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Review: Nordhavn 55' Trawler

Discussion in 'Nordhavn Yacht' started by YachtForums, Sep 24, 2005.

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  1. Nordhavn 55' Trawler
    Boldly Going Where Big Boats Go.

    by Carl Camper​

    For many cruisers, a trawler is the ideal yacht. It combines the features of comfort, safety, ease of handling and sea-kindliness, whether long range or simply a weekend outing. Tradition plays a major part in trawler design, for these vessels are patterned after a tried and true formula of centuries. While they may not complete visually -- for some yachting aficionados -- with the ever-sleeker trend in race-boat speed and cat’s-eye windows; for stability, toughness, and brawny good looks, their beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Welcome to Nordhavn’s hunky and handsome 55.

    The Nordhavn story is a classic kind of tale; almost like a TV story-board. A fable about two young guys who spent their early years crossing oceans in small boats, but their ambitions and accomplishments grew into an enterprise that seemed so natural, but perhaps not so easy. It’s the kind of story worth knowing; one of American bootstrap enterprise, one that makes many of us, lovers of the sea-going life, think when we read... “There, but for the grace of the gods…”


    Photo Caption: The Nordhavn 55 will cover 1500 miles at 9.5 knots. Cutting back just a smidge to a leisurely 8.25 knots, she'll realize 3,000 nautical miles on a 2,250 gallon fill up. Do the math on these figures and getting there in a hurry doesn't measure up. Trawler travel isn’t the fabled rabbit, but you get there with a smile on your face and a couple of bucks in your pocket.
  2. History...

    Jim Lieshman, crewing on his family’s boat, had sailed from California to Hawaii. Dan Streech had cruised for a year on his family’s 54’ Alden yawl, Malabar VII. They met a few years later at a yacht brokerage in Dana Point, CA. When that dealership closed in 1974, the two opportunistic guys, with Joe Meglen, audaciously formed Pacific Asian Enterprises, PAE, importing CT boats, and Transpac 49s, from Taiwan. Okay. But no big deal? Just wait:

    In those early days of Taiwan production, boats needed extra effort to reach Western-world quality standards; so all three men worked with their crews to bring the boats up to par. They raised quality levels; eventually imported and sold 35 Transpacs. By 1977, ready for the next step, they presented a plan to their builders: The developer – PAE – would own the molds and tooling while the Taiwan builder would deal exclusively as their sub-contractor.


    Photo Caption: Although many late model trawlers sport big twins, the main propulsion for Nordhavn's 55 is a single John Deere 330 hp diesel. This is transmitted through a 3-1/2-inch Aquamet shaft via a 4:1 reduction ZF transmission. Combined with Nordhavn’s modified full displacement hull design, this set-up allows the prop to rotate slowly, which cuts down on noise and vibration while still moving her along at efficient hull speed. Notice the davit and dinghy on the aft deck. Few boats in this size range offer an expedition-like storage deck, with room to spare.
  3. History Continued...

    That meant those three brash young entrepreneurs – 21, 26, 27 – were now in control of specifications, quality, pricing and marketing. A new yacht manufacturer was poised at the launching pier! A 43’ sailboat was first, by designer Al Mason, who had spent time with John Alden in his earlier years. So, no surprise, the new Mason 43 had more than a subliminal connection with Dan’s Malabar VII. Then as Lady Luck would have decreed, the Ta Shing (Chinese for Big New) Yacht Building president, the venerable Mr. CM Juan, wanted most of all – an American partner with a good design.

    The Mason 43 became an immediate success. In its wake quickly sprung the M63, M53, M53C and M33. From 1978 to 1985, PAE produced 132 Series-3s. Three guys’ yachts grew to be icons in the sailing fraternity. Hollywood could not have written a better script. But the sequel gets even better...


    Photo Caption: The N-55’s high bow gives extra buoyancy to punch through big seas, in addition to a Portuguese brow surrounding the bridge, further reducing spray in offshore conditions. An effective configuration, it also promotes more volume and more living room inside the vessel. To keep this mini-freightor planted in big seas, engine components are placed as low as possible for added stability.
  4. Evolution...

    Later, in 1987 Jeff Leishman, Jim’s younger brother, worked with Mason on redesigns of the Series-3, and completed his naval architecture degree from Yacht Design Institute. His student assignment for a “project boat” became a fascination. It was with Robert Beebe’s Voyaging Under Power. That was the watershed concept for round the world voyages in a small displacement sail/power boat. And from that fascination eventually came the Nordhavn 46.

