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BOAT SHOP - Used Boat

Jersey 36 Dawn

Used Boat - Jersey 36 Dawn

By Steve Knauth


Ron Groff was getting more and more excited. The longtime boater from Crisfield, Md., and a friend were checking out a 36-foot sportfishing boat he’d found in Jacksonville, Fla. Walking the deck and touring the saloon, everything was going well.


“The boat was in beautiful shape, and I was raving about it,” says Groff, 66, who is retired from the tool and equipment business. “The friend I was with was saying, ‘Calm down.’ Then I went in the engine room and saw a pair of big red-painted diesels, and I knew I had the right boat.”

The boat was a 1987 Jersey 36 Dawn, and the distinctive color of the big engines was New Jersey designer and builder Fred McCarthy’s trademark. Groff bought the sportfisherman just after that early 2003 walkthrough for $145,000.

The Jersey builder’s no-nonsense, well-equipped boats were among those Groff has always admired and wanted. The former Coast Guardsman, who grew up paddling the creeks and backwaters of Chesapeake Bay, had most recently owned and operated a 31-foot charter fishing boat out of Ocean City, Md., and now sought a more leisurely kind of boating. Turned out it was “Jersey time.”

“The Jersey is under-rated and little-known, but people who own them love them,” says Groff. “I knew guys who ran them, and I always liked the lines and thought you got a lot for your money. The 36 was just right for me — medium-sized and medium-priced.”

Groff calls McCarthy ahead of his time, citing such features on his 20-year-old vessel as the blanked-out windshield, oversized cockpit cleats and chocks, central vacuum system and garbage disposal, and a large, mechanic-friendly engine room. “I met Mr. McCarthy at a boat show, once,” says Groff. “He was real friendly. We talked about his boats. I got good vibes.”

Although the 36 Dawn is a Jersey-style sportfishing boat that’s canyon-capable, Groff uses his mostly as a dayboat, plying local waters with his wife and their extended family, which includes three grandchildren. The layout suits the mission, with its big island berth, six-person dinette and well-equipped galley-down. And the head compartment has an oversized shower, much appreciated on the well-used family boat. “We make sandwiches, keep drinks in the refrigerator — it works out well for what we do,” says Groff. “And we can spend the night on board, if we want.”

Those big red diesels are 320-hp 3208 Caterpillars, and Groff cruises at around 25 mph at 2,300 rpm on the solid fiberglass, modified-vee hull. Top speed is around 30 mph. “We’re about 130 miles from Baltimore, and we cruise up there in a little less than five hours,” says Groff. “That’s an easy run. I’m not into speed so much.” Electronics include a chart plotter, autopilot, radar, VHF radio and depth finder.

Handling is what you’d expect from an offshore boat, though the Jersey’s a good bay boat, too, says Groff. “It’s perfect for the Chesapeake chop — just the right size to get over it,” he says. “I’ve had a couple of rough days outside, too, heading north from Jacksonville [Fla.] and running through thunderstorms off South Carolina. But the boat runs well, handles well and has good equipment on it. I’m proud of it.”

Turns out pride’s a common trait among Jersey owners, as Groff and his wife found out at a rendezvous last August. Almost 30 boats and more than 75 people gathered along the Baltimore waterfront to show off their boats and “talk Jerseys,” says Groff. McCarthy was an honored guest, and he handed out T-shirts and a plaque with the Jersey emblem to attendees. “There was a bring-your-own cookout, and then we spent the afternoon looking at each other’s boats,” says Groff. “These Jersey people treasure their boats. They’re crazy about them.”

Looks like Groff is, too.


The 36 Dawn has the distinctive look of the Jersey-style sportfisherman. The bow is tall, with a sharp entry and plenty of flare. The foredeck is wide and open, overlooked by the blanked-out windshield. The hard-chine, solid-fiberglass Jersey rides a modified-vee hull with 10 degrees of transom deadrise. The 36-footer’s sheer drops to cockpit level in a graceful curve that begins along the cabin side. The well-proportioned cabin is topped by a flybridge with seating and a helm station. Early models had the station set to starboard, but it was moved to the centerline in the early 1990s.

The 36 Dawn is prized by anglers for its spacious and well-equipped cockpit, which includes room for a fighting chair, a molded tackle center, recessed fishboxes and a transom door. Cabin layouts varied and included single- and double-stateroom versions. The galley-down is to port in early single-stateroom layouts, with the double berth forward and offset to starboard. The double stateroom layout has an island berth forward, single-berth cabin to port, and expanded galley to starboard. The slightly smaller saloon still has room for an L-shaped convertible settee. In both layouts, the head compartment includes a separate stall shower. Original standard power was a pair of 350-hp gas engines, and 375-hp diesels were an option.


An Internet search turned up quite a few 36 Dawns dating from the builder’s late 1980s heyday, most in their native New Jersey, New York and southern New England. But they show up farther south, too — around the Chesapeake, Carolinas and even Florida. Prices trend toward the low six-figures; the most costly boat found was less than $140,000. That model, a 1988 double-stateroom located in New Jersey and listed at around $135,000, has 2,300 hours on its twin diesels, engine synchronizers, trim tabs and hydraulic steering. The boat sleeps six, the galley has a three-burner stove and refrigerator/freezer, and the flybridge has a full enclosure. A pair of 1987 boats, in North Carolina and Florida, both were priced at around $130,000 with 320-hp diesels. The Florida boat includes outriggers and a fighting chair, an entertainment center with television and DVD player, icemaker and satellite radio. The Carolina boat includes outriggers, freshwater washdown and docking lights. Both boats have air conditioning and sleep four with a single stateroom and convertible settee. A gas-powered 1987 36 Dawn was listed in New Jersey for around $90,000. The “well-maintained” teak interior includes a nav station and a single stateroom forward. The gas engines are 325-hp Crusaders, and the boat has a 400-gallon fuel supply. Extras include outriggers, air conditioning, an intercom and two televisions.


New Jersey’s boatbuilding roots are linked to the state’s well-known fishing, and some of the best-known yacht nameplates — Egg Harbor, Post, Pacemaker, Viking — emerged from the region’s myriad small shops in the first two decades after World War II. McCarthy founded New Jersey Boat Works in 1954 in coastal Medford, and over the next four decades, his midsize fishing boats gained a reputation for their no-nonsense cockpit and cabin layouts, solid fiberglass construction, and apparent ability to help catch fish. McCarthy made a successful transition from wood to fiberglass with the 1969 debut of his Jersey 31 Sportfisherman, which set a standard for the later Jersey Dawn series that emerged a little more than a decade later.

Success in the 1980s forced a move to a larger site, still in New Jersey, and the company was renamed Jersey Yachts. Models introduced during this period include the 40 Dawn (1983), 36 Dawn (1986) and 42 and 47 Dawns (1988). McCarthy sold the company in 1989 and Jersey Yachts, succumbing to the nation’s general economic downturn, built and delivered its last boat in 1992.


LOA: 36 feet, 4 inches

BEAM: 13 feet, 4 inches

DRAFT: 2 feet, 6 inches

WEIGHT: 23,500 pounds

HULL TYPE: modified-vee

POWER: twin gas or dieselinboards

TANKAGE: 365 gallons fuel,75 gallons water

BUILDER: Jersey Yachts,Medford, N.J.