In 1973, Jim Leishman and Dan Streech met and formed a friendship while both were working at a yacht brokerage/dealership in Dana Point, California. Both had a love for the sea and had already accumulated thousands of offshore sailing miles. Dan had cruised for one year aboard his family’s 54-foot Alden yawl, Malabar VII, and Jim had made a passage to Hawaii as well as local cruising on his family’s sailboat. When the dealership closed in 1974, Jim and Dan together with Joe Meglen formed a small brokerage in Dana Point, which would evolve into the present day Pacific Asian Enterprises. In the first years, the business was comprised of general yacht brokerage and the importation of the venerable CT boats from Taiwan. In 1976, PAE began importing another line of boats from Taiwan called the Transpac 49. Over an eight-year period, the company imported, sold and delivered 35 Transpacs.
Both the CTs and the Transpacs imported during the 1970s represented the early days of Taiwan boat building and considerable effort was required to bring those boats up to acceptable quality levels. Coming from an engineering and boat maintenance background, Jim, Dan and Joe and their small crew worked on the boats personally but more importantly, worked with the Taiwan builders to make the improvements and changes necessary to raise the quality of the boats. This set the stage for the next phase of their business. By 1977, a trend had emerged that saw two classes of boats coming out of Taiwan. The better boats were being provided by the yacht developers whose talent, skills and fortitude would enable them to control a yacht from conception to design, marketing, sales and service. The developer would own the all-important molds and tooling while the Taiwan builder would act as a sub-contractor and builder only to the yacht developer. This allowed the developer to set and control the specifications, quality, pricing and marketing program.
A New Manufacturer is Born
PAE saw this approach as the future and set out to establish their own line of sailboats. Designer Al Mason was chosen as the naval architect of PAE’s first project. Al was the natural choice for several reasons. His designs were famously beautiful, rugged and seaworthy and several boats of his design had been sold by PAE through their brokerage. Furthermore, because Al Mason had worked for John Alden in his earlier years, there was a DNA connection in design, style and beauty to the lovely Malabar VII.
The first PAE/Mason design was a 43-foot sailboat. With completed design in hand, the search began for the right Taiwan builder. Through introductions, serendipity and hard work, the young men learned of Ta Shing Yacht Building. Ta Shing (which means Big New in Chinese) was founded in 1976 and the company was just completing their state of the art factory when the Mason 43 project was introduced to them. The founder, visionary and first president of Ta Shing, Mr. CM Juan, had a simple mission statement: to be the best. No expense was spared on the facility, equipment or staff. But two things were missing; a good design and an American partner. PAE and their Mason 43 project came along at the perfect time. In hindsight, one wonders what the old, wise Mr. Juan saw in the young men (just 21, 26 and 27 at the time) who had little to offer other than a good design and the promise of hard work, dedication and integrity. But saw something he did, and the tooling production agreement was drafted. In an example of “get it right the first time”, the same fundamental agreement and procedures are still used today 36 years and 21 projects later. The Mason 43 was an immediate success and was followed by the M63, M53, M53cc and M33. There were 132 “3” series PAE/Mason sailboats produced between 1978 and 1985. Nearly all of these boats are still in service today and have become beloved and respected icons.
The Prodigal Designer
In 1978, Jeff Leishman, Jim’s younger brother, joined PAE as a part time employee. Still in high school, Jeff helped with new boat commissioning, deliveries and with the occasional drawing and sketch needed for the factory. Jeff’s natural talent for drawing and drafting was already apparent and was further developed in his high school and college drafting and design courses. With Al Mason’s withdrawal and retirement from design work for PAE, Jeff’s role became more and more integral in the process and by 1982 was working full time for PAE. Between 1984 and 1988, Jeff redesigned each of the “3” series Mason designs into the Leishman/Mason 34, 44, 54 and 64. These handsome designs used the same hull but had new deck designs and interior layouts. Eighty of these “4” series PAE/Leishman/Masons were produced. The beautiful lines, styles and functional layouts that Jeff created were a preview of the talent and design genius that were forthcoming from his drawing board.
