(The following is a verbatim interview conducted by Passagemaker Magazine, which appeared as part of an article on the Mirage Great Harbour N37 in the June 2002 issue of the magazine.)
Passagemaker Magazine: While cruising on Semper Fi, I noted a short motion to the boat. This obviously what you intended. Would you talk about the relationship between hull shape and stability on the Navigator?
Ken Fickett: People need to understand that stability is something thatís measured at the dock and that there are a couple of kinds of stability on the Navigator-initial stability and ultimate stability-initial stability being the ability of the boat to resist the first heeling, say, up to 15, 20, 30 degrees. Ultimate stability is the ability to self-right or return from high angles of heel once youíre in the 70, 80, 90-degree area.
When shooting for shallow draft, which we really put a premium on in a cruising boat, coupling shallow draft in a large displacement hull, you end up with a hull shape that is very, very stiff. You have to get that displacement in the boat somehow, so it kind of spreads out. The joy of that happening is that it really builds a whole lot initial stability. Iíve never had a boat that Iíve felt was too stable.
It will manifest itself when youíre on the hook someplace. Look at other trawlers in the harbor when a jetski goes by a half mile away and the wake finally gets to you, a lot of the very round bilged boats will site there and rock in a 1-foot wake, and it simply doesnít happen on a harder hull form like ours. The waves hit the side of the hull and there is no rock at all.
The difference is on long passages in offshore conditions. That motion is a little quicker but thereís less of it. You still have a huge amount of stability. Thingís arenít flying around in the cabin; stuff is pretty well staying put. The amount of heel you see in a boat with stiff motion tends to be a whole lot less than from a soft-chined boat that develops momentum that carries further into its roll.
PMM: Obviously we didn't cruise around the-entire island of Cuba, but 1 think you were making a statement by going there-that if someone wanted to go around the island, the boat is self-sufficient enough to do so.
KF: One of the things the Navigator was designed to do was to go out there and spend months and months and months, either hanging out in the Bahamas or circumnavigating Cuba-long trips where you really don't know where your next fuel stop might be, where you might be able to get your next fresh piece of meat or vegetables. That's really something a full displacement boat like the Navigator does in spades because so much of its displacement... can be taken up by fuel, water and stores.
PMM: Some experts would criticize the use of household appliances such as the refrigerator and the convection oven and, for all I know, the electric stove. You've made the argument that they don't use that much power, and they're/or more practical than some marine adaptations.
KF: The pricing difference is a whole lot more dramatic for what you get, and if you have the space to carry them and the power to take care of them, that's what you ought to use. On the Navigator we use a pair of 8D house batteries as standard, and with the standard inverter that's on the boat, those batteries will carry the refrigerator right through the night with no problem at all if you're cruising. If you intend to stay on the hook a long time in one place, then you're going to have to run the generator occasionally to get the batteries charged up, but that's not a significant deal. You've got the generator to run the air conditioning and whatever else you have. It's a matter of running the generator a couple of hours a day. The Joy of having a refrigerator that's got an icemaker and water dispenser on a boat that you're really spending time on-that you're really cruising-far outweighs any kind of aggravation that anybody might suppose exists from having to run a generator.
PMM: You don't recommend stabilizers on your boat, do you?
KF: No. The reason is that you would have to use such enormous fins to overcome the stability that the boat has that it would become impractical. The draft of the boat would be somewhat greater, and the fins would be the first thing to catch lobster traps-not a good idea at all. Stabilization fins are made and designed for boats that are inherently unstable. That's where they're at home.
PMM: You said the Great Harbour N37 was the "best value, strongest hull." What do you mean by that?
KF: Basically, in terms of value on a cruising boat, people should be looking for a boat that truly accomplishes their goals. In my mind, construction and value are very closely tied together in a cruising boat. What we do on our boat is to try to accentuate the strength of the boat, the mechanics of the boat-from the staicture of the fiberglass right up to the type of rigging that's done-without getting carriedaway on the interior accoutrements, finish and fancy woodworking.
