Ed. Note - This is the first in a series of articles by Jeff Merrill detailing the Nordhavn Advantage, that is, what sets the company behind the boats apart from the rest of the marine industry.
Part I: The Nordhavn Operators Manual
There are a lot of great books that boaters keep on board their vessels. Being on a boat is a great place to read, and many trawler owners amass great libraries for personal enjoyment. Pleasure reading, cruising guides and nautical-themed books are the most common tomes found, but if you ask any Nordhavn owner what their favorite and most indispensable piece of literature is on board, I'm sure it would be unanimous: The Nordhavn Operators Manual.
For each new Nordhavn that is delivered from the factory, we develop a personalized 3-ring-binder filled with descriptive explanations detailing every system aboard, often accompanied by an 11" x 17" CAD schematic. This is such a demanding and important component of each new Nordhavn that we have a dedicated full time employee whose sole job is to create this invaluable resource. The Nordhavn Operators Manual is essential on board equipment and has been described by more than one Nordhavn owner as the "gold standard" in the industry.
The steward of this project is Mike Gregovich, and, like most employees in our organization, he has spent a good deal of time at sea. Mike is the consummate professional and before joining PAE he was a design and testing engineer at the San Onofre nuclear power plant near our Dana Point headquarters. Mike literally watched the Nordhavn product line take life and grow up via his friendship with PAE President Dan Streech.. "Grego" as he's been fondly dubbed, was an engineering officer aboard a Naval ship serving in the far east during the 60s, so he is comfortable spending days at sea and understands systems.
Mike has spent many hours out onboard Nordhavns to gain the practical experience and first hand knowledge that only being at sea can provide. In fact Dan, Mike and I were crewmates during a seven-day passage across the Caribbean aboard the Around The World Nordhavn 40.
Mike joined us in 2000 when Marty Wilson, a new Nordhavn 62 owner, requested a detailed and easy to understand operators manual far more sophisticated than the manual we normally presented. Mike embraced the project with the thoroughness he is famous for and delighted the new owner with the final product.
Mike has developed a generic template for each specific Nordhavn model. As every new hull arrives at our offices in California, Florida, Rhode Island, and England, Mike spends time aboard crawling all through all spaces to double-check how everything has been assembled and cross reference systems with the CAD drawings used to install them. He personalizes the details of each new Nordhavn in order to provide an accurate inventory and description of every new Nordhavn - not only what equipment/gear has been installed, but how to operate it. What could be more important?
"Grego" works closely with each project manager and our in-house engineering/design team to ensure that every owner can be given a logical explanation for all of the myriad intricate systems that are the essence of each Nordhavn. He has also developed a close working relationship with all of our key suppliers - Alaska Diesel, American Bow Thruster, Cruisair, and Xantrec to name a handful - and has direct contacts with their engineers to make sure each application is properly specified and integrated into the total Nordhavn package.
The concept of this Operators Manual is to try to have it written into terms a person coming aboard can easily understand. And while it is geared to a more novice boat owner, it is equally invaluable to a seasoned power boat veteran (every boat is different no matter how many similarities they seem to share). Mike's writing is clear and plain speaking.
Another key to the success of our manual is the inclusion of numerous CAD drawings. Mike often consults with the cad operator and it's not uncommon to see a drawing marked up with red ink and arrows. An hour later, a revised drawing is created.
One very important part of daily boat operations that is not included in our Nordhavn Operators Manual is a rundown of the navigation and communications electronics. Most of the electronics companies we work with provide extensive training to new Nordhavn owners as a part of their sales package, and each component comes with its own very detailed manual describing operation and features.
It is important to clarify that we don't intend the Nordhavn Operators Manual to be a substitute for all of the individual manuals supplied by our equipment suppliers, but rather to focus on what we are providing as the total package and how the various components are integrated into the whole. The Nordhavn Operators Manual is intended to explain how to operate the boat as built, but doesn't include all of the accessories that are added after the boat arrives. For example, we don't describe how to run your ship's tender, but we do tell you how to operate the davit to launch and retrieve it.
