Ahh, 2020. What is there to say about you? They say hindsight is 2020. Well, yes, there likely was not a more appropriate year where a bit of 2020 hindsight would have been appreciated. We all could have prepared ourselves for months-long quarantines in the remote location of our choice to wait out the endless waves of this pandemic. (Some fortunate folks didn’t need hindsight for this, only a Nordhavn.)
To put it mildly, 2020 was a horrible year for so many. The countless ills – and not just physical but emotional and economic ills – that were suffered by millions of people are not lost on us here at Pacific Asian Enterprises. And yet, when we look back on 2020, we, as a company, breathe a huge sigh. Mainly because we are hopefully looking at the back side of this crisis, but also because it provided another example of the resiliency that exists here at PAE. In fact, 2020 was an extraordinary year for us – not in the way a company has a great year due to an uptick in sales, although there certainly was that, but in the way we pulled together as a team, adapting and embracing new strategies, being flexible and creative in how we served our clients, and how our own customers learned to modify the way they bought, sold and used their Nordhavns. “On the other side of a storm is the strength that comes from having navigated through it,” said author Gregory S. Williams. In PAE’s case, we emerge stronger and better.
Our hearts remain heavy for our customers, friends and those unknown to us who have agonized due to the events of this past year, yet we are grateful for the positivity we were able to extract. Our best to you for a 2021 that allows you not to suffer or live in fear, but to take back your life.
January: The year started innocuously enough (little did we know) with Nordhavn owners continuing to cruise and blissfully interact with other owners. One of the highlights of being a Nordhavn owner is the connections to be had with one another – despite being oceans apart – via the very engaging Nordhavn Owners groups and Nordhavn Dreamers chat groups. Parlaying off those active online forums another Nordhavn site launched in January: Nordhavn Living. It’s the Nordhavn equivalent to Martha Stewart’s successful and popular Living franchise that focuses on the softer, non-technical side of cruising aboard Nordhavns. (Where’s the best place to keep spices? Dog seasickness prevention ideas?) For owners only: nordhavnliving.com.
February: Through our work with Dutch architecture and design firm, Vripack, the past two years, we recognized we could take the things we learned and apply them in-house. We emphasized the further progression of our own design and engineering department by employing new technology such as our own computational fluid dynamics program to aid in testing new hulls in a kind of digital towing tank. In February, we added Alex Ahmann, a CAD Design specialist, who produces 3-D models and renderings of our new hulls. With the addition of Alex to our team, we beef up what we feel is the best engineering staff in the business, there to ensure the seaworthiness, safety, and performance of each Nordhavn hull design.
March: The last in-water boat show of 2020 for Nordhavn. By early March news of Coronavirus was front and center, although panic levels had not quite reached fever pitch. The Stuart (FL) Trawler Fest snuck in under the gun, before the words “lockdown” had yet passed by anyone’s lips. The show was a very busy one, certainly a telltale sign of things to come (later) for the marine industry. But the following week, the WHO officially labels the virus as a global pandemic. Nordhavn comes out with a special “COVID-19 edition” newsletter. Nobody is thinking about boating. On March 22nd, with the world glued to their 24-hour news sources, the nordhavn.com website has its lowest single day of pageviews ever.
April: The reality of Coronavirus hits. PAE continues operations with the majority of its staff working remotely. All international travel is restricted so no one is visiting the factories. Like so many others, the folks at Nordhavn are introduced to the world of video conferencing. Once we get the hang of it, we discover we are able to engage in more frequent check-ins with clients and the factory. Buyers can keep a more active eye on the progress of their boats and still get an up-close, if not in-person, look. Nordhavn owner chatter focuses on changed plans – international cruisers are stuck, and even domestic travel is limited depending on a given state’s restrictions.
May: PAE presents its first Virtual Conference. Hosted by PAE’s principals, Dan Streech, Jim Leishman and Jeff Leishman, as well as project manager Drew Leishman, the inaugural online event focuses on the brand’s newest model, the Nordhavn 41. The Virtual Conference is a huge success with hundreds of folks tuning in live, nearly 40,000 views of the recorded broadcasts, and several commitments on N41 hulls happening as a result. Watch the presentation here and the Q & A session here.