In 1987, Jeff completed his studies and received his naval architecture diploma from the Yacht Design Institute. As part of his graduation requirement, he was asked to design a vessel of his choosing. Through his studies, Jeff (and his brother Jim) discovered the work of Robert Beebe and his classic book Voyaging Under Power. Beebe’s book is the definitive work on the theories and design criteria for small displacement power boats and preaches the message that it is possible and sensible to cruise long distances in a properly designed full displacement power boat. Even though Beebe and a handful of others had proven these theories with their own boats in the 60s and 70s, there was still little understanding and acceptance of the idea even as late as 1990.
From Sail to Power
By 1988, the cruising sailboat market was in decline and the demographics were changing. As baby boomers were aging, they were becoming intolerant of the rigors of sailing, meanwhile the truth about how much time is spent motoring in a sailboat was emerging. PAE was thinking about importing powerboats and was even considering becoming a dealer for the products of others. But then the PAE owners discussed introducing Jeff’s school design as PAE’s next project, and soon Jim became convinced that building the 46-foot powerboat was the right decision. He campaigned tirelessly to make it happen.
As with other ideas that are so radically new and different, PAE’s unique powerboat project was not accepted easily or quickly. The market considered it “odd”, “funny” and “different” and it was referred to as PAE’s “tugboat”. Even though it was a cruising boat, Cruising World magazine wouldn’t accept PAE’s advertisements. The Taiwan builder, Ta Shing, declined to build it. So Dan, Jim and Jeff looked elsewhere and were led to Tsai Wan Sheu, owner of the newly formed South Coast Marine in Taipei, Taiwan.
Because its style and look was reminiscent of North Sea fishing trawlers, the name Nordhavn (Norwegian for North Harbor) was chosen for this new design. Hull #1 of the N46 was completed and shipped in early 1989. The small cult group of Beebe followers along with loyal Mason owners and aficionados immediately recognized the N46 as the real thing. The rest of the market took a while to catch on as the sales momentum was slow to build. After all, as recently as 1990, it was commonly believed that the only way one could cruise offshore and cross oceans was in a sailboat.
The new boat caught the eye of Robert Beebe’s widow Lynford Beebe as well as Steve Doherty, the original editor of Voyage Under Power. They had been thinking about updating the book and saw PAE as the right group to do it. The PAE owners had embraced the concepts set down by Captain Beebe and their first powerboat design almost exactly captured the beliefs, theories and criteria established by the famous naval architect. Jim Leishman took on the task of rewriting and updating the famous book. Feeling like an artist who has been asked to update and improve the Mona Lisa, Jim jumped into the project. Nervously at first and then with greater confidence, Jim created a format which retained much of Captain Beebe’s original timeless work but with additions and new sections added where necessary to bring it current with the systems, equipment, procedures and new knowledge that had been gained in the intervening years. Interestingly, much of Jim’s writing took place in the summer of 1992 while crossing the Atlantic aboard Jim and Suzy Sink’s Nordhavn 46.
Surviving the Luxury Tax
Just as a backlog of N46 orders was beginning to develop, PAE (and the rest of the US boat business) received the double whammy of the 1st Gulf War and the ill-conceived federal “luxury” tax. The luxury tax consisted of a 10% surcharge tax on the entire purchase price of a boat above $100,000. This tax was in effect between 1990 and 1993 and by the time it was repealed, the boat business in America had been devastated. PAE did not sell a single new boat to an American during this dark period. By necessity, however, they developed contacts with buyers outside of the US. This was the beginning of an international marketing effort, which now accounts for more than half of all Nordhavns sold.
