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February 16, 2017

Carlos chooses Nordhavn over sportfisher

Carlos de la Cruz, Sr. has been boating for 50 years, and for most of that time he has had a series of go-fast outboard boats. Throughout his life he was an avid fisherman, and in the late 90s was introduced to the world of competitive sportfishing. Soon after, he was hooked on the sport and in 1999, his passion steered him toward his first sportfisher, a 65-foot Viking. He owned the boat for four years, put 3,000 hours on her, and entered competitions everywhere from the Bahamas to Mexico to St. Maarten.

When it was time for a new sportfishing boat, he built a 72-footer with American Custom Yachts, called Yellowbird, which he put 6,000 hours on. He took Yellowbird to Venezuela and Costa Rica, up to Nantucket and back south again. Visiting exotic places and reeling in prize fish was a dream come true for Cruz.

But one day he woke up and realized there were other dreams that would never be realized, so long as he continued to do his boating on Yellowbird. “I dreamed about going to the South Pacific,” said Cruz. “I wanted to go long distances.”

While getting a handle on his shifting aspirations, he discovered that all the years of the incessant pounding through waters, racing to get to fishing sites and back, and enduring constant wind and sun exposure had taken a toll on his aging body. Suddenly, he wanted everything that his sportfisher wasn’t: a comfortable, slow, flybridge-less yacht. Instead of having a boat of consequence, where the ride was just a means of getting to and from places as fast as possible, Cruz wanted to actually enjoy the boat and the ride, where the “getting-there” was just as awesome as the “there”.

He focused his search on Nordhavn due to the brand’s reputation and long-range cruising track record. There were a few yachts in his size range, but he settled on the N63 because it had the same number of staterooms as his two prior boats; so interior space-wise, it was an easy transition.

That’s where the similarities end, however. Cruz wanted a complete 180 degree-swing in his style of boating and the N63 offered that. One of the biggest factors in going with the N63 was its non-flybridge design. Cruz had had enough of getting “beat up” by the sun and wind, operating from the flybridge to and from fishing sites and getting pummeled by salt and spray. “I’m getting on in age and facing the [elements] from the flybridge is tiring,” he said.

Other significant changes included the speed, efficiency and quietness of the boat. You might think going at fast speeds down to 7 might take some getting used to. But Cruz insists not. Speed is integral to fishing tournaments, but otherwise, it’s sort of a non-factor. His long-time captain, Cameron McDowell, agrees, saying it’s a myth to think that you’re going to cover less ground going slow. “Additionally,” says McDowell, “going fast does not give you a super soft ride. You’re just plodding around. When you go 75 knots, you kind of get beat up.”

Going fast also means having to re-fuel. A lot. McDowell estimates he was fueling up Yellowbird every week. Not only that, but you’re a slave to where you get your fuel when range is in issue. Cruz took delivery of his Nordhavn 63, called HA, in May and estimates the boat took on fuel only 2 times in a six-month span.

Of course comfort is an obvious box that gets checked with the slow, stabilized Nordhavn 63. Relaxing in a big open saloon watching the world outside drift by is a refreshing change to seeing a blur of land through squinted eyes. Due to its design, you simply cannot slow a fishing boat down, says McDowell. So while Yellowbird was fairly stable as a fast boat, it offered a bobbing cork-like motion at slower speeds. And when it comes to the difference in decibels between 2 revved up 2000 hp engines and one purring 365-hp John Deere engine, well, there is no comparison.

McDowell also loves the ease of the boat from a maintenance standpoint. “Maintenance is night and day. On Yellowbird an oil change meant 50 gallons of oil. With HA, it’s just 8 gallons.”

That, and the fact he doesn’t have to constantly run the generator for power. On the Nordhavn 63, the main engine provides electricity for the entire boat.

Make no mistake, this is not a free-for-all bashing of sportfishing yachts. Cruz loved his boats and they perfectly served his purpose. But they proved their impracticality when the discussion turned to long-range cruising. From the get-go, Cruz desperately wanted to go to Alaska. His mind was made up to jump in a Nordhavn and completely shift gears, and like it or not, Captain McDowell was going to have to completely prepare for his own evolution. But he was completely on board.
“I’m happy about it,” said McDowell of switching from fast to slow. “It’s a nice change to go slow, not [be uncomfortable], and see new places. It’ll allow us to go to other places. Any place we want.”

Lately, Cruz has a new passion: global warming. He’s researched areas in Alaska that have been affected and will use the boat to visit places where he says there’s concrete proof of increased climate change. “All you have to do is go to Alaska and you can visually see the calving of the glaciers.” And while he doesn’t come right out and say how full-throttle, fuel-guzzling, speed boating is counterintuitive to his interest in atmospheric temperature increases and the impact it’s had on the oceans, the Nordhavn 63 does a pose a more environmentally friendly choice from which to study the phenomenon.

This past Fall, Cruz achieved his goal of visiting Alaska, seeing in person all the evidence of global warming he has read about. The boat is currently in Kodiak, AK, and will stay there until mid-May. From there the boat will go to Hawaii to “refuel and recover” as he embarks on his dream of cruising the South Pacific. McDowell estimates they will reach Tahiti in late June.

When asked about where the name HA came from, Cruz explains he knew he needed a short name to fit on the side of the pilothouse. HA came to him as a playful jab aimed at anyone who questioned his being able to go from a fast sportfishing boat to a slow ambling passagemaker and actually living the long-range cruising life, he says. “It’s basically like, HA! I did it!” He sure has.

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