As recently as a decade ago, the recreational boaters who pointed the bow at the horizon and headed for the other side of an ocean tended to be retired. They were most often a couple with a solid nest egg, both still in good health, finally able to devote months or years to relaxing on board. Today, when Nordhavn Marketing Director Jenny Stern looks at the types of people crossing oceans on the builder’s go-anywhere vessels, she sees something different.
“It used to be a retired couple who had time to go exploring. It was like a sweet spot, age 55 to 65,” she says. “Now, we have a couple in their 80s who crossed the Atlantic. We have people who are just turning 40 with young kids doing it.”
As of this writing, more than 160 Nordhavns have crossed oceans, with some owners trying it for the first time, and others having crossed several expanses around the world. And it’s not the larger models, such as the N76 and N86, that are leading the way. Instead, it’s owner-operators at the helms of Nordhavn 46s who are believed to have achieved the most crossings.
Even before the pandemic, Stern says, improved communications equipment was leading more people to cast off lines and go, even if they’d never done anything of the sort in the past. Since the pandemic took hold, she adds, a desire to make the most of every moment has led more boaters to seize the day. “I think people are just not waiting until tomorrow to do stuff,” she says.
Donna Trigg and Phil Jones
Donna Trigg says that she and her husband, Phil Jones, “weren’t cruisers at all.” They both grew up in Australia, which means they learned how to sail and water-ski as kids, but they’d never done any cruising before they bought the Nordhavn 57 Beyond Capricorn 1.
The whole idea of crossing oceans came from Jones. He’d spent 30 years in the oil industry, managing rigs as they were towed across long distances. He had a hankering to do that kind of exploring aboard a boat of his own, so he bought Trigg the book Honey, Let’s Get a Boat, which is about cruising America’s Great Loop. He hoped that after reading it, she would be OK with the idea of them buying a boat. “That $15 book cost me a million dollars,” he says with a laugh.
Trigg liked the idea of the Loop, but as the couple looked at boats, they realized they likely would want to cruise even farther. They settled on the N57 and found one in Turkey. They bought it and then spent 15 months there learning how to operate the vessel. “We did a lot of work, spent a lot of money, and then started heading west,” Jones says.
Their first crossing, from Turkey toCroatia, was a doozy. Boats leaving Turkey were not allowed to enter Greece at the time, so they had to plow forward no matter what. The six days at sea included bad weather that settled on day three.
“We were dodging around islands, trying to keep away from the worst of it,” Trigg says. “At one point, we lost our navigation lights, so we pulled into a bay where Phil could fix them. We were anchored when the wind changed. It was coming in straight at us at over 40 knots. Our anchor started dragging. Once we got the boat started again, we ended up going out into a huge swell that rolled us. Everything went flying around the boat.”
Whereas some couples would’ve given up, Jones and Trigg decided the experience had made them a stronger team. They eventually cruised the Mediterranean Sea, then departed from Gibraltar to the Canary Islands, Cape Verde Islands and, 12 days later, French Guyana. From there, they cruised to Trinidad, and then up the Caribbean to the Bahamas. After 18,000 nautical miles, Trigg adds, they have no regrets: “We’ve had an amazing almost four years living aboard.”
The Chizik Family
It was never Stu Chizik’s plan to cross an ocean with his 11-year-old daughter,
Lillian. When he and his wife, Dominique, made the leap from lake boating in Canada to buying a Nordhavn 46, their intent was to find a boat on the West Coast of the Americas and do coastal cruising from there.
As it turned out, the N46 they could get their hands on in 2021, Lady Grey, was in Oahu, Hawaii. And so, after making repairs and learning the systems for about five months, they did their first overnight cruise: 14 days across 2,560 nautical miles of the Pacific Ocean to Ensenada, Mexico.
“The original plan was for our child to go home with Grandma, and we were going to take the boat, but we couldn’t get everything fixed and ready to go in time, so Grandma brought her back,” Stu says. “She was a little nervous at first, but then OK.”
Their decision to go cruising followed a frightening experience on Canada’s slick winter highways. The couple used to drive a half hour every day past a certain spot where, unbeknownst to them, another driver had gone off the road and into a ditch with no cell service. “He was in the car for three days, with no food, no nothing,” Stu says. “I don’t know how he survived. We drove past him six times.”
Stu and Dominique decided they had a bigger risk of dying on their local highways than on the ocean with satellite communications. Phil sold part of his business, and they sold a second home they had on a lake, giving them the money they needed to buy the boat.
As it turned out, it was a great purchase. Their ocean crossing was, indeed, relatively uneventful. They lost a freezer on day four, along with all of the tasty meals they had prepared for microwaving, so they had to exist on what Stu calls “power-outage food that you buy at Costco.” But they made it across and, as of early August, were aboard in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where they plan to stay for the school year before cruising the whole of the Caribbean via the Panama Canal.
“Maybe we’ll go to the Azores, if we can get that far, but that will take a few years,” Stu says. “I’ve wanted to sail around the world since I was a little kid. I just didn’t know I would be traveling on a big motorboat. I am much more comfortable than I thought I would be.”
Philippe Guglielmetti was CEO of the Arcoa shipyard in France for 8 years, until 2011. He enjoyed cruising in the Mediterranean and always thought he’d cross the Atlantic. But then, in 2015, he suffered a stroke that left him with a degenerative disease and in a wheelchair. “So I said, Let’s do this before I can’t do it,” he says.
He bought a Nordhavn 40, christened it Embracing Life, and set out with a small crew from Miami, bound for Tarragona, Spain, as the captain of his own ship.
“It was an incredible feat,” according to the team at Nordhavn, “especially taking into account that the entire second half of the trip—a total of 18 days at sea—was completed without stabilization.”
Guglielmetti was able to be in the wheelhouse on watch in his wheelchair with use of the boat’s autopilot, along with a lengthened joystick for steering. “We adapted it to make it bigger,” he says, adding that he could reach it without standing up. He did watches as long as 12 hours. When the stabilizers died in the middle of the crossing, his crew put a mat on the floor in the salon, so he could stretch out there instead of being tossed around in his chair. Even that experience has not dissuaded him from wanting to continue cruising.
“I am more than happy: I am proud,” he says. “When I came back from my trip, I told my wife, ‘Let’s go to Hawaii through the Panama Canal.’ I don’t know if I will cross again, but I love boating.”
This article was originally published in the October 2022 issue.