    In spite of numerous problems – rejections – by the builder, yachting magazines, and potential customers, it became the birth of a new direction for the company. The greatest number of ocean cruisers at that time were sailboats. But not to be deterred, because of its “tugboat” shape reminiscent of North Sea Trawlers, the guys named the new kid Nordhavn, which is Norwegian for North Harbor. They negotiated with a new builder, Tsai Wan Sheu, South Coast Marine in Tapei, Taiwan... and the plot thickened:


    Photo Caption: Up high in the sun for the longest view, the flybridge sports only essential instrumentation because of the extreme conditions this boat was built to endure. Backed by sturdy, weather-handling chairs, a forward-swept windscreen and a stainless steel wheel, the flybridge is purposely kept clean and simple, leaving very little external hardware exposed to the elements. The positioning of the flybridge, almost exactly amidship, transmits the least motion at sea. An important consideration given its altitude on a 55' boat.
  5. Recognition...

    While sailing cruisers at first turned up their noses to the new concept, ocean voyagers quickly saw this approach as the Real McNord. Even Lynford Beebe – Robert Beebe’s widow – and Steve Doherty, original editor of Voyaging Under Power, saw the promise of this new concept. After all, most wind-sailors also used diesel power a large percentage of their miles, motor-sailing. Jim Leishman, while making a transatlantic voyage in the Nordhavn 46, began the task of updating Beebe’s classic book.

    That was the beginning of an international marketing effort, and orders began flooding in. But it was not yet the end of this fascinating story. Newer models came and went; a Nordhavn 40 made the Around the World trip as a 27-week voyage, with successive crews of company employees. This led to new models, new worldwide dealerships, and a new builder: SCM Xiamen China, which delivered this fine new classic N55.


    Photo Caption: Nordhavn’s 55 was designed expressly for long passages. A low maintenance, weather resistant exterior and components take priority over bells & whistles. The aft cockpit is an example. Designed to be rugged and true to form, it's non-skid deck and staircase is fully molded as one piece, with only the bare essentials provided. Although each level; lower, main, upper and flybridge decks look vertically challenging, the staircases and ladders used throughout the 55 are not steep. The steps are oversize for secure footing when the going gets rough.