During the luxury tax period, PAE’s second Nordhavn design, the N62 was completed. This project was eagerly accepted by Ta Shing in 1991. Hull #1 was sold to an Indonesian industrialist and delivered to Singapore on her own bottom in 1993 by Jim, Dan and Dan’s son Trevor. Due to the luxury tax, PAE’s second N62 order did not come until nearly 18 months after the first. Within days after repeal of the tax however, hull #2 was ordered, the N46 orders flooded in and the “golden 90s” commenced. During this period of steady growth, PAE introduced the N50 built by South Coast in 1995 and the N57 built by Ta Shing in 1996.
PAE Adapts to Growth
The 90s saw the gradual formalization and structuring of PAE required to deal effectively with the growing volume of business and the increasing complexity of modern Nordhavns. Design, engineering, sales, project management, commissioning, HR and business departments were established to meet the goals of excellence laid down by Jim, Jeff and Dan and employees were steadily added in those departments as PAE’s middle management and staff grew.
PAE’s business plan has been built around a model which does not use a traditional dealer network. Nordhavns are sold directly to the customer by salesmen who work for PAE. There are no Nordhavn dealers. The modest commissions earned by those salesmen are a small fraction of a typical dealer mark-up. This allows PAE to keep its overhead costs lower and offer “more for less” to the Nordhavn buyer. There are currently 18 Nordhavn salesmen located in 7 sales locations worldwide and 13 project managers and assistants located in the Dana Point headquarters. During the process of purchase, building, commissioning and the after sales service, the customer always has a direct line of communication with his salesman, project manager and PM assistant. The PAE owners Jim, Jeff and Dan frequently play a role in the sales process and are always available by phone or e-mail if a Nordhavn customer has a problem which cannot be resolved by others.
With sailboat sales lagging and PAE’s future clearly lying with the Nordhavn concept, the last Mason (M44#69) was built in 1995. The Mason molds were stored for another seven years out of nostalgia for the beloved boats and the remote possibility that they would be put back into production. The Mason molds were finally destroyed in 2002 to make room for more Nordhavn production.
Taking the Industry By Storm
In 1998, PAE selected Pacific Seacraft (PSC), a Southern California sailboat manufacturer, to build its newest design, the Nordhavn 40. The N40 represented the next generation of thinking as Jim and Jeff collaborated to design a boat, which was proportionally bigger in all respects than previous Nordhavns. The new boat had a higher freeboard and was broader, deeper and wider (proportionally) than earlier boats. All of the original N40s, of which there were 44, were built by PSC over a four-year period. The most famous of these was hull #21, named appropriately, Nordhavn. During a 27-week period in 2001-2002, this otherwise stock boat was driven 26,000 miles around the world in an event called the Around The World project. The ATW was conceived by Jim as a demonstration of what our Nordhavns were capable of and as a way to differentiate PAE/Nordhavn from the many “wannabes” who were entering the market. Several companies had by this time copied the Nordhavn designs and one even copied our name. The ATW was managed by PAE office staff and Nordhavn was manned by successive crews made up of project managers, salesmen, engineers, commissioning crew and others from the company as she proceeded around the world. The events of September 11, 2001 occurred only weeks before the scheduled departure and hung heavy in the staff’s hearts and minds. With characteristic PAE bravery, tenacity, skill and a sense of adventure, Nordhavn set out for the first leg to Hawaii on schedule. Approximately 27 weeks later she arrived back in Dana Point in record time and without serious injury or mishap. The experience proved incalculable: from figuring the best way to FedEx a part to Somalia, to realizing the air conditioning requirements for sweltering Panama, to learning the dock power available in Phuket, PAE gained a wealth of knowledge that not only helped set Nordhavns apart from the competition, but earned the brand recognition as the industry leader.
As a result of this trip, the Nordhavn 43 was conceived. This superb boat captured Jeff and Jim’s latest thinking and incorporated the research and lessons learned from that historic voyage. Meanwhile, N40 sales continued to flourish, but in 2004, the N40 molds were shipped from California to the new South Coast Marine factory in Xiamen, China where production continued. The labor advantages in Asia proved to be just too difficult for the California builder to compete with. And, surprisingly, shipping of the finished boat to any location around the world other than Southern California is cheaper and easier from China.
