By John Marshall, Guest Contributor, Owner of the Nordhavn 55 Serendipity
The new Nordhavn 52 appeared compact and lean as I approached it from the elevated walkway along Alaskan Way in downtown Seattle, her proven Nordhavn 47 origins clearly discernible in her hull design and superstructure. Yet when I stepped onto the large swim platform and entered the extremely spacious cockpit, I felt as if I’d just stepped aboard a much larger boat, larger even than the Nordhavn 55 that I normally cruise on.
That impression of size and spaciousness was further compounded as I watched James and Jennifer Hamilton pull off the dock moments after I stepped aboard, quietly and confidently carrying on a conversation on their crew communicators as they to extracted Dirona from the constricted confines of Seattle’s tiny downtown marina, the fore and aft hydraulic thrusters growling loudly as James turned the heavy N52 with pinpoint accuracy. Yet instead of standing in the pilothouse, James was freely moving around his boat, helping Jennifer pick up the line from the high bow, walking from side to side on the Portuguese bridge as he gauged the rocks at the base of the seawall and the docks and other boats, threading his way out of the diminished basin of low tide puddle called Bell Harbor Marina, effortlessly controlling the thrusters, throttle and transmission with the wireless control in his left hand.
Stepping inside the eerily empty pilothouse as the Hamiltons worked competently on deck, I admired the massive 19-inch Lenovo monitors that were wrapped around the helm chair, two in front and one angled to either side, creating the ultimate “glass cockpit” experience. Furuno’s new Navnet 3D showed me radar, chart and sounder views of the world around us, with the Maretron monitoring system filling one huge screen with more than a dozen analog-type gauges that revealed everything that was happening in the engine and machinery spaces below. Smaller windows on the screens revealed the marina and its obstacles through the eyes of a number of video cameras, and if it had been foggy or dark, those would have been replaced by a Forward Looking Infrared Radar that could peer through darkness and fog. The overwhelming impression was that I was standing on the deck of the largest of Nordhavns.
The contrast between the compact size that had been so visible from the dock—albeit longer at 56 feet LOA and leaner than the Nordhavn 47 it had been developed from—continued through out the boat, making Dirona the best example I’ve seen of a “pocket superyacht.”
Yet Dirona is first and foremost an expedition-grade boat, and much of its equipment reflects the Hamilton’s approach to wilderness cruising, documented in their published book and the frequent seminars they give on off-the-beaten-track PNW cruising. One has only to look at the 150 gallons of gasoline storage on the boat deck and the three massive anchors, the main Rocna equipped with an unusual 500 feet of chain rode, along with dive compressors and twin 500-foot reels for stern-tying, to know that Dirona is set up for self-sufficient adventurous travel in rigorous high-latitude locations, with long periods away from any shore-based facilities.
The Nordhavn 52 has a very muscular feeling when getting under way, partially due to the throaty sound of the higher-output John Deere engine, plus the roar of the powerful hydraulic thrusters. Once out of the marina, she rides exceedingly smoothly, with less turn-induced heel than some of the taller Nordhavns. Speed through the water and efficiency is remarkable, with preliminary data showing the 2nm/gallon speed at close to 7.5 knots, which is more than a half knot faster than a Nordhavn 47 can travel to achieve that same fuel efficiency and range.
The large cockpit, which on Dirona was equipped with a very large teak table and chairs, will appeal to the buyer who wants to spend a significant amount of time relaxing outdoors. The graceful lines of the expanded cockpit include a lower side wall around the after two-thirds of the cockpit, which unlike the Nordhavn 47, makes it possible for those of average height to look out and admire the view while seated.
In addition, the extended cockpit provides for a cavernous lazarette that is sized for live-aboard owners, or those owners who carry a great deal of diving or fishing gear. The Hamiltons have taken advantage of some of that extra space by moving the large chest freezer from inside to the lazarette, which opens up a significant amount of space inside the living spaces of the boat. For long-term comfort in the chilly winters of the PNW, they have also installed the large boiler of a robust home-style hydronic heating system lazarette. Yet even with all this gear, the remaining space in the lazarette is still larger than that of a Nordhavn 47.
The overall fit and finish of Dirona reflects the continuing improvements in the wood shop at South Coast Marine, PAE’s partner in Asia, that we first saw with the new Expedition Yachtfisher, using a finish that’s brighter and slightly higher in gloss than earlier N47’s. The exterior, using an optional HK Research white gelcoat, is also flawless, and instead of the previously common gray hull with white superstructure, Dirona features an all-white exterior.