By Jennifer Stern
Elsewhere on this website you’ll find a carefully considered, informative and matter-of-fact critique on how to properly provision a boat for long range cruising.
In the story you’re reading at the moment, you will not find any of this. In fact, let’s call it: how not to properly provision a boat for long range cruising…or any sort of cruising at that.
In the depths of P.A.E.’s history is a tale of a Nordhavn 62 whose crew nearly didn’t finish their 1,800 nautical-mile delivery due to starvation and the resultant insanity that accompanies hunger. OK, so maybe that’s overstating a bit, but let this be a lesson to all of you cruisers out there not to skimp on food planning.
Funny enough, the story has somehow managed, for the most part, to stay a hidden gem in the decade-plus since it took place. But two of the crewmembers on that fateful voyage ran into each other coincidentally at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show some weeks ago and shared a laugh over the fateful trip…within earshot of this intrepid reporter.
It began in May 1996, and P.A.E. had just begun manufacturing the second model in their line of Nordhavns: the 62-foot stalwart. Hull #6 had been sold to a gentleman from Singapore, so it only made sense to deliver the boat – constructed at the Ta Shing factory in Taiwan – to Singapore on its own bottom. At the time, P.A.E. was a company of less than 10 employees, and it was not unusual to find president Dan Streech on board assisting with deliveries.
Helping Dan on this delivery were his son, Trevor, who at the time was a teenager; Philip Lin, formerly the company’s dealer in Singapore who had sold the boat; along with the owner’s hired charges: a captain aptly named Seaman, who hailed from India, and Bing, a crewmember from Malaysia. Each had very specific tasks they were busy managing prior to shoving off. Dan’s primary focus was overseeing the final construction details and making sure the boat was launched on time. In Asia, spring marks the start of typhoon season so getting out to sea as quickly as possible weighed heavily on everyone’s minds.
While it seemed his delivery crew had little time to spare, the owner took it upon himself to provision the boat with food. He was fond of gourmet cooking and elaborate multi-course meals so it appeared the task was in good hands.
As is typical with boating schedules (and why so many boaters opt not to keep schedules), it was getting down to crunch time. The usual chaos that ensues with finishing new boats – handling customs, checking out equipment, weather worries – were all present with 62#6 and finally Dan corralled everyone aboard and they headed off in a hurry for the Palawan Strait.
Several hours into the journey, the crew began taking stock of everything on board; spare parts, charts, food. One large bag of rice? Check. One flat of eggs? Check. Eight instant noodle cups? Check. One watermelon? Check. Sardines? Check. Soy sauce? Check. The checks ended there.
Dan speculates that the provisioning job slipped the mind of the anxious owner so he made due at a Taiwanese equivalent of 7-Eleven.
Within moments, some of the crew started panicking. Doing the math: five men out at sea for nine days with enough food to last about 2 ½ days did not add up. “Turn the boat around! We need food!” someone yelled. But Dan Streech had one goal on his mind: deliver the boat safely to Singapore before a storm had the chance to brew. “It wasn’t cause for alarm,” he said. “I just figured we’d have to eat less and less everyday.” What other mindset could he have? He simply was not going to alter course.
On the fourth day and about 100 miles off the coast of the Philippines, eggs nearly gone, rice mostly depleted, someone on the 62 identified a brightly colored fishing boat with four fishermen who appeared to have been out in the water for days. The boat was small and rickety and had a 1-cylinder diesel engine that spat and sputtered. But there was nothing more beautiful in the eyes of the Nordhavn crew.
The big 62 sidled up to the fishing boat whose occupants seemed unsure and nervous. Little did they realize that their four nets full of fish were like gold to the hungry crew. Stepping out onto the cockpit, six guys representing five nationalities between them began waving and gesturing to the fishermen. Five languages spoken, but Filipino was not one of them. The fishermen grew more perplexed. “All we wanted was to get every last fish they had on that boat,” said Dan. So between them, in three different monetary currencies, they were able to scrape together about $25 and gratefully unloaded the fishermen of their catch. Guess it’s true that money speaks all languages.
Joy was again restored to the crew of the Nordhavn 62 and they celebrated by coming up with as many ideas of how to cook fish they could think of…whose recipes’ ingredients were limited to eggs, soy sauce, rice and sardines. Oh, did I mention the only means of cooking was an electric hot plate? No worries. This tenacious crew was nothing if not creative: poached fish, fried fish, fish and rice stew, fish omelets. “I know how it sounds but it really wasn’t that bad,” notes Dan.
Five days later, the boat arrived safely, on time, and without a kernel of rice or drop of soy sauce to be spared. But the owner beamed when he saw his new yacht. No one mentioned the provisioning mishap, but almost as though he realized his blunder, the owner treated the crew to a first-class lunch at Raffles Marina where they filled up on a few days worth of food.
Fast forward to late October 2006 where Dan and Philip Lin cross each other’s paths for the first time in 10 years. Did the tale grow taller over the past decade? “NO!” they both reassure me. But, adds Dan, “these sorts of things happen. It’s just all in a day’s work.”