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November 4, 2011

The Remarkable Nordhavn 40
Hull #66: a tag team effort

This is the first part of a 3-part series on the revival of the Nordhavn 40.

Don’t be fooled by those who claim that Nordhavn has become a “big boat” company. That we’ve abandoned the under-50 foot boats which launched the brand, in favor of focusing on the megayacht market. At the heart of Pacific Asian Enterprises (PAE) is the smallest ship in the line, the Nordhavn 40, which, has numerous crossings under her belt and took several members of the PAE staff around the world. While she’s more than proven she can hang with her bigger sisters, the model has taken a back seat the last couple of years to the surging popularity of larger boats, and especially, all the pomp and circumstance that comes with the likes of the Nordhavn 86 and 120. But lately, the 40’s seen a bit of resurgence of sorts.

This week the Nordhavn 40 stands at the forefront of the production schedule; three different brand new hulls in various states of the build process. We haven’t seen this much activity involving the Nordhavn 40 in a while so we can’t help but be a little bit enthused. “I am excited for these owners and this project,” said Dave Harlow, who oversees many projects at PAE. “I have been to Alaska and then a third of the way around the world in a Nordhavn 40 so I have a special feeling for this boat and I know what she can do. I am glad to see more of these boats getting on the water and out there running.”

In 2010 three new 40s were ordered with each one being laid up shortly after, giving way to the approximate 9-month build process. Fast forward about one year later to today: one has just undergone final stages of commissioning, one has just finished tank testing at the factory and awaits a ship bound for the east coast of the U.S., and one remains under construction. Each boat has its own unique story.

What follows is part one a three-part series on the remarkable Nordhavn 40, a record-setting circumnavigator for PAE, a home to many cruising couples, a launching pad to bigger Nordhavns for several others, and for all, the key to amazing adventure.

* * * * *

Remarkable Nordhavn 40Frank Coggins takes the helm
of his new boat

There are many ties that bind longtime friends Harris Kerr and Frank Coggins together; both are graduates of New Mexico Military Institute, both are attorneys by profession. And now, both are proud owners of Nordhavn 40#66. Kerr and Coggins decided to test the strength of their friendship by taking that most uncertain step and go in on a boat together. It’s not the first time two people - not in the same household, have purchased a Nordhavn together. But still, it’s an oft debated risk for all the good and bad points it possesses. (Kerr and Coggins are only a few weeks into ownership. So far there are only good points and the duo are certain it will stay that way.)

Frank Coggins grew up around boats. Raised in Kentucky, Coggins spent many summers on his family’s 32-foot Chris Craft, then later in life he moved to Bermuda where he raced J boats and earned a living maintaining yachts for locals, and eventually became a member of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. “I was the boat nut,” proclaims Coggins, who used to bring his various boating magazines to annual NMMI alumni gatherings. His good friend, Harris Kerr, had not done a lot of boating, yet was exposed time and time again to Coggins’ preachings of the Gospel according to Yachting Magazine et al, as well as his plans to someday purchase and go cruising on a proper boat.

Remarkable Nordhavn 40Unbeknownst to Coggins, his good friend Harris Kerr had plans of his own, fueled by a dream that had been percolating in his brain since the 7th grade. After reading Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl, Kerr put a visit to Easter Island on his bucket list, just so he could see the place Kon Tiki had landed. “When Frank talked about boats and what they could do, I remembered my dream about going to Easter Island,” says Kerr. “As Frank taught me more about the ocean going ability of some of the boats, and particularly as he told me about the Nordhavn exploits, I started paying inordinate attention to him. Next thing I know, I’m talking to him about…a Nordhavn capable of going places.” The cruising bug was stuck and before he knew it, Kerr was discussing a joint venture to obtain a vessel with Coggins.

They did their due diligence in researching boats – reading, talking to various boat owners, and attending Trawler Fests. “I had been looking at a lot of makes of boats, comparing them against Nordhavns,” notes Coggins. “Standing aboard and feeling the weight of the boat underfoot, moving about, etc., there was just no comparison.”

Without any sea miles on a Nordhavn, the duo ordered their boat from salesman James Leishman out of Nordhavn’s southeast sales office in Dana Point, CA. Both men were excited about the purchase, but Kerr had hoped his boating rawness and bad knees would not preclude him from fully enjoying his new endeavor. He chartered a Nordhavn 40 out of Massachusetts, endured bad weather, and realized he was not only fully capable of handling the boat, but had a fantastic time doing so. The question begged to be asked, however, what if the charter didn’t work out so great? What if Kerr hadn’t been up for the requirements of running a trawler? Coggins answered simply: “I knew I’d have lots more time for myself on the boat!”

Remarkable Nordhavn 40Cue another potential pitfall: the schedule. Both insist it won’t be an issue and in fact are approaching it with a “to be determined” mindset. The two both continue to practice law, but the thinking is there will always be time for one of the families to set out on the water. For legal reasons, a schedule has been formulated, however, “neither of us are concerned and just want the boat to be used,” says Coggins.

There are many things that make their boat – aptly monikered Reunion – so special, the most obvious being that it is a powerful link to college friends who have many miles separating them; Kerr resides in Texas while Coggins is in New Mexico.

Remarkable Nordhavn 40But even without the sentiment that surrounds her, hull #66 is a very exceptional boat. “This is the nicest 40 we’ve ever built,” notes the duo’s salesman, James Leishman. “She’s constructed at South Coast Marine. That means she’s being built by the same carpenters, the same craftsmen who are also building the 86 and the 120. The level of detail and finish on Reunion is as exceptional as what you would find on our megayachts.”

Kerr and Coggins also opted to fit out their yacht with redundant features, such as equipping her with both paravanes and active fins. “She’s extremely well outfitted for cruising,” said Leishman.

The boat’s first voyages will be messing about the Southern California coast as the new owners get used to her. Later plans call for the Pacific Northwest and back down to Mexico as well as Alaska. There are lots of ideas about what type of cruising to do and where to go, says Kerr, perhaps even to Easter Island. “Frank helped me remember that childhood dream and gave me a shot at making it come true. We may never cross the Atlantic or the Pacific, but if we decide to, we have the boat that can make that dream come true.”


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3


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