June: Parlaying off the success of the previous month’s Virtual Conference, and forecasting an indefinite absence from in-water boat show participation, Nordhavn conducts an extensive 3-day Virtual Open House complete with walk-through videos of all models, virtual seminars, live Q & A sessions and live Broker’s hours. The Virtual Open House is a hit, attended by folks who, by now, have become very antsy with the restrictions and lack of options imposed by the Coronavirus. Nordhavn’s brokerage inventory begins to dwindle as more and more consumers view cruising as the ultimate socially-distant activity.
July: Cases in the U.S. are at their lowest and cruisers are able to move more freely about the country, although still not into Canada. Nordhavn 9616 is delivered from the factory to Seattle for commissioning. Workers are required to present a negative Covid test prior to stepping on board. PAE Project Manager Trever Smith will have undergone dozens of Covid tests by the time 9616 is handed over to her owner in the fall.
August: In 2019, under entirely different sets of circumstances, two brand new, nearly completed consecutive Nordhavn 68 hulls became available within weeks of each other. Back during the economic crisis in 2008-09, abandoned production slots were an occurrence that we were familiarized with, but rarely has it happened since. We went into crisis mode, devising strategies over how to secure buyers for these two gorgeous, yet now uncustomizeable yachts due to how far along in the build process they were. Stress levels were high during the ensuing months, but this past August both yachts were successfully handed over to new, thrilled owners. And we celebrated these deliveries just a little bit more than most.
September: Positive cases have leveled out for a third straight month, but travel restrictions remain in place, as does anxiety over the Covid safety of planes and airports. With in-person showings the exception rather than the rule, brokers at Nordhavn Yachts Sales rely on ingenuity, cooperation, knowledge, and the trust they’ve built with their clients to get the job done. In 2020, brokers are left to FaceTime walk-throughs with prospective buyers and buyers are forced to rely on the judgement of their brokers, or risk losing out on the perfect boat. In some cases, it was impossible to get aboard internationally-based boats, but thanks to the network of Nordhavn Yachts salesmen and women, purchasing a yacht sight-unseen was a less risky effort. “We’re in this together,” said Nordhavn Northwest-Anacortes salesman Devin Zwick. “I know that’s an overused cliché but I completely trust my colleagues to let me know their honest opinion on the condition of a boat. If they say it’s a good boat, then I have the utmost confidence in passing that information to my client.” At least five Nordhavn deals were sealed this year with the buyer never having stepped foot on the boat they were buying.
October: The Northeast boating community is always abuzz this time of year with the big fall boat shows happening in Newport, RI and Annapolis, MD. Of course, those shows were shuttered thanks to state mandates. PAE also announced it would not be participating in the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show. To compensate, we opted to present our own Open Houses – done so with extreme safety precautions in place. We kicked things off at our Northeast office in East Greenwich, RI. A limited number of available appointments kept attendance in check, but it was a great feeling being able to open our boats up to real live people. Our second Open House was in North Palm Beach at our Southeast sales office. With both Miami shows canceled in February, the Open Houses should continue into 2021.
November: The biggest thing (in our opinion!) to hit the waters happened in November with the arrival of the first of the Nordhavn 41s to California. Hulls one and two arrived, granted with limited fanfare, but certainly with much anticipation and interest. Jim Leishman said the new design was “everything he had hoped for.” Currently the first 28 hulls have been reserved.
December: Nine months ago, no one knew what the Coronavirus was or how to deal with it. The uncertainty of the whole thing was as scary as the thought of catching it. It has shined a brighter spotlight on the bravery of healthcare workers and teachers and cast a new “hero” label on delivery drivers and grocery clerks. What it has done to the hospitality industry is cruel. But what it has done for boating, well, we are entirely thankful. 2020 has brought us our busiest and most successful year in brokerage sales ever. Even with just days remaining in the year, deals are still being struck with N63 Lady Di going under agreement this past weekend. “I think COVID definitely prompted more people to consider boating than normal,” said salesman James Leishman. “It has caused people to re-assess the importance of spending time with family. Cruising is a safe, easy, fun way to do that. But also, I think the Nordhavn brand is so strong and people recognize it as a smart investment. There’s so much unknown right now, but a Nordhavn yacht is a known and secure commodity.”
This December we spend the holidays looking back and recalling all those whose support has given us the strength to be resilient in such uncertain times. And we hope that health, joy, and peace are gifted to all in the coming year.