Seizing the Day
Post 9-11 was a challenging time for PAE but also a time of opportunity. In an atmosphere similar to the luxury tax period, some builders were in trouble and most were in a holding pattern or contracting business plan. PAE chose this time to expand with their most ambitious projects to date. 2001 saw the introduction of the N47. This groundbreaking design was related to the design ideas of the N40 with the concepts taken to a higher level. The N47 project was awarded to South Coast and was the catalyst for SCM’s decision to establish a new factory in China. Between 2001 and 2004 SCM constructed a magnificent 100,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art factory. 2001 also saw the introduction of the N72 and N76 which were built at the Ta Shing factory in Tainan, Taiwan. To accommodate for the ambitious project, Ta Shing constructed a beautiful new 50,000-sq.-foot factory.
Continuing to react to the uncertain times with a carpe diem attitude, PAE set out to expand its physical presence with additional sales and service locations. Between 2001 and 2007, new PAE offices were opened in Rhode Island, Florida, the United Kingdom, Seattle and Australia. Nordhavn Europe, as the UK office is known, opened in June 2004 and welcomed its first Nordhavn, the famous N57 Atlantic Escort, which served as the lead boat in the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally (NAR). To date, Atlantic Escort and 50 other Nordhavns have been sold by the UK office.
2004 was a very busy year for PAE. With a growing staff of engineers, assistants and draftsmen to help him, Jeff had become ever more prolific and completed two new designs, the N55 and the N64. Building on the proven concept and style of the N47, these two new designs were an instant hit. The N55 is built by the SCM Xiamen China factory and over 50 N55s have been delivered. The N64 is built built by Ta Shing and 20 boats have been delivered to date.
The biggest event of the year for PAE in 2004 was the successful completion of the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally known as the NAR. Using many of the skills learned in the ATW, Jim envisioned and developed a plan to assist a group of boats crossing the Atlantic together. With the Nordhavn 57, Atlantic Escort, as his flagship, Jim and his crew of PAE employees and others led a group of 18 (all but 3 were Nordhavns) boats across the Atlantic over a two-month period of time. Starting with the hopeful and exciting departure from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to an emotional and historic arrival in Gibraltar, the brave fleet set records all along the way. Magazine reporters and PAE staff kept the yachting world informed with internet postings as the momentum and interest built along the way. The lives of over 100 boaters were changed forever as they learned more about their boats and themselves. PAE was awarded with the 2004 Best of the Year award by Motorboats & Yachting (UK) magazine for their success in organizing the NAR. 2004 also saw the retirement of Joe Meglen after 30 years of service.
With the successful NAR campaign completed, 2005 was a year of consolidating gains with infrastructure improvements together with some further expansion. A second issue of PAE’s in-house Circumnavigator magazine was completed. With the NAR story as the centerpiece, this second issue at 225 pages was twice the size of the original issue. The number of Nordhavns in the fleet grew by 50 boats and the many wonderful stories of the owners’ adventures and successes together with other news from PAE easily filled the magazine. In the design and tooling area, 2005 brought the N68 and N86. The N68 is a gorgeous expedition style boat that is based on the N64 hull. Led by Jeff Leishman, the design team did a beautiful job with this project and six orders were received to kick off that project. Hull #1 of the N68 project was delivered to the well known yachtsman Ken Williams in August 2007. Early 2005 saw the start of the N86 tooling project. Jeff and his team designed this boat in 2004 and the commencement of the tooling construction marked the start of PAE’s biggest and most ambitious project to date. Hull #1 of the N86 was built to ABS certification. This tedious and demanding process was a first for PAE and helped bring the company’s skills and abilities to a higher level. Nine N86s have been delivered to date. In September 2005, Nordhavn Yacht Northwest opened its doors on Lake Union in Seattle. Having representation in that busy part of the yachting world fulfilled a vision that had been held for many years. When old friend Don Kohlmann (former President of Pacific Seacraft) became available, it was the catalyst to complete the game plan of having sales locations in the “four corners” of the continental U.S.
