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Words to live by

Nordhavn owner refuses to let age be an obstacle to an adventurous life


By James Leishman


“Come, my friends, ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world. “

-excerpt from Ulysses by Tennyson


This line from the epic poem contains the words by which Jack Felgate lives his life. It makes perfect sense, actually. Jack first came to Nordhavn when he was 78 years old, interested in purchasing a boat. I was somehow amazed by this and yet unfazed at the same time. Amazed because most of my clients feel like it’s about this age when they feel they’ll probably retire from cruising. But listening to Jack, he was spirited; it was clear he had a lot of life left to live.


Jack had done a bunch of extensive coastal cruising of the Australian east coast and sailed the Tahitian Islands, but he needed more. He wanted to go offshore and do some serious ocean cruising while he still had it in him. “In my working life and during my many adventures, I have always disregarded my age as a limit to my capabilities, sincerely believing that my conscious strategy is to be optimistic with a can-do attitude,” said Jack. “Being 78 at the time had no effect on my decision.”


As he clearly was not letting age impede him from his goals, he certainly wasn’t going to let the wrong boat stop him from realizing his dreams either. After much research, he decided that a Nordhavn would best suit his needs.


Jack worked with my esteemed colleague, Steve Miller, a fun, knowledgeable salesman. Together they looked at several boats, and Jack finally settled on a gorgeous Nordhavn 57, Speedbird. Staying true to his word, Jack took delivery of that boat in San Diego and promptly christened her with a trans-Pacific crossing to Honolulu, continued to Fanning Island, American Samoa, Fiji and the surrounding islands, Port Vila, Mackay North Queensland, and back to his home in Sydney. With three friends on board, Jack quickly amassed more than 10,000 nm and he took the role of boat owner very seriously. Covering all expenses, his crew served as primary watch standers, but Jack kept them company at night (“Or maybe, perhaps, to see that they didn’t fall asleep!” he muses.). Pride of ownership was evident when Speedbird arrived at every port washed down and in Bristol condition, crew adorning matching shirts.


While the boat was in Sydney Harbor, she earned lots of adoring glances, but none more so than that of David Fincham, an experienced boater who was extremely eager to get onboard and have a look. So impressed with Speedbird, David made an offer to Jack to purchase the boat. Jack was not interested, but David wouldn’t take no for an answer and simply made Jack an offer he couldn’t refuse. Days later, Jack regretted making the deal. “I made a big mistake in selling the N57,” he admits.


Some peace of mind came with knowing David was a formidable owner, loved the boat and took great care of her. But Jack couldn’t remain boatless so he purchased a brand new 60-foot semi-displacement boat. Still, he lamented: “I could not get Nordhavn out of my mind.” He soon sold the boat and got thinking about getting another Nordhavn.


Jack was excited about embarking on his next ocean voyage and decided to have a routine physical done to make sure all was OK. All tests came back normal, as Jack expected, but his cardiologist urged him to have an angiogram, just to make doubly sure. Jack begrudgingly agreed, and it’s a good thing because it eventually saved his life. The results of the angiogram revealed a faulty valve and four partially blocked arteries. Three days later, Jack was on an operating table undergoing quadruple bypass heart surgery. Anticipated recovery time was 12 months, but Jack – not one to waste time, or have time to waste for that matter – was back up and running after eight months. He rang up PAE again to talk to Steve about recommencing his search for a vessel, only to learn that Steve had suffered a heart attack and passed away, just in his mid-50s at the time. It was shocking and horrible news, for Jack, but also a sign that offered further proof he was making the right decision.


I took over as Jack’s salesman and got right to work searching for another Nordhavn for him. Several months later, I knew I’d found the perfect boat. It was a 2013 Nordhavn 60, a 50-cycle powered boat which had been originally commissioned by an Australian, that I’d heard was coming to market soon. The boat was in Los Cabos and while Jack was excited about the boat, he became concerned that flying all the way to Mexico might not be the best thing for him and his condition. I knew instantly he’d regret letting another Nordhavn – actually, this specific Nordhavn – go. Consequently, I made him a deal. I told him if he bought the boat, I’d make all the arrangements: find a good slip for her, go down and check on it and assign someone to keep an eye on her – for as long as necessary until he felt he was able to fly over and do the trip back to Australia. So comfortable with the agreement, Jack purchased the boat sight unseen based on my word.


Jack finally felt well enough to take on his second ocean crossing and in May 2014 he and his crew flew to Mexico. He found the boat, called Last Samurai, to be just as immaculate as I described and couldn’t wait to undergo his journey.  The crew duplicated Speedbird’s journey from a couple years earlier - other than visiting a few different ports of call in the South Pacific. This time, however, they did encounter some weather. Due to the tight schedule of one of the crew, the boat needed to stick to a timetable, forcing the boat to ride out some punishing seas. They used a weather router along the way, so that they knew – and had time to prepare – when they came upon each storm. “I’ve been in vessels before – one particular 48-foot planing hull comes to mind. We attempted to cross Bass Straight only to turn back before the boat fell to pieces,” remembers Jack. “In a Nordhavn you can live normally even in the most adverse weather conditions."


Two months later after departing Los Cabos and running into – and around – a few storms, Last Samurai arrived back home to Australia. “It was a great feeling to enter Sydney Heads after the long trip and I thought of the many captains and crews who must have experienced similar feelings,” said Jack.


So what’s next for this old salt? Jack’s already busy working on his next cruising chapter which commences in February 2015. He’ll start with a visit to Hobart, Tasmania to attend the famous wooden boat festival there as well as see a few friends, followed up by a cruise to New Zealand and possibly a circumnavigation of Australia.


Jack’s been a great customer, an inspiration to me, and hopefully an inspiration to others out there with an ambition that goes nowhere because they think they’re on the wrong end of the timeline. I found another quote that I think embodies Jack, and so many of our owners, and is a good lesson for us all. It’s by an American author of children’s literature, Louis Sachar: “You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish if you set your mind to it. After all, you only have one life, so you should try to make the most of it.”


To read more about Jack and his crew’s world travels on board Last Samurai, visit his blog www.lastsamurai.co/.