Post by Larry McCullough
Over the last few months several people have asked me “why that boat?” some people went as far to say “that’s an overkill”. Well, pardon me! Actually, it’s been quite the conversation starter, “what kind of boat is that?”. Independence is a Nordhavn Coastal Pilot, 59 feet long (end of the bow pulpit to the end of the swim platform and 50 feet long at the water line.
Why Nordhavn?…you ask, well maybe not you, but several people have: Nordhavn has a reputation as building some of the strongest most seaworthy recreational boats in the world. I say the world because you will find Nordhavns all over the world. Safety, for obvious reasons, was one of our top priorities. The Coastal Pilot has the highest storm rating designation. Not that I ever want to test the full capabilities of the boat but just a few days ago we were in Lake Michigan (nicknamed ‘The Washing Machine’} and the seas were much larger than any weather service was predicting, 7, 8 maybe even some 9 footers where we had some “green water” over the bow. Not only were they relatively large but confused, meaning coming from different directions. Having cruised most of the West Coast those do not sound that large, but it is all about the spacing. The ones we had were maybe every 2 to 3 seconds. My prior experience on the Pacific Coast was that if they were 10 feet not that big of a deal if they were 12 to 15 seconds apart.
In one of the many articles I read about Nordhavns (most often in Passage Maker) one of the founders was being interviewed about the design. One of his comments that really resonated with me was regarding the hull thickness and why, because someday there is a good chance that the boat could hit the bottom or something in the water like a log. Nordhavn also has a reputation for using only the highest quality components.
I would not call Independence, or for that matter any Nordhavn a ‘Weekend Boat’ meaning just using it for a few hours over the weekend. It is a boat made for cruising and racking up the miles. We took off from Jupiter Florida in April and today is September 1, we have already gone over 3,800 nautical miles (NM). Our plan is to go through the Panama Canal and up the Pacific to the San Francisco Bay Area and eventually all the way to Alaska. So no Ma’am, it is not an overkill.
Nordhavn built their reputation on trawlers, Independence is not a trawler but a semi displacement boat. What’s that mean?…in short it can go faster. A trawler is full displacement and it’s maximum speed is the square root of it’s water line length multiplied by 1.34. It can not go any faster than that even with larger engines. Put simply, Independence’s hull is designed, that when given more power, it rises out of the water and can reach speeds of 20 knots. We rarely go over 12 knots and find that we cruise in the 8.5 to 9 knot range and experience a fuel consumption of around one nautical mile to the gallon. Slowing the boat down to 7 knots we have found we can average around a fuel burn of around 5 gallons per hour in ideal conditions, ie little wind and no current.
Independence holds 1,100 gallons of diesel. That works out to a range of close to 900 NM at 9 knots with a very comfortable reserve cushion. On a long passage slowing the boat down to 7 knots we have a range of around 1,300 miles with a comfortable reserve (of course winds, waves and currents must fit into the calculation also).
Independence is hull number one of their Coastal Pilot model, it was a demo boat when we bought it. The boat came with many extras that made it close to a “turn key” boat for us: Furuno electronic package that included: radar; auto-pilot; chart plotting. I am constantly learning new ways to use the Furuno equipment and recently added Sirius Weather to the system. Also included with the boat were the stabilizers which I have come to love.
The last five months have been an incredible learning experience. Exploring North America as we have, I have come to appreciate what a beautiful country we and the Canadians have. I have learned that when approaching a town from the water you can estimate how many breweries they might have by the number of tall church steeples. I have also learned to appreciate, and love Independence. At first I was very intimidated with that all we were undertaking but sometimes you just have to go for it and fine tune things as you go. Being 59 feet long Independence is usually one of the largest boats when we pull into a harbor. I am proud at what we have done so far. We have been through locks (30+), fought the 5 knot current at Hells Gate (East River NYC), docked during 25 knot winds and I am continually surprised at how well the boat handles and can be maneuvered. I have also appreciated the extra power in those currents and wind. No, the boat is not an “overkill” but just right for us.