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April 15, 2010

Delivery of an N76: a PAE staffer’s point of view
Project Manager Garrett Severen gets out from behind the desk and onto Take 5

By Garrett Severen

As a project manager, I’ve found that the more I know, the more productive and better I am at my job. After all, our boats are not simple machines, and given the semi-custom nature of the designs, there’s always something new to be learned. So when the opportunity to assist as delivery crew for a new 76 fell into my lap, I pretty much jumped at the chance. And this was no ordinary 76 (okay…none of them are exactly ordinary); so this delivery had special meaning for me. The boat was Take 5 built by Ross and Katie Ritto.  I’d developed a great relationship with Ross and Katie serving as the PM during the years-long build process of Take 5 and was horribly saddened when Ross passed away in December, shortly after the Rittos took possession of their dream boat. There is so much of Ross in this yacht. An avid boater, Ross grew up on the water and around boats, and actually crossed Lake Ontario at age 9 on a Sailfish. As an adult he cruised the intercoastal waterways from Florida to New York, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. After moving to the west coast, Ross joined the sailboat racing world. He raced extensively in San Diego and Long Beach and won the San Francisco Big Boat Series one year. With over 50 years experience on the water, Ross knew exactly what he wanted in a boat.

Ross and Katie were first introduced to the Nordhavn family by Jimmy Buffett (past owner of N6202 Continental Drifter) who Ross toured with for 30 years, doing the lighting for Jimmy’s concerts. Their first Nordhavn was an N55 which I had a chance to see just before she was sold.  In retrospect, the N55 reminds me a lot of their N76. Ross and Katie spent two-and-half years and countless hours into constructing Take 5. And it shows. Ross was a perfectionist and no detail was left out. She is very modern and simple and a beautiful boat inside and out.

Katie asked me in February if I was available to help bring Take 5 from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego. There was no way I was turning the request down. First and foremost, I wanted to do it for Katie, a terrific lady who has been through a lot and who I had come to admire and respect. Subsequently, it was a great opportunity to get out on the 76 in real world conditions. I’ve been the Project Manager of the N72/76 (and now 78) projects for nearly five years now, and you’d think I’d have accumulated hundreds of cruising miles on board them. While I have done some serious cruising on Nordhavns throughout my career here, the consistently filled N76 order book has pretty much limited my time to overnight shake down cruises. If there’s one thing I know about Nordhavns, it’s that the greatest design ideas and innovations have come while owners (PAE’s owners and Nordhavn boat owners alike) have been at sea. I couldn’t wait to use all the systems and equipment on the boat for several days straight. As you’ll see from reading my log report, this trip was no different. Simple things like mandatory tension bars on pantry shelves as well as more complicated items such as stronger fresh air blowers in guest cabins were some design modification ideas I came away with.

Day 1: Wednesday, March 10, 2010
I flew from Los Angeles to Puerta Vallarta and it was such an easy flight compared to what I’m used to, flying from Los Angeles to Taipei. Take 5 was docked at Vallarta Marina and Katie and her close friend Jamie were staying on the boat, enjoying the warm weather and ocean breezes. My crew for the voyage north was Stuart Sheppard, Rich Davis and Hans Frinchaboy. Stuart is a licensed captain and he spent 26 years in the US Navy as a Senior Chief Bosun’s Mate Diver and now teaches at the Maritime Institute in San Diego. Stuart trained Katie and Ross and also helped Katie in obtaining her captain’s license. Rich is a close friend of the Rittos and also helped install the electronics/navigational equipment on Take 5.  Hans, who I’d met a few times previously, had been in charge of installing all the navigation and electronics equipment. Basically, the pressure was on his shoulders to make sure that Take 5 found its way home to San Diego. Hans and Rich both worked for Ross’s company Sound Image which sets up and designs sound systems for large concerts and theaters around the country. Ross designed his navigation and entertainment system himself and during the build at Ta Shing and in Dana Point, Ross, Hans and Rich could be found crawling throughout the boat running wires and cutting in monitors. The electronics and entertainment system they installed together turned out to be the most sophisticated system I have ever seen on a Nordhavn. I was extremely impressed and really enjoyed using this system on our trip.

I arrived on board around 1630, met the crew, Katie and Jamie. We discussed our route for a bit and then unpacked. I was lucky enough to be able to stay in the VIP cabin; a California king size bed, plenty of room and storage space, an enormous head, full size shower with a separate luxurious bath tub and sit-down vanity area. Ross and Katie wanted the master cabin and the VIP cabin to mirror each other and to both be spacious and comfortable. In my opinion, they definitely succeeded. I am sorry to say I never had the chance to use the tub though. That night we all went out for a nice dinner at Victor’s and I had octopus salad and marlin tacos.  I wouldn’t recommend the marlin tacos…a little gamey.

