What You See
Is What You Get
Overbuilt and exceptionally beefy, the Nordhavn 52 is ready to take serious cruisers anywhere they can dream of.
You only need one short glimpse of the Nordhavn 52 to know exactly what she is about. This is not a boat whose appearance belies her functional characteristics. She is a meaty, heavy vessel built to take people around the world and, most importantly, get them home safely, even if they encounter some of the worst weather and seas out there.
Her wide, functional, shelter-providing Portuguese bridge means that you can venture outside in rough water and be assured you won’t fall in the drink. It’s also a nice thing to have aboard if kids or pets will be skittering around the place. Also extremely functional is the boat’s windshield, just aft of the bridge. Don’t tell any of the lovers of sleek cruisers with their raked-back windshields, but a reverse pilothouse windshield is significantly more functional. Imagine both designs being drenched by a big wave. Which would shed the water and regain lines of sight more quickly? It’s the reason why you see that design on so many working boats and military craft. It works. If you’re in waves big enough to hit the windshield on a 52-footer, then you definitely want to be able to see as quickly as freaking possible.
Of course, even if you do lose the view for a bit on a boat like this, you’ll probably be OK. Or at least in as good shape as you could hope to be in. The 52 is built to category A, offshore unlimited standards. And she’s a tank. My test boat was displacing just under 100,000 pounds during my sea trial, ten percent of which is encompassed by lead ballast in the keel. She’s so big in fact that she caught the wife of the couple who owns the boat off guard. They were seeing the 52 for the first time while I was running my sea trial. And after moving some fenders around, the wife came up to the helm wide-eyed. “I don’t usually talk like this,” she said, “but holy shit this is a big boat!” Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Back to that ballast. Nordhavn claims that as long as the 52 remains watertight, the ballast and other design considerations allow her to right herself even if flipped completely over. A nightmare scenario, obviously, but still, that’s good to know! No Nordhavn has had to prove this claim in real-life conditions, but one of the company’s boats did recently record a 69-percent roll off of New Zealand and came out relatively unscathed. Assuming everything is battened down and shut, staying watertight should not be a problem. The windows in particular are very strong. They’re made of 12 millimeters of tempered glass. They’re so strong in fact that, according to the company, when a 76-foot Nordhavn recently caught fire in an English harbor, the firemen actually had to shoot out the windows with a gun to get inside. The axes must have been bouncing off.
Another highlight for the 52 is her engine room. The space houses a 175-horsepower Lugger diesel, as well as an additional 36-horsepower “get-home” engine. Molded-fiberglass fuel tanks to port and starboard gravity feed to a day tank that catches any debris and water. A valve allows you to dump it out so efficiently that you could fill the tank completely with water and it would drain in minutes.
You might think, with all the attention paid to this boat’s serious seafaring traits, that she might be a bit rough on the inside. But you’d be wrong. My test boat had beautiful bookmatched teak throughout. And the joinery was extremely impressive. You almost had to squint to see where the wood on the boat is fit together. Another thing I love to see on any boat, but particularly on one designed for rough water, was handholds pretty much everywhere you could see. Safety first.
Down below the forward master stateroom has more room than the amidships VIP, and is fully above the waterline, which should theoretically help keep it warm on cold-water adventures. However, being forward, it also provides a rougher ride than the VIP. Many owners may want to take the stateroom farther aft for themselves. But this particular couple rarely goes more than 100 miles offshore so they don’t often sleep underway. If they did though, it would be no problem, noise-wise. The dulcet tones of that 175-horsepower Lugger are only 65 decibels in the master while underway at an 8-knot cruise. The VIP only saw a slight rise over that, at 67 decibels.
As I plowed the boat through the rolling Pacific swells off of Dana Point, California, I was impressed, if not surprised, by the rigidity of the ride. Her entire hull is solid, above and below the waterline, and the result is a ride that doesn’t so much cut through the water, as it does just kind of come to an agreement with the sea—OK, you’ll be getting out of my way now. Speed isn’t the name of the game with a boat like this. At 2,350 revs, she topped out at 8.8 knots in a two-way “speed” run. You could run her at 8.3 knots and burn 6 gallons per hour for a range of 2,166 nautical miles. Or, you could drop her down a notch to 7.1 knots, burn 3.8 gallons an hour, and extend the range to 2,926 nautical miles—enough to get you from California to Hawaii with plenty of fuel to spare. For my money, the latter speed seems like a logical tradeoff.
What you’re getting with the Nordhavn 52 is a heavy-duty build with serious oceangoing ambitions. She’s the kind of vessel that’s tailor made for experienced boaters with plenty of time on their hands. Retirees, for example. If you’ve worked all your life and now the time has come to fully enjoy the fruits of your labor, say, by taking off for Fiji, or Patagonia, or Antarctica, this is the kind of boat that can take you there. And do it safely.
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Generator: 1/12-kW Northern Lights, Warranty: Upon request
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 70°F; humidity 15%; seas: 2'
Load During Boat Test
200 gal. fuel, 100 gal. water, 5 persons, 100 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 1/175-hp Lugger diesel
- Props: 35 x 35 bronze five-blade
- Price as Tested: Upon request
This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.