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January 25, 2018

All in a day’s work for a Nordhavn 40

I told a friend that I had one heck of a boat ride last Wednesday. I had listed a 40’ Nordhavn trawler in Sidney, BC. The owner agreed that I could move Nordic Currents to my docks in Anacortes so it would be easier for me to show.

I traveled to Vancouver Island by BC Ferry on Tuesday, January 16 with Galen, a friend of mine who is a veteran captain. On the way over to Swartz Bay the seas were perfectly calm and I took photos of the red setting sun from the top deck of the ferry.

Little did we know that this was the last time we would see calm seas on this expedition!

We spent the night at the Sidney Waterfront Inn. When I got up in the morning I turned on The Weather Channel. The meteorologist was predicting 45-knot winds. I could not believe it. It had been so nice yesterday! She had to be wrong.

From the moment I got into the boat sales business I have had a 20-knot max policy. I never leave the dock unless the winds, or forecasted winds, are less than 20 knots. Only a very few times have I ever made an exception. This would be one of them. I felt a little uncomfortable about my decision but I had confidence in my experienced captain and in our vessel.

The winds were already starting to pick up when we untied our dock lines at 7:30 am. As we left the sheltered waters behind the Sidney Sand Spit and began to cross Haro Straight on the way back to the United States, we were suddenly hit by the high winds that were predicted. In a very short time, our wind meter read 25 knots, then 30. The numbers continued to climb.

The waves seemed to be coming from all directions and they were very choppy, lifting our 40-foot vessel then dropping it suddenly, so the bow crashed down spraying sheets of saltwater over our pilot house. We were experiencing what some mariners call confused seas. Very uncomfortable. In fact it was the worst sea conditions that I had experienced in my 25 years as a yacht broker.

I looked up at the gauges above the pilothouse windows, the spastic wind meter had jumped to over 40 knots and was continually moving as it recorded the gusts. Next to the wind guage was the depth sounder telling us that there was no 749 feet of water under our hull.

“If we went down here, they would never find us!” I said to Galen with a grin.

“That’s for sure,” he replied.

Yes, the movie The Perfect Storm had come to my mind, which caused me to ask myself: What am I doing out here? Who will be Elly’s caregiver if I do not come home?

Yet, I was never really afraid. I knew that a number of Nordhavn 40s had circumnavigated the world and had undoubtedly faced meaner seas than what I was experiencing today. So I was confident that we would be safe despite what we were going through at the moment. I had built Nordhavn 40 hull #1 for myself in 1998 and named her First Forty. I was very familiar with her solid construction and amazing sea keeping abilities.

But I had never experienced anything like this before.

Up and down we went.

I must confess that I am prone to getting sea sick. But not this day. Long, deep and slow swells nauseate me. Smashing through 15-20 feet of chop was an exciting thrill ride. I loved it!

By 9:00 we were lee side of Spieden Island where the seas settled down, although the current coming against us slowed our speed over ground to 3.5 knots. Nevertheless it was a nice break from the rocky rideā€¦until we entered San Juan Channel where the wind and waves picked up again. My friend suggested that we get out of the choppy channel. So we entered Wasp Passage to Harney Channel between Shaw and Orcas Islands. A beautiful scenic route. Now the water was calm, the currents were with us and our speed increased to 8 knots. Just when I was thinking, “this is great,” we got nailed again as we came out of Thatcher Pass into Rosario Straight. More wild seas and powerful 50 mph wind gusts from the south.

Our Naiad stabilizers did their job keeping us as steady as possible in these extremely adverse conditions. We heeled slightly to port as Nordic Currents resisted the wind and accepted continuous baptisms of sea water.

Finally we entered the calm waters of the Guemes Channel. I sent Elly a text telling her that we were almost home. I was beginning to relax when BAM! We got one more 45-knot shot of wind that screamed through the rigging and caused the mast supports to shudder over the pilothouse as we rounded Cap Sante rock on the way to the security of my dock in the marina.

Because the currents were with us, we were at the customs office by 1:30. This was more than two hours before my estimated time of arrival. The little Nordhavn did a great job.

I am just getting over the adrenaline rush now. This was exactly what I needed to take my mind of “other things.”

Published by Pacific Asian Enterprises with permission from Frank Durksen.