Nordhavn vs Diesel Duck
Many people have asked me why after 5 years of owning and extensively cruising a Nordhavn 55 I decided to replace it with a Diesel Duck 462. My Nordhavn was my 9th boat. I have owned two Grand Banks (42 Motoryacht and 49 Classic), a Regal 25′ cruiser, Hans Christian 38 sailboat, a Pacific Motoryachts / Watson 72′ custom steel expedition trawler and 3 Boston Whalers of various sizes.
If you are waiting me to say something negative about the Nordhavn 55 than you will have a long wait. “Enterprise” is a great boat. It was one of the early 55s (Hull #3). Custom features include a King size bed in the master stateroom versus the standard queen. MUCH more comfortable for two people at sea and at the dock. The salon table was built on a custom electric pedestal. The table drops down and along with a custom cushion forms a large sleeping area or “kick back” area to comfortably watch TV. The starboard side cabinet in the salon was removed. In it’s place I had a custom down filled cushion couch installed. Outbound Yacht Service of Dana Point did a lot of the custom work on my boat. I highly recommend Kevin Ryan and his crew. They did a really nice job of bolting the couch to the floor. They installed a Bauer Jr. dive compressor and fabricated a custom scuba tank storage system that could be used either in the lazerette or bolted on the transom swimstep for easy access. I am a firm believer in keeping the equipment on my boat particularly elecronics as simple as possible. They seem to be much more reliable. Just having one good of everything. The Trac Hydraulic stabilization system works so well there is ZERO side to side roll. Many of the other Nordhavn owners would spend over $100K on their electronics packages with all redundant complex systems. I disagree on doing that and my experience while cruising served me right. The standard subzero refrigerator and freezer work great. The standard auxillary chest freezer located outside the engine room held many months worth of frozen supplies especially for someone who singlehanded like me. I loved the spacious flybride. I could never buy a boat without one. For me, it is all about safety. It offers a much better view versus the pilothouse underway and when anchoring. There was nothing like entering an uncharted anchorage at a 1/2 a knot with the forward scanning sonar running and being able to look down in front of the boat at the same time. While singlehanding the wind in your face on the flybridge helps keep you alert. When catnapping you could pop your head up, quickly scan the horizon 360 degrees with the binoculars and then fall right back asleep. I was in some horrendous conditons in the 55. On my way south along the coast of South America with the Humbolt current, the 0-40 knots of wind and 15 -20 ft swelsl originating from Antartica for weeks at a time the boat handled it with no problems. Much better than I did. People talk about Nordhavns look like wedding cakes because they are so tall and imply they are unseaworthy. First, all of that bouyancy in that high bow will help get you out of trouble. I will never forget crossing the bar as I left the Barillas Marina in El Salvador. The marina is up a long estuary and you do not know what the conditions are on the bar until you get right there. They have a panga lead you out. As I turned to make the last leg of the passage out of the estuary I saw a wall of water in front of me with a tiny dot on the face. That tiny dot was the 12′ panga desperately trying to climb the vertical face of the wave as the top was starting to break. The wave was so tall that on the flybridge I had to crane my head up to see the top. With the boat on autopilot I desperated tried to decide if I should speed up or slow down. Should I take the wave at an angle or head on? In 30+ years of boating I had never seen anything like this before and had no idea what to do. As I was deciding what to do, the wave was not waiting. The wall of water hit the bow of the boat head on with the anchor pulpit buried in its face and all of the bouyancy in that high bow just took me up and over and 120,000 lbs of Nordhavn was literally dropped 20′ through the air down the vertical backside. I was very shook up to say the least. After landing with a splash that sent water up and over the flybridge the boat just continued on under autopilot like nothing had happened. Even after the boat flew through the air there was not a single sqeak or rattle or anything different to indicate it had happened. There is something else to consider when some not too smart person gives you their uniformed opinion regarding the height of the boat and the stability. Everything heavy in the boat is at or below the waterline. The fuel, water, gray and black water tanks, the engines, generator, all of the kitchen appliances, the batteries etc. are all located there making the boat extremely seaworthy but giving you all of that living space at the same time. To sum it up, the Nordhavn 55 is an extremely seaworthy, comfortable, spacious, luxurious, and built like a (fiberglass) tank ocean crossing trawler. BUT, that spaciousness, luxury, and comfort comes at a price. This is where the Diesel Duck excels. With the DD you sacrifice some of that and in return get much greater efficiency and seaworthyness. We come back to the fact that all boats are compromises in one way or another.
