When Jan and Tom Newman started their search for a cruising yacht, they first considered what sort of boating they were interested in doing. They thought they might like to more aggressively explore their local waters in the Pacific Northwest and take deeper dives around their home state of Alaska, offset by winters spent basking in Central or South America. They discussed taking the inland routes of the Great Loop and the European Canals and also considered longer stays in Scandinavia, or perhaps island hopping throughout the Caribbean. There was so much they wanted to do, so many options to consider. It might have left some boat shoppers extremely confused about where to begin the search, but for the Newmans, their varied cruising aspirations led them to a single boat: the Nordhavn 41. “When we discovered that the N41 could handle all of these adventures, as well as cross oceans,” said Jan Newman, “our decision was made.”
In the summer of 2019, Nordhavn announced their new 41-foot model, a capable couples-operated vessel that would strive to take the place of the accomplished Nordhavn 40 which had been retired a couple of years earlier. Jim Leishman, vice-president of Pacific Asian Enterprises (PAE) brought his concept for the N41 to brother Jeff, PAE’s Chief of Design. When Jim saw what Jeff created, a slightly less-beamy ocean-crossing boat with a lower profile than the N40 (to adhere to new Category A [Ocean] standards for CE Certification compliancy), equipped with twin engines and dual walkarounds, he immediately recognized its potential to work as well in the space-conscious canal systems as it would in open water routes such as up the Baltic Sea. Coupled with the factory location in Turkey, Jim Leishman sought out to promote the idea of using delivery of an N41 from the factory as a jumping off point – especially for North American buyers – to instant European exploration, the likes of the Mediterranean and the Aegean or the Black Sea and Danube River, before shipping the boat back to the U.S.
“There is incredible opportunity there,” Leishman said of the cruising grounds around the Telgeren & Partners factory, located just a few hours run from the Black Sea and a few hundred nautical miles from Greece. He’s particularly interested in the route to the Danube River up to the Rhine River and through the Kiel Canal. “”It’s something that’s been on my personal bucket list.” With so much interest in the Great Loop in the U.S., Leishman feels there is major opportunity for Nordhavn 41 owners to navigate Europe’s version of the loop or some of the continent’s other incredible seaways.
It was an idea that had instant appeal to the Newmans. They never imagined starting their cruising chapter in Europe, but it was something they couldn’t pass up. It provided the perfect prologue to their big plans: cruise Europe extensively and then head back to North America, like Jim Leishman described. Only, they don’t plan on shipping the boat back. “Why ship the boat to the U.S. if we could cruise the Mediterranean first and bring her home on her own bottom?” said Jan Newman.
The prospect is an all-at-once exciting and daunting one for Newman who grew up sailing in New England on her family’s small sunfish, and later with her father on charter boats throughout the Caribbean. Tom also learned to sail at a young age in Hawaii where he was raised, and turned his love of being at sea into a full-time job, founding an underwater survey company that charted the seafloor all over the world. Although ocean passages had not been on Newman’s radar, her husband had always loved the idea. “I realized that with enough time onboard and experiences under my belt, I would gain the confidence needed to do it,” she said.
It would be a two-year wait for their hull, #16, to complete, and they got right to preparing. Jan Newman’s experience was fairly limited, and even though Tom’s career charting the oceans gave him necessary navigation skills and thousands of at-sea hours, they decided they would get educated together. They enrolled in online Boaters University courses that taught them Offshore Cruising, Anchors and Anchoring, Safety and Rescue at Sea, and Weather Basics. They also took RYA Day Skippering course, acquired International Certificates of Competency (ICC) and Tom also earned the Inland Certification and the RYA VHF Radio Certification.
These provided a good foundation, but Newman wants to work on her knowledge of diesel engine operation and maintenance. With Tom already comfortable in this realm, a Diesel Mainentnance and Troubleshooting class is on her to-do list. Other things like electrical systems familiarity will be “on the job training,” she said.
One area they had no problem boning up on was Greece’s cruising grounds, the first planned destination of their lengthy itinerary. The couple joined their salesperson Valerie Weingrad in Greece the summer of 2021 for a Greek Island primer. Weingrad, who works out of Nordhavn’s southeast office, has spent the past 18 years sailing around the area and got to know it especially well during her days working sailboat charters there. Not only did the reconnaissance allow the Newmans to hone their itinerary, Weingrad taught them cruising basics the area demanded such as med mooring and deploying the passarelle. “They are so excited and I am really excited for them,” Weingrad said.
The Newmans took delivery of their boat – which they named Meraki (a Greek word meaning the love, creativity, and passion you put into something) last week, handed over to them off of Istanbul by factory president Murat Telgeren and Nordhavn Eastern Mediterranean representative Kivanc Cakir. The Newmans had been to Turkey to visit the factory several times prior to their hand over and relied heavily on the expertise and support of the entire staff but specifically Telgeren and Cakir who oversaw last-minute upgrades, completed export paperwork and even scheduled diesel delivery. “Their knowledge and assistance was invaluable,” Newman said.
This past Saturday, they departed on their maiden voyage with the help of a Turkish captain who helped them navigate the Dardanelles Strait and cross the Aegean Sea. At Evia Island, the captain departed, but they gain five very special guests upon arrival to Athens – their three grown children and two partners – who will join them to spend the holidays aboard Meraki and wander about the area, using the island of Poros as a homebase. The brood will sleep in a rental home and re-join their parents on the boat for daily excursions.
Nearly a full week at sea and reality is starting to sink in of just how huge an undertaking this all is. Newman emails from on board the boat as they make their way along the 400 nm trip from Istanbul to Athens. “There are too many things to mention that excite me about this new lifestyle. In the immediate future I am very excited to explore and spend extended time in the Greek Islands. Beyond the Mediterranean is the allure of the Adriatic. This has been calling to me since I was a teenager and I can’t wait to visit Albania, Montenegro, Croatia and Slovenia. After the Adriatic we have the western Mediterranean, the Atlantic and North America between us and home. Lots to explore.”
In her email, she glosses over plans that succeed their time in Europe, but in reality, they have considered extensively what will come after. A five-year plan has been devised that has them going from the Mediterranean, throughout the European canals, up to England and the UK, Iceland, Greenland and then the hop across on their own bottom to Nova Scotia and down the entire North American east coast, throughout the Caribbean, a transit of the Panama Canal and eventually around Mexico, up the west coast into the Pacific Northwest and on to their homeport of Palmer, Alaska.
Some people have told them their new chapter sounds strange, frightening, even crazy, while others have questions about how they, too, can change their lives so radically. “In the end…it’s based on embracing the unknown,” Newman surmises. “I love learning new things – even though I am often outside my comfort zone. I try to approach each new situation by living in the present moment, remaining curious, and recognizing that every experience brings growth and therefore, something to be grateful for.”
Follow the Newmans’ adventure on Meraki at their blog, mvmeraki.com.