A Nordhavn 52 is currently half-way through its epic 3,650-nm voyage across the Atlantic from St. Helena island to Barbados. The trip is thought to be the longest non-stop voyage by a Nordhavn under 100 feet. (In 2012, the Nordhavn 120 ran non-stop from Hong Kong to Adak, Alaska, a distance of 4,400 nm.)
Long trips are not a foreign concept for Dirona, the N52 owned and operated byJames and Jennifer Hamilton. The current passage is just one of many the Hamiltons have enjoyed since setting out on a momentous global journey that commenced from the West Coast of the United States in 2012. In the 3+ years since, the couple have taken their boat on several extended passages including a 2,300-nm course from Oakland to Hilo, HI; a 3,023 nautical mile passage across the Indian Ocean to explore Rodrigues, Reunion and South Africa; as well as a 1,713 nm pass from South Africa to St. Helena. Impressive journeys all, but this trip required some further thinking when it came to calculating fuel reserves.
As the hundreds who follow their extraordinary blog mvDirona.com know, James Hamilton is thorough, meticulous and intelligent in the way he goes about preparing himself for cruising. While far from a novice seaman at this point, the length of this trip did concern him. “3,650 nautical miles is a long way for a small boat,” said James. Rather than setting the RPM based on distance and leaving it, James’ approach is to ‘drive to the fuel’. In simple terms: “We monitor the fuel mileage and run to the needed mileage. This means that in very positive conditions, we go faster. And, in negative conditions, we run slower.” Having dissected how speed affects the fuel burn and efficiency of Dirona, James nailed their tactic to an exact science and blogged a scrutinous look at the theories behind his method. Aside from situationally running RPMs, James has reserves of fuel stored in bladders topside.
Though seemingly daunting, the Hamiltons present a very laid back attitude toward the idea of going 3,600 nm across the ocean. Besides taking a more conservative step toward speed/fuel burn, the couple did not make any other special arrangements for this gigantic hop. “It’s probably evidence that we have a good boat for long distance cruising,” says James, so much so that “we really didn’t do anything differently in preparation.” The only exception perhaps being their handling of oil changes while underway. “It is very different to be thousands of miles from the destination and shut off the main engine…if only for 15 minutes.”
Strangely enough, passage making and world cruising wasn’t even in the thought process when the Hamiltons initially purchased their N52 back in 2010. Some of the couple’s passions are boating, exploring and writing about it. Both have penned and published numerous articles as well as a cruising guide “Cruising the Secret Coast: Unexplored Anchorages on British Columbia’s Inside Passage. Years away from retiring from his job as a technician focusing on high scale services and infrastructure at Amazon Web Services, the couple assumed they would take a brief hiatus from work and happily exist living aboard fairly close to their Pacific Northwest home, visiting places and writing about them. Then, says James, “One day, over a glass of wine, I proposed, ‘how about a quick blast around the world?’ I was sort of half serious having not thought it through at all but Jennifer loved the idea and nine months later we were under way.”
Since then, they’ve become the quiet bastions of global-tripping, doing it without fanfare, commotion and really, off the radars of everyone other than those who follow along their blog. It’s an intimidating notion: picking up with your significant other and just spend years at sea, all the while remaining gainfully employed. Can it really be done? “Working remotely is more work and at times can be frustrating,” says James. “But, the opportunity to cruise the world is wonderful. Given the choice of putting off a world cruise to when one’s health may no longer allow it or doing both work and the cruise at the same time, the latter is clearly the better choice.” Although he admits connectivity can be an issue and poses efficiency problems, there’s certainly enough time to spend adjusting and completing a job.
“When we first talked about a ‘quick blast around the world’, we expected perhaps one-tenth of the experiences we have enjoyed over the last three years. It’s been incredible.”
They have no specific plan in place and live by the prerogative of changing their minds about their itinerary. (“It’s almost comical how frequently we change our minds,” he says.”) For instance, despite originally wanting to go from Cape Town to Europe, they were enticed by photos of Patagonia and decided to reroute to South America. “The more we travel, the more willing we are to change our minds and direction entirely,” says James.
As with their current passage, it’s all about the adventure, not being renegades as some might think. “We try very hard to never be brave. Generally, we want to have fun, do things that are different, range thousands of miles from other boats, but we don’t want to put our lives at risk. That’s why we bought Dirona. What we wanted was a good strong boat that can comfortably cover long distances and operate for months away from service people, parts, and evenfuel.
“It’s been 7,300 hours and most of the way around the world and we are still really having fun.”
Check in to Nordhavn.com for a forthcoming video interview with James and Jennifer Hamilton about their travels, including their crossing from St. Helena to Barbados.
Follow the Hamiltons on their voyage for the ages at mvDirona.com.