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"Nordhavn 40"
Ship-like in Form & Function
By Staff Editor


It's the smallest model in trawler-builder Nordhavn's lineup, but the full-displacement Nordhavn 40 is, according to the builder, designed and built to operate in open-ocean conditions. That's not a statement that should be made idly, since it asserts that a vessel has the range of stability, seakeeping characteristics (handling and responsiveness), cruising range, systems reliability and redundancy, and integrity of construction to withstand far more severe conditions than a yacht designed for coastal cruising. Does the Nordhavn 40 have these qualifications? That's what we set out to determine during a daylong inspection and sea trial.

The Nordhavn 40's exceptionally high freeboard forward (6' to the gunwale and 7'to the solid bulwark) continues more than half her length to a broken sheerline just aft of the pilothouse. Such freeboard adds to the vessel's seaworthiness by creating great reserve buoyancy forward and resisting the efforts of seas to break over the bow. A larger interior volume also results, making the Nordhavn more livable than might be expected of a 40-footer. The vessel also has large forecastle bulwark scuppers designed to quickly shed topside water.

Equally important to seaworthiness is the underwater hull design. The Nordhavn's deep, buoyant forefoot allows much of the hull to remain under water as it rides through waves, which minimizes pounding.

The ratio of topside sail area (superstructure) to underwater hull is also important, since a ratio in favor of sail area results in a vessel that gets blown around in a cross wind. Therefore, a boat with great sail area, such as the Nordhavn, needs a good range of stability. And it does-180 degrees, which means the boat self-rights (with optional storm plates for the windows).

Another design feature key to seaworthiness is the ratio of open weatherdeck to superstructure. The Nordhavn 40 has wide weatherdecks (decks outside the boat's superstructure) forward of the pilothouse, which makes it easy and safe to move about topside. This results in a smaller, and therefore lighter, superstructure forward, which makes the vessel more stable. The tradeoff is that the wider sidedecks reduce space in the pilothouse. But the Nordhavn seems to have struck a workable balance between the two; sidedecks along the aft section of the superstructure are much narrower (about 8"), maximizing interior volume.

The Portuguese bridge, which consists of a bulwark forward of the bridge intended to deflect water (or at least lessen its impact against the pilothouse windows), also adds to this vessel's seaworthiness.

Forward-facing tempered glass windows are designed to resist the potentially immense pressure of water breaking against them. They're 3/ 8" thick, perhaps not as thick as on many commercial vessels (1/2" to 3/ 4" is not unusual) but thicker than on most yachts.

The full-displacement Nordhavn 40 was tank-tested extensively to tweak its design and achieve optimum range.

Any vessel is a series of compromises; you can't have it all, in spite of what boatbuilders' marketing department tell you. And the Nordhavn is no exception.

For instance, its stern sections (which have flat buttocks lines) are comparatively full, which adds drag below displacement speed and decreases range. But this buoyancy aft also lessens drag at higher speeds and actually allows the Nordhavn to go about a knot faster than its roughly 8 knot displacement speed.

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Another example of boatbuilding's trading game: The Nordhavn's considerable 14'6" beam argues against achieving optimal range, but who'd want to cruise and live in a 40-footer with a 9'beam for months on end?

The Nordhavn 40 has another commendable hull form feature. The bubble in the hull bottom under the engine allows it to be mounted lower, creating more propeller thrust for increased efficiency.

The Nordhavn 40 consists of a solid fiberglass hull. A skincoat of chop in premium vinylester resin prevents osmotic blistering and print-through of woven fiberglass. General purpose orthophthalic resin wets out subsequent alternating layers of woven roving and mat that build the hull bottom to a nominal thickness of 1-1/4".

The foam-cored stringers provide great stiffness at light weight. The builder understandably uses marine-grade plywood to core the stringers where the engines sit; the wood resists the compression of engine mounting bolts and helps absorb engine vibrations.

The hull-to-deck joint, which incorporates through-bolts, a polyurethane adhesive and is fiberglassed from the inside, is as strong as any we've seen.

The hollow keel has a steel channel fiberglassed in as part of the structure to resist grounding in as part of the structure to resist grounding impact loads, and a cast bronze shoe projects past the keel, forming a skeg that supports the bottom of the rudder.

The Nordhavn 40's 2-year comprehensive structural warranty- which we think should be at least 5 years-does not cover blistering (in writing), but Jim Leishman, one of Nordhavn's owners, says the company will stand by its product in this area.