First off, the DD design is much different than the N. The N is a SEDAN design with a deep cockpit and side decks. This makes line handling very easy and gives you a larger superstructure with a spacious salon and galley that can accomidate large windows far above the waterline for a light open feel. The living spaces are above the waterline. The DD in contrast is a FLUSH deck design similiar to most sailboats. There is no deep cockpit or deep side decks The superstructure is much smaller. The windows are smaller and stronger. Most are portholes with deadlights. The living spaces are at or below the waterline. This design without the deep cockpit and side decks will not catch the water from a breaking swell. Also, in a complete knock down or in the case of a complete roll over the water held there will do nothing to inhibit the boats recovery. The much smaller and stronger windows are less likely to break. Like I stated before the N has all of its heavy equipment at or below the waterline. The DD takes this one step further with a deeper larger keel with more ballast and all of the heavy equipment/tankage far below the waterline. All of the DD enormous (2000 gallon capacity) tanks line the bottom of the hull not the sides. The DD is self righting where the Nordhavn would be very challenged to survive a 360 degree roll without major damage. The DD’s hull and most of it’s superstructure is heavy guage steel. The N does not have real watertight compartments. They (except for the anchor locker) are connected by a long bilge. The DD has 5 complete watertight compartments. The fuel tanks line the bottom of the hull effectively giving it a double steel bottom. The hull plates at the chime and bow are not welded to each other but welded to a 1 1/2″ piece of solid steel round bar. If you hit something or end up on a reef that is what is going to take the brunt of the collision.
Secondly, the DD has been engineered and equipped with efficiency, simplicity and safety being a priority versus luxury and comfort. The DD has 4x+ more range than a similar sized N. The narrower hull design with its lower beam to length ratio (think Dashew’s FPB concept) is much more fuel efficient and hydrodynamic. The ketch sail rig ON MY BOAT makes it an excellet motorsailer with fuel consumption near 1 gph at 6-7 knots. Under power alone the boat’s John Deere 4045 engine burns only 1.5 gallons per hour. The sails not only contribute to fuel consumption reduction but also serve as a “get home” porpulsion system, serve to stabilize the boat and allow you “ly ahull” like sailboat if you are tired or in a storm. The sails along with the hard chime hull design mean you do not need an active stabilization system like the N with those large fins sticking out of the hull ready to hit something. In addition, you do not have all of that complex machinery it takes to run those stabilizers. My DD has a complete paravane system for at anchor and underway stabilization in addition to the sails. All of the systems on my boat were designed and equipped with energy efficiency in mind. What other ocean crossing trawler on the market today can be completely powered by renewable energy?? Can you name another steel flybridge motorsailer on the market? My wind generator and solar panels will power all of the efficient 24v systems like refrigeration, all LED lighting, entertainment system, all of the water pumps, electronics, watermaker etc. My boat will actually sail with the ketch sailing rig and 5 blade completely feathering, in the water pitch adjustable, super efficient Whisper Prop. My goal was to try and combine some of the luxury and comfort of my Nordhavn with the energy efficiency and seaworthyness of my heavy displacement Han Christian sailboat. Is my DD a sailboat? No. It will not point very high and the sail rig is not meant for any sort of tacking. It is more of a leave it and forget system like you would use during a long ocean crossing where the wind is constantly blowing in a similar direction like in the trade wind belt. The craftsmanship on my DD is similar to my Nordhavn with the granite counter tops and hand crafted traditional teak interior. I do have a 9kw Northern lights generator for additional battery charging capability and to run the dive compressor, washer and dryer and air conditioning.
To be continued……