"Trawler rally to cross the Atlantic"
By Jim Flannery
January 2004 SOUNDINGS
A fleet of passagemakers will
cruise from FLorida to Gibraltar on this Nordhavn-organized voyage.
Boatbuilder Nordhavn, popularizer of passagemaking in powerboats,
is organizing a trans-Atlantic trawler rally – a first of
its kind, which the builder hopes will encourage more people to
realize their dream to venture across the ocean in a boat built
for exactly that purpose.
“This has been done many times for sailboats, but it has
not been done before for powerboats a rally across the Atlantic,”
says Jim Leishman, vice president of Pacific Asian Enterprises,
the Dana Point, Calif., builder of the Nordhavn line of bluewater
The powerboat fleet Nordhavn has reserved space for 33 boats will
rendezvous at the Bahia Mar Yachting Center in Fort Lauderdale,
Fla., May 10, 2004, for a 10-day orientation in ocean voyaging.
They will set out for Gibraltar May 20, stopping en route at the
Royal Bermuda Yacht Club in Hamilton, Bermuda, and Horta Marinain
the Azores. Their aim: to cruise a summer or more in the Mediterranean.
The boats return on their own schedule. They can come back across
the Atlantic on their own bottoms, or as freight on Dockwise Excpress
or another of the transports that carry pleasure yachts across oceans.
As Leishman suspected, the rally has fueled interest in ocean passagemaking;
at least 28 entries have paid down deposits confirming participation
in the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally.
Leishman says the idea for the rally began to germinate during
his 2001 – 2002 circumnavigation on Nordhavn’s new 40-footer,
a full-displacement expedition boat built in the style of a commercial
trawler. Leishman voyaged 1,500 miles across the Indian Ocean, from
Thailand to the Maldive Islands off India, in company with a Nordhavn
62. He says having a boat in radio and radar range the entire way
was comforting because he knew help was near if anything happened.
“I thought about escorting a bunch of trawlers across the
water, and that was the beginning of the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally,”
Leishman plans to send the fleet across in two groups, so the boats
can stay in tight formation during the 3,800-mile trans-Atlantic
voyage: first, small boats with a cruising speed of about 7 knots,
then larger ones that cruise at 8.5 knots.
Nordhavn will send three escorts with the fleet, a company-operated
Nordhavn 7 built especially for the rally and two Nordhavn 62’s
whose owners volunteered to come along as escorts. Nordhavn plans
to bring along mechanics, technicians, and a doctor, and will provide
port arrangements and weather routing. The escort boats will be
fitted to tow a vessel if necessary, and they will carry emergency
fuel. Repair staff will be on call for diesel, electrical, steering,
watermaker and other breakdowns, Tow crews can help a broken-down
boat in many situations, “But everyone has to realize there
is a limit to the service we can provide,” Leishman says.
“If we get into a violent gale, each participant has to fend
for himself…When things get tough you have to be ready to
With that in mind, the 10-day orientation at Bahia Mar will offer
seminars to prepare rally crews for a safe passage. Leishman says
boats must meet strict standards. They will have to have a range
of atleast 2,500 miles with no fuel on deck, and a minium speed
of 7 knots in calm water. Skippers of non-Nordhavn vessels (and
there will be some in the fleet) must provide a letter from the
builder or designer that the boats are suitable for the passage.
They must have auxiliary propulsion that can move the boat at 4
knots in calm water, in case the main engine goes down. They also
must have had a recent survey.
Nordhavn this year celebrated the 10th anniversary of the introduction
of its flagship 62-foot expedition boat.
“We built sailboats for many years, Mason sailboats,”
Leishman says. They were good bluewater passagemakers, and the company
still builds them on request. Leishman says many who bought PAE’s
Masons were retires whose families were grown and who now hankered
for a bluewater adventure. They wanted to sail across oceans. Few,
in fact, did.
“Without years and years of experience, the success ratio
of actually doing it was dismal,” Leishamn says. “For
a lot of people it was just too much. They wound up selling their
boats, not using them.”
He says PAE built the Nordhavn passagemakers as a powerboat alternative
to bluewater sailing. He says three owners of Nordhavn 46s have
circumnavigated; he sailed around the world in a 40-footer; and
seven or eight Nordhavn skippers have cruised the Pacific. Leishman
expects a half-dozen circumnavigations in the next few years in
The company builds paggagemakers from 35 to 72 feet. Leishman considers
all Nordhavn models bigger then 35 feet capable of an Atlantic crossing.
“People buy them, go off and run them from Alaska to Maine,
and cross oceans with them,” he says. Leishman expects this
pioneering trans-Atlantic event to clear the way for many rallies
taking powerboat cruisers across oceans in fleets. He says he has
been contacted by a number of parties interested in organizing rallies
to other destinations.
Milt Baker, a retired Coast Guard officer and former owner of Bluewater
books and Charts in Fort Lauderdale, has put together a Web guide
to Mediterranean cruising and all the ports of call that the rally
fleet will visit, at www.bluewaternav.com.
“This is the trawler event of the decade,” saya Leishman.
“There has been nothing like it before, nothing even close.
It’s going to be a wonderful adventure for the people who