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July 12, 2015

Tale of a brand new Nordhavn 40:
the adventure before the adventures

By Dave Balfour

One of the greatest benefits of purchasing a new – or used – Nordhavn from PAE and its staff of knowledgeable, experienced brokers, is the personalized service and attention that goes along with it. Case in point: salesman Eric Leishman personally delivered his client’s N56 Motorsailer to our docks in North Palm Beach, FL, while salesman Dave Balfour brought his customer’s brand new Nordhavn 40 from Florida to Rhode Island and then up to Canada. (He reflects upon this trip below.) This is yeomen’s work our staff provide, not only to serve our clients but also to strengthen the Nordhavn Yachts sales team’s position as amongst the best in the business.

There’s nothing like a little intercontinental cruise to kick off a brand new Nordhavn ownership stint. It’s exactly what Nordhavn 40#69 had to do, amassing over 1,800 miles on her keel before she was officially handed over to her owners last month. If anything, the owners should be happily convinced that their tough little ship is well and purpose-built.

Since shipping from the South Coast factory in Xiamen, China, last January, the N40 skirted up the entire eastern seaboard and traversed through the Erie Canal, across Lake Ontario then through Lake Erie and Lake Huron, finally winding up to Georgian Bay in Ontario – an impressive trek for such a new boat.

Truth be told, the trip was never intended to be that ambitious, and in fact, around 800 of those accumulated miles were unplanned, but became necessary due to the historic winter that happened in the northeast this year. The owners, who hail from Quebec, Canada, had wanted to commission their boat at Nordhavn’s Northeast office in Portsmouth, RI, where I am a salesman, putting them much closer to the boat during the commissioning process. Unfortunately, record breaking snows and low temperatures made offloading at the scheduled shipping port in Baltimore an impossibility. Just five days before the scheduled offload, the Corps of Engineers advised us that unloading elsewhere was necessary due to ice conditions in the Chesapeake Bay and the closure of the C & D Canal. The only option was to detour the delivery ship to Port Everglades and begin commissioning in Palm Beach.

I: Florida to Rhode Island

With the hand-over location in the distant town of Oakville, Ontario, commissioning crews were up against the clock in order to try and meet the owners’ early June deadline to begin cruising on their boat – what with the season up in that part of the world being more abbreviated than typical.

So the game began: in February, I brought her up to our office in Palm Beach where she spent three weeks getting the “quick and dirty” commissioning special – finished out just enough to enable me to hop on with my Iphone and some other basic temporary electronics. Cardboard covered all the soles and plastic shielded the seating and bunks. My crew and I were in pure delivery mode. We left on Easter Sunday and headed for open ocean through the Lake Worth Inlet in Palm Beach.

I have sold a number of N40s, and the first thing that caught my eye with this brand new 40 was what a difference-maker the fiberglass stack makes. Until now, we’ve gone with a mast and boom configuration but the owners have a number of low bridges to contend with so the stack was an absolute must for them. Nordhavn’s Chief of Design, Jeff Leishman, was able to accommodate their needs: standing at just 17’11” (significantly less than the 31-foot stack on the average Nordhavn), it more than does the job for the 18-foot clearance requirements. (As a side note, a hinge could be added to lay back the stack if a lower air draft is needed.) I’ve got to say, in my humble opinion, the stack enhances the boat not only in its purpose but also aesthetically. It’s a much more modern feel and fits in well with the look of her larger sisters (Nordhavn 43,52 and 60).

Having travelled the ICW in other Nordhavns prior to this, the addition of the FRP stack is a huge upgrade. The wait times at bridges along the way (in Norfolk, VA specifically) can really hold you up. But on this trip, we only needed to stop at two bridges that were ridiculously low. We weren’t making them - stack or no stack.

Being on the water in April in Florida is great! Other than some bumpy weather (25+ knot winds) going around Cape Canaveral, the weather was pretty nice and we hit all of our waypoints on time. And the requisite sea life accompaniment was so cool; first it was the porpoises, then a pod of whales, followed by a couple of sea turtles.

Our first stop was in Charleston, SC. There we met up with other clients-turned-friends of mine who purchased their new N40 in 2012. With the boats side by side, it gave the perfect opportunity to compare the new stack style vs. the mast and boom rigging. They both look great; the stack and davit offer a modern flair while the mast and boom configuration is ideal for traditionalists.