    Photo Caption: Directly opening from the aft cockpit, the homely, well laid-out salon features a teak and holly sole, with an inlaid cherrywood table. Two nicely designed leather easy chairs stand ready for reading or relaxation, plus a pair of bar chairs at the breakfast bar. To starboard, a teak staircase leads up to the wheelhouse, while the central passageway leads to the master stateroom. That's right... an on-deck master on a 55' boat!
  7. Photo Caption: Spaciously accommodating, the salon sports full aft and side views with wide windows, draped and shielded from the sun. The nucleus of this view is from the dining table situated aft of the salon. L-shaped with simple egress from each side, it's just the right size for a cruising couple and occasional crew. To the far left of this photo, you can see the outline of a serious offshore door! No matter how wet it gets outside, you're completely sealed and self contained inside.
  8. Photo Caption: A close up of the serving counter shows a pass-through granite counter top to the galley that doubles as a breakfast bar. Copious storage drawers and bins, including overhead cabinets line every out-of-the-way space onboard. A space that strikes a comfortable balance between corners and curves.
  9. Photo Caption: Two steps forward from the main salon, the full-appointed galley features home-size appliances – SubZero refrigerator and icemaker, 4-burner Thermador stove/oven, plus a microwave. There is also a trash compactor, GE dishwasher, and freezer. Consideration is clearly given to accomodation, such as the sink and food-prep counters facing aft, giving an open view to the salon and the harbor that surrounds. Among many other small details, a strategically placed porthole helps vent exhaust fumes from the stove.
  10. Photo Caption: A close up view of the wheelhouse dinette reveals the inlaid teak table with its rounded corners, pedestal-set before the L-shaped Ultraleather booth settee. Beneath the settee are full size chart drawers and storage. Aft windows are one of the rewards of the N-55's unusually high pilothouse. How many yachts offer 270 degree observations from any point on the bridge deck?
  11. Photo Caption: Built for the sea-faring mariner, the cupola-shaped wheelhouse presents optimal views via forward swept wheelhouse windows. Coupled with a slight overhang from the flybridge roof above, they provide glare free navigation and ventilation! Remote fresh air inlets are incorporated on each side of the helm. With a get-down-to-business, wrap around helm, complete with any set of solutions a captain calls for... the N-55 bridge emits a feel of solidity and security, even in the Perfect Storm. Just in case you encounter it... weatherproof, sealed doors lock the ship down tight.
  12. Photo Caption: All switches are located on a panel to starboard, under the helm counter and within easy reach of the captain's chair. The 45º tilted wheel, rather than an unwieldy destroyer or sailboat type, perches on a teak slab with manageable circumference. The leather captain’s chair is fully adjustable, boasting a substantial foot rest. The elevation of the N55's wheelhouse approaches that of a much larger vessel, enabling a more commanding view and drier navigation. Twin flat-panel screens display radar and plotting, but time tested anologue gauges convey engine vitals.
  13. Photo Caption: Many yachts twice the size of the N-55 fall short when it comes to business. Tucked away under her massive bow is nice size office, the perfect place for paperwork, or to surf the local websites of the next port of call. A bookcase flanks the desk, large enough to hold a bushel of paperbacks and again, storage is plentiful. One more of those strategically placed portholes is supplied for fresh air or a peek at the horizon. It's clear to see, the N-55 was designed by those who have been to sea.
  14. Photo Caption: Amidships on the same level as the galley, the master stateroom centers on the most stable area of the yacht. Featuring a queen size island berth and two hanging lockers, the wall coverings are well finished matte teak, echoing floor patterns and colors. A wide bed table/counter runs past the headboard where, overhead, a trio of stainless steel rimmed opening ports provide light and ventilation at the proper moments.
  15. Photo Caption: Also a study in finished teak is the master head. With wall coverings and cabinets forming a frame for the black onyx-like counter top, a white china sink jettisons out to greet you and an oversized medicine cabinet doubles as a large mirror. While the head is not oversize, it is larger than most in this size range and roomy enough to live comfortably aboard.
  16. Photo Caption: An unusual touch is the almost circular bath tub, with a shower overhead. Again, portholes are used in all the right places, such as venting the humidity that fills a shower after use. Notice the sturdy shower door and hardware. Why so strong? Spend a week in true offshore conditions and you'll see why stout hinges are a protocol.
  17. Photo Caption: Nicely fitted in, just forward of the pilothouse, the VIP stateroom offers a double berth, plus bed lamps and a bureau as well as a hanging locker. It can also double as an off-watch station for crew during long passages. The VIP accomodations are warm, inviting and comfortable. For the cruising couple, the VIP can also serve as storage, as well as a private escape.
  18. Photo Caption: The N-55 is powered by a John Deere 330 hp diesel. De-rated and highly reliable, this single engine set-up affords increased engine room space and much better mileage. Because the N-55 is a full displacement hull, an additional engine would not push the hull much faster, yet it would consume twice the amount of fuel. Adding to it's range, Nordhavn’s modified hull design uses broader aft sections then typical trawler hulls, which adds stability, reduces “squatting” and improves efficiency. Although the N-55 is only a single screw, it's 50' waterline, coupled with a bow-thruster make quick work out of tight slips.
  19. Photo Caption: The engine room is insulated with Technitron fire proof foil and 2" of leaded foam, topped off with gray paint and perforated aluminum sheets. No wood is used in the engine room. In addition to the main engine, this cavern contains a Northern Lights 20kw generator, Dayton blowers, and a Halon system. Notice the number of access hatches to the bilge, as well hatches in the ceiling that open to the salon above. The ultimate in convenience for passing parts and trading tools.
  20. Currently...

    Nordhavn's dealer network is expanding around the world, with offices established in Rhode Island, Florida and the UK. Their new designs have made quite an impression on the big bow, blue water scene, as more people recognize their rugged durability and long range capability.

    The N-55, now one of twelve long range cruisers ranging from 35 to 76 feet, is sure to be one of the most popular Nordhavn models. It's a BIG little boat that will go anywhere... with fuel to spare. But... be prepared to wait. By mid-2005 there was a 15-boat backlog for the N-55, which for now, is being built at a rate of 9 boats per year. Clearly, these "slower" boats are going fast and Nordhavn is winning the race... at 9 nautical miles per hour.

    To fully appreciate these boats, you need to get up close. The Nordhavn 55 has presense. This little 55' thinks it's a freighter. One excursion into North Sea swells... and you will too.

    <end> ​


    LOA: 55’0”
    Beam: 18’0”
    Draft: 6’0”
    Disp.: 120,000 lbs.
    Fuel: 2,250 gals.
    Water: 600 gals.
    Power: John Deere 330 hp Diesel
    Range: 3,000 nm @ 8.25 knots

    For more information, contact:

    Nordhavn Yachts
    34179 Golden Lantern, Suite 101
    Dana Point, California 92629
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