The next time you are on a Nordhavn ask to see the Operators Manual that Mike has authored. This is one volume that I guarantee every new owner will have a prominent storage location for in order to make sure it is available at a moment's notice. And I'm sure that it will be proudly shown off with perhaps an anecdote of how a panic situation at sea was resolved by a consult to the manual. This is our goal, to first train each new owner on how the systems work and to provide them with this great tool to help them become self-sufficient. Of course some times something can happen aboard that a typical Nordhavn owner, no matter how qualified, will be uncertain how to proceed. In these cases a satellite phone call to PAE from the far corners of the globe can result in Mike and the design/engineering team sitting at our "roundtable" in Dana Point, working together to determine the cause and find a solution.
Bill Parlatore wrote up one such case in the September 2001 issue of PassageMaker Magazine . Bill was a crewmember aboard the Nordhavn 62#18, Rover , which departed Dana Point for French Polynesia. About 2700 miles into their trip with roughly 300 miles to go on this passage, the crew noticed a problem - a burning rubber smell from the engine room. The crew identified that it was a coolant problem with the main engine exhaust line and quickly shut down the Lugger. (Note: most Nordhavns have a dry stack main engine. This particular 62 was ordered specifically by request with a wet exhaust). An urgent satellite telephone callwas placed to PAE and the brain trust assembled in our conference room to advise. By having the Operators Manual onboard and a duplicate copy on the computer server at our office, the shore team was able diagnose the problem, assess the resources on board and talk the crew into making some substitutions and repairs. We have handled many other lower profile situations, but each one equally important to the sailors aboard the Nordhavn. The confidence of knowing that you have a book that can explain how things have been assembled and how they work gives you a strong foundation. And it's equally reassuring when you know you can call your salesman, project manager or our engineering team to help an onboard crisis get solved.
The Nordhavn Operators Manual is one of the most expensive services we include as part of every new Nordhavn. It is a proprietary document that we closely guard, but I have been given permission to post a sample from the Nordhavn 62 manual that describes how to operate the main engine from the four control stations.
62 manual section 2.1.1 Main propulsion item 11) Engine control stations(PDF)
In addition to the systems reviews we also include a recommended maintenance schedule at the back of the manual. This check list includes a recommended inventory of spare parts in order to help make sure that each new Nordhavn gets proper care and feeding and reminds owners when it is time to tackle some of the necessary servicing that a boat with so many moving parts requires.
This entire project, which has grown way beyond Marty Wilson's original request, has provided enormous gains and benefits to all Nordhavn owners and to all of our staff. Our engineering documentation is constantly refined and we have much better coordination between the yard installation and the in-field use operation. We have developed tracking programs to improve consistency. A Nordhavn that pulls into a far away port with an issue has an incredible resource to hand over to a local mechanic if there is a system error they don't feel comfortable attempting to fix. And, we have hired a former Nordhavn 62 owner and electronics guru, Mickey Smith, to help keep us ahead of the curve as modern power cruisers accumulate more and more sophisticated hardware and appliances. This snowballing of knowledge is all neatly summarized in the manual and adds an incredible amount of value to all of our customers.
When you order a new Nordhavn the typical build time is several months, and then, once it is completed and shipped from the yard we spend a couple more months commissioning. This is a large expanse of time and a lot of decisions need to be made. Researching options and making equipment selections is part of each new owners indoctrination. Our salesmen provide detailed training and a thorough orientation of all of the yacht's systems before we hand over the keys. It can be a bit overwhelming as you begin to pour over the assortment of individual product manuals supplied by the various equipment manufacturers. We have found that one of the best things a new owner can do to prepare for taking the helm is to request in advance a copy of the generic Nordhavn Operators Manual for that particular model to start boning up on what to expect. Aside from talking with other Nordhavn owners and spending time aboard a sister ship, there is probably nothing you can do or read that will be better for getting you up to speed. One perspective (tongue in cheek) of assessing how invaluable the Nordhavn Operators Manual is would be to consider it the most expensive book you ever buy - but it comes with a free Nordhavn!
Jeff Merrill is a salesman in our West Coast office. He can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.