A globe trotter comes to life with the help of her global project team
By Garrett Severen
It was January 3, 2011, and I was somewhere high over the Atlantic on a flight bound for Trieste, Italy. My final destination was Muggia, Italy where the Nordhavn 68 Aura was berthed and I was meeting the new owner of Nordhavn 6826 on board to have a look. That first week of 2011 is when the N6826 project sprung to life, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Only three things were certain: there was a contract (a simple one-page contract which I held in my hand revealing nothing more than that the boat had actually been purchased); the owner, Karel, a native to the Czech republic, did not speak any English; and me, Southern California born and bred, spoke no Czech. One thing was for sure, this was going to be no ordinary build process. We would be using this week as our building block for ideas. Accompanying me on this trip was the salesman, Philip Roach from our UK office and another guy named Paul with Maricom Marine Electronics in the UK. We spent a very cold week in Muggia onboard Aura inspecting her inside and out. Hand gestures and pointing run amok, eventually leading to ideas that called for major changes in design and resources for the devise of hull #26. And in the end, the result was a beautiful custom Nordhavn 68 christened Thetis II, which just so happened to be the 500th Nordhavn shipped from our partner factories in Taiwan and China.
Fast forward more than two years. Nordhavn 6826 had been completed and shipped to a yard in Malta. On October 23, 2013 I departed Los Angeles bound for Malta for the Luqua Airport en route to deliver Thetis II to her excited owner. Our delivery cruise would take us from Malta across the Mediterranean Sea, through the Adriatic Sea to Montenegro, where we would take on fuel and then head to Croatia. I arrived in Malta at 0200 hours on Friday the 25th and with a few hours sleep, it was time to start the day. Thetis II was berthed at Manoal Island Yacht Yard and there was quite a bit going on the morning I arrived. There were boat washers inside and out, there were mechanics, a diver, and two PAE commissioning crew, Justin Jensen and Drew Leishman, onboard. Two representatives of Maricom marine electronics, Dave and Paul, were onboard as well. We were to depart in less than 48 hours, yet you wouldn’t know it looking around the boat, what with carpet installers and subcontractors all over the place. But, as is usually the case, things came together quickly. By the end of the day, Thetis II was clean, carpeted, and free of subcontractors. She was beautiful and looked ready for her maiden voyage. Friday evening Karel, accompanied by his friends Jan and Peter (who also played the role of chef) as well as his son, Ondrej, all arrived in Malta. We met for a few drinks that evening and discussed our plans for the trip.
Saturday was quite busy, with Karel and his entourage spending the day going through the new boat as well as provisioning for our voyage. There was nothing onboard; no utensils, no plates, no glasses or coffee mugs, just empty shelves and lockers in the galley. By late afternoon we were loading food and drinks by the box load, new plates, new glasses and everything needed for a well stocked galley. We would have eight men onboard for the next 4 days. We worked well into the night taking care of the final preparations until we had to break for dinner at about 9 pm. This would be the first night the owner would sleep onboard Thetis II. I headed back to my hotel, hopeful the night was a good one, and learned the next morning that it had been. A small – but important – hurdle crossed!
We had decided to depart Malta at 0600 hours on Sunday October 27th and were very close to leaving on time. We eventually departed at 0618 hours, heading into the sunrise. The night before I was informed there were several public live webcams overlooking the harbor in Malta. I emailed home so my wife could watch us depart. It was about 11pm in California as she watched us pull out of Malta. Once away from the dock and away from the buoys, we stopped and floated as the owner and his son christened Nordhavn 6826, Thetis II. A speech was made, champagne was poured on the bow pulpit and all eight passengers took a swig out of the bottle. Now we were officially on our way to Croatia. We entered open water and it was as flat and calm as a lake, the sun was out and there was no wind. We were cruising at 8 ½ to 9 knots and all was well as we weaved our way through the main shipping channel of the Med. All types of large cargo and tanker ships going all sorts of directions were visible all around us, but we had no problems staying close to our planned route, only having to adjust course slightly here and there.
That evening the seas began to become rougher as the wind and swell increased. By nightfall we had large amounts of spray coming over the bow, the stabilizers were doing exactly what they were designed to do. The seas were a bit confused, waves would slap the starboard bow quarter. Unfortunately, I had the forward starboard cabin, so this made for a slightly uncomfortable ride, we had eight crew onboard so there weren’t any options to relocate. I’ll admit it, I did get sick and made a visit to the cockpit railing. I skipped dinner as well that night. Apparently our cook wasn’t feeling great either, but was still able to concoct two delicious courses for those who still had an appetite. I slept that night as well as I could until my alarm rang for my 0200 to 0400 watch. We broke our watches down to 2 hour increments and watches began at 2400 and went 0800. I was partnered with Paul from Maricom, which I was happy about, as he knew the navigation equipment inside and out. Thetis II has a Simrad and Max Sea system onboard. I won’t go into the details of the electronics and navigation equipment, as I did not choose or supply these systems. All I can say is that everything from the 3D chart plotter to the radar to the depth sounder and stereos all worked as they were supposed to. The seas remained confused and mixed up for my watch and into the next watch, but with the sunrise came calm, smooth water with a light breeze. The abrupt change was kind of unusual, but I was not about to complain!
