A Power Yacht built for no-nonsense bluewater cruising.
Positioning - the battle for your mind - is a curious verb in the marketplace. It is a concept that works in advertising, a concept that has changed the nature of politics, business, and even the neoscience of pursuing the opposite sex. Positioning starts with a product. A piece of merchandise, a service, a company, an institution, perhaps yourself. Perhaps a boat. But to the advertiser, positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect.
The 52-foot Nordic 520 Power Yacht does something to your mind. Something good, I might add, but there's that word "mind" again. Once on board you ask yourself if it is a motor yacht, a sportfisherman, or a convertible. The bow has the rakish profile of a serious ocean-cutter, along with the necessary beam. The aft cockpit is gargantuan in dimension. The saloon is multipurpose. The 520 can cruise at 2600 rpm for 442 miles, has the room to fish and fillet and fry, and is eminently liveable. This is a power yacht.
DIVERSIFYING THE LINE
For Nordic Yachts, life began at 48. That was the length that the Nordvedt family enterprise - essentially father and sons and friends - decided on when it added a powerboat to its successful Nordic sailboat line in 1985. Arthur Nordvedt, who for years was the designer of the popular Uniflite small craft, drew the No. 1 Nordic 480. Like the 50-foot 500 and even longer 520 that followed, the concept of the 480 was similarly uncomplicated.
A Serious Ocean-Cutter - The Nordic 520 Power Yacht takes a few days out to scamper about the San Juan Islands.
Steve Nordvedt, Arthur's son and the president of Nordic, explained that they wanted a yacht that someone who's on his fourth or fifth boat will appreciate. A yacht that someone can feel comfortable in. To wit: emphasize the daytime accommodations over palatial sleeping arrangements. Include big windows on all four sides to let in as much light as possible. Install mainstream engines. Assemble it with uncompromised old-country Scandinavian craftsmanship. Style it with a low profile so it can be shipped overland to markets beyond the Pacific Northwest.
Several interior arrangements are offered. Tailoring the boat to the customer's individual preferences is a big part of what Nordic provides. This version features two staterooms forward. The master bow stateroom has a pedestal queen-sized bed. To starboard, the crew's quarter houses stacked 6-foot 4-inch bunks. Stowage is ample in both areas. An ingenious two-head, two-door molded shower/tub shell serves both the master and crew heads.
THE UNDERLYING STRUCTURE
The hull form itself was Dad's. First, a modified deep-V, wide beamed at the chines for stability, with modest deadrise at the transom. Practiced eyes aboard surmised that it has a bigger footprint than earlier Arthur Nordvedt designs. Yes, it does have "wider shoulders," a little more width at the shallow forefoot, because the 52 might see more weather than a smaller hull. The keel is beefy and moderately deep. To be honest, we didn't hit unpleasant water in the tranquil latefall San Juans, but the 52-footer should be dry in a head sea, and solid at the helm in a following sea. Our experience indicated that the hull tracks very well.
Wide-Open Spaces - Saloon and galley are only separated by a low cabinet to open up the living area.
Hull construction is not extreme, exotic, or experimental. This is a mainstream fiberglass layup. Basic hull and deck are fabricated of hand-laid fiberglass with extensive use of end-grain balsa core for strength. Two roving doublers are used at the critical areas such as the chine, transom, and stem. The keel laminate is nine layers, doubled to eighteen on the keel bottom. Foam is poured in the keel cavity and glassed over. All stringers and foundations are overlaid and gelcoated. No wood is exposed anywhere. Nominally, hull thickness is 1 1/4 inches at the keel, 1/4 of an inch at the chine, and 1 inch for the run of the bottom.
Once the bulkheads are installed, the one-piece deck and hull is cured for three weeks before the hull is popped out of its mold. The bridge deck is a separate assembly, of course, and is fitted about the eighth week of a 13-week construction cycle.
Our test boat is the fourth Nordic 520. The company's 21,500-square-foot facility is near Bellingham, Washington, north of Seattle and south of Vancouver, British Columbia - and a neighbor to the San Juan Islands, the perfect proving ground for a cruising vessel. Owner Murdie Pollon had just recently taken delivery of the yacht but was pleased to make his Ms. Hallmark available for our tough-duty assignment: cruise the irresistable trove of inland isles for three days and return with a report.