2006 saw the introduction of two new design projects- each a big departure from what PAE had been building for the last 16 years. The MS56 is a motorsailor. Combining its offshore sailing knowledge which has lain dormant for many years together with the knowledge learned from the hundreds of thousands of miles which Nordhavns have logged, Jeff Leishman created a masterpiece of a design which broke new ground. Using a controllable pitch Hundested propeller and a clever layout design, Jeff created a boat which resets the standards for a “proper” motorsailor. Naturally, this project is built at Ta Shing by many of the same workers who built 212 Mason sailboats sold by PAE. Currently, eight hulls of the MS 56 project have been delivered. The EYF75 is an expedition sportfisher. By combining the qualities and features of a sportfisher together with a long range displacement hull form (which all Nordhavn trawlers are based on), Jeff created a unique vessel which is appropriate for these times. The EYF75 has the range to reach distant fishing grounds and with its efficient hull form needs a tiny fraction of the power of the fuel guzzling monsters recognize as today’s sportfishers.
2006 also saw the opening of the 6th sales office – Nordhavn Australasia, an affiliate branch of Nordhavn, located in Brisbane, Australia and managed by Peter Devers. The growing presence and awareness of Nordhavns around the world together with the strong economy and strong currency in Australia have already produced 13 sales from this busy location.
2007 was a year of further expansion of our management infrastructure and of our two partner factories. In May, we moved into the new sales facility purchased in Stuart, Florida. Ta Shing (builder of the MS56, N62, N64/68 and the N72/76) added 75 people to help meet the orders of those models. South Coast Marine (builder of the N40, N43, N47, N55, N86 and the EYF75) began construction of their beautiful new state of the art factory to be called Xiamen II.. 2007 saw distribution of the 3rd issue of PAE’s in-house Circumnavigator magazine.
2008 began with great optimism and a backlog of over 80 Nordhavns on the order book and ended with the world in financial turmoil unleashed by the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the fall of Lehman Brothers. Between those two polar opposite book ends, the mammoth new factory in Xiamen, China, completed and design work on the spectacular new N120 project commenced. The completion of our 21-acre Xiamen factory was the culmination of a 5-year dream and its grand scale supports over 1,000 workers and permits the construction of Nordhavns of up to 1,000 tons (about 200 feet). The 350-ton N120 was the first “super yacht” project to occupy the 60,000 sq foot main production bay. The first N120 order was received in June of 2008 and tooling construction commenced in August of 2008.
Fighting the Good Fight
While fighting cost increases, commodity shortages and long lead times in the first half of the year, no one could predicted during those happy first 8 months of 2008 that the world was about to change dramatically. As the financial horrors of September 2008 unfolded and the year came to a dismal end, the actual effects on PAE were very small…initially. There was a full order book which stretched into 2010 and no immediate business problems other than worry.
2009 began with a very bleak outlook. The boating industry was falling apart. Manufacturers were becoming insolvent, dealerships were closing and inventories of unsold new boats and brokerage boats were piling up – and PAE began losing some of its backlog of orders through default and the inability or unwillingness of buyers to follow through. The most spectacular cancellation was that of the N120 order. In all, PAE lost 10 of its orders – more than had been lost in the previous 30 years combined. The combination of dropped orders, our production lines running at full speed delivering sold boats and the reduced quantity of new orders brought our backlog down to 25 orders by the fall of 2009. The loss of the N120 order was a particularly discouraging blow, but with absolute confidence in the 120 as a world-class design, we soldiered on with the engineering and construction of the massive molds and tooling so that we would be ready when the market returned.
Lamenting the situation, contingency plans were put into place and “what to do?” was discussed in endless meetings. Ironically as they wrung their hands with worry, PAE/ Nordhavn was in fact the envy of the boating industry due to continuing (albeit reduced) orders, healthy backlog and efficient debt free business model. PAE saw no other boat company they wanted to trade places with and don’t to this day. During those turbulent months, Jeff Leishman developed two new models, the N60 and the expedition variant, the N63. The mighty Nordhavn which had become famous for conquering open ocean storms was in fact a beloved branded product which could also survive financial storms.
