A Family Affair
Spending a few days with the Leishman boys—Jim (right) and Jeff—on board the new Nordhavn 59 Coastal Pilot proves both exciting and, in a brotherly way, inspiring.
At noon, I jumped aboard our test boat—a prototype Nordhavn 59 Coastal Pilot—and we immediately departed Liberty Landing Marina on the Jersey side of New York’s busy harbor with fenders and lines flying. We were in a big-time hurry—Hurricane Maria was, by all reports, chugging towards a part of the Atlantic Ocean that we’d also soon be chugging towards. And our skipper, Nordhavn president Jim Leishman, is a respecter of storms. So is his brother Jeff, Nordhavn’s chief designer.
The two Leishman boys have been around, as they say. As friends, confidants, and business partners since they first got into the seafaring game back in the seventies, they’ve spent the ensuing decades traveling the oceans of the world together, accumulating stacks of salty adventures, not the least of them being a circumnavigation in 2002 on board a feisty little trawler—the Nordhavn 40.
And hey, Maria was still a force to be reckoned with. Although far from a monster at this point, she nevertheless continued to pack 80-mile-per-hour winds, meaning she was undoubtedly pushing some sporty weather toward Cape May, New Jersey, our proposed stopping point for the evening.
Gallery: Nordhavn 59 Coastal Pilot
“I wanna get down there as soon as possible—get into protected water,” Jim said as he advanced the throttles at the lower helm
station, bringing our twin, 715-horsepower Cummins QSM-11 diesels up to a steady hum. “The most economical and comfortable speed for this boat is 10 knots or so, but we need to go faster so we make Cape May at a reasonable hour.”
Within seconds, the 59’s tunnel-driven, semidisplacement hull form had achieved an optimal, on-plane running attitude of approximately four degrees. I eyeballed the instrument panel over Jim’s left shoulder—16.5 knots at 2250 revs.
“So that’s Coney Island?” Jeff suggested, pointing at a brown beach off to port with towers and a Ferris Wheel. He stood just abaft his brother, looking ahead, obviously enjoying the warm breeze that wafted through the open Dutch door to starboard of the helm station.
“Yeah,” chimed in Jeff’s wife, Nancy, our fourth and final crewmember. She sat on the L-shaped settee to port, keeping tabs on the storm via an overhead TV. “That’s Coney Island.”
The fog rolled in about 2 o’clock. And with it came a 6-foot southerly swell, with short, steep, northeasterly seas piled on top. Rain started falling, too, turning what had started out as a calm, diamonds-sparkling-on-the-water day into a dreary, storm-tossed, near-zero-visibility mess. At approximately 3 o’clock, the sea gods tossed us yet another dicey development.
Our Furuno MFDs went a little nuts. More to the point, with increasing frequency, each of the little devils started sending forth heading and COG/SOG predictor lines—on radar and cartography screens respectively—that were so widely off the mark (often by as much as 20 or 30 degrees) that maintaining a sense of direction in the disorienting murk became almost impossible. Instead of a single, reliable heading or predictor line, we had to deal with oodles of them, each about as incalculable as a Mexican jumping bean.
As you might imagine, this was challenging in terms of navigation. In fact, at the end of my stint at the wheel that afternoon, I was constrained to conclude that wildly varying heading and predictor errors, when coupled with zip for visibility, made steering flat-out bamboozling. As we closed with the coast and night fell, Jeff continued trying to resolve the issue with wiring tweaks and system
restarts but eventually gave up.
“Sorry, Jim,” he said. “I’m guessing there’s something screwy with the fluxgate compass—I don’t know. Once we get where we’re going we’ll have the Furuno guys check it out. Typical prototype problem.”
“Okay,” Jim replied, while shifting in the helm seat to relax his neck muscles. “Thanks.”
Just north of Cape May Inlet, everybody on board was completely hunkered down, eyeballing the gauzy darkness for the red flashing light that serves as the inlet’s sea buoy. Jim had pulled the throttles back and we were now literally crawling through fog, rain, and a confused, uproarious sea state. Our 59’s big windshield wipers swished rhythmically in the whispery quiet.
“That looks like the north jetty,” I offered, pointing at the radar screen. At the moment, the boat icon on our plotter seemed to be heading towards the opening between the sea buoy and the red flasher at the outboard end of the jetty, but the COG/SOG predictor promised an impending collision with the beach. I rubbed my eyes with both hands, wondering how in heck Jim was managing to steer a safe, sensible course.
When I opened my eyes again, I saw a figure out on the foredeck—Jeff. Without a word, he’d quietly exited through the Dutch door to stand on the foredeck in the slanting rain and darkness with a pair of binoculars. He motioned for Jim to alter course to port and then indicated the direction to go to negotiate the channel. After a few seconds, a faintly comforting misty redness flashed, high up and hard to starboard. A few more seconds passed and a repetitive flash briefly illuminated the tower underpinning the light and a pile of rocks, probably the seaward end of the north jetty.
“Range lights?” Jim then theorized, straining to see farther ahead. Was there a quick-flasher out there, with what seemed like an isophase (equal-interval) flasher behind it?
“Maybe,” I replied.
