John and Sue Spencer
Nordhavn 40 - Uno Mas
Little did John and Sue Spencer know when they purchased their 40-foot yacht eight years ago that they would wind up being cult heroes in the eyes of many Nordhavn aficionados. It all came about after the twosome signed on to sail across the Atlantic as part of the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally in 2004. Those familiar with the saga know that the Spencers’ boat lost her stabilizers somewhere along the second leg of the trip, leaving Uno Mas bobbing around haphazardly in the 6-8 ft. swells. Cue PAE’s Justin Zumwalt, who bravely jumped off the company’s escort boat, swam to Uno Mas, and within 20 minutes had her Naiads back in working order. Thankfully, all was fine in the end, but it did provide some much talked about drama in what was virtually a trouble-free caravan of 18 boats traveling from Florida to Europe. In fact, if you check out the real thing on the DVD “Living the Dream” which documents the NAR, you’ll see firsthand just how scary the situation appeared.
It’s been five years since that fateful crossing, and still the Spencers get recognized for the – albeit relatively brief – precarious situation they endured. “Each year we have a dozen or so boaters ask at anchorages or marinas that we’re in if ‘this is the little 40 that crossed the Atlantic’,” says John Spencer. John recalled a lobsterman who dinghied out to Uno Mas while it was moored recently in Scituate, Massachusetts, curious about the boat and the NAR. The Spencers keep a handful of the “Living the Dream” DVDs on board and offered one to the lobsterman. To John’s surprise, the same man returned to Uno Mas a few hours later after having gone straight home to watch the entire video. “He was convinced that the Nordhavn would be his next boat!” laughed John, and in an act of homage to the Spencers, he presented them with two 3-lb. lobsters. “It’s amazing to think about all the people who followed the rally back then,” said John. “Not to mention those who are just finding out about it now. It’s a timeless adventure.”
Since then, the Spencers have encountered other sticky situations, including two this past summer, having narrowly escaped the wraths of both Hurricane Bill, and then a few days later, Tropical Storm Danny. The town of Yarmouth, in Nova Scotia, where they were holed up, did not bear the brunt of either storm (despite having been forecasted as such), and Uno Mas escaped with only minor damage caused by 55-knot winds and a 5-foot storm surge. The worst part of the storms, says John, was that they forced the Spencers to cut their planned month-long stay in Nova Scotia in half. A serious letdown considering the couple had pegged the northeastern Canadian province among the friendliest of all the ports they’d called upon.
That recognition is high praise when you account for all the places Uno Mas has visited since her 2002 delivery. From Dana Point, California, the couple headed north to British Columbia and Alaska, back down the coast into Mexico, and followed the Gulf down to Central America; over to the Carribbean, across the Atlantic with NAR to Bermuda, the Azores and Gibraltar. They explored Europe for three years before shipping Uno Mas back to Florida and have remained on the East Coast the past two years trekking north and south as the seasons dictate. Their favorite spots? Upper British Columbia and Alaska “for the sheer beauty of the land and abundance of wildlife”, says John. Meanwhile, he rates Italy as the most gracious along with Nova Scotia. John recalled a sailor the couple met while they were wintering in Barcelona. “He asked us to let him know the country where we encountered the most invitations to home [boat or house]-cooked dinners. It was Italy hands down!” Nothing had compared since, until they landed in Nova Scotia where yacht club members invited them for meals, offered the use of their homes; where a bus driver refused to take their money during the storms as they escaped their boat like pack rats searching out a hotel; and where people practically tripped over one another giving directions and recommendations. “It was the most unique experience to come across such friendly, welcoming people. The most hospitable we found in all our travels.”
But, as most cruisers will tell you, getting to experience the variety of different cultures and people around the world has been the greatest part of cruising. “The best thing about purchasing a Nordhavn is that it has given us the opportunity to cruise areas of the world that have different customs, getting to really experience the locals,” said John. And they do it without fear. Recounts John: “Our maiden voyage was early May 2002 to San Francisco in weather with our salesman. I asked about the conditions, gale winds and seas. He said, ‘No problem. You own a Nordhavn.’ He was right!”
For now, the couple has returned to their home in Texas while Uno Mas winters in Portsmouth, Virginia. Next spring they’ll get the boat ready for another season of cruising in the northeast, hitting New England and attempting to carve out at least two months to spend in Nova Scotia as well as Newfoundland, where John says, “we hear the people are even friendlier than in Nova Scotia… we’ll see!”