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N52 Introduction

Nordhavn 52: Evolution of the Species

By James H. Kirby, Contributing Editor, Circumnavigator


Darwin might have called it “survival of the fittest” or the “best adapted.” Yet, the best explanation for the enduring success of the original Nordhavn 46 might well be the simplest: that its unique blend of quality, durability, seaworthiness, range, comfort and value is not to be found to the same degree in its competitors.

Almost 80 of these iconic trawler yachts were built, and it would have been easy for Pacific Asian Enterprises chief designer Jeff Leishman to continue the design with only modest updates. However, Leishman recognized its limitations and knew he could do better. Its replacement, the Nordhavn 47, launched in 2002 was a “clean-sheet” design. Closer to the bigger Nordhavn 50 and 55 in size and performance, it was clearly superior to its predecessor in virtually every way. It, too, proved to be a success, with more than 60 boats built.

Dominant Traits

In the new Nordhavn 52, Leishman has taken the winning design of the Nordhavn 47 and updated it with several popular features, including a larger cockpit and swim step (which account for its greater length) and a larger boat deck. In addition, the Nordhavn 52 exhibits a more stylish look and is available with an alternate interior layout. “The 47, like all boats, when you design it you try to balance saloon, aft deck space and the swim step,” says Leishman. “Ultimately the aft deck is never enough. People like to have more, so we gave the 52 more aft deck and swim platform.”

A Faster Breed

Aside from the obvious advantages of more outdoor living room and recreational space, the Nordhavn 52’s longer waterline translates into a higher cruising speed. “It’s going to be a little bit more efficient,” notes Leishman. With a waterline length of 48 feet 3 inches (14.7 meters), the Nordhavn 52 is around five feet longer than the Nordhavn 47. At its most efficient cruise speed—a 1.0 speed/length ratio—that translates into around seven knots, compared to 6.5 knots for the older Nordhavn 47. Combine this with the Nordhavn 52’s larger fuel tanks—1,670 gallons (6,322 liters) versus the N47’s 1,470 gallons (5,565 liters)—and you get an extra 500 miles of range (3,500 nautical miles versus 3,000). Bottom line: You can go farther and get there faster on the Nordhavn 52.

The Ideal Niche

Much of the Nordhavn 52’s popularity has to do with its just-right size—it has big-boat range and comfort, but it’s not overwhelming for a cruising couple to operate. This is also true of its mechanical systems. Like all Nordhavns, it has a proper engine room that encourages regular maintenance and inspection. It is accessed via an 18-inch wide dogged, watertight door located on the aft bulkhead of the master stateroom. In the optional alternate interior layout, Leishman has thoughtfully moved the access door outside the master bedroom, so sleepers won’t be as startled by the sudden racket of the engine when the door is opened. Thanks to the maintenance strakes built into the hull, there’s a generous 6 feet 2 inches of headroom. The 165-horsepower Lugger L1066T, six-cylinder diesel occupies the center of the room. Stainless steel guardrails surround the engine and provide a safe, convenient handhold that facilitates access to all sides.

A four-bladed 34-inch (86.4 centimeters) propeller mounted on a 2.25-inch (5.7 centimeters) Aquamet shaft and driven by a ZFW 220 transmission, with a 3.96-to-1.00-reduction ratio, provides the thrust. A power takeoff on the engine allows for the installation of a hydraulic pump for the optional stabilizers. Paravanes, however, are also an alternative. The Nordhavn 52 is probably the largest Nordhavn that can realistically use them.

A Fernstrum keel cooler handles engine cooling duties and the exhaust exits through a four-inch diameter (10.2 centimeters) stainless steel dry exhaust stack. This is a reliable combination that requires little maintenance and does not take up precious engine room space the way a wet exhaust can. Two Dayton 110-volt blowers help cool the engine room.

The 40-horsepower Yanmar get-home engine—a popular option among long-range cruisers—fits neatly into the aft port side of the engine room and the optional generator sits on the starboard side.
The Hynautic steering system is located in the cavernous lazarette, which can be reached through a watertight door in the aft bulkhead. The rudderstock—typically Nordhavn stout—is a 2-½-inch (6.35 centimeters) diameter, stainless steel unit.

Its Natural Environment

Two important factors that distinguish ocean-going trawler yachts from their non-pelagic cousins are tankage and stability. Obviously they are related since the large fuel and water tanks necessary to sustain a transoceanic voyage also affect stability. As a general rule with displacement yachts, heavier is better and the Nordhavn 52’s 1,670 gallons (6,322 liters) of fuel, 400 gallons (1,514.2 liters) of fresh water, 120-gallon (454.2 liters) holding tank and 110-gallon (416.4 liters) gray water tank not only give it the legs to cross oceans, but also contribute a good deal to its 90,000-pound (40.82 metric tons) full-load displacement. The yacht boasts an enviable displacement-to-length ratio (D/L) of 357, and its above/below-the-waterline (A/B) ratio of 2.8 is also within the recommended range for an ocean going vessel.

The fuel system is the proven Nordhavn gravity feed design, consisting of two 800-gallon (3,028 liters) fiberglass wing tanks mounted on either side of the engine room, feeding a central 70-gallon (264.9 liters) aluminum day tank via transfer and return manifolds. Extensive baffling within the tanks damps any surging or free-surface effect, and large inspection plates permit an average-size person to enter for inspection and cleaning. Dual Racor 900 filters take care of fuel filtration duties.

Although the Nordhavn 52 has a more modest electrical appetite than its bigger siblings, it shares the same 24-volt system, so it’s capable of handling the demands of large consumers. Also, high wattage appliances such as air conditioning, refrigeration and a washer/dryer will draw from the 110/220-volt AC shore current system or an optional generator. Other house needs are met by a combination of the yacht’s six 255 amp-hour, 8D batteries (total 765 amp hours), engine-driven, 175-amp, large-case alternator and four-kilowatt, 24-volt inverter. (It’s a 24-volt boat, so the amperage is halved as the voltage is doubled. Even though they are 12-volt batteries, they are wired in series to arrive at the voltage.) A second 40-amp, 24-volt, engine-driven alternator charges two additional 24-volt, 4D batteries for engine starting, and the optional wing engine also has its own alternator and starting battery. All these batteries and alternators can be switched to feed any DC consumer, so there’s little likelihood of ever being without electrical power.

Shore power comes aboard through 30- and 50-amp receptacles and feeds Olson isolation and balancing transformers and the 2,500-watt inverter-charger. An AC/DC distribution panel is located in the pilothouse and the engine/battery shut-off switches are thoughtfully located in the lazarette, where they can be accessed even in an emergency, such as an engine room fire.

Part of a Thoroughbred Family

The newest Nordhavn has all the same highly regarded traits for which the family is famous: It is stable, robustly built and capable of crossing oceans, while handling whatever Mother Nature throws at it along the way. The family resemblance is certainly there, although it too has evolved from previous generations. But the demands for more comfort, recreational space, storage and performance have worked their effect over time.

The increased capabilities of new Nordhavn 52 are the result. It’s a process Darwin certainly would have understood.