“Range lights,” yelled Jeff, still out on the foredeck, confirming his brother’s theory in a booming voice that overcame both wind and rain. As I seriously considered the possibility that the two brothers had some kind of telepathy thing going, Jeff motioned us forward again and then, without coming back inside, pointed toward a fog-shrouded array of sailboats with anchor lights off to port.
“That’ll be the anchorage,” Jim said with confidence, turning the wheel and starting a slow turn.
No Passagemaker, But…
I slept like a baby that night, thanks to a comfy VIP (one of three staterooms on board our 59, although other layouts are available), with a traditional varnished-teak decor, an adjoining head, a large queen berth with a residential-style mattress, and two large portlights, port and starboard, which when opened encouraged my snoozing with salty cross-ventilation. Is there a better place in all the world to catch a few winks than a snug berth on a well-anchored boat with rain pouring down? I don’t think so.
When morning came, I was the first one up, a development that helped me make a telling discovery—the 59 is virtually squeak-less!
This detail manifested matter-of-factly. In order to fire up the coffee maker in our fully found galley, I ascended the steps from the VIP to the salon very carefully at first, trying not to wake anyone but half expecting the sort of fierce, sleep-busting creak you often hear on anchored boats with super-quiet generators. I soon realized, however, that tip-toeing was unnecessary—the surfaces underfoot were as solid and silent as a rock.
Significant? Yes, indeedy. While the 59 is certainly not the greyhound of the seas that her full-displacement sisterships are, she obviously owes a great deal to the genre, despite her speedier coastal-cruising personality. Her scantlings, for example, are as beefy as a true passagemaker’s; her hull-to-deck joint is extra-robust and boasts mechanical fasteners as well as 3M 5200 adhesive sealant and two layers of fiberglass mat and woven roving; and all of her resin-infused major components (hull, deck, superstructure, etc.) are so stout that, when fashioned into a complete vessel, warrant an overall CE Category A Unlimited Offshore rating, meaning the 59’s fit to tackle just about any coastal voyage imaginable.
Chesapeake City Crab Cake
We enjoyed a true slice of the boating life the evening before we made our final destination—Bay Bridge Marina, the site of the 2017 Chesapeake Bay TrawlerFest. The festivities commenced shortly after we’d tied up alongside the wharf at Shaefer’s Canal House in Chesapeake City, Maryland, hard by the banks of the C&D Canal.
The sunset was dramatic—a veritable panorama of red and orange swathes. The commercial traffic passing by was pleasantly plentiful, with far-flung freighters, workhorse tows, and busy little tugs chugging along. And finally, there was the dinner itself, an affair that featured a long, exceptionally boaty discussion sparked by our test boat’s 20.7-knot average top speed, which we’d recorded earlier during a stint of testing on comparatively calm water.
“Guess it’s pretty obvious we’re branching out a good bit with the 59,” Jim explained, “although the main focus is still on the long-distance cruising boats everybody knows us for.”
“Yeah,” concurred Jeff, “there are plenty of people out there who may not want to cross oceans, but they still want a faster, coastal-cruising vessel with the same quality, engineering, brand recognition, and resale value our ocean-crossers offer.”
“These crab cakes,” Nancy interjected, lofting her fork into the air with authority. “These crab cakes!”
The two brothers looked down at their plates, realizing they’d forgotten their identical entrées, which each featured a five-ounce broiled crab cake, a baked potato, some asparagus, and all the appropriate condiments. They began digging in.
I did some digging, too, but also some thinking. Here were two very lucky guys, it seemed to me. As true seafarers, they’d taken brotherhood well beyond the ordinary over the years. Jim—always the skipper. Jeff—the designer and first mate.
“THAT,” Jim exclaimed, “is the best crab cake I have ever eaten.”
Jeff nodded, then gave me a sideways conspiratorial look. “So, Bill,” he ventured, “have we shown you our next model? I’ve got drawings back on board.”
Of course, we subsequently checked the drawings out. And the experience leads me to surmise here that the new Nordhavn 80 will most likely offer the same seaworthiness, rock-solid construction, and engineering reliability that’s always typified the brand, the 59 Coastal Pilot included.
Nordhavn 59 Coastal Pilot layout diagrams
Test Conditions: Air temperature: 70ºF; humidity 62%; seas: 1’-2’; wind: 4-8 knots.
Load: 550 gal. fuel, 300 gal. water, 4 persons.
Noteworthy Options: ABT-TRAC fin-type stabilizers ($46,135); Furuno electronics package ($62,439)
Nordhavn 59 Coastal Pilot - Final Boat Test Numbers:
Speeds are two-way averages measured w/Furuno display. GPH estimates taken via Cummins monitoring system. Range based on 90% of advertised fuel capacity. Decibels measured at lower helm. 65 dB-A is the level of normal conversation.
DISPL.: 82,000 lb.
FUEL: 1,100 gal.
WATER: 444 gal.
STANDARD POWER: 715-bhp Cummins QSM-11 diesel inboards
TEST POWER: 2/715-bhp Cummins QSM-11 diesel inboard
TRANSMISSION: ZF335 IV; 2.46:1 ratio
PROPELLERS: 33 x 33 1/2 NiBrAl 4-blade
OPTIONAL POWER: NA
GENERATOR: 1/21.5-kW Cummins Onan