At Nordhavn, we're constantly striving to out-do ourselves, and late last month in San Diego, we did it again: a convoy delivery of four brand new Nordhavns up the coast to our Dana Point docks. It was a strange sight to behold as a half-dozen Nordhavns stood lined up on the Cross Chartering ship Frijsenborg . She was making her first US port call in San Diego (after picking up about a dozen yachts in China and Taiwan including an Ocean Alexander, two Kadey-Krogens, a Selene and a sailboat) to offload four of the six Nordys and continue on to the East Coast to drop off the rest of the boats. Never before had so many Nordhavns been transported on the same freighter - thanks to a combination of maximum production output by our yards and a shortage of cargo ships willing to transport yachts. So on December 22, a large contingent of PAE staffers loaded up into three trucks and made their way down to oversee the launching and delivery of the four boats.
It was the last major pick up of the calendar year and turned out to be virtually a 24-hour job. There were twelve of us packed into the trucks and we pulled out of our Dana Point commissioning office at 5:30 am. We arrived an hour later (NOTE: a one hour drive in a car equals a ten hour boat ride at 7 knots in the other direction!) somewhat ahead of schedule so we grabbed a quick breakfast and returned to the docks. Frijsenborg was scheduled to arrive at 7:30 a.m. and we got there just in time to see her tying up to the docks. Two hours later, after customs had finished their inspections, we were allowed on the ship to see our charges. Being launched this day were 4045, 4306, 4728 and 5738. We checked out these boats along with the 47 that was to be offloaded in Miami and the 4046 headed up to our Newport, Rhode Island office.
Despite their wrapping, the boats all looked beautiful and we were anxious to get them home. A quick peek at the other boats on deck brought to mind an interesting, if unscientific, product comparison ration. A telling tally at this point in time, we do seem to be selling a lot more Nordhavns than the other brands and with a diminishing sailboat market, the lone ketch wasn't surprising.
The "offload and delivery" routine plays out a few dozen times during the course of each Year, so we were pretty familiar with the course of action to take place over the next several hours. Armed with the essentials required for new boat pick ups - oil, coolant, tools, safety equipment, fenders, dock lines and basic navigation gear such as binoculars, paper charts, handheld VHF and GPS - we were ready to get to work and take these boats on their first significant cruises.
Nine of us would be crew and the vehicles would be driven home by project managers Dave Harlow and Philippa Morrow. Our California commissioning manager, Russell Barber, would drive the third truck after seeing that all four Nordhavns got safely underway.
The process of boarding a freighter while laden with supplies is precarious at best. The steep ramp has ladder rungs on end and if you put your hand down to brace yourself on the swaying rope handrail, you are guaranteed to be grabbing filth. The Frijsenborg was actually quite clean compared to other freighters I've been on, but even so, the decks were oily and slippery. Rust latched on like lichen and the soot and salt from a two week trip across the Pacific was everywhere. Good thing for the tenacious plastic covering that is applied to all Nordhavns prior to shipping. The boats are wrapped from the waterline up including the deck - only the windows are spared. This stuff sticks great and peels off cleanly, but it is stuck on tight and we spent hours while waiting for our launch time just tugging and pulling. It's an extremely tiring, but worthwhile process: all four Nordhavns sparkled as if they had just been detailed at the yard. The covering is even thick enough to protect against scratches. Just one more step we take to make sure that our boats are the best they can be.
While all of this peeling is going on we are also busy inspecting the entire underwater surface - rudder, main shaft and prop, wing engine running gear, bow thruster blades, zincs, keel coolers and all of the through hulls. A similar inspection is done inside and the steering wheel is tested to make sure the rudder turns freely, the battery levels are checked and all portlights and hatches are secured. The valves for fuel lines and Racors are given a close once--over and we do everything we can to make sure each new Nordhavn is ready for sea.