The following morning we headed out again with Beaufort, NC in mind. Thirty hours later, following a couple of great sunrises, we arrived in Moorhead City.  Here we performed the 100 hour service before heading further along the coast.

At this point we decided to stay inside for a couple days and do a little sightseeing along the way.  We travelled along in the Intracoastal aimed toward a small marina in Belhaven, NC, a quiet little town where we did some provisioning and enjoyed a night off the boat.

The following morning we headed out again and planned to stop at the Coinjock Marina.  It’s a spot known for its cheap fuel prices as well as an on-site restaurant that serves great prime rib.  It was an easy decision to go there since we had previously decided not to run theditch at night. Many sections of the Intracoastal are not very wide and are lined with hickory stumps.  We had been warned by other boaters about the hazard. With the electronics yet to be installed and no depth finder we took it easy through this stretch.

Monday morning we headed out again and went offshore at Norfolk. It was a couple days later - soon after crossing into Virginia - that we realized we were leaving the warm temps behind us. The type of cool air I’m used to in April enveloped us, but it wasn’t a worry since the 40 is equipped with a well-working Hurricane Heater. There was even a switch in sea life: instead of porpoises we were greeted by seals as we neared Montauk Point.

Ten days after leaving Palm Beach, we were safely tied up at our dock here in Rhode Island to finish with the commissioning prior to commencing with “Part Deux” of the trip. All told, the delivery to this point was very uneventful and we arrived on schedule in order to have commissioning completed with enough time to get the boat up to Canada in early June.

II. Commissioning in Rhode Island

The six-hour car ride from Magog, Quebec, to Portsmouth, RI, was no problem for the owners who made the trip nearly every weekend. Each Friday through Sunday in May, they oversaw work on their boat. They say their N40 Spirit Wolf is the culmination of a 10-year dream so they wanted to be involved in every aspect of it.

Each time I step on a new boat, I think it is even nicer than the last. And usually, it’s true, only because our builders and engineers learn just that much more each time they create a new boat. Plus most owners are so thorough in their research, they have honed a precise vision of how they want their boat laid out. Of course, you can’t get everything you want and Ithink ultimately, the owners know that. There have to be some compromises somewhere. N40#69 had a few custom features other than the FRP stack arrangement. Those included the removal of a port settee in the saloon making room for additional storage cabinets as well as room for a couple of handsome comfy barrel chairs.  Another nice touch was the oversize Dutch door aft that features larger upper and lower tempered glass windows in each panel.  This allows for more light in the boat and makes the settee feel larger.  (Both these ideas were taken from our N56 Motorsailer, on which the owners spent a lot of time; hull #9 is currently for sale at our dock.)

The first weekend in May, N40#69 was the star of our Northeast Open House held at our docks alongside a few other Nordhavn brokerage models. Even in the middle of commissioning, she was still a showstopper. It was clear my clients realized this – I got a real good glimpse at the pride of ownership coursing through them. They talked freely and happily about the choices they made in putting together their beloved Spirit Wolf as well as their Nordhavn buying journey.

 It took approximately six weeks for the complete electronics suite, watermaker and other items to be installed and the boat to be appointed. On May 29th, we were ready to bid adieu to Rhode Island and begin the rest of our trip north. Gone was all the cardboard protecting the surfaces. The boat was shiny, new, comfy and set up with the latest and greatest navigation gear. You instantly knew this was going to be a much easier trip.

III. Rhode Island to Canada

We shoved off on a blustery day in Portsmouth – probably the roughest part of the 610 nm trip was getting out of Narragansett Bay and out into the Block Island Sound. Despite the unseasonably warm temps New England had experienced this May, the water was still chilly thanks to aforementioned brutal winter. Spirit Wolf was often a lone wolf cruising solo out in the ocean – save for the odd freighter or tug and barge.

Our route to Canada was via Long Island Sound through the East River and into the Hudson River at New York City.  We ran overnight up the Hudson and arrived at the first lock of the New York Canal System in Troy, NY shortly after breakfast.  Once past the first lock in Troy we took a left and headed into the Erie Canal which stretches across the entire state.

