It all started in 1948 when Franklin and Ennis Merritt opened the doors at the Merritt Boat & Engine Works in Pompano Beach, Florida. Today, almost four generations later, the company still sits atop the list of most respected custom sportfishing boatbuilders in the world. This didn't come easy. A quest for quality, sound engineering, and damn good looks has ensured the builder will remain on this list for the next 60 years.
The 72-foot Brier Patch was built for an experienced owner, who traveled the world on his previous Merritt 58, searching for big game from the Med to the Pacific. When it came to build his next boat, he and his captain knew what they wanted.
A top priority was performance. With twin 1,850-horsepower Caterpillar C32 ACERT diesels, you can hear the turbos spool up and feel the boat speed climb, but you experience no bow rise whatsoever. It just goes faster or slower. The 28-knot cruise feels like you're standing still, quiet and sure footed.
The debate of how big a boat you can effectively fish has played out along docks the world over. Some people still say you can't effectively fish a boat this size. Au contraire! It backs down with complete steering control at 6 knots and spins just fine. You don't even feel a three- to four-foot head sea. And you can troll with a perfectly clean wake at anything less than 10 knots.
I liken boarding Brier Patch to walking into the most exclusive old-world men's club in London. No flash to be found anywhere aboard, but the moment you walk into the saloon, the classy ambience of world-class craftsmanship overwhelms you. The term "tasteful" doesn't do it justice.
The forward cabin's unique layout features a private head and over/under queen-size berths, with the upper sporting a Pullman curtain. The boat's owner mostly takes family trips, and the two adult children with spouses can both share this cabin and still be more than comfortable.
The amidships master stateroom features an athwartship king berth with a large en suite head. To further please the senses, Merritt adds terrific radius curves below, created easily with Tri-Core composite paneling and fine-wood veneers. Real burl wood, rather than Amtico or the like, makes up the flooring— to spectacular effect. Counters belowdecks are all made from onyx, while granite rules in the galley.
Other accommodations include Capt. Karl Anderson's cabin (a single) and crew's quarters for the two deckhands. (Full disclosure: Anderson is contributor to this magazine)
A huge three-sided leather settee (with storage under all of it) wraps around the hi-lo coffee table. Raise the table and the custom-built leaves slide out, turning it into a large dining table with room for at least eight.
As you'd expect on a vessel this size, there's easy access to the outboard sides of the engines via the forward ends, infinite flexibility in changing oil and moving fuel around, and overall easy maintenance.
The cockpit area on Brier Patch is nothing short of immense—and it comes with all the latest bells and whistles. You often lose rigging space with the new mezzanine designs; however, Brier Patch boasts a rigging station to starboard complete with a swiveling table that fits into a nearby rod holder.
The tuna door overlaps at the bottom, forming a narrow step into which the dive ladder mounts; it also keeps water from coming through the door when backing down on a fish. Another detail finds the athwartship fishbox with a specially designed ice-machine pipe that distributes the ice along the entire length of the box, rather than letting it pile up on one end.
Thanks to an elevated six-inch-high platform behind the wheel, Brier Patch provides amazing vision from the flying bridge helm, both fore and aft. The captain controls all navigation electronics via a pair of flat, rubber computer keyboards and matching Logitech waterproof trackball mice.
Brier Patch represents hull number 90 from Merritt and consists of epoxy-impregnated multidirectional E-glass and carbon fiber vacuum-bagged with Core-Cell composite coring.
As always, Merritt does a masterful job of marrying the most advanced technologies with traditional, classic styling. The results speak for themselves.
Merritt Boat & Engine Works, (954) 941- 5207; www.merrittboat.com