Day 2: Thursday, March 11, 2010
After a night filled with drinking margaritas and discussing routes, watch schedules and fishing strategies, it was time to get down to business. The day was spent clearing out of the country, fueling, grocery shopping and prepping the boat. After the proper paperwork was filled out and the boat was searched and inspected by the Customs and Agriculture Departments, it was time to leave the dock and go top off the tanks.  Stuart, Rich and Hans took the boat to the fuel dock so Katie and I could go to the grocery store. I had offered to be our chef for the trip north.  We spent about

two hours stocking up on fresh vegetables, fruits, meats and snacks at the store. The taxi driver who took us to the market kindly returned and drove us to the fuel dock, where Take 5 was moored.  The fuel dock only had one hose available, so it took a while to top off the tanks, especially given the Nordhavn 76 holds nearly 4100 gallons of diesel. With lots of help from the locals we were able to transport the groceries down the steep dock and onto the boat fairly quickly. Once back to our dock it was time for lunch. There was a great open air place right down the street, Ocho Tostados, which had amazing ceviche, empenadas and ice cold cerveza.

After lunch we went back to the boat. I walked the decks looking for any loose equipment that needed to be tied down. We knew it wasn’t going to be a smooth ride north, as we were headed straight into the seas and wind, against the current.  I have made the trip from Dana Point to Seattle several times and I have crossed the Atlantic, but I have never cruised anywhere south of Ensenada, so I was really excited about this trip. After a nice dinner at an Argentinean steakhouse in the marina it was time to retire early. We had a big day ahead of us.

Day 3: Friday, March 12, 2010
Our departure was at 0600. After checking the engines, starting up the electronics and going through the boat, the twin Cummins engines came to life. We said our goodbyes to Katie and Jamie and shoved off.

We were now officially underway. After pulling away from the dock and bringing in the fenders, I went down to the engine room just to make sure everything was running smoothly. As it turns out, I probably spent too much time down there, soon finding myself pretty queasy.  But sacrificing my stomach was worth it: we discovered a couple of minor oil leaks on the transmissions that we would monitor the rest of the week – and thankfully wound up nothing to worry about.

We headed out into 6-8 foot seas with 25-30 knots of wind and were cruising at about 7 knots. The boat handled great; she loved these seas. Just off the Isla Marias we landed our first fish. It was a Jack Crevalle, and weighed in at about 25 pounds. Hans reeled it in and both Hans and Rich filleted it on the cockpit. However, I read in a book that Jack Crevalle taste disgusting and they build up neurotoxins and could make a person sick for months. We made a unanimous decision not to eat this fish. (I didn’t need any more help vomiting, thank you very much.) Unfortunately, the conditions remained rough over the next few days so fishing had to be put on hold.

Later that day the seas and wind increased. We were now in 10-12 foot seas with about 35-40 knots of wind. The seas were stacked on top of each other, with less than 10 seconds between waves. We had slowed our speed to between 4 and 5 knots to keep from constantly pounding.

It was too difficult to make dinner on Friday night so we had microwaved taquitos. The watch schedule for the first night was Stuart and Hans from 1800 to 2400, then myself and Rich from 2400 to 0600.  I still didn’t have my sea legs, so I only made it until about 0300 before I was leaning over the side giving the fish a midnight snack.

Day 4: Saturday, March 13, 2010
We were still in pretty rough sea conditions, 10-12 foot seas with 30-40 knots of wind, and we cruised at between 4 and 5 knots. Take 5 was built for these kinds of conditions and we had no doubts or hesitations about being out there. The hull felt rock solid and did not shudder once the whole trip. Every 5 minutes or so we would hit one of the larger set waves with plenty of blue water over the bow and anchors, lots of spray, the whole nine yards. The hull would pierce the wave and make one deep pounding noise, but no shudder and no vibration.  I was thoroughly impressed (not to mention quite proud of the ol’ girl)! The ABT stabilizers worked great. We had virtually no side to side rocking, only up and down from the large swells. 

