Nordhavn 47By Capt. Bill Pike
Prior to writing up a boat test, I normally put in a day or so on the phone, bird-dogging details. Are the brand names and engine designations on the specification sheets I’ve been given correct? Have I got a solid understanding of the builder’s construction methods? Were there any performance foibles that need amplification?
Doing this stuff is rarely unnecessary. But occasionally, a manufacturer will proffer a collection of spec sheets and technical material that’s so spot-on, there’s no need for preliminary phone work. This invariably puts a special kind of smile on my face, the same kind that arose recently when I cracked open the owner’s manual for the Nordhavn 47, a two-stateroom, single-engine trawler from Pacific Asian Enterprises (P.A.E.).
Talk about thoroughness. A preliminary section on law enforcement hit everything from radio procedure to boating safety. A construction summary described laminates, the hull-to-deck joint, and lots of other nitty-gritty items an owner bent on understanding, maintaining, and making passages aboard a yacht would want to know. Then came the good stuff—approximately 150 pages dealing with engineering and auxiliary systems, complete with detailed specifications, maintenance suggestions, and diagrams. Before I was halfway through, I was sold—a manufacturer capable of creating such a manual would simply have to be one helluva manufacturer.
And indeed, I found this to be the case during the actual test of the 47 some months ago in southern California. What had first impressed me about the boat was her bow, which I was obliged to confront head-on while lugging test gear down the dock at Dana Point Marina, not far from P.A.E.’s offices. The thing was huge. In fact, it was so huge—so high and so broad—that it simply dwarfed the bows of larger boats nosed up on either side, one a strapping 60-footer.
Going aboard, I immediately cranked our single 174-hp Lugger LP668T diesel, energized the 9-hp Sidepower bow thruster, took an appreciative look around the teaky wheelhouse, and breathed an interrogative sigh—something was missing. Partly because passengers were gabbing distractingly nearby, but mostly because mechanical noise is so seriously attenuated on the 47 thanks to a two-inch-thick layer of fireproof Technicon foam that blankets the whole interior of the engine room, I could hear no appreciable engine noise. I had to glance at the tach to confirm the Lugger was running!
Another singular characteristic announced itself as I began backing the 47 out of her slip—unlike most single-screw boats, which tend to back to the right or left, depending on the direction of propeller rotation, the 47 moved straight aft. “Left-hand-turning propeller, Jim?” I asked P.A.E. rep Jim Leishman. I was puzzled about the lack of a starboard bias.
“Yeah,” replied Leishman, “but the full keel tends to keep ‘er on track going astern, and a low shaft angle reduces prop walk.”
Halting our sternway with a click of the Mathers MicroCommander singlestick control, I felt the 47’s monster displacement for the first time—dang near 41 tons at full load. Although an influential breeze blew softly down the fairway, the test boat held station like a monolithic paperweight as I backed-and-filled a 90-degree turn, then straightened ‘er up. By easily exiting the marina via a channel crammed with big sailing cats and charter boats, the 47 then showed me she could maneuver in heavy traffic with as much authority as she could dockside.
The propulsion system was the reason. It comes straight out of West Coast fishing trawlers, a type of craft justly touted for a commodious carrying capacity, a soft, seakindly roll underway, and most important, a big, slow-moving, highly efficient propeller. The 47 fits the scenario perfectly, especially the last part. Her prop is darn near three feet across, and her deep gear ratio (3.96:1) cuts propeller revs by a factor of nearly four, which slows things down considerably and parenthetically produces enough bottom-end maneuvering torque to make even a bad boathandler look good.
Because PMY’s fuel-flow computer turned moody and uncooperative once we’d lost the scent of land, I spent a fair amount of time in the 47’s engine room during our sea trial. I took fuel-consumption readings via a stopwatch and a sight gauge installed on the 47’s “supply reservoir,” a daytank-like chamber of welded aluminum installed on the forward engine-room bulkhead. Savvy feature! In addition to facilitating the accurate calculation of fuel burn on the fly, which comes in handy on long passages as well as boat tests, it collects fuel for engine/genset consumption via gravity from the main tanks—thus ensuring the 47’s always primed and ready to run. Moreover, it enables an owner to detect and drain accumulated water via a sensor/alarm system and a petcock.
One general comment about the engine room: From its layout and design, it’s obvious that P.A.E. understands the importance of simplicity and elbowroom to owner/engineers. The place has standing headroom everywhere and contains little more than a walkaround main engine, recessed tankage, a soundshielded genset, and a 35-hp Yanmar emergency “wing engine” in case of main-engine failure. Auxiliaries (Trace inverter, Lifeline 8D batteries, Hynautic hydraulics, etc.) are just as nicely laid out, but they’re located in a full-beam lazarette with stoop-type headroom.
Actually driving the 47 in open water was as enjoyable a seagoing experience as I’ve had in a dog’s age. Speeds were typical of a displacement vessel. Turns were surprisingly tight and outboard-leaning, a characteristic of displacement-type vessels with substantial, heavily ballasted keels. Visibility, from dead ahead to well abaft the beam, was excellent. Our Naiad stabilizers were unnecessary in the gentle swells, and the conversation was good—Leishman loosened up with a few tales about his experiences onboard the Nordhavn 40 that recently circled the globe.
I returned the 47 to the marina late in the afternoon and subsequently toured her traditional teak interior with ardor. There’s little I can say about the layout that’s not obvious from the photographs and drawings here, however. Dedicated wheelhouse up top, with chart table, L-shape lounge, and dayberth. Saloon and galley (with granite countertops) on the next deck down. Two staterooms (master aft and guest forward), two good-size heads, an office alcove, engine room and lazarette at the bottom of the pile. The finish throughout was precise, the look simple, and brand names prestigious.
Shortly after the test, I made the following admission to myself, which serves as a fitting conclusion here: If I ever win the lottery, I know exactly what new boat I’ll buy: a Nordhavn 47.
This article originally appeared in the March 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.