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May 3, 2019

Once a Nordhavn owner, always a Nordhavn owner

Ed.note: In the early 1990s, the relatively newly launched Nordhavn 46 was trying to make a name for itself. In those early days, Pacific Asian Enterprises (PAE), Inc. was selling primarily to the American market.  The Nordhavn 46 was introduced in late 1998 and just as it was beginning to be recognized in 1990, then American President George Bush enacted a 10% “luxury” tax on many products including Nordhavns. The tax devastated the American boating industry and PAE did not sell a single boat to an American during the two-year existence of that tax. PAE survived that crisis due to the serendipitous inquiry from a Hong Kong based Cathay Pacific airline pilot. During a long transpacific flight and with his trusty 747 on autopilot, the pilot was reading and found our small 1/8th page ad in Yachting Magazine on the Nordhavn 46. He concluded that he could use his generous Cathay housing allowance to make payments on a boat loan, live on the boat and (most importantly), have a long range all-weather “get away” boat should the much feared 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China turn to anarchy and violence as many feared. His pioneering work and that of his friend, a Cathay flight engineer, led to seven other N46 sales to Cathay pilots and it is not too dramatic to say that this is how PAE survived that terrible period of time that hurt so many people and go on to become a global phenomenon. Thank you Richard and David.  Richard is still flying. David passed away last year.

There are nearly 600 Nordhavns in existence now and many of those boats have had several different owners… maybe 5-6 or more in some cases. So, it is safe to say that there are over 2,000 Nordhavn owners or ex-owners in the “Nordhavn World”.  When their spouses and family and friends and crew are counted, there are probably over 10,000 people who have had direct Nordhavn experience.

For the most part, once someone has been a Nordhavn owner, that experience is part of their identity forever. So, it is quite normal for the Nordhavn offices to be visited by former Nordhavn owners, sometimes 10 or 20 years after they have sold their boat. It is wonderfully fun to keep in touch with the former owners and follow what they do with their lives.  In many cases, their ‘Nordhavn years” are counted as among the best of their lives.  It is interesting to note that money matters are LONG forgotten and only the wonderful memories of fun and adventure are remembered.

On Tuesday, we were visited in Dana Point by former Nordhavn owner Mr. Peter James. Peter is an Australian now living outside of Melbourne and is one of the “Hong Kong” boys, that group of about 8 crazy Cathay Pacific pilots who made such an impact on us in the 1990s.  Peter was a little bit less insane than the others when he bought his Nordhavn 46 (#53) in 1996.  As with the other Cathay pilots, Peter lived on his boat as he graduated through the ranks at Cathay to Captain of the Boeing 777. 

Peter’s boat was sold in 2002 to a gentleman from Spain and not long thereafter, he retired from Cathay and moved back to Australia.  Peter and I have stayed in touch over the years with the occasional e-mail joke and comments about Formula One (car racing) but I have not seen him since 2003. Peter also stays in touch with Nordhavn owners from his era.

What is the point of this shaggy dog story? There is a very strong point. You don’t own a Nordhavn “just a little bit”.  It is an intense and passionate experience. You enter a social network and make new friends - some for life - and it becomes part of your identity forever. That was demonstrated today. Again.

As I wrote the above story, I had a strong sense of deja vu.  I felt like I had written about Peter before. Turns out that I have! https://www.nordhavn.com/news/headlines/rambling_story/

Dan Streech is president of PAE.