and odor free, and only minor maintenance will required until 5 years or 5,000 hours, due in large part to numerous improvements in the common rail fuel system. As well, they are compact, light weight, and offer convenient and easy access to routine maintenance items like oil and fuel filters, raw water impellers, and belts.

tranquilo cat engine removal
Clockwise from top left: The boat's original CAT engines took up quite a bit of room belowdecks; Here's a look at Tranquilo's engine room with its old CAT engines about to be removed; Davis Diesel, the company removing the old engines and installing the new ones, used a crane to lift the heavy engines in and out; A Davis Diesel worker maneuvers the crane as the uninstallation process is complete.Courtesy Tranquilo / Davis Diesel
crane for sport-fishing engine instal
A look at all the work and setup required outside the boat just to lift the six-cylinder MANs inside.Courtesy Davis Diesel
engine refit for sport-fishing boat
The new MANs are now lifted into the boat.Courtesy Davis Diesel
new MAN engines
A close-up look at the new MANs now in Tranquilo.Courtesy Davis Diesel
man engines installed in a sportfisher
The new MANs going in.Courtesy Tranquilo Sportfishing
man engines in tranquilo
The new engines installed in the boat. The MANs were lighter, had a higher horsepower rating and a longer service interval, among other benefits.Courtesy Tranquilo Sportfishing

A Seakeeper gyro will add comfort to both day trips when the seas kick up but also for those overnighters and multi-day blue marlin adventures to the Costa Rican seamounts. By spinning a flywheel in a vacuum, the Seakeeper acts to stabilize the inherent roll that’s in all boats, but especially those adrift at sea in the evenings. This addition will make things a lot more comfortable for her charter passengers as well as the crew.

tranquilo seakeeper gyrostabilizer installation
Top: The owners added a Seakeeper gyrostabilizer for a smoother offshore ride; Left: A Seakeeper gyro is carefully lowered into place; Right: Another look at the Seakeeper unit as it's installed in Tranquilo. Retrofitting gyros into older boats has become a very popular option when boats are in the yard for major service like this.Courtesy Tranquilo / Davis Diesel

Engine Removal and Installation

Hullside painting has also begun so stay tuned for updates. Here's a sneak peek at the color.

tranquilo hull color
A preview of the boat's new hull color.Courtesy Tranquilo Sportfishing

January, 2018 Update

With the new 6-cylinder MAN engines and Seakeeper gyrostabilizer installed, Tranquilo's owners took her out on the water for a sea trial. Below are the photos of the finished engine room and new dinette, along with a video from the boat's first test with her upgrades.

Seakeeper gryostabilization
Here's a close-up of the Seakeeper gyrostabilizer installed in the engine room.Courtesy Tranquilo Charters
tranquilo january 2018 update
Left: In addition to an upgraded set of engines, the refit for Tranquilo included a new dinette for the salon and galley area.; Right: Tranquilo is ready to hit the water with new engines and systems in place.Courtesy Tranquilo Charters

Sea Trial After Refit

February, 2018 Update

After a successful sea trial and minor adjustments to the engine alignment, Tranquilo headed to her home port in Quepos, Costa Rica from Stuart, Florida. With stops in the Bahamas, Jamaica, and then safely traversing the Panama Canal, the freshly re-powered rig performed flawlessly without the slightest of hiccups, according to boat owner Ken Cofer. "It's really a testimonial to the quality work that was performed by Nate Davis and the staff of Davis Diesel, along with MAN Marine Engines. And don't forget the newly added Seakeeper 7 doing it's job of stabilizing the whole setup. We can't wait to start our tournament season as well as our blue marlin trips to the seamounts!"