We basically don't do an interior that would he like, say, a Hinckley, It's certainly not on a commercial-boat standard either, but it's a finish | that would rival any good residence, like you'd find in a nice den. It's an interior a couple can feel comfortable living in without the feel of living inside a carved cigar box. When you take that money out of the very expensive finish work and put it into the structure of the hull. It allows you to have more glass thickness and better quality rigging and systems.
PMM: As far as electric stoves, a lot of the folks into trawlers now used to be in sailboats and believe propane is the only way to go. A lot of trawlers, of course, have electric stoves, but I would imagine you have to defend the use of electric stoves to first-time buyers.
KF: The whole race to trawlers by sailors has created a whole 'nother level of living aboard. A lot of people these days aren't really interested in camping out on their boats. The problem with propane is that it's not available everywhere. Diesel fuel that runs your generator is, and you can carry it in huge abundance. When your propane runs out and there's none available, you're not going to cook. That doesn't strike me as a valid option for somebody who's living aboard.
PMM: What do most people who you talk to want from a boat?
KF: In our category, which is liveaboard boats, they're looking for good accommodations that are as close to home-style accommodations as they can get. These people don't want to make a huge change in lifestyle in terms of what they have to live with. They want a real refrigerator and stove, and air conditioning.
They also want a regular bed that they can make up in a regular way instead of having to climb over the top of things. It's just not an issue with them to be able to do long ocean-going passages. That's too scary, and most of these people understand at this point that it is also a lot of work. It takes a very particular kind of boat that may not suit the rest of their requirements and oftentimes doesn't. A boat that's going to be great offshore is going to be very restrictive in other settings...
They want something in which they can do the Great Circle route, cruise the Keys, cruise the Caribbean and cruise the Bahamas. In fact, a huge tiling for most of them is to be able to go
to the Bahamas and be down there pretty much self-contained. A lot of them have sold their homes, unquestionably the big asset in their lives, and traded all that money for a boat. They are not necessarily wealthy people, so it's important to them to be able to go down there and live comfortably without coughing up $75-$80 a day to sit in a marina.
PMM: Do you consider the Great Harbour N37 an ďentry-level trawler?Ē
KF: That's a good question. I could say yes to that by virtue of the people who have bought our Navigator and Great Harbor boats (which share the same hull). Our buyers have included many entry-level people, particularly in the case of the Great Harbor. It's common for us to have customers who have come out of a 30-foot or even a 27-foot Catalina or some other small sailboat. Typically, the big thing for them is not the actual handling of the boat but understanding the systems. These boats, as well as all trawlers capable of extended liveaboard conditions, are their own complete little cities. In many ways, it's like having to run a small city.
I see these couples make good weather choices; they're conservative. That's what allows them to cruise in a boat that's not exactly entry level. When considering a true entry-level boat, it very often has entry-level systems, which means you're back to camping out. So, for some, going to one of our boats represents a leap. But if they study up, learn about the various systems by taking engine classes and reading books on electrical systems, it's not a difficult transition at all.
PMM: You were talking about conservative passagemaking and weather choices. That brings up Bruce Van Sant and his book (The Gentleman's Guide to Passages South). You said you were a fan of his.
KF: After all the years I've spent on the water, I thought Bruce's book was a tremendous eye-opener about cruising the Caribbean. Here's a guy who's basically doing a lot of what we're talking about, which is: Don't be afraid, pay attention to all of this stuff, follow the rules and you're going to be very, very successful at passagemaking. I think Bruce's book should get a wave of trawler people cruising down to the Caribbean.
There're plenty of sailboat people that have been doing it for years, and the trawler guys for the most part have been a little bit spooked to get past the deep Bahamas. I think Bruce has given them the key to do it. All one has to do is follow the rules and be patient, and you'll get down there.