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February 18, 2010

52/63: Magic numbers at the South Coast yard

By Jeff Merrill

What is 52/63, some kind of prime number fraction?  Nope, just an amusing (to me anyway) number coincidence. Please let me explain. In early August of last year I went to the South Coast yard in Xiamen with the buyers of Nordhavn 52 hull number 63 – James and Jennifer Hamilton – to inspect the Hamilton’s new boat in the final weeks of construction.

The 52 is a new model for Nordhavn (the 47 hull has been used as the starting point and the cockpit has been lengthened which also means a much larger lazarette). Other improvements like making the flybridge standard (and restyling it) plus including the fiberglass stack for the dry exhaust have combined to create a beautiful makeover of one of our best selling models.  Technically 5263 is the second 52, but the owner of the first 52 opted to not have a flybridge so in my assessment 5263 is the first 52 built to our improved design profile.

I will report more about this great new boat after helping to deliver her to James and Jennifer in Seattle, but I can tell you that they are thrilled and extremely glad that they took the time to go over to the yard. We met with project manager Jeremy Henderson and answered all of the questions we had saved up over the preceding weeks in anticipation of getting aboard to be sure everything was as expected and also made some last minute improvements which were very favorably received by the construction crew. 

And now the number 63 comes up again, but this time as our newest model, the Nordhavn 63…not to be confused with Nordhavn 52 hull 63.  The Nordhavn 63 is a brand new aft pilothouse design.  Hull number one was just being started during our August trip so I’m going to share a few thoughts and photos of this first hull coming together. It is going to be incredible!  We are using our Nordhavn 60 hull as the base and  adding a completely different deck coupled with a variety of new interior layouts to choose from.  6301 was getting her initial interior bulkheads placed (she will be a single engine, dry stack model) and the layup and bulkhead fitting process was advancing rapidly during our short stay.  The real interesting part to me was seeing the deck tooling coming together.  Decks are the most complicated pieces of the puzzle for a boat builder to fit together and the 63 has a lot of parts in play.  The plug superstructure for the main deck – foredeck, side decks, pilothouse and cockpit - was being assembled atop a hull and under continual hand sanding for optimum fairing.  The plugs (full size forms that the molds are made from) for the other deck components were also being sanded with long boards (a time consuming process to achieve perfection) and in the coming weeks the deck mold will come together and then the deck will be joined to the hull. 

Fast forward to February, 2010. I have just returned from another 52/63 trip.  This time I was traveling with Sampie Hamman from South Africa who is building 5261.  We met in Seattle to inspect 5263 (very close to the completion of commissioning and looking fantastic!) and then winged over to the yard full of ideas and excited to get aboard.  5261 is coming along great. She is decked and most of the interior joinery is complete. We spent three days pouring over her to fine tune details and finalize layout decisions. One particularly exciting development is our request for a revised flybridge dash module – we got the idea from a smaller version on 4310 which was at the Seattle show and are still working out the details with the yard. Sampie brought along one of his business associates, and two of his nav/com crew from Radio Holland, South Africa. We had a great visit working with the South Coast team and during one lunch break Sampie personally thanked each of the work crew and presented them with a souvenir key chain from his native South Africa.

I also took some time during this recent trip to tour all over 6301.  The owner, Nigel MacLeod, was in town to meet with project manager Mike Jensen and we were all blown away with excitement, seeing the 2D drawings coming alive into a 3D master piece!  A lot has happened in the six months since I was last at the yard. Being able to walk through the interior and take in the enormity of this new model was a wonderful treat!   The deck is on and while we were at the yard the pilothouse was being fitted. The new 63 is starting to look like a completed boat and I was very excited to get an early peak at the interior. This is a two stateroom layout that is going to be incredible. The island berth, guest stateroom forward, is connected by a hallway that also accesses the master stateroom aft and to port.  It was fun to check out the “basement” in the guest stateroom – a nice area with storage shelves and machinery access. Below the master and saloon I explored the large utility room and expansive engine room.  On deck the foredeck is enormous and the Portuguese bridge deck provides an excellent, safe and secure area for getting around – and the optional outboard docking stations will be wonderful when returning to port.  We have contracts for the first three 63s in hand and we have several potential buyers negotiating for the purchase of the next few hulls.

It was a fantastic experience to be able to visit the yard twice in the past six months.  The production line is moving along quite well and there were about a dozen boats in various stages of progress.   The yard crew is active, happy and working very hard to continue their legacy of extraordinary craftsmanship.

Owners who take the time to visit the yard get a great introduction to their new Nordhavns and gain a much greater appreciation of all of the many facets involved in the construction process.  When you order your Nordhavn you absolutely must squeeze in some time to go see your boat being built. It is a marvelous experience.

There is a lot of excitement about both of these new designs.  Strong interest in both the 52 and 63 signals to me that these two models will be a very popular platform for long- range cruisers in the coming years. I think it’s pretty amazing for PAE/Nordhavn to have two new projects under way in spite of the economic uncertainty, but this is just one more positive measure of the strength of our company.

Stay tuned for future updates and contact your Nordhavn salesperson directly for more details about the Nordhavn 52 and Nordhavn 63. There are new developments popping up weekly for each of these designs.


Jeff Merrill is a salesman for Nordhavn based in Dana Point, CA. Jeff can be reached online by sending an email to jeff.merrill@nordhavn.com. You can also follow him on twitter – merrilljeff.