This marked learning experience number one: proper supplies storage. The pantry next to the master cabin was packed with lots of glass jars, oils, vinegar, salsas, pasta sauces, and canned vegetables - all on the 3rd and 4th shelves up from the bottom. Some of these bottles, jars and cans would projectile every time the pantry was opened. They also made lots of noise clanking around while the door was shut. Hans and Rich, working as a team, timed opening the door with the motion of the seas and shoved pillows in the pantry. This helped keep the glass from sliding around.  Lesson learned? Store glass jars and canned veggies on the bottom shelves, use non-skid sheets on all shelves and tension bars are a must.

No fish today, no other boats out there either. On this night’s watch schedule, Rich and I were on duty from 1800 to 2400, then Stuart and Hans from 2400 to 0600. We did 6-hour watches as a team and rotated every night the early and later shift. I am more accustomed to 3 hours on with 9 hours off when working with a 4 man crew.  Personally, I feel this method lets your body get used to the schedule. But this new schedule seemed to work fine. I preferred the 2400-0600 shift because I could sleep from 2000-2400 and then again from 0600-1000. There was nothing too exciting to report from this watch.

Day 5: Sunday, March 14, 2010
We were getting closer to Cabo San Lucas. That afternoon the seas finally started to settle down and we were able to pick up speed. The seas were 6-8 feet with 20-25 knots of wind. Hans fished all day with no luck. The Cummins engines purred along and we were steaming ahead at 8-9 knots. The sun was starting to set when we noticed another boat off on the horizon. It was around 1830, and I was barbecuing chicken and potatoes out in the cockpit. Our first real dinner at sea! However, our dining was postponed.  That boat happened to be a 110-ft US Coast Guard Cutter. They called across to us on the radio stating that they wanted to come aboard. We were 20 miles south of Cabo San Lucas in international waters. We radioed back telling them we would slow to idle and they were more than welcome to come on over. Perfect timing, dinner is ready and we have surprise guests! Off in the distance we could finally see the navigational lights of the USCG Zodiac. The wind had died down to about 15 knots but the seas were still 5-8 feet, so they were launching off the waves. There were 5 USCG crew members on the Zodiac and three of them boarded. One officer headed up to the pilothouse to go over paperwork with Stuart, while the other two followed me around. We inspected the bilges and went through the cabins checking for fire extinguishers. Pretty routine, and Take 5 passed its first USCG inspection with flying colors. Come to find out we were the first vessel they had seen all day.  After the officers departed, it was time to eat. It was nice to finally have a real sit-down meal.

After dinner it was off to bed. Rich and I had the 2400-0600 watch. That night we saw a few cruise ships and that was about it. We made water and dumped the black water tank.  Again, nothing too exciting to report from our watch duty that night.

Day 6: Monday, March 15, 2010
Cue learning experience number two: you better be precise when trying to time opening doors with the wave sets. We were in about 6-8 foot seas and 20-25 knots of wind, steaming north at 8-9 knots. It was 1000 and I was about to make a sandwich. I had just finished showering – no easy task in these conditions – and ventured into the galley for a snack. Unfortunately, the bread was in the infamous cabinet with all the glass containers and I knew opening it would be tricky, but I was hungry. I thought I had my timing down but when I opened the door, from the top shelf a 1-gallon container of maple syrup came flying out. It hit the teak floor and exploded everywhere! Syrup was on the deck, inside the pantry, down the stairs and on the bulkheads. Oh, and all over me as well…nothing like the scent of syrup and shampoo. It took me about an hour to clean up.  After a final inspection, I was pretty satisfied at the job I had done mopping up the place, when about four hours later Hans reported that there was maple syrup dripping onto his bunk from the ceiling directly below the galley.  I couldn’t keep a straight face - it was actually pretty hilarious! There was no doubt now that this was a really “sweet” boat! I suppose this is about the time we started discussing the need for stronger fresh air blowers in the cabins. For dinner that night the menu called for filet mignon, shrimp, corn and salad. We all ate very well, and I assume that made up for the syrup incident that morning.

That night we would pass by Magdelena Bay in the dark. I would have liked to have stopped, but it was not on our schedule, so we continued on. This night Rich and I had the 1800-2400 watch. We were about 10 miles offshore and the seas continued to lay down. We picked up a few AIS targets on the radar, but they were mostly anchored in Magdelena Bay. Throughout the entire trip we constantly checked the engine room and lazarette, once an hour. We visually checked the engines, rudders and equipment. We also checked the fuel sight glasses to make sure we were drawing fuel evenly out of both engine room tanks. We kept detailed records of all of our findings in the ship’s log.

