Ed. Note - This is the second 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 II: Our Owners Know Their Nordhavns
New owners receive top-notch training led by meticulous vessel checklist and hands-on salesman support
Surely one of the great moments of Nordhavn ownership is the satisfaction and pride felt after safely completing your first long trip at sea. After all, Nordhavns are complicated machines, so knowing that you have successfully commanded your own ship generates a tremendous sense of self-accomplishment.
But how do you go from being a brand new owner of a seemingly very complex new yacht to a seasoned captain who is confident in their ability to handle their new Nordhavn? Time and experience help, as does practice, practice, practice. If you start the learning process as soon as you sign your purchase agreement, it will help insure you are ready to take over your new Nordhavn when it is ready for you.
Over the years, Nordhavns have become more and more sophisticated, never mind the scores of electronics and appliances added by owners in an effort to make life as easy as possible at sea. We’ve recognized that this can be a lot for a new owner to absorb and set out to do more to help with the adjustment from buyer to operator. Thus the Nordhavn Vessel Checkout and Systems Review was born. This form of on-board education and training is perhaps the most valuable practical service we provide our clients. Each salesman is responsible to spend whatever time it takes to provide instruction and guidance to every new Nordhavn owner so that when you leave the dock in your proud new ship, you actually feel like you know what you’re doing.
It’s true that the Checkout and Systems Review was a recent addition to the Nordhavn purchasing experience, but it’s not as if in the past we simply handed over the keys and said, “good luck.” Each salesman had developed his own routine to indoctrinate a new owner, but we found teaching techniques needed to be streamlined and a proper orientation developed across the board. Obvious things like docking practice, anchoring, and launching the dinghy have typically been part of our new owner education, but just as important is knowing the functions of systems and controls. Our clients run the gamut from experienced boat owners who only need some key pointers on new equipment to first-time power boat owners (or those new to boating altogether) who need to learn from ground zero. No matter what the level, the training exercise has been welcomed and appreciated by all buyers. Because when you grasp all that is required to operate your Nordhavn (and you will), a newfound confidence will drive the realization that you can run the boat of your dreams to whatever far away lands you wish.
For the most part, new Nordhavns used to be delivered solely at our headquarters in Dana Point, California, and it was pretty easy to know exactly what level of training had been done. But with four offices located across the country and abroad, we were prompted to develop a uniform checklist to make sure all clients are satisfactorily dialed in with their boats. In fact, a sale is not complete until the owner has signed a copy of the Review form which confirms they have been fully orientated by their salesman on the major systems of the boat. It’s amazing how a thorough review of the boat’s many basic details removes uncertainty and intimidation for our customers.
The Nordhavn Vessel Checkout and Systems review was developed by veteran Nordhavn project manager, Dave Harlow. Dave has been in both sales and production and is a long time PAE/Nordhavn employee with over 15 years of hands-on Nordhavn experience. His tenure has included overseeing the Nordhavn 46, 47 and 50 projects and now he focuses on our Nordhavn 55. In addition to helping establish our new South Coast boat yard in Xiamen, China, Dave has spent countless hours aboard numerous Nordhavns and was captain of our ATW Nordhavn 40 for most of the Pacific crossing in 2000. Dave met with PAE vice president Jim Leishman on the checklist task in the summer of 2004 and together they created the eight-page document.
Most customers don’t consider this at the time, but they’re not really as “green” as they think they are when it comes to commanding their newly acquired boat. The learning process actually begins the moment you consider Nordhavn as your next yacht. Studying the specifications, comparing features against other trawler competitors and final selection of your factory-installed options all require extensive thought. Once you place your order, you invariably begin a waiting process that, for some, can be two years long. I like to encourage my clients to view this time as a great window of opportunity for which to prepare as there is so much to get ready for. You should try to learn as much as you can from photos and books (and our website). Believe me, when your new Nordhavn arrives you’ll wish you had spent more time preparing, so take things slowly while you can and focus on one component or system at a time.
Whenever possible I like to get a copy of the Nordhavn Operators Manual in my clients’ hands. By studying how a sister ship has been outfitted you can learn quite a bit about what to expect on your boat. Studying systems drawings can also help jump start your comprehension of the inner workings of your boat before it arrives.
Once your new Nordhavn appears for commissioning I recommend you come out to see her as soon as you can and treat that first visit as more of a social call - just enjoy exploring the basic layout of accommodations and equipment. You can double check the factory options you ordered and start planning the outfitting phase with local vendors. Ideally this will be a two- or three-day trip and happen on a weekend when you don’t have to compete with commissioning workers. It’s prime time to open every locker and lift every sole hatch. There are a lot of systems to understand so if you are already familiar with the basic functions, you can spend this time starting the process of locating key components.
That said, I wouldn’t recommend staying around every day during the commissioning process. It is not only an invitation to disappointment, but can actually impede the work schedule. There is probably nothing more frustrating than seeing your brand new boat “dissected”, but it is necessary for our technicians to be able to inspect and test systems. It’s better to make a couple of short visits well spread apart. Once you’ve made the initial bonding visit with the boat when it first hits the docks, a good rule of thumb is to schedule subsequent visits about 6 weeks later and then not again until the boat is done. At that time you should book a couple of weeks stay in order to take delivery, go through the checkout review and embark on a couple of shakedown cruises.