The 520 is a semi-custom yacht. Dealers don't buy this hull on spec; no two are finished alike. That means you choose propulsion engines, basic interior plan, and finishing details. That also means that the boat is loaded. The options list is short, as befits a boat of its class. Slide open the aft door and come in. Maybe I'm a klutz, but I ran into that clear glass door several times over three days - when it was closed, if you wonder. Clunk! Thud! Ouch! It got so embarrassing we marked the pane with an X-shaped Band-Aid of masking tape. It's my guess that a piece of teak trim across the middle of the door would warn the unwary of its presence.
The saloon is the kind of lounge in which you can play "Peg O My Heart" on the harmonica and feel at home. Frankly, the song and saloon are a little square, but both are built on old-fashioned values. The carpet is wall to wall. The vinyl headliner tops off at 6 feet 6 inches. Teak paneling and solid teak trim, here as well as throughout the boat, is matched for grain and color. The joinery and hand-rubbed finish is first-rate. Valance boards, indirect lighting, and the big, sliding windows with softlight shades subdue the interior.
To starboard, a compact entertainment cabinet is nestled under the stairway to the bridgedeck. Cybernet gear plays the tunes and JVC broadcasts the video. Mounted below the amusement center, a Raritan ice-maker dispenses the cool cubes. The convenience package rounds off with a wet bar and drink sink. The a.c/d.c. power distribution panel, including controls for the dual generators, is located along the same wall. This efficient use of space continues to the port side, where the galley is situated.
''We slung a lot of hash, and broiled a couple of salmon."
The interior of many boats of this size is often a maze of partitions or furniture, sometimes fashioned to camouflage the galley. The 520, however, is a pleasant departure if you prefer wide-open spaces. The galley, in effect, is part of the living area. For those who like to entertain a group of 11, as we did on our San Juan sojourn, only a low cabinet separates the cooking area from the furniture, but eye contact is unobstructed. Conversation is easy. Everyone stays involved. If you're an isolationist, get one of those boats that has the Bunsen burners in a recessed nook.
A nifty hide-a-table folds out from the galley enclosure into the parlor. It stands on a center leg that withstood the mashings of our near-dozen-in-number crew - if not physically all at once, at least in intent. It should survive a game of Monopoly or a Thanksgiving turkey roast. As for the galley aids and arrangements, I would prefer deep sinks with high rise spouts or a spray nozzle to rinse the larger pots. Ever try to feed 11 gnawing mouths from a small sauce pan? And paper plates only go so far. The builder could include a molded rail around the dish locker in the corner of the galley, too. But let's not quibble. We slung a lot of hash, and broiled a couple of salmon. And we were delighted to do so with minimal inconvenience.
Function follows form. Another example is the combo cruising dinette and nav table (built to order) on the port side of the pilothouse. It is a great spot to study charts and chat while the skipper commands the lower helm. Underneath the settee is the central vacuum equipment.
To starboard, parallel with the dinette/chart area, is the lower helm station. It was well equipped with Raytheon VHF/FM radio, hailer, Loran-C, Apelco color video sounder, and Wagner autopilot. Premium instruments - tachometer, water pressure, oil pressure, oil temperature, hourmeter, battery monitor, rudder angle indicator, Halon fire extinguisher system with override, alarms, and Morse controls - populate the smartly arranged console and (optional) overhead panel. The wheel is next to a sliding door, which is convenient for docking. Given the modest riser in the foredeck, visibility is good from the drop-down helm seat.
Back to the idea of positioning. In operation, the mind is a lot like the memory bank of a computer. But there is one important difference. A computer has to accept what you put into it. The mind does not. To cope with the product explosion in our world - a boom as evident in boating as in any other market - people have learned to rank brands in their mind. A Bayliner means one thing; Hatteras means something else. This ranking is not only a convenient way of organizing things, but an absolute necessity to keep from being overwhelmed.
Imagine a series of ladders in the mind. On each step is a brand name. Some ladders have many steps. Others have few. So it is with the Nordic 520 Power Yacht: a stepladder steers you to the engine compartment. More about the engine compartment in "Under the Hatches." Heading in the opposite direction, a real interior staircase that could handle a fire drill with its sturdy rail and larger than itsy-bitsy steps leads from the pilothouse to the bridgedeck, through a well-fitted sliding hatch topsides.
