When Ben Hagar retired from a 26-year Army career in 2008, he was more than ready to rekindle his love for the water. After growing up on the lakes of northern New York state with a variety of sail and powerboats, his long stint in the Army had left him high and dry. In response, he hauled an old family sailboat,—a French-designed, Canadian-built, 27-foot sloop known as a Kelt 7.60—down to his Northern Virginia home.
Hagar and his wife, Chantale, found themselves on the open waters of the Chesapeake Bay. “We sailed it for nine years out of Herrington Harbour North in Deale, Maryland,” says 60-year-old Hagar. “That was our introduction to big-water boating, with tides, commercial vessels and the opportunity to make overnight trips rather than just dayboating.”
The couple’s experience on the sailboat led them to search out new boating adventures. “We attended a rendezvous hosted by the America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association, during which we realized the Loop was something we wanted to do,” Hagar says. “Then we began the year-long search to find the perfect boat.”
They bought a Carver 445 Aft Cabin in April 2017. The boat was represented by Curtis Stokes and Associates in Annapolis, Maryland. “They were very helpful, both in the search and in finalizing the sale,” Hagar says. The 23-year-old motoryacht, named At Ease, was priced under $160,000.
“She was very clean and in well-maintained condition,” Hagar says. “We loved all the basic bones and felt that we could make enhancements that would make it the right boat for us. While the Loop was the inspiration, we wanted a boat that could support other cruising ambitions.”
A few of the Carver’s features caught the couple’s eye. Among them were the easy-t0-negotiate stairs between the different levels, the swim platform, the wide side decks with high railings, the flybridge helm station with good visibility all around, the interior layout with dinette and galley, and the clean, timeless lines of the interior teak.
“We also like that the engine room access is under the stairs to the galley. This means we don’t have to move salon furniture to access a hatch in the floor,” Hagar adds. The walk-around berth in the master stateroom was a “must-have,” and the galley, with its refrigerator and oven, gives Chantale Hagar the freedom to indulge in her passion for baking. “And having a washer/dryer aboard is the cherry on top,” Hagar says.
Their Great Loop voyage began in May 2019 and ended some 13 months later. The 6,200-mile journey was the adventure of a lifetime. They took major waterways, including the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), the New York state and Canadian canal systems, the Great Lakes and inland rivers, and the Gulf of Mexico, all to encircle eastern North America.
“We especially enjoyed the Canadian portion of the trip, coming down the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and cruising through downtown Chicago,” Hagar says. “We also liked the beautiful cruising down the Gulf Coast to the Florida Keys.”
Hagar celebrated his 60th birthday in Iuka, Mississippi, where Chantale orchestrated a party on the boat. “Quite a few Looper friends happened to be at the same marina,” Hagar recalls. “When the candles on the cake were blown out, there were 24 people in the salon!”
After spending the winter in the Keys, the couple drove At Ease up the ICW amidst coronavirus restrictions, which dampened what they’d hoped to see and do. They crossed their own wake in Norfolk, Virginia, early in June.
Powered by twin 330-hp Cummins turbodiesels, the Carver’s fuel use averages about 4.5 gph, or 1.73 mpg. “We typically cruise at 8.5 knots at 1500 rpm. Periodically, we run the engines up to keep the turbos happy, and we top out at about 17-18 knots,” says Hagar.
The couple had equipped the boat with new electronics, and perhaps the most important addition was a Class B Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder. “The send/receive AIS was a godsend on the inland rivers,” Hagar says. “We could see the commercial tows miles ahead and hail them by name to work out meeting and passing arrangements. It also enabled them to call me in several instances and ask that I hold up before meeting them in a tricky bend or narrow bridge.”
Hagar used Navionics and AquaMaps charting at the helm and on an iPad for redundancy. He wanted the ability to do navigational contingency planning while underway.
The Hagars and At Ease stayed local this summer, but when things get better, they’ll be ready for another voyage. “We’ve lived aboard for two years, including the Loop,” Hagar says. “Our boat is very comfortable and big enough to be our full-time home. She’s seaworthy and reliable and has taken us safely from port to port under all kinds of conditions.” And as the couple learned, the Carver 445 Aft Cabin can host a good party, too.
Weight (approx.): 32,000 lbs.
Power: (2) 330- to 350-hp Cummins diesels
Fuel: 476 gals.
Water: 165 gals.
An updated version of the popular Carver 440, the 445 Aft Cabin was built with an integrated swim platform, among other new features. The family-style cabin cruiser rides an all-fiberglass, modified-V hull, and power offerings were a pair of 330- to 350-hp diesels, which deliver an 18- to 20-knot cruising speed. The 445’s cabin layout is roomy, thanks in part to the boat’s generous 15-foot beam. On the main level is the large, well-lit salon, with lounge seating, an entertainment center and room for the optional lower helm station. Moving forward, the galley down has household-style appliances, including a full-size refrigerator, to accompany a C-shaped dinette. Accommodations include the guest cabin in the forepeak; it’s laid out with an angled double berth and an adjacent head with a stall shower. The large, private master stateroom is aft and has a walkaround queen-size and an ensuite head with a stall shower. Above, the 445’s versatile aft deck is protected by a hardtop and side curtains; amenities include a wet bar, refrigerator and ice maker. Wing doors access the side decks, leading to the foredeck sunpad.
Carver Yachts traces its roots back to the 1950s. The Wisconsin builder grew from its Great Lakes origins to nationwide prominence in the 1990s with a lineup of family cruisers and motor-yachts. The Carver 445 Aft Cabin was in production from 1996 through 1999.
This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue.