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January 8, 2010
Re-printed with permission from OceanLines www.oceanlines.biz

Outfitting the Nordhavn 55 with Computers

With this article, we are beginning a new series that illustrates how the Nordhavn 55, one of the most popular of the globe-girdling Nordhavns built by Pacific Asian Enterprises, might be equipped with computers for navigation and other chores. Earlier this year, OceanLines ran an extensive series of articles on outfitting the Kadey-Krogen 55′ Expedition with a full marine electronics suite. In this new series, we look at the alternative to dedicated marine electronics — the PC. There are several companies in this market, including some that manufacture or modify their own components and some that are systems designers and installers. We’re asking them to submit full proposals for navigation, monitoring and entertainment solutions. As we did before, we’ll dedicate a separate article for each manufacturer to highlight its proposal for the N55. Today’s article is the first of two introducing the series. Part 2 follows tomorrow and offers a dedicated Q&A on the subject with a current N55 owner.

The Nordhavn 55 was developed as a logical follow-on to the 47, but is obviously substantially larger in all the spaces. The N55 has a standard flybridge and single engine, although N55 Project Manager Mike Jensen says 7 N55s have been delivered with twin engines. The N55 has a new sister ship with the advent of a 5-foot hull extension creating the N60. The extra length shows up in the cockpit and extended boat deck overhead.

Nordhavn President Dan Streech suggested we use the N55 as the subject for this series since it represents the classice Nordhavn trawler, in form and function. Not surprisingly, N55 owners agree with that sentiment. John Marshall owns N5520, Serendipity, and says, “I view the N55 as the largest of the ’simple, little boats’. It’s really not much more complex than an N40 (same numbers of systems, one main engine, one wing, one genset, same stabilizer design, etc. etc., just beefier) so it’s just as easy to maintain as the littlest Nordhavn. For instance, it’s no harder to maintain a 300 hp diesel than a 120 hp diesel.” Here’s more of what John Marshall has to say about the N55:

"It’s the ultimate couples boat as its big and roomy but still simple, but has extra staterooms for guests when needed. We use the upstairs Captain’s cabin mainly as a reading room, for instance, given the great light.

That said, you could make an N55 complex by adding twin engines, full hydraulics, dual generators, etc. etc, but most of the N55s I’ve seen are closer to the N40 in complexity. (The only place where the N55 is inescapably larger is when you have to wax it!)

Once you step over that size threshold, Nordhavns, like most boats, get far more complex. While the bigger boats aren’t necessarily harder to operate, the maintenance chores can overwhelm many couples. The larger boats mostly come with twin engines, twin gensets, complex hydraulic and electrical systems, etc. Bottom line, even a mechanically adept owner of the larger boats may want a captain or boat manager just to keep on top of everything, otherwise you become a slave to boat maintenance. As I see it, the bigger boats are really very seaworthy pocket superyachts than traditional trawlers."

I suspect that might be what Dan is referring to when he says the N55 is a “classic trawler”, given that designation implies (to me!) a boat that is simple enough for an active and resourceful owner to maintain and operate without difficulty, and has the seaworthiness of a traditional trawler.

The topic of this series is installing computers in the N55, so I asked Mike Jensen about recent trends. Using a computer — as opposed to a dedicated chartplotter — for navigation is becoming more ubiquitous on this type of yacht. Jensen says about 75 percent of N55 customers are using computers for navigation, with perhaps half also using them for entertainment. Anecdotal research suggests that when they are used for entertainment, they are likely to be dedicated to that function. John Marshall’s setup is an example of the philosophy behind that “separation of church and state.” In tomorrow’s installment, you can read a Q&A with John about the computers installed on Serendipity.

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