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Nimbus C11

Snowbirds with sailboats in their wake find a fast, fun boat for their new home in Maine
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Christi and Jan van Heek are no strangers to Down East Maine, having visited the region’s postcard-like ports countless times aboard their J/46 sailboat. They are also new residents of Rackliff Island just south of Rockland, having moved there a year ago from Marblehead, Massachusetts. Their two adult daughters and their families followed them. “We’re all Mainers now,” says Christi.

It’s a late October morning as I pull into a parking spot at Safe Harbor Rockland Marina, where I’ll meet the van Heeks. The sun is beaming, but I’m wearing a parka because it’s not like boating weather. Like, at all.

So then why are we going cruising? The van Heeks tell me they have just returned from Holland and need to collect their Goldendoodle, Maggie, from their daughter’s home on Isleboro about 25 miles away. If we took the J/46, we might get there by dinnertime. Luckily, we’re taking their Nimbus C11, an outboard-powered pilothouse cruiser that’s practical, fast and purpose-built to handle any kind of weather.

Nimbus calls the C11 its “year-round commuter,” which makes sense as the boat has a bevy of roof hatches, side windows and doors at the helm and stern. You can open them all up to enjoy the fresh air, or close them to crank up the air-conditioning or heat. It’s nice to have these options, especially when you’re cruising at a brisk 30 knots. On that note, did I mention the Nimbus C11 is a blast to drive?

The dining benches convert to forward-facing seats.

The dining benches convert to forward-facing seats.

After making my introductions on the dock, I step aboard the boat, which is powered by two 300-hp Mercury Verados. Stern access is a little precarious—you need to be, ahem, nimble—but once aboard there are high, protective gunwales and robust stainless steel handholds on both sides. There’s a 2-foot gap in the rail on the starboard side. That space is reserved for a faux-teak plank beside the mid-deck cleat; it makes tying off and hopping in or out a breeze for the operator. You can straddle it or slide off on your keister.

Joining us for the day is Bob Chase, sales director for Yachting Solutions in Rockport, Maine, who sold this boat to the van Heeks. The couple, who affectionately refer to themselves as “crazy people,” also own a Grand Banks Eastbay 55 that they keep in South Florida. The snowbirds summer in New England from May to early November and then hightail it to warmer climes. They first met Chase at the Rockland Boat Show while looking for a fast boat that could accommodate “either two people or 14,” says Christi. “Most important, we wanted something that we could take anywhere, anytime and go quickly. But because we’re sailors, we don’t go quickly very often.”

They actually went to the show to see the Axopar 37, but when they toured the C11 it impressed them. Christi and Jan stand on the taller side (6-foot-4 and 6-foot-3 respectively), so Christi made sure they could lie down comfortably in the forward berth. They were sold. They took ownership two weeks before my visit, and in that time put nearly 40 hours on the engines.

Jan and Christi van Heek at the helm, where sightlines are incredible.

Jan and Christi van Heek at the helm, where sightlines are incredible.

Jan uses the Mercury joystick to guide us away from the dock. The couple lounge in the Grammer suspension helm seats, while Chace and I stand around the nicely proportioned salon. With the long breakwater and its solitary lighthouse firmly in our rearview, the hammer comes down. It’s time to get Maggie the pooch. With the Zipwake interceptors engaged, we throttle up. I found the sweet spot for the twin 300s to be just under 30 knots, providing a range of 161 miles. With fewer people aboard, the van Heeks reported the Nimble hit 40 knots.

The wave sets are short and choppy, but the arrow-like C11 slices through them with ease. Standing or sitting, the ride feels balanced all the same. Christi calls her son-in-law, Greg, to let him know we might be a little early.

Nimbus Boats are built in Sweden and have been around for over 30 years. Owners include tennis player Björn Borg and Swedish royalty. When Chace told his sister-in-law, who is originally from Sweden, that Yachting Solutions was representing the brand in the Northeast, she was impressed. “Oh, you’re selling Nimbus?” she asked. “Those are the best. That’s what everybody wants.”

Maggie is ready to go home.

Maggie is ready to go home.

Nimbus made its way across the Atlantic to U.S. customers in the past year or so. According to Chace, 22 Nimbus models have already been sold stateside, and they’ve ordered 30 more boats for 2022. And most, if not all, are being equipped with outboard power over the optional Volvo Penta inboard.

One of the best features of the C11 is its ability to appear wide or narrow depending on the situation. A beam of 11-feet 4-inches is nothing to scoff at, but thanks to some incredible sightlines—and four windshield wipers, including two on the side windows—you feel like you’re at the helm of a smaller boat. And yet you won’t feel like you’re squeezed, thanks to a seating arrangement in the salon that easily converts from a C-shaped dining area to two rows of forward-facing bench seats. The boat’s generous sidedecks, along with two standard berths, add to this feeling of spaciousness.

The space helps when you have guests, or canines, aboard. When we get to Isleboro’s public dock, Greg is waiting there with Maggie. Upon seeing her parents, the dog loses it. After greeting Christi on the dock, she abandons all decorum and throws herself over the gunwale, with Jan assisting and pulling up her hind legs. “She’s a good boat dog,” he says, smiling.

With Maggie safely aboard, we turn and head for the mainland. The wind is blowing, but we don’t feel it inside the pilothouse. The van Heeks plan to haul the boat in early November and make their way to Florida, but something is weighing on them. Previously, when I asked if extending the boating season was on their list of priorities in finding a good powerboat for Maine, Christi was resolute in saying it wasn’t critical. But according to Jan, she also enjoys driving the C11 at 40 knots. Can a boat change your priorities? When I ask if they’re still planning on hauling it in a few days, I get my answer.

Says Christi, “I’d probably push it even later.” 

This article was originally published in the July 2022 issue. 

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