Every morning when we woke up, our chef, Peter, had a full spread on the salon table. Each day differed slightly. Sometimes it was eggs, other times toast, fresh veggies and spreads. Sometimes it was even leftovers from the great dinners we had the night before. Peter, if you are reading this, thank you for keeping us very well fed! I now need to hit the gym to work off all the great meals we had. The boys from Maricom spent most of their days in the pilothouse going through the many different features of the navigation equipment, and answering the many questions from Karel and Jan. Karel would ask the questions and Jan would translate back and forth. It took a bit more time this way, but after a few days the new owner of Thetis II was working through the electronics himself.
We rounded the boot of Italy and were now in the Adriatic Sea headed north to Montenegro. This would be our first stop. The town we pulled into was called Tivat. It sits in quite a large protected bay, with many homes bordering the waterfront. Several old submarines on dry docks from past wars could be seen as we passed by, and that was pretty fascinating. We headed for a small channel that opened up into a secondary, even more well-protected, bay. Within this bay were two small islands; one natural, and one man made. Each island was barely large enough for the lone churches built on them. The churches were very beautiful and I am sure there is quite a bit of history involved with these, but we did not have time to go ashore. We needed to make our way to the fuel dock since we had pre-scheduled the fueling. The fuel dock and customs agents were ready for us. The actual process of fueling and clearing through customs did not take too long. After we were all cleaned up from fueling, we walked around the small, brand new marina which was extremely nice. We had dinner and purchased a few more provisions. We departed Montenegro later that night around 2330 hours.
We traveled through the night, making our way into Croatia. All the while, Justin was checking the engine room for any signs of trouble. Thetis II had been commissioned in Malta but we did not have much time to properly sea trial – this maiden voyage actually being the first true ocean test. The engines ran without any problems, but we did have a few minor issues with other systems, although Justin resolved most of them while we were underway. During the engine room checks, Karel, Jan and Ondrej would follow along with Justin or myself. Ondrej would video record our engine room checks and Jan would translate on camera. I thought this was a great idea for training purposes. The owner can now look back at these recordings anytime he has a question or concern.
The next morning at about 0800 we pulled into Korcula, Croatia to clear customs. Unfortunately, our timing was off. The special customs police officials were on another island until about 1600 hours later that day. So we shut down the boat, turned off the generators and walked around the small town of Korcula. The Maricom crew needed to find an electronics store to purchase a Croatian SIM card so the wifi would work. We found one close by and, with Jan’s help translating, we found what they needed. We acted a bit like tourists and saw the sights for a few hours. The one sight that stands out is Marco Polo’s birth home is in Korcula. The tourist season had just ended on Korcula, so the town was quite empty, but I can imagine it being full of people during the summer months. We found a small café to have lunch and then returned to the boat to clear customs and depart.
We traveled throughout the night, headed to an island near Tribunj, Croatia, our final destination. The reason for our brief stop before heading into port was to drop the anchor and complete the training on this system. We pulled in between two small islands, the wind was blowing more than I liked, but not enough that we couldn’t anchor. Karel and Ondrej decided early on in the build that they wanted some type of diving board/platform onboard Thetis II. We threw around the idea of installing a diving board as you would see at any local pool, but that did not work. So we eventually decided to install a hinged teak platform over the anchor pulpit. This would be hinged on one side so it could be lifted and the anchor lowered. Then it would drop down again so a person could walk out to the edge of the pulpit and jump off. Sort of like walking the plank in the old pirate days. We lowered the anchor and we were hooked. The wind soon died down and it was flat calm. I had wanted to check the bottom, zincs and through hulls, so Jan, Ondrej, Peter and I put on our trunks and went in. Ondrej and I decided we were going to jump in off the flybridge hardtop. Wow, that is a long way down! We had snorkel masks and were able to dive down under the hull and check all we needed to. I brought along a GoPro camera so we could later show Karel the underside and how everything looked. I would suggest that all Nordhavn owners carry a waterproof GoPro camera onboard. I was able to both take photos and record the underside of the vessel. The water and air were a bit cold, so we did not stay in too long. We got out, dried off, and had a quick drink of Pelinkovac to warm up. While in Croatia you must try a little drink of Pelinkovac. It’s apparently one of the local favorites. Being at anchor gave Dave and Paul from Maricom a chance to test the radar and chart plotter anchor alarms, which seemed to work quite well. After a feast for lunch, we pulled up anchor and cruised the short distance to Tribunj.
Tribunj is a quiet marina, not too large, with a few small restaurants and a 110-ton travel lift. Of course, med mooring is standard here and I think I just about have it down now. We moored Thetis II in a row of about 25 Sunseekers and Azimuts. Boy, did we stand out! The Sunseekers and Azimuts were all about 60 to 70ft in length, but Thetis II– being a Nordhavn 68 – was huge in comparison. It was the largest and tallest vessel in the marina. There were several of us onboard who were quite proud of this fact!
The next couple of days were spent training Karel, Peter and Ondrej on the systems in Thetis II, and how to use and maintain them. We filled up several tapes in the video recorder doing this. Tribunj was a really pleasant town, and I’d definitely recommend to anyone cruising this part of the world to make it a port of call.
We traveled just under 700 miles in about 82 hours, with an average speed of 8.6knots. We did not have any major issues and the minor issues were mostly resolved. (There is a plan in place to finalize all outstanding issues.) A project that began in early January 2011 in Muggia, Italy, amidst so much uncertainty on my part was now not only complete, but a complete success. It was a modern take on boat selling and building and shows just what a small world we live in. This was a venture accomplished through the joint efforts of a British salesman, a Czech owner, a Taiwanese shipyard, and an American project manager. Pretty fitting – a globe trotter put together by a global team.