You enter the cockpit either through transom or starboard-side doors, which gives the owners some flexibility when moored stern- or starboardside to. At 3' from deck to washboard, it's ship-like in depth, and at 5'7" L x 12' W, there's plenty of room to enjoy a fresh breeze, handle lines or swim. The transom door opens to a small centerline integral swim platform; outboard are molded seats with storage lockers below.

Below the cockpit, a lazarette holds four batteries, a battery charger and cockpit drain lines leading overboard from the hatch gutters. The rudder installation is a textbook example of how to install steering gear. The 2"diameter rudder post is supported first at the heavily beefed-up hull. The rudder post top is in turn supported by a bearing, creating a lever-arm that will help resist hull rupture if the rudder is bent. The skeg projecting from the full keel reinforces the rudder at its bottom, and hard stops are built in at 35 degrees and bolted to the fiberglass-encapsulated steering board.

As elsewhere, you'll find the bilges smoothly finished with careful fiberglass work. Gutters around the lazarette hatch, with 3/4" drain lines, keep things dry below. One-inch to 1-1/2" drain lines would be much less susceptible to clogging. A shallow gutter around the perimeter drains overboard via a single 13" x 6" scupper on centerline. A watermaker, diving compressor, scuba tanks or an extra anchor could also call the lazarette home.

Entered from the cockpit, the saloon, nicely finished in teak veneer and joiner work, is the yacht's focal point. Measuringl0'7"Lx11'6"Wwith6'5" of headroom, the saloon is open and airy; large windows (which have optional storm plates due to their vulnerable location) surround three sides. An L-shaped lounge, with storage below, and table are to starboard. Opposite is a countertop with cabinets below.

The Nordhavn's galley-forward and to port in the saloon-includes a U-shaped countertop that separates the galley and saloon. The double sink is amply proportioned at 12" x 12" per section and 8" deep.

Be careful when standing at the sink, though. The cabinets are directly above, so it's easy to bang your head while leaning slightly forward to wash dishes. The test boat owner says she bumped her head a few times but has since gotten used to it. We think an adjustment should be made so you can comfortably stand at the sink.

Our test boat had a three-burner propane stove with oven, trash compactor, refrigerator and microwave oven. Storage cabinets and drawers provide plenty of space for supplies, and a Sub-Zero freezer is opposite to starboard by the stairs to the bridge. This galley arrangement makes good use of space with everything within arm's length.

Engine Room
Five steps lead you from the saloon to the lower deck companionway. Just to port is a watertight, but very narrow, door leading to the Nordhavn 40's engine room. At just 17" W, you have to turn and shimmy your way through the door. The guest state-room bunk limits its width, according to the builder. In the interests of safety and maintenance, we'd accept that tradeoff and choose a more accessible engine room with a door of about
22" W.

Two 460-gallon fiberglass fuel tanks are mounted on each side of the 13o-hp Lugger L668D, 6-cylinder diesel. Based on a John Deere tractor engine, an engine life of 30,000 hours is not uncommon, and up to 85,000 hours have been recorded, according to Lugger. The engine has two alternators, one for the starting battery and one for the housebatterybank. Another advantage of the Lugger is the stump - pulling torque the engine develops at mid-range rpm. The hull bubble mentioned earlier actually includes the whole area around the engine, as well as under the engine itself, so accessibility to the bottom of the engine is unimpeded, and headroom is generous (for this class and size vessel) at about 60 inches.

Those twin fiberglass saddle tanks will never rust or corrode, which means they should never have to be replaced and shouldn't cause fuel system clogging-a big improvement over black iron or aluminum tanks, both susceptible to these problems. The tanks, which have man-size access plates for maintenance (another ship like feature), leave about 20" of clearance on either side of the engine, just enough room for routine maintenance. Fiberglassed to the hull, they also add structural integrity.

The engine has soft mounts attached to large (14" x 5") gusset-supported, wood-cored hull stringers. This soft-and-hard combination improves engine sound attenuation and helps explain the boat's low vibration levels.

All of the fuel lines are aircraft-type, high-pressure with compression fittings on their ends. We did find a weak link, though: At the engine, supply and return lines transition to 6" sections of thin 1/4" copper tubing connected to the engine. We'd strongly recommend running the high-pressure hoses all the way to the engine for greater fuel-system integrity. The builder would accommodate a request for this change.

A single seacock leads from the engine to the keel-cooler, providing a closed-loop cooling system for the main engine. The added drag of this external radiator is not significant at displacement speeds, and the aggravation of clogged sea water strainers will be a thing of the past for a Nordhavn owner.