On hand, but outside of the port proper were expectant owners of 4306, Peter and Su Faklis. They drove out from Colorado especially to see their new Nordhavn and to spend a couple of days aboard in Dana Point getting oriented and familiarizing themselves with their wonderful new yacht. I have known the Faklis' for close to ten years. We met when I built them a 40' Pacific Seacraft sailboat (which I sold in brokerage for them last year). They, like so many other boaters, are part of this growing trend of sailors switching to trawlers - passionate water people who have realized they can stay out at sea in a much more "civilized" and comfortable way and continue to enjoy the yachting lifestyle. It has been almost exactly two years since they signed a contract to buy their Nordhavn 43, a decision they made based on blueprints and our reputation. Today they would finally see their new yacht arriving in US waters. We chatted back and forth by cell phone and I gave them a preview of their boat. The yard had done a great job! From their vantage at a neighboring park they were able to watch all of the proceedings on deck including the launchings.
You never really know what the sequence of events will be on one of these trips and more often than not, the day is a version of the hurry up and wait drill. By midday we realized we had a little time on our hands. We also figured out that our planned morning launches were going to stretch into the late afternoon and evening and that we would be doing the majority of our trip home at night. We tested the running lights but did not have steaming lights, which are on the masts that get installed during commissioning, so I went over to the local West Marine with the Faklis' to pick up some lights and batteries and to grab a bite to eat while most of the rest of the team walked over to a nearby restaurant for lunch. Our directive: be back by 2 pm.
Once back on deck I did another pass studying the 43 and then, convinced we were good to go, I hopped aboard the 40#45, the first of the new 40/IIs. I've seen the progress report photos but this was my first chance to actually see her in person. Look out trawler world! This is a refined and improved passagemaker that will redefine the perfect two-person long-range cruiser. My first impression was one of familiarity, she shares the stainless steel rub rail trim that is on all other Nordhavns and the beautiful doors and windows are our proprietary brand built in Taiwan. Entering the saloon, the varnished teak is beautiful, and it is everywhere. The saloon settees used to be molded fiberglass with a white gelcoat finish, but now they are hand crafted teak seats beautifully finished. The newly standard granite counter tops in the galley are rich. Going upstairs, the wheelhouse seems bigger due to the fact that all of the windows have been enlarged (and all now trimmed in teak, which looks fantastic).
One noticeable difference is the angled steering wheel and several other fine-tuning improvements in the dash area - we've really taken advantage of having this second chance to build the 40 and a lot of subtle refinements are evident. The foredeck is no longer a sailboat with stanchions and lifelines; it is a proper Nordhavn with horizontal stainless tubing, gracefully welded and solid support. Down below the gorgeous teak replaces what used to be dominated by white laminate. The feel is likened that of a bigger yacht. Everything about the 40/II seems better, and it's hard to pick a single favorite improvement, but I was probably most impressed with the engine room. I don't know how we did it, but the keel cooler hoses that used to restrict movement on the starboard side of the main are now under the Lugger workhorse and you can go aft to the generator or wing engine on either side of the engine. The dual Racors that used to be mounted under a removable "bridge" forward of the engine have been installed on the starboard fuel tank bulkhead and they are much easier to read and service. And the former bridge is now a solid fiberglass floor, this is much better. The fuel supply reservoir has been given its' own alcove and will serve more like the supply tanks we use on our newer designs. I've always had a special place in my heart for the 40, and can sincerely say that it is a dramatically better boat now. Our designers and the craftsman from our South Coast yard are to be congratulated.
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The crane barge that was on call to begin the offloading was finally ready to move the Nordhavn 57 so we all stopped to watch the process. The 57 was the first Nordhavn launched and captained by project manager Justin Zumwalt with his assistant Sandy Wheeler on hand to help out. They touched down about 3:30 pm and I learned the next day from Sandy that they made it home in 7 hours - one of the perks of a longer waterline.
4306, which will be named Posada by Peter and Su, was next and we boarded her from the Vessel Assist tug at about 5 pm - just as the sun set. With the running lights lit, off we went. Pete Eunson, the 43 project manager, was captain and the crew consisted of Kevin Wright, a new yacht technician on our staff doing his first pick up and me. This was a full circle type of experience for me since I am the guy who sold this boat and I, too, have graduated from sailboats to trawlers.
Bringing up the rear on the 47 was salesman Gerry Edwards and project manager Mike Jensen, followed closely by new salesman Eric Leishman and yacht technician Colin Mclean on board the 40. They arrived to Dana Point in the early morning hours.
