Ewald Jansen of North Vancouver, B.C., Canada asks:

Hmmm, a direct pipeline to Nordhavn's designer himself, who is steadily chugging across the Atlantic with time on his hands ... an excellent opportunity for a few questions re. Design.

The latest "PassageMaker" magazine contains a letter questioning the value of a Portuguese bridge. You answered that the advantages (outside conning area and defensive structure against boarding water) outweigh the negative impact the bridge has on the interior layout.

Is the forward section of the Portuguese bridge used regularly to visually verify a course or target, or are the sides of the Portuguese bridge, just outside the pilothouse doors sufficient for that purpose? For example, quite a few commercial vessels have outside conning areas on the sides of the wheelhouse, but not in front.

Is the 3-foot height of the Portuguese bridge required to adequately break a boarding wave, or is it possible to achieve sufficient protection by creating a coaming on top of forward deck lockers, a higher deckhouse, or any other structure?

It appears possible to enlarge the N40's pilothouse by extending it forward, eliminating the forward section of the Portuguese bridge. This would allow a proper helm seat to be fitted however, is it an acceptable trade-off? As an additional benefit, the enlarged pilothouse would make it possible to eliminate the stairboxes that intrude into the saloon.

Any feedback from the master would be greatly appreciated, as I dabble regularly with the designs of your boats (day heads in the N50, N40 with a side deck, ...) Please forgive me for butchering your near-perfect designs, but it is about the only way I can afford to be involved with any Nordhavn!!!

Jeff Leishman responds:

The Portuguese bridge is a great place to get a better visual fix on things when night running especially. While it's true that wing bridges port and starboard would offer this same advantage, for various other reason we decided ( we being Jim Leishman and myself ) to incorporate the full P/B on the N40. One of the major reasons stems from the fact that we have a fold up chart table on the port side of the wheel house. While underway on a long passage this table is often times in the up position for the voyage making the port side door inconvenient to use, therefore access to this side of the boat is possible only by walking around from the exterior. In rough conditions the full protection of the P/B is preferable to walking across the foredeck.

However, probably the biggest thing that influenced the decision to do a proper P/B, other than the ones already mentioned, was that's what the majority of our customers expect to get with a Nordhavn. Without it, they would be disappointed. Granted, they would get a longer wheel house, but nevertheless I think most of them would vote in favor of it.

A coaming is a great way to break up boarding water. One of the first things I did when we redesigned our Mason 43 sailboat deck into what we called the Mason 44, was to include a coaming fwd. of the cockpit. The original design had nothing to keep water from sweeping across the deck house and right into the cockpit. Most sailboats today all have a coaming of this type. In reality the N40 P/B is not 3 feet high. On the fwd. side it is about 18" high. It is 3 feet on the aft side.

If we compromised on the P/B and used that space to move the wheel house forward then we could gain some nice space in the wheel house; a helm chair would fit, a bigger settee, etc. However, keep in mind that every inch you move that helm fwd. the more uncomfortable the boat becomes in head seas. We tried purposely to keep the wheel aft as far as practical for that reason.

You have to keep in mind that designing an entire boat is far more involved that just what kind of interior we can get into it. If that was our goal, our boats would be boxes with no more curb appeal or character than a houseboat. One of the things about our boats that we hear over and over again from our customers, and just people walking the docks, is how tough and serious the boats look. This is not by accident. I'm sure you've heard the saying 'all boats are a compromise' . Well the compromise in the Nordhavn 40 of limited wheel house volume is perhaps what gives it that look, the little ship look. I never actually drew it the way you describe - maybe it would look great, I don't know. But it would get you that volume. You mentioned side decks on the N40. That's a good example of us compromising the ability to get around the exterior in order to increase interior volume.


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