The bridge does its usual job of providing added height to ensure superb viewing. The molded console is sloped, with edge rails and stowage underneath, and its instrumentation and dual-lever controls mirror the tools at the lower helm station.
The helm and companion seats are well placed. The fiberglass radar mast is hinged to swing down for bridge clearance. There's also a knock-down radio antenna. Along the port quarter is a davit, rated at 1,000 pounds, used to deploy the 13-foot Boston Whaler. All in all, a well-equipped open-to-the-elements cruiser deck.
Scrambling down the aft ladder to the cockpit, let's tour the walk-around deck. Traction is terrific. The deck is treated with Polygrip, the 1-inch rails are at perfect height, and the swept-back walk wing and hand holds are in the right places. The deck drains by gravity to waste water collectors in the engine rooms.
Back at the cockpit, two central hatches open to reveal the lazarette containing a 12-cubic-foot a.c./d.c. freezer chest, two Northern Lights gensets, two inside wet tanks with circulating pumps and crossover connection, and two outboard removeable "ice buckets." Two fuel tanks are mounted outboard. A crawl space leads forward to the engine room past two more fuel reservoirs in the middle tank compartment. The custom bait tank built into the cockpit sole doubles as a cooler (or garbage stowage). It drains into the collector system.
STANDING FOR SOMETHING
Happily, from negotiating bustling Friday Harbor, to overtaking a ferry, to being a friendly party boat on the hook in an outback San Juan cut, the 520 proved a smart powerboat. Not too large, sized just right for going to sea and moorage in areas where bigger-boat slips are scarce. Sized and laid out just right for people who appreciate a no-nonsense bluewater cruiser.
Like the ad man's notion of positioning, the Nordic 520 simplifies the message, jettisons the ambiguities. "Power yacht," a term coined by Nordic to identify its concept, cuts into the mind with a long-lasting impression. The name is the hook that hangs the brand on the product ladder in the prospect's mind.
"From the land of sky blue waters?" Nope.
"Real gusto in a great white boat?" No chance.
"Get your mouth around some Milk Duds?" Never, never.
"The more we looked at the market," said Steve Nordvedt, "and the more we looked at our own capabilities, we considered ourselves semi-custom builders, not production builders. Further, we have tried to emphasize living accommodations, not the fanciful staterooms with all the whiz-bangs. You can always find some place for someone to sleep."
Is the Nordic 520 a Volvo, the working station wagon for the leisure class? A different Yolks for different folks? A better idea - like Ford's?
Power Yacht. Now, that has a ring to it! Would Impotent Frigate sell as well? Don't bet on it. Shakespeare was wrong. A rose by any other name would not smell as sweet. Hey, Hog Island in the Bahamas was going nowhere until they changed its name to Paradise Island.
UNDER THE HATCHES
The heart of each of our boat tests is a set of numbers. To generate these numbers we use a radar gun, sound pressure meter, inclinometer, and a fuel flow computer. And, for me at least, the first test of any engine room is how easily that test gear can be connected. I find that the ease or difficulty of our installation usually mirrors the general efficiency of the engine room layout.
Inserting the fuel flow meters between the fuel supply and the engine is the tricky part. On diesel engines such as the Caterpillar 3208s, one meter is inserted in the fuel supply line, the other meter in the return line. Chasing down the connections can be a royal pain in a crowded, dimly-lit engine room, but Nordic made the job easy.
The Racor fuel filters and attendant valves, where we attached out fuel transducers, were conveniently mounted on the aft bulkhead. Access to the engine room itself is uncomplicated, either through the hatch in the lower helm station or through a crawl space from the lazarette, Major repairs require popping hatches under the galley.
It's the attention to detail, both functional and aesthetic, that is impressive: overhead tiles to soak up noise; mahogany-covered raceways; compartment lights at four corners; thick no-skimp, heavy-duty copper grounding bars; fresh-water outlet with hose; batteries installed in just the right place; gelcoated stringers and bilges; molded-in drip pans; recessed bilge pumps; diamond plate aluminum walkway.
The 520's engine room is remarkably uncluttered, accessible, and bright. Nordic's sales literature says it's a mechanic's dream. Gary Nordvedt, Nordic's chief engineer, just smiles when he's down there, The engine room is his baby. You can't stand up down there, but it's so squeaky clean that you might want to lay down on the job.