Jan Mur­phy and Steve Ehrler slipped the dock lines and made a Great Har­bour 37 their per­ma­nent ad­dress.

Soundings - - Contents - BY STEVE KNAUTH

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.

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 “con­do­like 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.

Jan Mur­phy and Steve Ehrler


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