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"Around the World in 180 days"
By Staff Writer
November 2001 Sun Post News


When it comes to cruising, Jim Leishman, his 17-year-old son Eric and Dave Harlow like to think that no horizon is too distant.

Saturday, the three San Clemente residents are embarking from Dana Point Harbor on the first leg of a highly unusual six-month, round-the-world relay cruise aboard a powerboat. It isn't a race. It isn't an exotic global exploration venture. It's just to prove that anyone can do it -comfortably - in a 40-foot pleasure boat designed for people of leisure.

'This is a totally stock boat," Leishman said of the comfy cruising craft that you might expect to see cruising to Catalina, not the Canaries.

The boat that leaves Saturday already has been to Alaska on a shakedown cruise. It is the 21st hull in the Nordhavn 40 series built by Leishman's company, Pacific Asian Enterprises. He knows what it can do.

Want one? They go for $500,000. Most buyers are people who want to retire, live on the boat and cruise.

In 1974, at age 19 and just out of San Clemente High School, Leishman co-founded Lemest Yacht Sales, a Dana Point Harbor brokerage, with two partners. It grew. Today he and his partners Joe Meglen of Laguna Beach and Dan Streech of San Juan Capistrano build powerboats. They started dealing in sailboats, then evolved into long-range powerboats that they call Nordhavns.

The 40-footer that will circumnavigate the globe this winter is named simply the "Nordhavn."

"It's going to be a lot of fun," Leishman said.

Over the next six months, teams of three plan to take the boat on various legs of a 26,000-mile voyage.

"I'm going with Jim and Eric on the first leg from here to Hawaii," said Harlow, who grew up surfing at T-Street and now is project manager for the Nordhavn 46 and Nordhavn 50 boats. "Then Jim and Eric get off, and two other guys from our office get on. We'll continue on to the Marshall Islands and an island called Yap, and then through the Philippines and on to Singapore. Then I get off and three other guys get on."

That next group will take the boat to Sri Lanka and on to Djibouti and Greece. From there it's on to Gibraltar, across the Atlantic, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal and home.

Jeff Leishman, a former San Clemente High School surfer who grew up to become his big brother's chief powerboat designer, will take the Nordhavn from Greece to Barbados.

He's scheduled to climb aboard in February, first cruising the Mediterranean, then to the Canary Islands and across the Atlantic. The prospect of stormy winter seas doesn't bother him.

"We'll wait out any weather that we have. We'll have really good data on that," Jeff Leishman said. "The biggest fear for everybody is this Middle East leg. If the boat makes it to Athens, I'll be clear."

Jeff Leishman is head designer of not only the 40-footer but 46-, 47-, 50-, 57- and 62-foot models, plus a 35-footer that is the only Nordhavn not designed to cross an ocean.

"We always tout these boats as 'go anywhere safely and comfortably,' " he said. "We've done it in the bigger boats. So we kind of have to prove it with the smallest one that's capable of it."

Jeff Leishman was taking drafting and design courses at Saddleback College when he joined his brother's business in 1982, helping to redesign sailboats. "I got my degree in naval architecture and started designing these Nordhavns," Jeff Leishman said. The company has focused on Nordhavns since 1989.

While sailboats circling the globe aren't uncommon, it is a rare endeavor for a small powerboat. Jim Leishman believes this would be the smallest powerboat to make a round-the-world voyage. And to make such a voyage in just six months, he said, is probably unheard of.

But unlike sailboats, a powerboat isn't dependent on winds and can stick to a schedule. "The focus is to get the boat around the world in one season," Jim Leishman said.

Jim Leishman has personally taken Nordhavns across the Pacific and the Atlantic. Larger models of Nordhavns have gone around the world, but over much longer periods of time. Part of the allure of this trip is to show that the Nordhavn 40 is a pleasure boat fully capable - with just two or three people on board - of intense long-distance travel.

"This boat is pretty much just point and go," Harlow said.

The main caveat, as with any kind of boat, is to watch the weather and avoid storms.

Harlow has taken Nordhavns to Alaska and to the East Coast. Now he will take one as far as Singapore, seeing some exotic islands along the way. Like Yap, where the Polynesian people are known for using stone money. While the islands along the way aren't a destination, Harlow and crew will be able to stop "and see stuff that you're unable to see any other way."

Eric Irishman, a 17-year-old senior at Dana Hills High School, took out a two-week study contract with his teachers so he can travel as far as Hawaii. His classmates "think it's pretty insane," he said. "They don't believe it, a 17-year-old kid."

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