Further aft and on a raised platform, following the curvature of the bilge, is an enclosed 8-kW Northern Lights generator to starboard. A "don't-leave-home-without-it" feature sits opposite: a 27-hp Yanmar KM2V auxiliary propulsion diesel. This engine is good for maybe 4 to 5 knots-get-home power that gives peace-of-mind. The auxiliary diesel is fed from its own 1o-gallon tank, which is replenished by a timer-controlled (to help prevent overfilling) fuel transfer pump.

Water and fuel hoses are all clearly labeled, which is not to be taken for granted in this market. The space is well-lighted, with overhead- and bulkhead-mounted fluorescent and dome lights. The perforated-aluminum paneling covering the overhead and bulkheads is neatly fabricated and installed for a ship-like appearance. Aluminum extrusions surround and protect the fuel tank sight gauges. Gently radiused cooling hoses should prevent chafing around machinery and limberholes. Overhead panels lift out in the event that the engine needs to be replaced, eliminating the need for major surgery.

Also, a pair of Racor fuel filter-separators allow you to switch from one to the other without shutting down the engine. We'd like to see them mounted 6" higher to make it easier to see their sediment bowls and drain them effortlessly.

The Northern Light genset's enclosure will minimize noise levels when away from shore power. Finally, an Edson hand bilge pump augments the electric bilge pump in the event of loss of electrical power.

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Survival of the Fittest
Since this is billed as an ocean-going vessel, we will point out that the engine room is excessively long at just over 12' (about a third of the waterline length) from forward to aft bulkheads. Ideally, this space should be divided into two watertight compartments-one for the main engine and one for the auxiliary engine with its own alternator and battery-for improved protection against flooding.

As is, the Nordhavn's engine room would likely make it difficult for the boat to maintain adequate buoyancy and stability in a flooded condition, when floating at its damaged waterline. On the other hand, this is a yacht, not a missile boat, so most owners would give up the increased watertight integrity for the easy accessibility. We'd prefer something in between-a watertight bulkhead with an integral watertight door that would provide access to each compartment.

The cabin layout consists of a master stateroom forward and up three steps, a design that takes advantage of the yacht's 6 feet of freeboard at the bow. There's extra storage below the deck, which would come in handy on long voyages. The master island berth, plenty big at 6'6" long, opens easily on gas boosters for access to the bow thruster, battery and storage. Headroom just aft of the berth is 6'4".

The 20-square-inch overhead hatch should be a few inches larger to enable all sizes of crew to escape in an emergency. Not many people would have the strength to pull themselves up to the hatch (see photo, Page 6), so we'd recommend a ladder attached to the overhead.

His-and-her hanging lockers, a built-in vanity with drawers, under-gunwale lockers and additional counter space round out the stateroom's amenities. In addition to the hatch, a pair of 5 "-diameter stainless steel portlights let in a little daylight and sea breeze. Like the rest of the cabin, the hull sides are lined with teak battens. Teak cabinets and doors, combined with our test boat's navy-blue upholstery and carpeting, make for a nautical atmosphere.

The anchor locker, on the other side of the master stateroom's forward crash bulkhead, illustrates the Nordhavn's attention to detail during construction. Inside, we found clean glass work, careful grinding away of glass splinters, a fully fiberglassed hull-to-deck joint and extra stiffening at the stem.

Moving aft to the guest stateroom to port, we found a pair of 78" bunks. The upper tapers from 28" to about 16" W. The lower is adjustable, with the bottom sliding out and the backrest lying flat to extend the berth by a foot or so to 42" across at its widest spot, so two could sleep on the lower berth in a pinch. Also in the guest stateroom is a built-in vanity with drawers, a small hanging locker, storage under the lower berth, access to the engine room and a combination washer-dryer. This room is very small-about the size of a queen-size bed-but fine for occasional guests. The finish is a pleasing, low-maintenance mix of Formica-like laminate with teak trim and teak hull battens.

The yacht's single head, opposite to starboard, includes a teak-and-laminate finish with a 4'2" x 15" countertop with a 17" x 10" x 6" sink, a 2"-high fiddle board, storage lockers and drawers. The 20" x 20" shower, with its built-in seat, is similarly constructed, including laminate walls and teak trim. We'd prefer a full fiberglass shower liner, which would be easier to maintain. The builder is now producing boats with this feature. The yacht's optional stabilizers are located under the guest stateroom lower berth (to port) and under the shower seat (to starboard). We think larger access openings would be welcome in case of a major overhaul or eventual replacement. A one-piece, molded, lift up shower seat and a larger bunk opening would do the trick.

Our Nordhavn 40 had a small bridge which, as our test boat's owner put it, doesn't have room for a pilot's chair. The Portuguese bridge takes up much of the space that would normally be dedicated to the bridge. Our test boat's owner uses a folding chair.