2009 ended on an optimistic note as the 4th quarter brought 10 new orders including a replacemnet order for N120 #1. Because work on the N120 molds had continued during the dark days, construction of the first N120 could begin immediately and became the centerpiece of the 2010 production schedule. The fourth issue of Circumnavigator Magazine was released in the Fall of 2009.
A year-and-a-half into the recession and PAE’s accountants labeled the first quarter of 2010 with a resounding “OK”. Although not spectacular, new orders continued to come in and the backlog remained stable at 25. As would be expected, brokerage sales picked up – with hopes of it being a precursor to an increase in new boat sales. There was hope that the world was on a steady path toward recovery. Of course, it wasn’t to be.
A promising start to 2010 morphed into a disappointing year and an even worse 2011. For the first time in its history, PAE instructed its factories to build boats on spec – without having signed contracts – for a few of its hulls to keep production humming and with hopes that sales would quickly be made. This caused a large chunk of the company’s money to be tied up, during a time when cash flow was already tight. It forced a first-ever round of lay-offs, a gut wrenching but necessary decision. The promise of an improved economy seemed to be but a distant memory and more cutbacks were made as sales continued to slow. Throughout the process, the cost of building boats actually increased and PAE was once again pressed to dip into its bail-out plan which meant more layoffs. It also meant a delay in the publication of the fifth edition of Circumnavigator. Already three-quarters finished, PAE decided to shelf the project indefinitely.
Bright spots did exist within the period of gloominess – and they came in the forms of Nordhavn owners. In PAE’s heyday in the late 90s and early 2000s, Nordhavn ads could be seen in most marine publications in the U.S. and Europe. Nordhavns were exhibiting at an absurd number of boat shows and owner parties were huge, formal, expensive affairs. In 2010, the marketing budget took a huge hit, but thankfully, the business of promoting Nordhavns was as plentiful as ever, thanks, of course, to the intrepid Nordhavn owners. Led by Nordhavn’s “royal couple” Scott and Mary Flanders and their world-wide adventures outlined in their Voyage of Egret blog, more Nordhavn voyages were read about the world over as more thrilling, more extreme journeys were undertaken: the Great Siberian Sushi Run (GSSR) by Ken and Roberta Williams, Steve and Carol Argosy, and Braun and Tina Jones captivated a global audience who followed them across the Bering Strait; and Sprague Theobold, the Nordhavn 57 owner whose exploration of the Northwest Passage garnered him national and international news coverage including a television documentary. To this day, more Nordhavn owners are being covered in magazines and writing their own books, conveying an underlying theme that there is still an “every man-ess” that is such a huge part of their extraordinary lives at sea.
What followed in 2012 could best be described as surviving the last big hurdle. With things still in the “status quo” category sales- and earnings-wise, exciting things were happening all around PAE. For one, the economy was recovering at a much more rapid rate in Australia, and the folks down under claimed the majority of new boat sales. Expectations were that a U.S. revival could not be far behind. Plus, the home stretch was happening with construction of the 120. Meanwhile, the team in Dana Point was readying to move into its beautiful, state-of-the art new headquarters. Long housed in segregated buildings, the California staff worked hard that year preparing to re-unite all facets of the company – sales, administration, accounting and design and engineering – under one roof. By the end of that year, the move was complete and the new PAE headquarters, located on the point of a peninsula in Dana Point Harbor with 360 degree water views, huge conference rooms, a museum and owners suite, now adequately reflected the luxury, comfort and modern atmosphere of the boats designed there.
