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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Nordhavn 43

For me, stepping aboard a Nordhavn is like going to school—I always learn a few things. Maybe that’s because, due to the constraints of this job, I’m not a bluewater cruiser. But the people who design and build Nordhavns are, and you see it in their boats. These little ships are full of neat systems and solutions that could only have been conceived by people who’ve actually made long, open-ocean passages. The new 43 is a perfect example, incorporating much of what the company learned when a crew of Nordhavn employees took a 40-footer on a 170-day, 26,000-mile circumnavigation back in 2002.

Judging from this boat, Nordhavn went to school, too. Take her fuel system, a pair of 600-gallon fiberglass saddle tanks that gravity-feed a centerline 50-gallon welded-aluminum supply tank. A complex manifold system and pump provide a virtually unlimited supply and return options among the main, wing (auxiliary) engine, and genset, plus the ability to move fuel between tanks. Or you can just set the system once and forget it.

The day tank is below the main tanks, so you can run them dry and still have more than 15 hours of running time at the 43’s 7.5-knot cruising speed. It also has a sump into which water and sediment settle (before it reaches the fuel-water separators), which is easily drained via a petcock. A water sensor in the sump activates a warning light at the helm when draining is necessary. There’s a duplex Racor 75-900 for the main and a single 900 connected to the transfer pump so you can polish fuel while dockside or underway.

Each of the three fuel tanks and the three 300-gallon FRP water tanks has its own sight gauge; the supply tank’s is graduated in tenths of a gallon so you can measure the fuel consumption of any diesel with a stopwatch. In fact, that’s the way we took our fuel-flow readings for our test.

All this is in an engine room slightly aft of amidships and with 5'6" headroom—a major accomplishment on a 43-footer. How did they do it? By bubbling the hull on either side of the keel to create “maintenance strakes,” which lower the sole enough that someone of average height can stay off his knees. Tank testing indicates that this modification exacts no significant penalty in speed or drag.

Such innovation is a Nordhavn tradition, as is simplicity, which is a prerequisite for reliability. For instance, main-engine keel-cooling eliminates the sea strainer, raw-water pump, and a host of through-hulls and hoses, stuff you don’t want failing 1,000 miles from nowhere. Stainless steel dry-stack exhaust eliminates more through-hulls, including a big one in the transom. An optional, slightly off centerline, 27-hp Yanmar diesel powers a folding propeller that can push the 53,500-pounder at 5 knots in flat water should the Lugger main die. Eight-, 10-, and 12-kW Northern Lights gensets are also optional, but with a three-burner LPG stove and oven standard, they’re only necessary to run the air conditioning. All other electricals are handled by a standard Heart Freedom 30 charger/inverter, supplied by three 255-amp-hour AGM house batteries that are replenished by a dedicated 140-amp main engine-driven alternator.

Even with the wing engine and genset, there’s a remarkable amount of space in the engine room, which is accessed from either a watertight door leading forward to the owner’s stateroom or a cockpit hatch. Like all openings, both are heavily gasketed, not only for watertight integrity but to reduce sound levels, along with the copious acoustical insulation. Also quieting things is a 3.79:1 reduction ratio that turns the 32-inch-diameter prop more slowly, reducing vibration. Indeed, the 43 is eerily quiet. At 66 dB-A at WOT, my maximum decibel-meter reading exceeded the level of normal conversation by just 1 dB-A.

But engineering is only half of the story. Travel around the world and you learn the value of comfort; on the 43 the two are not mutually exclusive. Take the saloon. It’s slightly offset to port, which creates an 18-inch starboard side deck leading from the cockpit to the Portuguese bridge and around to a six-inch-wide port-side deck that takes you back to the cockpit; both side decks are protected by high bulwarks and rails. This saves a foot and addresses that perennial conundrum: walkaround decks or a roomy saloon? Here you get both, plus a saloon and galley on one level to minimize missteps in a seaway. Two settees grace the saloon, a large L-shape one aft and to starboard and a smaller couch to port, which is better for watching the optional 17-inch plasma TV in the forward starboard corner.

The galley is forward, to port, and U-shape for safety, with the after leg providing a serving area that complements the L-shape settee’s dining table. There’s plenty of stowage here but limited counter space that could benefit from a filler for the big double sink. Among the standard appliances are a trash compactor, microwave oven, and two drawer-style Sub-Zeros. Also standard—and a direct result of the circumnavigation—is a five-cubic-foot top-loading freezer beneath the TV.

The heart of any bluewater cruiser is the pilothouse, and this one is laid out with a single pedestal helm seat, room for plenty of electronics (none are standard), port and starboard 16-inch-wide watertight Dutch doors (the top half can open independently of the bottom), and superb visibility forward and to either side. Two features belie the 43’s ocean-spanning heritage. Aft, an elevated benchseat with table allows four to sit comfortably and watch the helmsman and water. Beneath are chart drawers, while aft and above is a 6'4" off-watch berth. Half-inch-thick tempered-glass windshields, two with hefty, articulated Imtra wipers, are relatively small for strength, but the lower third flips open on two of them for ventilation. So in conjunction with the Dutch doors, you can have plenty of breeze here without resorting to air conditioning—and the genset.

A starboard companionway leads down to the accommodation level, dominated by a nearly amidships master with athwartship bed and en suite facilities. The bunk-equipped guest stateroom is forward and to port, with another head and shower in the forepeak. As with the rest of the boat, there’s plenty of beautifully done teak and lots of stowage.

Here and everywhere aboard the 43, you feel like you’re on a much larger boat—except for one place: the cockpit, which is just 4'8" deep. On some boats that might be a major criticism, but not here. After all, lounging around the cockpit is not one of the things that circumnavigators generally do.

Pacific Asian Enterprises
(949) 496-4848

This article originally appeared in the February 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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