The Erie Canal is very picturesque as we travelled through many of the small towns along the way making our first stop in Amsterdam, NY. The canals vary between the Mohawk River and the actual canal that brings you through the locks and around the dams on the river. 

 The lock system is only open during daylight hours (8am to 6pm) so we pushed on and ended up tying up at a park at Lock 20 in Marcy, NY.  This was a peaceful place west of Utica.

Day three on the Erie Canal brought us across Lake Oneida and put us on the Oswego River for our final push to get through the lock system and into Lake Ontario.  We spent another night “locked” between locks so finished this part of the trip the following morning. Traversing the historical Erie Canal and its lock system was pretty nifty. Our only complaint was that the Canal closes in early evening forcing an abrupt end to your day. There are many spots and small towns for people to explore which is nice – if you are not in delivery mode as we were. 

Once clear of the locks we got to Oswego, NY where we cleared out with U.S. Customs prior to heading out onto Lake Ontario. It was glass-like for most of our trip but with water temperatures hovering around 39 degrees and air temps not much warmer, we spent most of the trip watching the radar in fog.

Early the next morning, as the sun warmed the lake, the fog lifted and off to our north we could see Toronto on one side and Niagara Falls, ON, to the south.   We arrived in Oakville, ON, where we, personally, cleared into Canada; the boat had to stay put until Monday for it to be formally imported into the country.  We did celebrate the arrival of the boat with a closing ceremony and a nice dinner.

On Monday the boat was cleared in and the new owners were able to head off to their homeport in Georgian Bay, Ontario.  It required negotiating one more canal, the Welland Canal, which is a major ship canal.

The Welland Canal connects Lake Ontario with Lake Erie and has big time commercial traffic. We encountered locks that lifted us approximately 50 feet at a time with the exception being the last lock.  The total difference in height between the lakes is 326 feet! The biggest difference between the Welland and the Erie Canal was the height of the locks and the current that was encountered. (Also, the Erie is recreational while the Welland is heavily commercial.)

Once through the Welland we stopped at the Sugarloaf Marina which is where I said goodbye to the boat. The owners headed off through Lake Erie to Lake Huron and then to her new home on Georgian Bay where she will be based.

In total, this second trip was 620 nm from Portsmouth, RI to Oakville, ON. It took 11 days (although, three of those were spent waiting for importation paperwork to be finalized.)

IV. Observations

As I rode the bus home from Buffalo, I sat and reflected on the trip from Day One. Lots to enjoy and experience, though enormously uneventful, which is really all you hope for on these deliveries. One interesting event did happen one evening with the sudden appearance of a green running light that seemed to have come out of nowhere.  We sat for a few minutes, perplexed. Perhaps this was some sort of alien ship! As it went from green to white we realized - with some light from the opposing shore - that this was a submarine surfacing less than a mile from us.

Something else worthy of noting is the huge switch in your environment once you get through New York City.  I always find it amazing that you go from hustle, bustle, keep-you-on-your-toes boating traffic to serene riverboat cruising in a matter of a few miles. It’s another world past the Big Apple.

Which brings me to the realization that this was a tale of two delivery trips – quite literally. On trip 1, we were an offshore cruiser on a mission for the most part and while the weather gods were fairly reasonable with us, it was still so nice to have this stout passagemaker underfoot.

For the second trip, it might have seemed a bit overkill to be in an ocean crosser. Still, that’s the versatility of the N40, this one especially – she could adapt to the situation: go outside and face wind and waves or stay inside, pass under low bridges and through locks. We saw sailboats in the Erie Canal and it just did not look fun.  We had no mast to take down, luxurious accommodations, a heated pilothouse, hot showers and plenty of great food onboard. We knew at the outset that the transition to a river/canal cruiser for a few days was going to be a good one.  Having sold two of the last Nordhavn 40s built, I can say with some authority that the Nordhavn 40 is a very agile, all-season, go-anywhere boat.  She handles great around the docks as well as on the open ocean.  The ability our company has to build semi-custom boats in the 40-foot size range is a huge plus and one not done by many boat builders.  

Dave Balfour is a salesman in Nordhavn’s Northeast Sales office. He can be reached at daveb@nordhavn.com or in the office at 401.293.0910.

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