The helm's flat, dark gray finish will minimize windshield glare at night. The three-sided, angled electronics panels have enough room for flush-mounted electronics that would suit a Navy cruiser. A chart table to port hinges up when needed. The Diamond/Seaglaze windows look to be stoutly made and should do well holding up to a breaker. On the other hand, the mullions between the glass are as wide as 7", which takes a big chunk out of the operator's line of sight. These could probably be narrowed by up to 3" to improve visibility.

A raised observation lounge seat is aft on the bridge, with a sea berth above and behind. Visibility abaft the beam is restricted with small 21" x 13" windows facing aft. Making them 6" deeper would improve the view astern, even with the yacht's on-deck tender. Installing another set of windows aft of the bridge wing doors would also improve visibility.

We found the spoked steering wheel to be mounted uncomfortably low, especially when spinning the wheel the seven full turns it took it go from lock to lock.

Port and starboard bridge wing doors lead to the weatherdecks, where 4 0 "-high bulwarks make this boat seem more like a Coast Guard cutter. Our test boat had gray nonskid topside surfaces that significantly reduce glare and eye strain, and molded stairs to port lead to the saloon roof. A mast and boom hoist an 11'tender, which is stowed atop the saloon, aft of the pilothouse. The same mast supports the outriggers used to suspend the Paravane stabilizers.

From the bridge wings, both sides have access to the Portuguese bridge. A molded fiberglass door leads through the starboard side of the forward bulwark to the forecastle. Since this door could be subjected to a breaking wave, it should be molded to fit securely in place, like a battleship's armored, bevel-edged hatch, rather than rely on a hinge and a latch, in our opinion.

The solid railings forward transition aft to less-secure lifelines, supported by 29"-high stanchions; we'd prefer solid 1-ll499-thick, 32"- to 34"high stainless-steel railings throughout for added security.

Sea Trial
The Nordhavn's 9-knottop speed limits its ability to avoid bad weather on the open ocean. A faster vessel can skirt around storm systems, especially with the availability of weather reporting and fax services. A 9knot vessel might well have no alternative but to slug it out with Mother Nature, and must be built for that eventuality.

Our boat required, as mentioned, seven turns of the wheel to go from hard port to hard starboard. This is excessive, even for a boat that tops out at 9 knots. Once the rudder was against the stop, though (yes, this boat had hard stops set at a 35-degree angle, another ship-like feature), the Nordhavn turned very sharply in just over a boat length. We managed 360-degree turns in an average of just 31 seconds. The boat was easily maneuvered around close objects, like lobster pots.

Our Lugger diesel, driving a 28" x 24" four-blade Michigan propeller, provided good responsiveness to the throttle, particularly given the vessel's modest power-to-weight ratio. We didn't try out the stabilizers, which are only effective at speed, or the Paravanes, which also function at anchor. But count on either system to dramatically reduce the rolling inherent in any displacement hull. Nearly three tons (5,600 lbs.) of fuel in the full tanks low in the hull will help, too.

Walking around on deck underway, the predominant noise source varied from one area to another. Leaning back over the transom, out from under the overhang above, the engine's dry exhaust exiting through its pipe terminus some 20 feet above the waterline was the loudest noise. Move forward a few feet, and the exhaust noise diminished, which means this is one quiet boat aft. The other positive side effect of the dry exhaust is the absence of smoke in the cockpit-a delightful benefit.

If you take a look at the fuel figures, note the futility of trying to drive a displacement vessel above its hull speed; increasing speed from 8 to 8.5 knots cuts efficiency by around 30%. Noise levels in the saloon ranged a few dBA higher than in the pilothouse, but the yacht was commendably quiet everywhere onboard and throughout the vessel's speed range.

If any 40-foot yachts can potentially safely cross an ocean, the Nordhavn 40 is one of them. Ruggedly built, well-engineered and comfortably appointed, this vessel lives up to its seagoing claims, in our opinion, capable of executing long-range cruising in comfort and style.

However, we think the Nordhavn 40 could use a few improvements to fully justify its $459,000 price tag. We think the boat needs better visibility at the bridge and tighter steering, a subdivided engine room with a watertight bulkhead and door for improved protection against flooding, better access to its stabilizers, and a stronger method of securing its topside door that leads to the Portuguese bridge. We also think the forward lifelines need to be replaced with at least 34"36"-high stainless steel bow rails, and a ladder is needed for escape-route access to the overhead hatch in the master stateroom.

The builder will accommodate these changes if requested. The Nordhavn 40 is already
a superior seagoing vessel. We feel these modifications would make it even better.

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