The December evening was brisk with a cool 10-knot breeze and mild seas as we purred up the coast marveling at the lights of La Jolla. Soon after, other seaside communities on our starboard beam flickered their lights out at us. Without radar it was hard to know the extent of our visibility, but it was so clear that we guessed we were able to see shore lights nearly 30 miles ahead. The new 43 thrived as she gained her sea legs and seemed just as eager as us to get home and start the commissioning process. We went out about 10 miles offshore to make sure we were well clear of any coastal traffic and to give a wide berth to the Camp Pendleton Marine base.
We estimated our arrival at sometime near 3 am - a pretty good guess as it turned out we actually tied up at about 3:30 am. It's an exhilarating experience to take charge of somebody's new steed and a rewarding responsibility to safely pilot her home. We do a number of checks at the yard before shipping a new Nordhavn, but the time at sea, particularly the first few hours, are the most frenetic: you have to be extremely vigilant. If there is a loose hose clamp or a crossed wire it will surely reveal itself in the early hours of operation. Regular engine room checks and systematic evaluations of onboard equipment kept us busy throughout the night.
We took turns hand steering, knowing that soon Posada would have her autopilot installed and future trips would require a lot less effort. We spent the first few hours running the boat from the flybridge and the angled steering we typically provide on the bridge has also been duplicated at the helm in the wheelhouse of the 43. The helm chairs will be installed at the end of commissioning at both steering locations, but it was actually quite easy and not uncomfortable steering while standing. I've had the pleasure of driving a 43 from the comfort of a Stidd chair inside the pilothouse of 4303, Endurance, on a trip a few months ago to Catalina Island, but she doesn't have a flybridge and we steered her by autopilot. As the chilly wind picked up strength we retreated to the pilothouse. The Edson steering wheel has a power knob (on some old cars these are better known as "neckers knobs") and standing over the helm felt comfortable - kind of like driving a bus. I can't imagine how much more difficult it would have been if the seas kicked up and we would have had to spin a vertical wheel by hand - bending over and spinning the helm. With the angled wheel (which is now standard on the 40, 43 and 47), you never have to change body position and maintain a clear view out through the windows.
At one point I relinquished the helm to Pete and went up to the boat deck to take a break, breathe some air and gaze at the stars. The Lugger exhaust was humming along and even though we didn't have stabilizer fins installed yet the full displacement hull shape and heavy ballast in the keel kept us running steady on our lines. It was too cold to stay up there for long, but I thought back about the many times I've been at sea on a sailboat - exposed in the cockpit, low and aft without the comfort or visibility that a pilothouse of a Nordhavn provides. After heading forward and scanning the horizon from the protected Portuguese bridge, it was a treat to warm up with an engine room inspection. I repeated this experience several times during the night, handing over the helm to Kevin or Pete and then finding a place to lie down to rest my eyes as we quietly reeled in the Dana Point Headland.
The exceptional quality of our Nordhavn designs is never more revealing than when you take a brand new yacht out for her maiden voyage and everything comes together just as planned. Sure, we tightened a loose filter that was dripping with a slight leak and the main stuffing box needed some adjustment, but essentially we ran 70 miles in 10 hours without incident in a brand new boat that only had 4 hours of testing at the factory before being packaged and shipped from the yard.
It was a long day, but after a few hours sleep at home I returned to Dana Point to share in the excitement with a beaming Peter and Su. They arrived first thing in the morning and were having a great time exploring and poking around. This will be their home on the water for a good portion of each year. Their patience, planning and anticipation was finally able to be released and they reveled in the excitement of this special occasion.
Three other owners will share a similar exuberant experience when they come to meet their new Nordhavns. For the commissioning crew and sales team, it's a fitting way to end the year and literally launch us in to the new one. The process of ordering, building and commissioning a new Nordhavn involves dozens of people. Picking up four new boats at one time was an eye-opening reminder to me of how large our company has grown and of how many truly qualified and capable people we have working together on our P.A.E. team.
After a few hours of basic orientation and a thorough walkthrough of Posada with Peter and Su, I knew I needed to get home to catch up on some sleep. Peter, who can be a man of many words, gave me a hug and shook my hand. His eyes said it all: clearly he and Su were thrilled beyond belief and he was almost speechless, except for a hearty, "thank you." He couldn't have said