Pulling Out the Stops - Nordhavn

Pulling Out the Stops

The peculiar character of onboard life when you're neither here nor there.

By Tim Clark — July 2002


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• Part 2: Nordhavn
• Part 3: Nordhavn
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Time was dear aboard the 40-foot trawler that Nordhavn sent westward from California last November, so there were no landfalls during our early-April, eight-day, 1,065-nautical-mile passage between Athens, Greece, and Palma de Mallorca, Spain. The circumnavigation had been planned to coincide with practicable--though not necessarily ideal--weather windows that would permit a relatively quick, six- to eight-month circuit. This didn't allow for exploration and relaxation in fascinating destinations or for the luxury of holding out for fine weather. Nordhavn's goal was simply to demonstrate that even the smallest boat in its fleet of full-displacement trawlers is a safe and seaworthy passagemaker. At the same time, the 23,000-nautical-mile voyage was an opportunity to rigorously evaluate the boat's systems. Potentially, lessons learned along the way will beef up the line.

Call it the world's longest shakedown cruise, or a round-the-world delivery--one way or another I knew when I agreed to join skipper Jeff Leishman (designer of the entire Nordhavn fleet) and mates Pete Eunson and Justin Zumwalt (project managers for the Nordhavn 40 and 46, respectively) for the Mediterranean leg that the attractions of Greece, Italy, and Spain would hardly figure in my account. This story is about the transit--the culture of the ever-changing, ever-the-same region that can exist between destinations.

Maybe you've been there, anywhere beyond sight of land in quiet waters piloting at night. You're alone in a wheelhouse that's dark but for a blank page on the chartplotter and a green glow from the empty radar screen. The hum of the engine has been sustained so long that it now seems like silence, disturbed now and then by only the whispered hiss of the hull dividing a long, low swell. In such circumstances you may enjoy some of the most peaceful, meditative hours you've ever known, spells when all the cares of life on land have disappeared with the wake behind the first slow mile of your watch.

And maybe you've been there in a gale. When over the clouts of waves against the hull sides and the grim drone of force-eight gusts through the rigging, you strain your ears to clock the reassuring evenness of the engine's turning. Then the MARPA function on the radar indicates that despite your position at the center of 400 square miles of open sea, a ship three miles to the north will broadside you in 11 minutes unless you change course. Using every available handhold you step to a leeward hatch and open it to try to make out the vessel bearing down on you. All you see, everywhere, amid a venomous hiss, are the tops of 10-footers breaking as dim white shreds. You close the hatch, return to the helm, punch a five-degree course change into the autopilot, and glue your eyes to the radar, waiting to learn if it's enough. Meanwhile an index of onboard systems that need to keep working in weather like this turns over and over in your head. You check your watch in anticipation of your next careful inspection of the engine room and wish that one of the crew would tire of trying to sleep in this slop and come up to keep you company.

Next page > Part 2: Zen-like resignation > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

This article originally appeared in the June 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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