So you’ve seen the boat floating majestically in the water and cutting forcefully through the waves, but to me, seeing a Nordhavn on the hard is the ultimate Nordhavn appreciation experience. It gives you perspective of just how big your new boat is. But more importantly, you will get a chance to see and catalog your through hulls, zincs, keel coolers, rudder attachment, etc. The rounded bilge hull shape features some impressive appendages like the rudder and fins, and everyone seems to welcome the chance to visualize the maintenance strakes and thruster tunnels. This is a great time to take photos; you never know when you’ll need a glance underwater, which is much more easily attained by viewing a picture versus donning your SCUBA diving gear.
When you order a new Nordhavn, you’re also buying into a new lifestyle. Whether this is your first boat or your 20th boat, there will be a lot of ground for you to cover and you will be impressed with our systematic Nordhavn approach. Many of our new boats are operated by husband and wife teams and it is equally important for both men and women to get a grasp of all there is to learn. Teamwork is essential and we want to make sure that both partners get a good feel for all of the details. Taking this a step further, the company has mandated cross-office partnerships amongst all the salesmen in the company. For instance, when I sell a boat being commissioned at one of our other locations, my clients have a go-to guy who actually helps out on all of the day-to-day issues and handles the training and checkout list.
The actual checklist can’t be finished until your new Nordhavn has completed our arduous commissioning process and is essentially done. This will be several weeks after the boat arrives. The factory installed systems need to be evaluated and tested by our commissioning crew and delivery items need to be installed by our team and local vendors. Commissioning time of your boat depends upon many factors primarily dictated by how sophisticated your order is as well as the workload of the commissioning crew and the project manager. Everyone on our team contributes to making sure your new boat is put together correctly and in a timely fashion.
However, you can start going through the checklist on your first visit, chipping away a little at a time and I encourage my clients to take this approach.
To give you a glimpse of what I’m talking about, the first two pages of the Nordhavn Vessel Checkout and Systems Review has been approved for posting here:
Click here to downloadordhavn Vessel Checkout and Systems Review (PDF)
The process of going through the boat and signing off on all of the systems can take over 30 hours, and I’ve found it is more effective to spread it out in smaller doses. There is only so much any mortal can absorb and by parceling it out, you increase your chances of retention. With a couple of my clients, we were able to carve out weekend trips where we essentially simulated a “day in the life” and got a chance to not only operate the vessel, but actually live aboard, ie: eat, cook, sleep, shower, etc. This hands-on approach is very effective.
Also, learning from the commissioning manager, yacht technicians and project manager will help broaden your knowledge and there are usually some good opportunities during the commissioning process to set up meetings or appointments with these people to review specific areas you would like to understand in more detail. This team approach by PAE underlines our backing and support to you as a customer.
Key areas covered by the checklist include the diesel engines (main, wing and generator) maintenance; electrical systems (both AC and DC); fluids and plumbing; windlass and anchoring; dingy operation and launching; Coast Guard safety gear; shafts, propellers, through hulls and bilge pumps. We’ll even go over some general maintenance items like bottom paint and gel coat care.
Typically the navigation and communications electronics hardware is reviewed by the installing company and several hours of on board training should be included in your package.
Each section on our check list encourages you to cross reference and locate a particular item or system in your comprehensive PAE/Nordhavn operator’s manual. Each piece of equipment is also supplemented by individual owners manuals provided by the original equipment suppliers.
The orientation check list will certainly cover a lot of things you already know, but trust me, goingthrough all of the systems in such a systematic approach will uncover some surprises and the whole routine provides a foundation of pertinent information that will be extremely beneficial down the road.
Each salesman has his own thoughts on what other information we should share with our new clients and I always err on the side of over saturation by providing a few checklists of my own including: things to buy for your trawler, pre-departure summary, what to look for before leaving the dock, and checking the engine room while underway.
The bottom line is that there has never been a more thorough review to prepare our owners to take the helm of their new Nordhavn and we take this education seriously. We are offering a product that is designed for an average couple to take across oceans and our responsibility goes beyond building a bulletproof, world-class, long-range trawler. We want you to be a safe, prepared and knowledgeable operator. Our checklist and onboard supplemental training combine to provide you with a tremendously important first step in getting you acquainted with your new yacht.
I’d like to quote the old Nike shoe adage, “Just do it”, as it is crucially important to take what you have learned and apply it. Some owners spend all of their time outfitting their vessels and rarely leave the dock – such a convenient excuse for not running your new boat. But it’s a trap, and one that usually results in late model boats coming on the market. Think about learning by doing and you’ll become familiar with your boat. Remember, familiarity breeds confidence.
One of the best ways to learn is through the school of hard knocks (like running out of diesel the first time you don’t valve your fuel system properly, or burning up the generator impeller because you forgot to open up the through hull after cleaning the strainer – two things I have personally done on Nordhavns and hope not to repeat).
But have no fear. Our new Nordhavns and their components are reliable, durable and relatively forgiving of operator error. After going through the checkout with your salesman, go out and use your new trawler while staying relatively close to our docks. It provides you somewhat of a “safety net” by keeping you within the vicinity of our capable staff who can correct any issues you uncover. After putting on 100 hours or so you should be ready to range as far as you want to go…and you’ll be able to wear that knowing smile the first time you complete a trip as the captain of your own Nordhavn.
Jeff Merrill is a salesman in our West Coast office. He can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.