IN THEIR WORDS
As people change over the years, so do their boats. A child’s sailing pram becomes a teenager’s outboard runabout, then maybe a young family’s walkaround — and the evolution has begun.
When Garry and Sherry Haferbier found they were fishing less in their open 24-footer and weekending more, they decided they needed to step up to a cabin boat. The boat they chose was the Mainship 34, a seminal recreational trawler design that’s an acknowledged pacesetter. And while it may not be their last boat, the two 44-year-olds from Barnegat, N.J., have certainly found a good fit for now.
Touting the single-engine, single-stateroom vessel’s versatility, Garry Haferbier, a construction equipment sales manager, says Stardust is a much-needed stress reliever. “We grab as much ‘boat time’ as we can: evening dinner cruises after work, long weekends, day cruises to Tice’s Shoal [a local boater hangout],” he says. The couple even plans to make a longer voyage — to Sag Harbor, N.Y. — this summer to raft up with friends.
They like the simple layout, with the galley-down to port, head to starboard, and a forward stateroom for two, says Haferbier. And there’s no built-in furniture, which leaves things to each owner’s individual needs. “It’s good for the cruising couple,” says Haferbier. “But add another couple, and the privacy goes away very quickly.”
The 200-hp Perkins diesel has been reliable and economical, delivering trawler speeds. “We routinely cruise at 10 knots at 1,800 rpm and burn about 4 gallons an hour,” says Haferbier. “She’s a typical single-screw, full-keel, soft-chine boat, and she is not fond of quarter-following seas. But all it takes is paying attention to the seas and making the necessary adjustments to not get pushed around. In a head sea, I have never felt unsafe in any weather I have encountered.”
The Haferbiers bought the 1982 Mainship 34 in fall 2003 for around $44,000, and it came with its original Perkins (less than 700 hours) and Crosspower 3.5 kW generator. “We looked off and on for over a year at many different cruisers and trawlers, and even chartered some,” says Haferbier. “We kept coming back to the Mainship 34 for a number of reasons: the single diesel, the upper/lower stations, the large head. And this was one of the only boats I could walk [around in] without ducking, and being 6 foot, 2 inches that was an issue.”
The couple did make some changes to the boat to bring it up to date. In fact, it was out with the old — a small holding tank; 20-plus years of electrical “bad habits” from previous owners; minor soft spots under stanchions, railings and fittings; years of built-up bottom paint — and in with the new: saloon carpeting, teak and holly galley and stateroom sole, full bridge enclosure, bottom paint and updated electronics. An acknowledged do-it-yourselfer, Haferbier also added a new dash to flush mount his electronics and a custom bridge nav pod.
He also took over the helm of the local Mainship owners club, for more than just social reasons. “We routinely toss ideas back and forth to update electrical systems, plumbing systems or find obscure sources for Perkins diesel parts,” says Haferbier. The group also congregates for three or four raft-ups each year, which routinely attract dozens of other Mainship owners.
“This boat was purchased as an experiment to see if the cruising life was for us,” says Haferbier. “I now see this is a bug that will be hard to get rid of.”
The same can be said of the boat.
An upright profile with high topsides and substantial superstructure make the original Mainship 34 look larger than it is. Designer John Cherubini gave the solid fiberglass hull the deep forefoot, moderately rounded bilges and full-length keel of a trawler. Standard power was a single 160-hp Perkins diesel, with which the 34 attained impressive fuel figures (2 gallons per hour) at traditional trawler speeds.
The first models have a relatively small cockpit and a larger saloon, with room for a sofa, chair and table. The lower helm station is to starboard, with views out the three-panel windshield and large side windows. The galley down was usually equipped with a stove/oven combination, microwave and refrigerator/freezer. Drawers and overhead lockers provide storage for cookware, crockery and provisions.
The large head compartment is to starboard and is laid out with a convenient separate shower stall. The 34’s stateroom is forward, with a V-berth (and insert) for two, vanity, and both hanging and other locker storage. Coach roof ports and a deck hatch add light and ventilation.
The flybridge offers both a second helm station and a place to socialize, with a pedestal seat at the centerline helm console and additional companion seating. A teak trimmed ladder provides access between bridge and cockpit.
The Mainship 34 II and 34 III followed the original 34 and represented refinements mostly in interior design. The 34 II had a larger cockpit and smaller saloon; the 34 III had additional interior space, larger windows and a more open cockpit. All rode the same Cherubini-designed trawler-style hull.
The Mainship 34 is popular on the used-boat market and can be found in virtually all parts of the country. They were affordable new, and they’re affordable used, with prices running from less than $50,000 for a model from the late 1970s to around $65,000 for a mid-1980s vintage. Here are a few samples.
A 1979 model billed as “the cleanest, best-maintained on the market” was for sale in Alabama for $45,000, with 650 hours on an overhauled 160-hp diesel. A 1982 Florida boat with Bimini, cockpit hardtop, air conditioning/heat, 165-hp turbo diesel and GPS was listed for $45,000. A 1978 model in Utah, laid out “for a cruising couple,” was offered for $48,900, with air conditioning, generator, two-burner stove/ oven, microwave and refrigerator/freezer. A 1984 model in South Carolina with 3,500 hours on a 200-hp diesel and matching electronics at the upper and lower helm stations was priced at $55,900. A “well-maintained, nicely equipped” 1985 model was offered at $67,500 in Rhode Island, with a 200-hp diesel, hardtop and enclosure on the flybridge, and GPS, plotter, autopilot and other electronics.
German immigrant Henry Luhrs arrived in New York in the 1830s, and the Luhrs name has been known in the ship- and boatbuilding industries ever since. By the 1930s, his grandson Henry was busy turning out thousands of skiffs for rabid New Jersey anglers and dayboaters. The skiff-building operation was sold in 1965, but sons John and Warren Luhrs founded their own company, Silverton Marine, and in 1973 opened Hunter Yachts, today the largest U.S. sailboat builder.
In 1977 they began building affordable, economical fiberglass trawlers under the Mainship name, beginning with the 34. Considered one of the most popular small cruisers ever, the original 34 was in production from 1978 to 1982, and was followed by the 34 II (1980-’82) and 34 III (1983-’88). Mainship today offers four trawler models from 34 to 43 feet and is part of the Luhrs Marine Group.
LOA: 34 feet
BEAM: 11 feet, 11 inches
DRAFT: 2 feet, 10 inches
weight: 14,000 pounds
hull type: semidisplacement
propulsion: single 160-hp diesel
TANKAGE: 220 gallons fuel, 50 gallons water
DESIGNER: John Cherubini
BUILDER: Mainship Corp., Midway, Ga. Phone: (800) 578-0852. www.mainship.com