Steve Ehrler and Jan Murphy wanted to try the liveaboard lifestyle. They were looking for a good boat, about 10 years old, well equipped and well maintained, says Ehrler, 63, a former Navy submarine officer. “It also had to feel like home,” he says.
“I’ve always loved the water and lived on a river on the Eastern Shore for a while,” Ehrler says. “So we bought a [Nimble Nomad] mini-trawler that we could use to explore the rivers and Chesapeake Bay, and trailer to Florida for vacations. I loved being able to live on a boat for a while — go place to place while enjoying a sense of adventure and mornings on anchor. It was the people we met that lived boating, however, that first gave us a sense that we might want to do likewise.”
The boat they found, a Great Harbour 37, has let them realize the dream. It’s a distinctive displacement-hull trawler from Mirage Manufacturing in Gainesville, Florida. “It had the wide beam that made it feel like home, synthetic coring and good access to everything to minimize and make maintenance easier,” Ehrler says. “It’s well constructed and has the shallow draft to facilitate traversing the ICW and gunkholing. There is also a solid community of owners.”
At first, the couple thought about living at a marina, but the idea of full-time cruising was exciting, says Murphy, a retired clarinetist with the United States Marine Band. “This lifestyle is so completely different from the controlled and predictable life I’ve led. It’s an exhilarating adventure, as well as a challenge for me.”
The couple now call themselves full-time cruisers with no real home port. “ ‘Where are you from?’ has gotten interesting when the answer is now, ‘That boat at the end of that dock there,’ ” Ehrler says.
The couple, of course, know the boat well now, but their knowledge of the brand goes back to when they ran across a description of Great Harbour trawlers years ago. “When we looked into them, they seemed to meet all of our requirements for the boat we’d call home,” Ehrler says. The Crofton, Maryland, couple joined the Great Harbour Trawler Association and attended its annual meeting to find out more.
“After Jan and I spent time with the [association] folks and got to see their boats, we quickly decided that we wanted a Great Harbour,” Ehrler says.
In November 2016, they went shopping. They were down to their last candidate when they saw the 37-footer. “It took Jan and I about five minutes before we quietly turned to each other and said, ‘Yes, this is the one,’ ” Ehrler
says. They bought the boat through Great Harbour Yacht & Ship Brokerage, run by Mirage Manufacturing founder Ken Fickett. The price was in the mid-$300,000 range.
There was little needed to ready the boat for its new role, Murphy says. “We updated the interior to make it feel more homey to us, refinished the teak-and-holly floors, put up new blinds, had the couches in the saloon and pilothouse re-covered and added some personal touches,” she says.
The couple also added solar panels, replaced a water heater and added a rail to the transom above the swim platform. Six months later, they pulled into Annapolis at the end of their first run up the Intracoastal Waterway from Florida. “It was hard to believe that we’d done that,” Ehrler says.
LOA: 36 feet, 10 inches
BEAM: 15 feet, 10 inches
DRAFT: 2 feet, 10 inches
WEIGHT: 48,000 pounds
HULL TYPE: displacement
PROPULSION: twin Yanmar diesels
TANKAGE: 500 gallons fuel, 100 gallons water
BUILDER: Mirage Manufacturing, Gainesville, Florida, (352) 377-4146. greatharbourtrawlers.com
The Great Harbour 37 is powered with a pair of 54-hp Yanmar diesels. Cruising speed is 7 knots at 2,100 rpm, and fuel burn is a stingy 2 gph for both engines. “That gives us a range of around 2,000 nautical miles,” Ehrler says.
Electronics include radar, a depth sounder and AIS, plus a Raymarine autopilot, Icom HF and VHF radios, and a KVH satellite system. The couple uses PolarView navigation software on their MacBook computers, plus apps for tides, wind and anchoring on their iPhones.
Ehler and Murphy now call themselves cruisers. “But that’s not very descriptive,” Ehrler says. “Besides just cruising and driving the boat, we love meeting other boaters and hearing their story, paddleboarding off the back of our boat, appreciating all the wildlife and quiet anchorages we encounter, and seeing towns that we might not otherwise have taken the time to visit.”
Simple pleasures abound: anchoring in Florida’s Pelican Bay at Cayo Costa State Park, cruising Georgia’s Cumberland Island National Seashore, docking, anchoring and exploring. “We envision a mix of cruising the ICW and staying in various locales to enjoy a bit of connection to land life,” Ehrler says. “We’re looking forward to our winter in the Bahamas and trip to Canada next summer.”
The Great Harbour 37, Ehrler and Murphy agree, has been the boat “we thought she was.”
The Great Harbour 37, with its distinctive profile, is hard to miss. It has a Portuguese bridge, wraparound wheelhouse and tall, sturdy-looking hull with a row of ports. The wheelhouse is laid out with a convertible lounge and a pilot berth. There’s seating on the aft deck and room for dinghy stowage. PowerBoat Guide says the boat has “condo-like accommodations.”
Two floor plans are available: one with the galley to starboard and a guest stateroom/study with a desk and berth to port, the other with the galley to port and a guest stateroom opposite, equipped with its own head and shower. In both layouts, the owner’s stateroom is forward, with an island berth and adjacent head compartment with a shower. The saloon, taking advantage of the boat’s 15-foot, 10-inch beam, has room for two seating areas with an L-shaped lounge/settee and swivel chairs.
The hull has a solid fiberglass bottom with synthetic cored topsides providing flotation. Power comes from twin diesels of 50 to 60 hp, delivering 7- to 8-knot cruising speeds.
Mirage Manufacturing is a family-owned company in Gainesville, Florida. Led by Ken Fickett, it builds Great Harbour trawlers and Mirage sportfishing boats. The Great Harbour 37 made its debut in 1996 — the “original inspiration for the Great Harbour lifestyle,” as the company puts it — and remains in production. The Great Harbour fleet now includes models up to 74 feet. The latest entry is the TT 35, designed for the Great Loop and similar voyaging.
This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue.