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June 2, 2010

Special Delivery
Despite many challenges, Nordhavn 55 gets safely home

Stage 1 – The shipping
Every new Nordhavn delivery is different, but the delivery of new Nordhavn 55#48 to her owner in New Zealand was rather unique in a couple of ways.

Firstly, her owner had purchased her without having previously seen a Nordhavn. And secondly, the destination for delivery to her new owner threw up some challenges for the team at PAE.  The sales contract called for the new boat to be delivered to her new owner in Picton, a most picturesque town in the heart of the spectacular Marlborough Sounds on the tip of New Zealand’s South Island. Picton is the stepping off point for travellers crossing back and forth across the notorious open waters of Cook Strait on the regular roll-on roll-off ferries. It’s also the starting point for tourists from all over the world, heading to the nearby famous Marlborough Sounds wine region.

So back to the factory in Xiamen, Southern China, where the stunning white hulled N55#48 awaited shipping

The GFC had certainly impacted on the Shipping Companies’ schedules, and there were several false alarms, and a long and frustrating wait for both PAE and her new owner. The difficulties encountered by PAE in finding a suitable ship and schedule meant that the nearest offload port to Picton was the Port of Tauranga, some 540 miles north on the East Coast of New Zealand’ North Island. Finally, a berth was confirmed on the MV Diamantgracht. She was loaded in her cradle at the port of Xiamen, home of South Coast Marine which builds some of Nordhavn’s range of boats, and she crossed the Taiwan Strait where she was transhipped again at Kaoshiung, Taiwan. After a further delay, she headed on the long journey down to Port of Tauranga, New Zealand, but not before taking a scenic tour of most of Australia’ capital city ports. Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide dock workers all got a chance to see her as she passed through on her long and zig-zag journey. After leaving Adelaide, a final ETA was established for the Port of Tauranga NZ and logistics were put in place to prepare for her arrival. There being no local New Zealand coastal ships available, it was decided to run her down to Picton on her own bottom for handover and training to her new owner. This required that the boat be commissioned in Port of Tauranga. She had not been fitted with any electronics at the factory, save for the depth transducers. The trip from Port of Tauranga to Picton down along the North Island’s rugged and remote East coast, would require that she be fitted with a skeleton electronics package to undertake this next stage of the journey, and her new owner graciously agreed to ship these basics to Port of Tauranga for installation.

Once a confirmed ETA update was received, I arranged to fly over to NZ and offload the boat, drive her to her commissioning berth in readiness for the PAE team who were to fly in from California a few days after the offload. I flew with Andy Wadham, Nordhavn Australiasia’s Captain and commissioning guru, to Auckland, and we drove down to Port of Tauranga via the stunning Coramandel Peninsula, taking in the spectacular country and ocean views along the way.  Port of Tauranga is one of New Zealand’s biggest and busiest ports. And it lies right alongside the iconic little holiday and surfing community of Mount Maunganui  www.mountmaunganui.co.nz . It had been thirty years since I’d last visited Mount

Maunganui, and although there’s been remarkable change to the Port of Tauranga, now the fastest growing town in New Zealand, and huge development of the township, the small town Mount Maunganui has not lost its holiday beach town feel. The town and Port entrance are guarded by the conically shaped steep slopes of the Mount itself. Sheep graze on its slopes, while on one side ships, pilot boats and trawlers come and go, and on the other side, holidaymakers, tourists and surfers enjoy the fine sand beaches, and the many cafes and restaurants.  The narrow entrance to the Port skirts close to the base of the Mount on the north side, and opens into a broad waterway lined with shipping terminals, flour mills and gasoline storage facilities. Strangely, the presence of large industrial complexes all around the harbour doesn’t detract from the beauty of the local area. 

We had booked a berth for the commissioning at the Tauranga Bridge Marina, www.marina.co.nz where we had also booked accommodation for the PAE commissioning team of Russell Barber and Justin Jensen. Soon after arriving in Port of Tauranga, we were advised that the ship had been delayed by bad weather across the Tasman Sea. There was little to do but wait several more days for her arrival, and in the meantime, the PAE commissioning team arrived in Tauranga, so they were able to assist with the offload.

After a long wait, and several false alarms, the MV Diamantgracht finally emerged on the horizon off Mount Maunganui. To get a better view of the ship as she entered the picturesque harbour, Andrew and I climbed a way up the Mount, where we were able to see the N55#48 for the first time in NZ waters.  As she entered the narrow entrance, and passed beneath us in the channel, we were surprised to see that the N55#48 was the sole cargo on the vessel. She had come across the Tasman Sea sitting lonely but proudly on the deck. A Special Delivery indeed!

Soon she was docked alongside the Port of Tauranga wharves in readiness for offloading.

The offloading team joined the shipping agent Dev Dhanjee on the deck of the MV Diamantgracht, where we accompanied the NZ Customs and

Quarantine officers on the tour of the N55#48. Suitably impressed, and with the thumbs up, they gave her the all clear to be offloaded in her cradle, directly into the water. This process is always a time of trepidation for all concerned, however the Ships Master, and the Port of Tauranga stevedores were patient, obliging and professional, and with tide limitations, and darkness approaching fast, they carefully lifted her up and over the side of the ship and lowered her into the water. While she was still in the cradle, the offload team then scrambled aboard, carried out the numerous systems checks, started the engine and gently eased out of the cradle and onto the harbour proper. With the Tauranga Bridge Marina work boat standing by, we headed her back up the harbour to her commissioning berth, where the many interested locals were able to get their first close up look at the Nordhavn 55.


