This gold-plater makes midrange coastal
cruising more fun than ever.
By Capt. Bill Pike
December 2002 Power& MotorYacht
Over the past year or so, I've spent a fair amount of time abroad Pacific Asian Enterprises' (PAE) Nordhavn 35 Coastal Pilot, first skippering the stout, little semi displacement beauty through the Berry Islands in the Bahamas (see "Don't Worry, Be Happy," July 2001), then giving her a more scientific wiring-out on Lake Worth, south of Palm Beach. Each experience was as educational as it was fun. The ten-day cruise through the Berrys, which featured sea conditions from mellifluous to mangy, spotlighted the boat's comfort quotient and seaworthiness. Indeed, for a cruising couple, there's no finer vessel on the market today in my opinion. Testing on Lake Worth showcased the 35's operating efficiency and versatility: a top speed of 17.9 mph that offers genuine get-home potential in an emergency and slower displacement speeds that conjure range figures in the thousands of miles, portending virtual epochs between fuel stops.
Lets check out the cruise first. Last February, with the 35's fuel and water tanks topped off and enough stores stowed to sustain a pack of ravenous gourmands for a month, a couple of friends and I left for Miami Beach Marina en route to Great Harbor Cay, a distance of approximately 120 NM. The deep-water portion of the all-night passage across the Gulf Stream went smoother than a hound dog's nose, with nary a hint of a roll, and a glorious sunset for entertainment. Not long after we sniffed the shallows of the Great Bahamas Bank, however, a storm sprang up and began slamming us with six - to - eight - foot head seas. In response, I pulled the Morse single-lever control back from 1500 to 1000 rpm, as much to ensure a daylight arrival in Great Harbor as to smooth the ride, and we slogged on valiantly, taking big slugs of water over the bow and up the foredeck every now and again and pounding mightily each time we plunged into a deep trough.
I loved every minute of it. Keeping tabs on other vessels from the teaky helm station was a snap, thanks to the large, commercial-grade Diamond Sea Glaze windows that circumscribe the saloon/helm area. Moreover, the convenient layout of instruments, gauges, and related equipage on or above the steering station was a testament to the sea-savviness of the folks at PAE, a company that's been designing and building highly efficient, displacement-type ocean-crossers for years. Without stirring appreciably from the helm seat, I could see and/or adjust everything I needed to: the Furuno CRT-type radar, the Ritchie compass, the gauges for our single 370-hp Yanmar diesel, the Icom VHF, the beelining Robertson autopilot, and the Compaq Presario laptop, with Nobeltec electronic cartography.
And I was totally comfortable. Fresh, fragrant air wafted past, entering via the slightly opened Lewmar hatch in the overhead and departing through the Dutch-type door at the rear of the saloon, the top half of which we'd latched open for ventilation. The hooded Furuno swept a reassuringly sharp picture at the 6-, 12-, and even 24-mile range. (Nordhavn maximizes radar performance by mounting the scanner high on a standard, Awlgrip-painted aluminum mast.) The sound of the Yanmar beneath my feet was smooth, confidence-inspiring, and muted, thanks in part to a three-inch-thick noise-nixing fiberglass engine-room door with commercial-type dogs and an equally thick jacket of sound-stopping insulation within the engine room itself, every bit of it nicely paneled with anodized sheets of white perforated aluminum.
Around midnight on our crossing I decided to grab a nap, while the rest of the crew stood wheel watches. Thanks to unobtrusive but effective courtesy lighting, going below was no sweat, despite the motion of the boat. Working from one solid handhold to the next, I descended the stairway to the lower deck, then continued forward, proceeding between the U-shape galley to port and the shower-stall-equipped head to starboard. I then entered the only stateroom, an ample master that was especially inviting at the time. The decor is straight up nautical: off-white Formica-covered bulkheads accented with varnished teak trim and cabinetry. There's a bureau to starboard, with teak fiddles on top, a couple of nightstands on either side of the queen-size berth, and a raft of hanging lockers lined with fragrant camphor wood. Extracting a Louis l'Amour western from my sea bag, I hit the rack, flicked on the reading light, flicked off the main and courtesy lights, and quickly read myself into a snooze.
We enjoyed fine weather and uneventful bliss for the rest of the cruise, all the way to Nassau, although there's one aspect of the trip that underscores the virtues of the 35's galley. Because we made a host of friends during our two-day stay at Great Harbor Cay Marina, we threw a party on the eve of our departure, inviting a dozen people. The focus of festivities was a feed of deep-fried snapper, black beans, and yellow rice, with dinner rolls and attendant salads and sides, all whipped up in our U-shape galley. The success of the party was in large part due to a step-saving layout, a raft of Corian countertops, a big double sink, and a standard oven-equipped, three-burner Seaward propane stove installed in a restaurant-style, stainless steel-lined alcove, sliding Diamond Sea Glaze window (with screen), 6.8-cubic foot Nova Kool reefer (with freezer on the bottom), and range hood dam near powerful enough to suck pots off the stove.
Lake Worth may not be as exotic as the Bahamas, but it is protected, generally calm, and marina-fringed, a great venue for gauging both the maneuverability and the performance of any boat. On the first score, I was much impressed with the 35.
Thanks to a large rudder, gutsy Sidepower electric bow thruster, and the propulsion oomph inherent in a large, diesel-powered, four-bladed prop, I quickly confirmed an earlier impression: laying alongside a dock with the 35, pivoting in a fairway, backing into a slip, or accomplishing virtually any other boathandling chore is pie-easy. I kid you not-at one point, I literally drove the 35 backwards into a marina by simply maintaining sternway and steering with the thruster. The 35's engine room, a well-lit place with kneeling headroom, is loaded with commercial-grade features, two of which stand out. The first is a smart, user-friendly fuel system. It starts with two heavy-duty, saddle-type, sight-gauge-equipped, welded-aluminum tanks (with baffles and large inspection plates) that gravity feed into a low, daytank-like, welded-aluminum "fuel-supply reservoir" forward of the engine on centerline. It's workboat-like, but extra plumbing adds pizzazz. Supply and return lines for engines and the optional genset and attendant valves are plumbed into and out of this reservoir, so uneven fuel loading is precluded, and an easy-to-see sight gauge can be used to directly measure fuel bum.
The second feature is safety-related. In addition to a whopping, belt-driven, 8-gpm ITT Jabsco 36600 bilge pump with high-end, magnetic Ultra Sr. float switch, there's a backup Edson manual pump with a 30-gpm capacity and an easy-to-get-at handle. Besides being 32 inches long for extra leverage, the handle winds up inside the boat, when installed through a small hatch in the sole of the dinette area. About the last thing you need in an emergency is exposure to wind and seas. Of course, there's just one problem with building and outfitting a boat the way the 35 is built and outfitted: moolah. With a base price of $369,000, this salty little coastal cruiser is undeniably expensive. Indeed, according to the folks at PAE, keeping costs low was not a big priority in designing and building the 35 Coastal Pilot. The point was to simply create the best turnkey boat possible and make her a perfect cruiser for a couple. Fondness and familiarity tell me they've succeeded, and then some.