Day 7: Tuesday, March 16, 2010
We were now well north of Magdelena Bay and we had flat seas and only 10 knots of wind. In these great conditions, we were doing 8-10 knots. The day started out by catching 3 yellowtail and 5 or 6 bonitas. This got all four of us pumped up and we were in good spirits.  We passed a few cruise ships during the day, but that was about it. This would be our last night aboard Take 5. Katie had given us the task of finishing off all the meat on board. Otherwise, we would have had to throw it all away at the customs dock in San Diego. So, for dinner I made 12 giant hamburgers, even though there were only 4 of us to eat them.  They had all the fixings:  bacon, cheese, onions, lettuce, pickles, the works. Those were some good burgers! I think Hans somehow ate three of them.  We ended the night watching a couple of movies (Pulp Fiction and Blazing Saddles).

Rich and I had the 2400-0600 watch again. This night we passed Turtle Bay, and I found out why it is so important to have a reliable and powerful searchlight. It was around 0100 and Rich and I spotted a single green light off in the distance. Rich and I placed a bet on whether it was something in the water like a buoy or another boat, or whether it was something on land. We kept a close eye on it and about 30 minutes later it was apparent that it was definitely something in the water. Sorry Rich, but you still owe me $1. It wasn’t on the radar or on our AIS. As we got closer and closer, we noticed the object was going south and we were heading north. Now it was within ¼ mile of us and still all you could see was one green light. So I turned on the Carlisle and Finch searchlight and focused the beam as tight as it would go toward the object. It turned out to be about a 25-foot sailboat. With the binoculars and the searchlight on the vessel, we could see the captain at the wheel flashing a small flash light at us. Then he hailed us on the radio. The only thing he said that I understood was “el barco”, which means “boat” in Spanish. I turned off the light and we continued on. I would have apologized but my Spanish was a little rusty (I suppose I should have paid more attention in high school). The searchlight is a 200-watt, 15 million candlepower xenon light, so it is very powerful and very bright. I can only imagine that poor sailor being blinded by the light. He probably thought it was a UFO! But, better safe than sorry.   If he would have had the proper navigation lights I would have never lit him up with our searchlight.

Day 8: Wednesday, March 17, 2010
This was our last day at sea. The day started out great since we caught several good sized bonitas and kept a couple for Hans’ mother-in-law. I made the crew some eggs and bacon for breakfast. We passed

about one mile outside of Todos Santo’s just out from Ensenada. We were almost home! We passed a few sailboats and cargo ships and could finally see signs of civilization onshore. Just outside of Rosarito we were approached by a Mexican Naval vessel. It looked as if he was headed right for our beam, doing about 25 knots. He crossed our wake, probably at full speed, about 20-25 yards behind us. He circled us once and sped north. We saw him again about ten miles north, but he left us alone. They were probably looking for drug runners and all we had onboard were a couple bottles of tequila we bought down in Puerto Vallarta. We considered drinking the evidence, but they left before we could crack the seals.

We could now see San Diego. Rich and Hans spent the morning washing the exterior, Stuart cleaned the pilothouse and I cleaned the galley, my cabin and the BBQ area. Once across the border, our cell phones were turned back on and voicemails poured in. We called Katie. She was surprised as she hadn’t expected us until Thursday. After talking to her for a bit about our location she was able to spot us from her condo in San Diego.

After the fenders were pulled out and the dock lines were ready, there was Katie waiting to greet us at the customs dock. It was very emotional for Katie since her and Ross’s dream boat was now finally back home in San Diego. As soon as we tied off to the dock I gave her a big hug and she shed a few tears. While waiting for the customs agent to clear us in we popped open a couple of champagne bottles to celebrate. I threw out all the leftover fruits, vegetables and meat. We cleared customs without any issues. From there it was off to the San Diego Yacht Club, which was less than 1 mile away.

Once at the dock and tied-up, we shut down the boat and plugged her in.  We packed our things and went to dinner with Katie at The Fiddlers Green; tasty food, good drinks, great company and a whole bunch of fun.  After all, it was St. Patrick’s Day!

All in all, it was a successful trip up the coast. The insights I have gained on this trip to better our customers’ experiences on board will undoubtedly be valuable to me and the company. Ross and Katie built a beautiful boat and she showed that she could handle anything: we sailed through rough seas, passed our coast guard inspection and had no major issues (except for the syrup incident). Plus, I know Ross was with us from start to finish, watching over us and Take 5.

Garrett Severen oversees the N72/76/78 projects from PAE headquarters in Dana Point, CA. He can be reached at garrett.severen@nordhavn.com.


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