2013 was an epic time in the life of the company. The first several months were ushered in with record brokerage sales, improved yacht values and the long-awaited bump in new boat sales a depleted brokerage inventory typically triggers. The good vibrations left over from the first significant Nordhavn Rendezvous in four years, held in Mystic, Connecticut, are still being felt. And the company celebrated the delivery of its 500th Nordhavn, a feat that is at once incomprehensible yet expected. The Distant Pennant Program reached an astounding 4.5 million miles (with less than two-thirds of all Nordhavns reporting). And the Nordhavn 68 that claimed the 500th spot is – in particular – a perfect illustration of how far Nordhavns and PAE have come since 46#1 was launched 24 years ago. The engineering, aesthetics, machinery and details demonstrate a yacht that is of a modern era. Yet at its foundation exists a hull built on the same principles, with the same integrity, and with the same heart and soul as that very first N46.
The most remarkable event that year was the launch of the Nordhavn 120. After five years of production and engineering focus, time spent ensuring the boat exceeded our strict standards, the beautiful boat that began in 2008 and was finished and launched in the summer of 2013 and delivered on her own bottom from the factory to Vancouver. The yacht was a masterpiece, proven to be a mark of excellence, recognized by the World Superyacht committee amongst others. A global audience witnessed the delivery which was captured via daily blog updates by the N120 team including Jeff and Jim Leishman, Trever Smith, Phil Arnold, David Jen, Patrick Liu, Tsai Wen Sheu and hundreds of staff and workers at South Coast Marine. Inside, she is a vision, thanks to Destry Darr Design who created an oasis aboard. More than 400,000 man hours were invested in the building of the N120, computers full of design work and engineering solutions put together by those already mentioned as well as our vendors such as ABT, ABS, and those involved in noise engineering, exhaust engineering, structural engineering, steering engineering and much more.
It has been seven years since the Nordhavn 120 was completed and she continues to wow – none more so than her current owners. She was purchased by a gentleman who wanted a boat that was big and roomy, but didn’t require loads of crew to handle and maintain. He struck gold with the Nordhavn 120. Said her captain: “This boat is a 150-foot boat in a 120-foot package.”
What most who have the privilege of cruising the Nordhavn 120 have come to know is that she is a rival to any super yacht built anywhere in the world.
As the sagging big boat market was finally coming to an end in 2014, PAE was finishing some non-boating business: the launch of its brand new headquarters in Dana Point, CA. For nearly 15 years, PAE’s employees had remained stuffed and scattered in various offices nestled in an obscure business park, a mile away up the hill from the marina, the location of its sales office and where Nordhavns were worked on.
After more than a year of negotiating, PAE secured the rights to the vacant “Beach House” restaurant building and turned the historic location into its beautiful world headquarters. The move closed a circle in the history between PAE and the Beach House: nearly three decades earlier, Jim and Jeff Leishman sat at the bar there one evening pondering a power passagemaking vessel. Jeff grabbed a cocktail napkin and sketched out the lines of a boat that would become the iconic Nordhavn 46. Although the bulk of the restaurant was renovated with offices and conference rooms, the bar and lounge remain and serve as a reminder of where it all began.
With the backdrop of our state-of-the-art new offices, we took time to celebrate 40 years of business in the fall of 2018, commemorated with a three-day Rendezvous, at our Dana Point location. More than 200 guests celebrated the milestone occasion. PAE is one of those rare companies, the same three guys who started the company (minus the retirement of the fourth) have remained for four decades. Some staffers have stayed on for three decades with the number of employees having served 20+ years, a staggering amount. To say that you have worked at PAE for five years puts you in the “newbie” category.
The company has withstood several economic downturns, the luxury tax, and now the Chinese tariffs. But it remains a strong, healthy, company. No buyouts to maintain longevity, no parent companies involved. Three guys with a passion, a desire, and a knack for creating the best explorer yachts in the world, who operate with the highest level of integrity and are bolstered by a team of employees, vendors and owners who are second to none.