STAGE TWO – The Delivery Trip
Port of Tauranga to Picton

The boat now having safely arrived in New Zealand waters, the commissioning team from Dana Point, California, flew across to New Zealand to carry out the numerous tasks required to ready the boat for the next and final leg of her journey to the destination of Picton, the picturesque port in the centre of the spectacular Marlborough Sounds. This commissioning process requires engineering skill, experience and patience, and these attributes would become clearly evident later in the trip. After a solid ten days work, she was ready to undertake her first passage. This was to take us from Port of Tauranga, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, east across the Bay of Plenty, rounding East Cape, and then South South West across Hawkes Bay and along the rugged coast, past notorious Castle Rock, around Cape Pallister on the South East corner of the North Island, then West and across the Cook Strait and into the fiords of the spectacular Marlborough Sounds. This area of coastline is well known for its quickly changing weather patterns. And at this time of the year, strong winds and often gales regularly develop in the Southern Ocean and move quickly up the East Coast. Local knowledge is invaluable in navigating
this region, as is a source of reliable weather forecasting. An emerging window of good weather appeared, so it was decided to depart as soon as possible. I flew in from Australia to join the delivery crew for the 540 mile voyage. Being a Nordhavn salesman, I do get invitations to join owners on their travels from time to time. With work always pressing, it’s not often that I can take up these offers, however a chance to join the crew for this trip was just too tempting! The crew consisted of experienced Captain and owner of a 102’ luxury charter yacht, Peter Stewart, experienced Kiwi mariner and marine engineer Drago Loncar, Kiwi boat builder Richard Clausen, and myself. A quick calculation of crew experience totalled 160+ years!

I arrived at the dock at 1800 hours, and after a great dinner at the local Marina office, during which we made final arrangements, passage plan and crew watch allocations, it was off to bed in readiness for the 0500 departure. Up early, and after farewelling the commissioning team and a small group of marina locals, we edged out of the berth in darkness, and headed down the harbour towards the entrance and the open sea.  The sun rose as we skirted beneath the spectacular Mount Mauganui at the entrance, and as we turned east headed for East Cape, the sight we left behind was one to remember.

The first day out, the weather was great, the seas were calm and all looked good for the first part of the journey. We passed White island, an active volcano, with steam and ash arising from its cone on the port side, and not long after dark rounded East Cape. All aboard were in good spirits as we settled into the routine of the trip. I’m always trepidatious when setting off in an untried boat, but we had the start of a good weather system for the first 36 hours, we had a good boat, a good crew and we had time to do multiple checks on all of the systems over those first watches.

Late on the on the second day we had weather reports that there was an approaching gale from the land, so we doubled our efforts in checking over all the systems, in preparation for a fun ride. As it happened, we were past the point of returning to a safe stop-over, so we kept to our plan, feeling very confident of the boat and crew. Then, as expected, the approaching gale moved over us. The wind rose from a 5-10 knots seabreeze to a solid 50+ knots off the land within no more than 20 minutes. Our position was approx. 45 miles off the coast in Hawkes Bay, on the rhumb line from East Cape to Cape Pallister. And soon we were experiencing 5-6 metre seas on the starboard beam. We eased the throttle back to 3 knots SOG, changed heading to veer closer to the coast to get under the cliffs in the lee, and once there, we settled in for a long night. It was at this point that we were grateful for the thorough commissioning which the PAE guys did back at Mount Maunganui. The boat kept running sweetly, the ABT

Trac stabilizers operated superbly, and the harder it blew, the more confidence we gained. The only problem encountered was at about midnight when amongst the sounds of the gale, we heard an almighty crash. Looking out into the darkness from the port side Pilothouse windows, we saw bits of white stuff flying around. The door on the Flybridge fridge had become unlocked, and the full bucket of ice dislodged and spilled out and crashing around above us. Whew! What a relief that it was only ice! Not much sleep was had on the boat that night, but by mid-morning the next day the system eased,

and we had a good run down the coast, across and up the Cook Strait 60 miles to Picton. We were incredibly pleased with the way she handled the worst of the conditions. It was the first time Captain Peter had been on a Nordhavn, however he is now totally convinced of the benefits of powerboating in a purpose built passagemaking vessel. It was a great trip from my point of view too, as up until then I’d only encountered fair sailing conditions in an N55. I can now speak to my customers with absolute conviction about the sea-keeping abilities of the N55, and I can see clearly why Nordhavns engender much confidence in their owners.

We approached the channel leading to Picton through the beautiful Marlborough Sounds in perfect calm weather and sunshine. A run of three hours through this most spectacular of fiords, and we closed on the port of Picton, where we found our berth right in the heart of the downtown Marina.

Her owner had been receiving regular updates on the trip, and was pleased that his new toy was at last safely delivered to his slip. It’s perhaps a little unusual that he purchased this beautiful Nordhavn 55 without ever having stepped aboard another Nordhavn. Maybe that speaks volumes for the worldwide reputation of our fine vessels. And after finally getting to see her first hand, after a rather long and “Special Delivery”, he is certainly one happy camper!

My thanks to the PAE team for persevering with the difficult process of getting this boat to Picton, and a special thank you to her new owner, whose generosity and patience in particular I have come to admire…



Peter Devers is the sales manager for Nordhavn Australasia and can be contacted by e-mail at



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