"Going The Distance"
By John Wooldridge
MARCH 2000 MOTORBOATING & SAILING
We were two days out of Seattle aboard the Nordhavn 40, having overnighted at Port Townsend after touring Lake Washington and Lake Union to wait for a fair afternoon tide to aid our trip north. That second afternoon we skimmed the waterfront at Friday Harbor, and considered going ashore. But there was plenty of light left and we were all into the trip as much as, if not more than, the destination. We headed back out into San Juan Channel, turned northwest, and cruised around the top end of San Juan Island, bound for the well-protected waters of Roche Harbor on the opposite side of the island.
Four of us were in the pilothouse: one watch-stander and three trouble-making supervisors. Brian Saunders from Pacific Asian Enterprises (P.A.E.), builder of the Nordhavn series of long-distance cruisers, was at the wheel, while P.A.E. vice president Jim Leishman, Sass & Associates president George Sass and I sat on the raised bench seat just aft, taking in the sights. It was late fall in the Pacific Northwest, and the air was more than chilly, but we kept open the upper half of one dogged, Dutch-style Diamond Seaglaze commercial-style door. Yet there was natural beauty aplenty to be seen through the large, tempered-glass windows, not to mention dozens of classic cruising designs, on Puget Sound and in the channels of the San Juan archipelago. We were never uncomfortable.
As we nosed carefully up to the main dock at Roche Harbor Resort, something wonderful happened. People appeared from nowhere to take our lines, and I'm not talking about dockboys. They were from nearby motoryachts, trawlers, cruising sailboats. They knew how to snub a line to help you pull alongside, and wordlessly take up slack when the time was right. And they all had questions about the vessel, about its offshore capabilities, about the range and potential it might have to help them reach far-off ports.
At a glance, you can tell that the Nordhavn 40 is a substantial, offshore-capable bluewater vessel. The clues are numerous, starting with the protectively high freeboard forward which carries well aft of the ship-like pilothouse. With its forward-canted windows, massive wraparound Portuguese bridge, and amidships positioning to help minimize motion, the pilothouse makes a clear visual statement that it is capable of withstanding tough going in head seas.
And then there's the towering overhead spar, a solidly-braced aluminum mast supporting a stainless steel dry exhaust stack and securing a boom aft which can be equipped with electric winches to help launch or load an 11-foot inflatable tender from the boat deck. Optional outriggers for the passive stabilizers-short, rugged, fin-equipped torpedoes, called flopperstoppers or paravanes by some, towed off to the sides of the boat to increase roll stability in a seaway-flanked the spar on our vessel, standing by for the next long offshore run.
In fact, this Nordhavn 40 was prepared to make the return voyage from the Straits of Juan de Fuca down the coast to Dana Point, home port of its builder, Pacific Asian Enterprises, on the southern California coast. Brian Saunders, Jim and his brother Jeff Leishman, N.A., their families, and a number of P.A.E. employees had moved the boat from Dana Point up to Juneau, Alaska over the summer. Now it was headed back, and you could tell Saunders was ready to go. I envied his delivery crew, since it turned out that Saunders was as professional in the galley as in the wheelhouse.
Like the well-known Nordhavn 46, launched by P.A.E. in 1989, and the larger passagemakers that have followed it, the 40 embraces the principles of full displacement design illuminated in Captain Robert Beebe's Voyaging Under Power. That's to be expected, since the revised edition of that landmark book was edited and expanded by Jim Leishman, who is fiercely serious about building boats than can go the distance. His passagemakers are built strong and solid, powered by slow-turning diesels spinning big props, and equipped with the finest commercial systems for long-term reliability. B.C. Research projections show the vessel capable of cruising up to 7,800 miles at 6 knots and 1100 rpm, or 1,300 miles at 9 knots and 2400 rpm. The Nordhavn 40 has a full-length keel for optimal tracking and downwind control, a well-protected rudder and prop for maximum protection, and full stern sections.
Interestingly, the after sections are slightly hollow at the prop aperture, allowing Nordhavn to use a larger propeller for greater efficiency and less cavitation. And along both sides of the keel are two distinct bulges corresponding to engine room walkways flanking the single Lugger diesel that not only allow a rare five feet of headroom for maintenance chores, but also permit engine mounting lower in the hull for minimal propshaft angle and optimal thrust. Nordhavn calls them Maintenance Strakes. And though they might appear to increase drag, during extensive tank testing at B.C. Research in Vancouver it was discovered that they create an unexpected two percent increase in hull efficiency through the water.
The Nordhavn 40's reliable dry stack and keel cooling systems are concepts borrowed directly from commercial shipping. The diesel's unwanted heat is whisked away by a closed-cooling system which circulates coolant through a series of fluted copper-nickel tubes recessed into the underside of one Maintenance Strake, eliminating a boxful of equipment normally required to bring salt water to heat exchangers on the engine. Exhaust gasses are vented through a Harco silencer and up a stainless pipe, exiting well above the deck. Combined with the two-inch thick sound deadening in the engine room, the dry stack system provides the quietest ride you can imagine.
The engine room is large and spacious, with twin 460-gallon fiberglass fuel tanks glassed to the hull and cabin sole overhead, a custom manifold drawing fuel off the tank bottoms into a single supply tank, near-standing headroom alongside the engine, and room left over for options like shielded Northern Lights gensets (5 or 8 kW), a Heart Freedom 25 inverter, or a "wing engine" to provide get-home power.
Don't let me give you the idea that the Nordhavn is a workboat throughout. Far from it. Interior fit and finish is to the highest standards, and includes satin-finish teak paneling, Corian countertops, Grohe fixtures, plush rugs, flawless cabinetry and built-in furniture. The master cabin forward and the guest cabin amidships offer comfortable accommodations, large hanging lockers, and drawer storage appropriate for distance cruisers. The salon is nearly full-width with an adjoining galley that can be equipped for offshore or alongshore use. Lockers are available for optional gear such as trash compacters, icemakers, washer/dryers, and entertainment systems. And there's room left over for a large fixed dinette and a couple of folding deck chairs when the crew sits down to eat.
Jim Leishman likes to recall the words of a Nordhavn owner who sold his highpowered, semi-displacement motor yacht. "This is the fastest voyage I've ever made with the slowest boat I've ever owned. I arrived refreshed, ahead of schedule, and ready to enjoy my new surroundings," Leishman quotes, with a very satisfied look on his face. Having spent two days with him aboard this very capable passagemaker, I am looking forward to my next chance to go the distance on another Nordhavn.