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May 20, 2014

Just your average Nordhavn Hawaii delivery (minus one whale run-in)

By Devin Zwick

Much like many of you, the grip of terra firma and the concrete jungle can only hold me captive for so long... With that being said my most recent bout of salty water freedom was a cool 2,300 mile jaunt across the Pacific Ocean from the Nordhavn mothership’s home port of Dana Point, CA to Hilo, Hawaii. (Spoiler alert: we made it with no significant problems in 12 1/2 days.)

I had the pleasure of doing this trip on the N60 Spirit of Adventure with Adam Paskowitz and his family. They are an intriguing young family with a 4-5 year circumnavigation goal based on the course of Hokalea, a 60' Hawaiian double canoe which is setting out late May from Hawaii to Tahiti and beyond, bringing the Polynesian culture to a multitude of different societies.

I was originally contacted by a friend of Adam’s while the boat was doing a mild re-commissioning in Dana Point. They inquired as to my interest in making the Pacific crossing and imparting some useful Nordhavn knowledge on them to take forward. (Prior to working “for” Nordhavn, I worked extensively “with” Nordhavn doing owner training, deliveries and acting as owners’ agents during commissioning and re-commissioning periods.)

Adam also owns a 1989 Mason 44' (TIGER SHARK), which, with my position as the newest California based salesman, I am helping find a new home for. Adam sailed with his family extensively around south Florida and the Gulf of Mexico for three years before stepping up into the realm of luxury motor yachting.

He pretty much already had a general idea as to his CA-HI itinerary; I studied the route and we agreed to head south on a 210? SSW heading to give us a wide berth to the potentially volatile Northern Pacific High, before turning almost due West to take a rhumb line heading into Hilo. The week before our estimated departure I helped guide him through the engineering aspect of doing full services on the main, wing engines and generator. We calculated our expected fuel burn and had the boat plugged full with 2250 gallons of diesel. All that was left was to provision our perishable food stores and get the final "GO" from our weather router Bob Jones at OMNI.

On a side note, the amount of safety preparations that were put into Spirit of Adventure by Adam in consideration of his family is enough to write a complete separate article about. I would advise anybody preparing for an extended offshore trip to contact him for a list of the safety provisions he made.

We departed California April 9th, at 5:00 PM to a wonderful send off from the PAE staff hooting and hollering on rocks out front the Dana Point office. Our first evening out looked much like the next seven, mostly clear sky with 5-10 kts of wind and 3-6' @ 14 second North swell on our starboard quarter. The highlight of our first 24 hours was seeing San Clemente Island... (On radar @ 24 miles distance) but that was to be our last major radar contact for the next 12 days, so it seemed like a big deal at the time.

Over the next 5 days we picked up the odd cargo ship target on AIS and Radar while they were transiting from Central America to Los Angeles or Asia direct to Central America. We had one cargo ship hailing from Japan whose concerned captain radioed to alert us to the fact that we were, "very far offshore, and the Pacific Ocean can get dangerous.” Our response: "We're on a Nordhavn, we've got this!"

During the course of a 299 hour (12.5 days) trip you have a lot of time to pass, which inevitably leads to talking stories...

One of Adam’s biggest concerns was the thought of running into a whale at night. This was a major part of why he added an amazing FLIR camera system which allowed us to monitor the ocean around us via either low light or thermal imaging. We went back and forth about the likelihood of such an occurrence happening, with my continued side of the discussion being "I've been doing this for 12 years with 100,000+ miles of ocean passages and never even had a close encounter between a boat and a whale...”

As these types of events inevitably play out, a day later with 25 knots of wind and an 8-12' swell behind us, that big flaming orange ball blasting us in the face making visibility on the high side of minimum, and the area in front a certified flock of sheep, we took a glancing blow to the starboard bow area from a 25' belly-up gray whale.

Needless to say the next five minutes were a whirlwind of activity while we opened up all the bilge spaces to check the structural integrity of the hull, and ensure the stabilizer fins, propeller and rudder had not received any damage from the collision.

For myself (who is already a tried and true Nordhavn believer), this was just another testament to the amazing capabilities of these vessels. I know of several other boat vs. whale collisions in the past twelve years. I have several friends/acquaintances who were involved and NONE of them escaped as unscathed as we did. Also none of them were in as remote a location as we were. Spirit was about 800 miles out of Hawaii when this occurred. No matter how bright of rose colored lenses you are wearing, the cavalry is still a few hours out while at that distance from port.

With an incident such as this, it truly brings home how removed you can be from the office and the day to day hoopla around town. I am a huge proponent of a solid satellite communications system on board. Whether a VSAT system with high speed internet to stream data or just a good old fashioned handheld Inmarsat sat phone to check in with home, have somebody check your emails and update you to any pertinent happenings you should be aware of. While making these trips I try to check in every other day just for a general update as to the state of the world as well as to alert those following our journey to anything new, different, exciting happening onboard.

To anybody contemplating making a journey like this or getting into yachting in period, what can I say? Do it. You will have the adventures of your life.

I am always available to help guide you in anyway... Provided I haven't escaped Terra Firma for just a few more days!

Devin Zwick is a salesman in the Nordhavn Southwest office. He can be reached at 949-496-4848 or at devin.zwick@nordhavn.com