Ever moving forward, PAE quickly got back to the business of yacht design innovation. What keeps Nordhavn at the top of its game is the never-ending challenge to address market needs. In 2015, PAE launched the second design in its Coastal Pilot series: the Nordhavn 59 CP. The boat is the perfect peacemaker for those who play tug-of-war with their need to have a seaworthy vessel that can travel distances and their desire to cruise at higher-than-displacement speeds. Why does the Nordhavn 59 fit the bill? She has a decent range of around 1,000 nm so ambitious “coastal” cruises, say from Maine to Alaska, are in the cards. She also provides the added bonus of reaching top speeds of 20 knots. And he has a CE Category A “offshore” rating which means she can handle those harsh conditions that the Atlantic Ocean – or Lake Michigan – or the Cape Cod Canal – can dish out at a moment’s notice. What’s not to love? With two different versions, standard and motoryacht, the 59CP is a favorite for those who want the DNA of a Nordhavn with some giddy’up.
Ending the decade with a bang
The countdown to the close of the decade began with a bang, a bang that sustained for two years. It started with an evolution of the product line: 2018 saw the end of the Nordhavn 40 and 43, (which followed the N47’s demise the year prior). Many saw this as PAE’s direction toward serving the bigger boat market. Not so. We were just busy perfecting our offerings in the smaller end of the market. In 2018 we announced the Nordhavn 475, a brand new hull design, that re-examined use of space, placed emphasis on visibility, and enjoyment of the entire boat inside and out. Still, there was a huge void left by the dissolution of the Nordhavn 40. We had set records with the N40. Our smallest passagemaker ever, it had a remarkable run with 69 hulls built. It would take a remarkable boat to fill its shoes. In 2019 we introduced the Nordhavn 41, without doubt the most technologically advanced design we have come up with to date, thanks in part to the Computational Fluid Dynamics program provided by Vripack that was applied to the engineering of the hull lines. The N41 had more hulls sold sight unseen (7) than any Nordhavn since the N55 in 2003-04.
The decade closed out with the greatest marketing event ever conceived by a boat builder. That’s a hard idea to grasp given Nordhavn’s reputation as a marketing juggernaut with the wildly celebrated and lauded Around-The-World journey and Nordhavn Atlantic Rally events. Jim Leishman conceived the ultimate out-of-the-box idea with the Nordhavn Film Festival. Announced at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show in 2018, PAE invited owners, guests, crew, essentially anyone who had amassed footage of Nordhavns, to produce a 10-minute film celebrating Nordhavn. There were 24 entries, 10 finalists, and one winning film whose director took home a $10,000 cash prize. The real winner, of course, was PAE: the film premiere has been watched in its nearly three-hour entirety more than 100,000 times. The second annual Nordhavn Film Festival is coming soon…
We turn the page to 2020 and prepare for the launch of the Nordhavn 41, sure to be another exciting chapter in PAE’s book. Times are a bit unstable with the Corona Virus wreaking havoc on the stock market but we cannot complain. Brokerage boat turnover continues to happen at record setting pace with our sales team constantly inter-office messaging their 12 sales counterparts about possible pocket listings. (You’ve got a whole team of brokers working for you – worldwide – when you list or buy with Nordhavn Yachts Sales.)
What lies ahead in the future for PAE? More of the same: more boats, more challenges, more successes. The owners of PAE owe a great debt of gratitude to the customers, employees, suppliers and friends who have helped the company grow from its humble beginnings in 1974 and who have helped survived the challenging years. Since PAE was founded, nearly 850 new boats (Masons and Nordhavns) have been delivered, and about twice as many brokerage boats to customers of all ranges of experience, age, background and nationality. The marketing which PAE produces today such as media, web site and boat shows is now secondary to the viral marketing provided by the over 500 Nordhavn owners themselves.
Based on their experience of continually outdoing themselves, the team at PAE knows there is always room for improvement. The superb and seasoned staff works with the commitment, dedication, skill, talent, integrity and ambition brought by the three owners Jim Leishman, Jeff Leishman and Dan Streech, so anything is possible. There are numerous ideas, plans and dreams as yet unfulfilled. So stay tuned…