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The Human Factor
Great Harbour training readies trawler customers for island adventures

A representative from SeaLand explains the workings of the Vacuflush toilet

For three days in April, Mirage Manufacturing, builder of the Great Harbour trawlers, provided owners with intensive training on how to maintain and operate their vessels. The free event was another example of the company’s new emphasis on developing the skills that customers need to take their boats to remote and unspoiled islands of the Caribbean and beyond.

Company President Ken Fickett said the design of the Great Harbour twin-screw trawler was ideally suited for the islands, once their owners have developed the confidence and sense of independence to take them there. “Despite the growing number of trawlers in U.S. waters, relatively few make it to the islands due—I believe—to the unsuitability of their designs,” Fickett said. “Great Harbours are designed for the islands. Now it’s just a matter of developing the skills owners need to operate independently far from home.”

Current and future owners of 23 Great Harbour trawlers attended the event, which was conducted at Mirage’s newly renovated offices in Gainesville, Florida. Besides the people from Mirage, presenters included representatives from Yanmar, Racor, Sunbrella, Corian, Anchor Marine air conditioners, SeaLand, HRO Systems watermakers and electronics manufacturers.

As a training aid, Mirage constructed a full-sized, cutaway mock up of the drive train in a Mirage trawler, from engine to prop-nuts. Hands-on training included fiberglass and gel-coat repair and electrical troubleshooting using a voltmeter.

Another facet of the seminar was a lecture on lightning protection by the world’s foremost expert on lighting in the marine environment, Ewen Thompson, phD. Thompson, working with Mirage, has developed a revolutionary lightning protection system that promises to change the way boaters are kept safe during thunderstorms.

Reaction from participants was enthusiastic. One of them, Terry Smith of the GH37 Fiddlers Green, posted this on the popular Trawlers & Trawlering website:

“It was an extraordinary three days, beautifully staged and choreographed to military timing standards. Very difficult for a small company busy with orders to find the time and energy to produce. It was real testimony to Mirage’s interest in current and future customers.”

Smith also wrote: “I don’t think Ken Fickett will be happy until he’s getting emails from his trawlers cruising Central America and the Caribbean”

The training seminars included a social component with opportunities for informal conversation with presenters. A light breakfast and lunch were served and the last seminar was followed by a cocktail hour. The last day of the event concluded with a Low Country boil for dinner.

For new buyers, April’s training was a facet of Mirage’s newly instituted CruiseProTM training plan which is included in the purchase of a new trawler. CruisePro trains owners on how to operate and troubleshoot the vessel’s many systems and identifies an owner's individual strengths and weaknesses with an eye toward developing those skills that are lacking, whether they be boat-handling or navigation.

“We try to build our boats to be as simple and user-friendly as possible,” Fickett said. “Nevertheless, for many owners, especially those coming from sail, trawler systems represent a level of complexity never experienced. CruisePro aims to fill the knowledge gap and give customers the confidence to use their boats for what they’re designed to do.”

Fickett said the characteristics that make Great Harbour trawlers ideally suited for the Bahamas and the cruising grounds that ring the Caribbean basin are: twin engines for redundancy, shoal draft for better access to shelter, a form-stable hull for passagemaking, and propellers and rudders protected by individual keels and skegs.

“With respect, the bays and coastal waterways of the United States are great for cruising, but for the most part you could cruise them in a houseboat,” Fickett said. “It’s probably a character flaw, but no boatbuilder can ever be happy until he sees his boats used for what they are designed to do. That’s why we’ve taken our boats to Bermuda, Cuba, and all the way to Hawaii via the Panama Canal.”

(For more information visit and

Mirage President Ken Fickett teaches customers how to use a voltmeter to troubleshoot a boat’s electrical system.

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