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January 23, 2018

Routinely Extraordinary

Nordhavn’s Naval Architect, Jeff Leishman, is the brand’s unintentionally hidden gem

"Hey, Jeff."

"Yeah?"

"Are you finished with the N68 drawing?"

"Yeah. It’s on the server."

"Thanks!"

This is a very typical conversation on a daily basis here at the Pacific Asian Enterprises (PAE) headquarters in Dana Point, CA, and it is the conversation that I had this morning with Jeff Leishman, PAE’s Chief of Design.

We are in final stages of wrapping up a contract package for the sale of an N68. The package includes many documents such as the agreement, the standard specifications list, the options list, the warranty, the change order form and the all important GA or General Arrangement plan drawing.

You won't hear much from Jeff. He is quiet. He doesn't make speeches or write much on the internet, but he is the creative genius behind the Nordhavn designs and has designed every Nordhavn model since the first N46 in 1987.

Most of us can spot a Nordhavn from long distance or with a quick glance from a moving car or embedded in a  photo of a marina in a magazine or even from an airplane flying over a marina. Why? How? Well, you just can. Even though Nordhavn designs now span 30 years of evolution, they are distinctive and always easy to spot. You can thank Jeff for that.

But, there is much more to it than exterior styling. The interior layouts are very complex and require very clever design work to get the interplay of the various levels, stairs, floor lines, headroom, storage, appliances and ergonomics correct.  AND of course all of the layouts must be designed around the huge fuel capacity, stabilizer locations, machinery, air-conditioning, wire runs, and more. Finally, the boat must unquestionably be stable and have the performance numbers that we all now take for granted with a Nordhavn.

As one of the shareholders of PAE/Nordhavn, Jeff doesn't operate as an individual but as an employee – as we all do. The results of his work are called "Nordhavn" not "Leishman".  If Jeff operated as an individual, the body of his work over the last 35 years would rank him as one of the best if not the best yacht designer of all time. Jeff has produced over 20 complete individual designs, dozens of variants of those designs and literally thousands of drawings relating to orders, changes and concept drawings.

Right now, we are living in the Pinnacle Years of Nordhavn: many years from now, historians will look back and marvel at the creativity and productivity of the Nordhavn "machine" during this span of time. Our two Asian builders now collectively have nearly 100 years of building experience, the majority of our project managers, sales and marketing teams, engineers, accounting staff and dock workers now have a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 40 years of experience each and Jeff is at the apex of his career. 

What triggered me to write this piece? The simple dialog at the beginning.  Yesterday, the client verbally and by e-mail and with sketches expressed what he wanted. Literally hours later, Jeff interpreted it and produced a beautiful drawing.  We treat it as so routine, but in fact, it is extraordinary.  I thought to myself, "How cool is that?"  The answer: VERY cool. Not a lot of people know about this neat trick we have up our sleeves. However, as more and more buyers come to the table, word has been getting out. And I’m OK with that.

Dan Streech is the president and co-founder of Pacific Asian Enterprises.