Nordhavn Yachts are a widely popular and successful long distance cruising vessel, but it wasn't until the 1970s that the predominant view in yacht cruising circles would change from feeling that trans-ocean crossings and long-range passages could only be made successfully in sailing yachts.
The 50s and 60s were filled with published tales of ocean crossings cruises by small-yacht sailors like Blondie Hasler, Robin Knox-Johnson, Thomas Fleming Day, Harry Pidgeon, and Alain Gerbault (http://www.bwsailing.com/bw/cruising-news/great-voyages-in-small-boats/) — not to mention globe-girdling cruises by pretty ordinary couples such as Eric and Susan Hiscock and Lin and Larry Pardey — sailors all.
Then in 1963, naval architect, Robert Bebee, designed and built for himself in Singapore a modest 50-foot power yacht, “Passagemaker”, upon which he proceeded to cross oceans, eventually putting some 50,000 nautical miles under her keel before publishing his landmark book, Voyaging Under Power, in 1975.
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At the time, Dan Streech, Jim Leishman, Joe Meglen (later joined by yacht designer, Jeff Leishman) were building sailing yachts in Taiwan for the U.S. and world markets as Pacific Asian Enterprises (PAE). Bebee’s concept of passagemaking in small power yachts caught their attention because, among other reasons, power cruising was less arduous and therefore more accessible to those who didn’t want to fight to tie down a triple-reef in a 700 square foot mainsail in a half-gale, didn’t want to do without air conditioning, and especially didn’t want to wallow in calms waiting for the winds that came at the leading edges of storms. To them and to others in yacht cruising circles, Bebee’s concept of power cruising made sense — and eventually, in 1989, the first Nordhavn, a 46-footer, was designed and built.
A Trawler Is as a Trawler Does
Nordhavn reasonably claims to offer the most complete line of “true deep-sea” passagemaking yachts on the market today, with more than 15 models ranging from 40 to 120 feet LOA. The company has stuck steadfastly to using a full-displacement hull form, which in the tradition of true fishing trawlers, carries more underwater volume, hence greater load-carrying capacity than many of Nordhavn’s competitors.
One can argue all day long about the comparative advantages of full-displacement versus semi-displacement. However, the fact remains the bulk and mass of a full displacement hull produce a somewhat easier motion at sea, and they have the ability to carry the higher profile and upper-deck pilothouse found on the larger Nordhavns. As well, the greater interior volume, generally present in a full displacement hull, affords advantages in terms of tankage and other stowage, as well as in terms of interior accommodations.
Of course, the piper must be paid, and in the case of a full-displacement hull form, that payment takes the form of a sacrifice in speed for any given hull length, especially when you combine a full-displacement hull form with the higher displacement-to-length ratio normally found in trawler-style yachts.
Still, there are many who believe that the trade-off is well worth it and that the benefits far outweigh any minor limitations in speed. And in any event, the argument goes, the average sea-going speed of a Nordhavn is still higher that that of a cruising monohulled sailboat of similar length.
Stout Isn’t Just a Drink
Nordhavn uses solid FRP laminate in the hull below the waterline with vinyl ester for improved moisture impermeability — and with heavy molded longitudinal stringers and transverse stiffeners placed relatively close together for maximum structural rigidity. Again, the full-displacement hull form and higher displacement-to-length ratio provide the load-carrying capacity to tolerate this stout form of construction.
An additional benefit of higher load-carrying capacity is the ability to build in a greater amount of what is usually heavy sound damping material. So, not unexpectedly, Nordhavn emphasizes sound attenuation in its yachts, which can admittedly make a big difference when running day in and day out for several days or even weeks when making a passage.
A distinctive feature of the Nordhavn yachts is their dry exhaust. In most yachts, a wet-exhaust system is used. With wet exhaust, seawater is pumped into the exhaust system just immediately downstream of the exhaust manifold. (The exhaust manifold itself is usually a double-walled or jacketed casting that carries closed-circuit cooling water in its jacket passages, while the hot exhaust gasses are carried out via the manifold’s innermost passages.) This injected water helps cool the hot exhaust gasses as they pass through the muffler(s) and exhaust piping also works to dampen the transmission of engine exhaust noise.
In contrast, Nordhavn utilizes insulated piping and mufflers (silencers) to quiet the exhaust and carry it up past the upper deck and exhaust it directly to the air — reminiscent of what you might see in the exhaust system of a large semi-rig tractor. The advantage is, according to Nordhavn, that no water is drawn into the yacht for the exhaust system and, therefore, related safety and corrosion issues are minimized.
What’s in a Brand?
Truth be told, a lot. A highly reputable brand such as Nordhavn didn’t get that way by not delivering on its promises. It didn’t get that way with sub-standard construction or an indifferent selection of fittings and equipment. That Nordhavn has built an exceptionally strong brand in the trawler-yacht market means a lot if your considering the purchase of a used vessel of that kind.
But brand strength notwithstanding, there are still a multitude of factors to consider in arriving at a decision — not the least of which is how to get the most value for the expenditure you’re making. At Seattle Yachts, we’ve compiled the data, made the comparisons, analyzed the pros and cons for a wide array of trawler-style yachts, as well as for trawler-yachts versus motor yachts. And we can put all that to work for your benefit in finding the best yacht for your circumstances.
Call or email us to talk about used Nordhavns and any likely alternative selections. We’re ready and willing to help you get to where you want to be. It’s what we do.
If you have an interest in Nordhavn, we also recommend you read our guide to Buying and Owning A Trawler Yacht. It's quite extensive and really offers several tips on the buying process and ownership experience.
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