When you think of Nordhavn, what comes to mind? For most of the folks I encounter during my job selling these wonderful vessels, it’s a magic carpet, the means to achieving dreams of safely sailing the high seas, seeing the world, exploring cultures, meeting people and forming new friendships. To be on a Nordhavn is to become swept up in adventure and the appreciation of all that lies beyond the four walls surrounding us.
But sometimes it’s a lot more simple than all that.
My clients, Mike and Kathy Hall purchased their Nordhavn 46 in 2017, and like most buyers, they had a plan of long range cruising and embracing the sort of activities associated with Nordhavn ownership. They took delivery of their boat in the Chesapeake and brought her around to their home in Texas. This N46, formerly Satchmo, has a storied history as one of the boats to take part in the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally (NAR), and the Halls intended to carry on with similar voyaging visions.
The newly christened Shrug spent nearly a year getting refurbished inside and out. As Mike and Kathy closed in on the last of the punch list items, life began getting in the way. Aging parents required they keep a local home base and then the pandemic hit, so long range cruising was put on the back burner. Basking in the glory of personal boating achievements would have to wait. Or would it?
Last summer the Halls were approached by a fellow member of their Houston-area yacht club, a doctor at the nearby MD Anderson Cancer Center. He was organizing a bay cruise for the patients of the center’s pediatric cancer ward. Five boats participated, each carrying a handful of children aboard who beamed out at the sea, excitedly “taking over” the helm, and forgetting for a few minutes about life at the hospital. “We found it to be great fun,” said Mike. “Their smiles were wonderful.”
Months passed. Mike and Kathy kept busy with necessary obligations and Shrug mostly just stayed put at the dock. Recalling the triumph of the pediatric center bay cruise, another yacht club member introduced the Halls to Dave McCabe, the fleet captain and organizer of Sailing Angels, an organization founded on boating as a means of therapy. They offer free daily sailing excursions to folks of any age who are in need of an experience that provides respite, education and recreational healing. The original intent, according to Sailing Angels’ website, was to serve individuals with cognitive and/or physical challenges or life-threatening illnesses but has expanded its reach to include anyone – such as military veterans, first responders and children – who have experienced trauma, or any one considered “at risk”, as well as their caretakers.
Dave McCabe told them the missions have been transformational for most of the participants and their families. Mike and Kathy were immediately drawn to the idea and agreed to donate their time and their boat to the cause.
Due to the size and safety of the Nordhavn 46 design, Shrug, is used for those who might need more security than what a sailboat might provide. Her battleship esthetic is a big hit with the guests, too. Mike recalled his very first outing with a group of foster kids and their foster parent:
“The first trip was with a group of foster kids and their ‘Momma’ (She is a saint in my book). These kids all came from hard knocks backgrounds and several had disabilities including epilepsy and autism.
“We did a bay trip and all had their turns being captain. I noticed one of the older girls was intently observing me. When it became her turn, she helmed Shrug better than I do. She asked a lot of great questions about how to get a job as a captain. (She thought I was a hired captain.) Anyway, we gave her a great lesson on starting with goals and how to get to them.”
“Our next trip was with 10 young adults who are hearing and vision impaired. I needed to figure out a way for someone who is both deaf and blind to helm Shrug. We had plenty of the group’s staff to help me communicate. I put tape on the wheel at center rudder so they would have something tactile to orient them. We then had them do progressively harder turns so they could feel the boat and the turn. Then we turned them loose. The staff was concerned they would break the boat but I assured them that nothing would break a Nordie. It was another successful trip.”
Despite the couple’s often times hectic schedule, the Sailing Angels program provides up to three weeks’ notice of an anticipated outing so it works well for them. The Halls expect that this year they will do about 10 Sailing Angels trips plus another MD Anderson trip. It’s not the bluewater itineraries of their dreams, but there is a number of dream making still happening aboard their Nordhavn 46. “Participating in Sailing Angels is not only personally rewarding, but it gives us a reason to get Shrug out of her slip for just a day on the bay,” said Mike. He encourages boat owners who have had to put planned itineraries on hold, to consider volunteering in a similar effort. “If others find themselves in circumstances [like ours] and are looking for a reason for a day’s sail, look around your local area. There are other organizations around the country that provide the services that Sailing Angels does.
To learn more about donating your boat, time or money, or to learn more about the history and mission of Sailing Angels, visit www.sailingangels.org.
Valerie Weingrad is a yacht broker with Nordhavn Yachts Southeast in N. Palm Beach, FL. She will be happy to be your guide on your Nordhavn journey. She can be reached at Valerie.email@example.com.