Nordhavn 40...lack of side decks

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Bravo

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Nov 27, 2023
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We are currently searching for a small trawler in the Pac NW. Use is cruising PNW, including Gulf of Alaska destinations. We'd like a full displacement stabilized hull, preferably with a raised wheelhouse rather than salon and steering station on one level.

A bit of our background: We've been full time cruising and living aboard for past 14 years aboard 2 sailboats...first a 1984 Kelly Peterson 46, sold in Australia, then our current boat, a Boreal 52 we built in France and launched in 2020. (now for sale in Annapolis). So we have a fair bit of experience, 35-40,000 miles in around 40 countries, but this will be our first foray into power boating.

Our budget for this new-to-us boat is around $500k USD. And we'd like to keep size in the low 40' range. A couple of boats that come up are the Nordhavn 40 or the Selene 43. (We spent a week with good friends aboard their Selene 53 in B.C. a couple of years ago, and had a terrific time. We were very impressed with the Selene, but the 53 is too big for us).

We don't see any of the Selene 43's available on the US west coast. But a few Nordhavn 40's are around. We've watched the usual YouTube video tours on the boats, and the little Nordy might work for us. But we are wondering about one aspect of the boat in particular. That has to do with the lack of a walking side deck either port or starboard. Coming from sailboats with wide open decks to run from cockpit to bow and back, especially when short handed docking, we wonder how challenging is it to dock the N40? Obviously you need to go through the cabin, up the stairs to the wheelhouse, and out to the dock side to handle lines. Then you're too high to jump down to the dock, so it seems a challenge to dock without anyone on the dock to catch lines. Especially with no side decks to get back and get to the dock with the lines.

So, especially for any of you who may have cruised a Nordhavn 40 or other trawler with no side decks.....are we making too big a deal of this? Or is it just a perception that an owner simply gets used to once out there? We realize that every boat is a compromise, and one of the reasons the N40 is appealing is it's large living space for it's length. But is the elimination of both side decks too big a compromise? Thanks.
 
As a couple, I wouldn't expect it to be a huge challenge. Single handed it might be more of a pain. With 2 on board, the helmsman stays in the pilothouse and then heads out the side door to handle lines as needed. The other person starts out in the aft cockpit where they can handle a spring and stern line and easily step off to the dock to secure those lines and then receive lines from the helmsman on the foredeck. Spring lines can be put in place before docking and led back to the cockpit so they're within reach to grab and step off with.

Basically it becomes a question of what areas on the boat you need to access while docking and whether you feel like you'll need to move directly between those areas or not. Not having side decks definitely hurts flexibility, but depending on the crew and layout it's not necessarily a big deal.
 
welcome to the forum.

my current boat resembles the Nord 40 layout. No wide side decks, instead more salon space. Both have about 6 inches of side deck which is more than enough for an ex sailor when needed. However going thru cabin is more comfortable.
Docking for me at least is a breeze. With twins and if you want a bow thruster you too will handle it to the dock.
On rare docking conditions we have used a grapple hook on a 50 foot line (too long) to arrest having the wind blow us from the dock.
 
Back when they were in production, I delivered a half dozen N40s. Passage from PH to aft deck is simple - side decks not really needed (floor mats are). The extra width saloon is more than a benefit in comparison.

Related story. At the time I was aquatinted with the folks at Willard Marine. They were introducing a refreshed version of the Willard 40, in a pilothouse layout. They believed strongly that the boat needed side decks on both sides. Not a wide hull to begin with so the saloon was compact to put it mildly. They asked for an opinion (though I think they thought I'd be polite) and I told them they should pattern off the very first W40 built in 1974 - a Voyager with full width saloon. Or at the very least an asymmetric saloon with side deck down one side only. Nope, their marketing guy thought it really, really needed full side decks. It was a mistake that sunk the recreational arm of Willard Marine. At boat shows, folks would walk a ord both the N40 and the W40 that carried a similar base price. Not even close to a hard decision - N40 went on to a very successful production run while the W40 production was abandoned within a year or two.

The N40 is a great boat. Fantastic engine room. Head and shoulders above the venerable N46 that it essentially replaced. I never delivered an N43 but would expect that to be an even better boat - the naval architect Jeff Leishman learned a lot during those years. And they really hold their value and sell relatively quickly so while expensive to buy into, the TCO isn't too bad.

In my opinion, the side decks are not an issue. Actually a benefit in a boat this size. One reason I like the Helmsman layout (never been on one though).

Good luck.

Peter
 
Welcome aboard and good luck with your search for the perfect trawler / motor yacht.

I read you have been sailing for many years and in that case you know that underway the stability of the boat is mostly a result of the sails being up all the time. A motor yacht does not have that same stability, so you may want to think on searching for a boat with stabilizers. They will make your life so much more comfortable while underway.
You probably know there are several different versions of stabilizers. Hydraulic, pneumatic, gyro, electric, only underway, underway as well as on anchor etc. There are quite a few topics about stabilizers.

As for the side decks. I can't speak about the US, but if you ever plan to come with your boat to Europe (since you have travelled so many countries) then you will need at least one side deck. In the Med we do stern to mooring where you have to walk a bow line from the stern to the bow. If you don't have that type of mooring in the area where to plan to use the boat then you can do without the side decks, which will indeed create more inner space.
If you plan to use the boat in a warmer climate I would want to have the option of sitting somewhere outside, eg a fly bridge. We sail in the Med, 8 months per year, and basically always use the fly bridge.

Also, if you want to spend a lot of time on the water I assume you want to have some comfort as well, which means electrical equipment and that means either a generator or solar panels. If you want to use solar panels you need to be able to place them somewhere and you will need a large battery bank to store the electricity. A generator is also an option, but it will use a lot of fuel all the time.

Anyway, these are just a few things to think about. Good luck with the search.
 
We are sailors as well and purchased our boat with no side decks. We have never had a problem, but I am also rather tall and can get off the boat to the dock if need be to receive lines. As a practical matter, 95% of the time dock hands are nearby. Of course you cannot rely on that, but we have only had a few occasions where I had to play monkey whilst The Admiral passes lines down to me. If the situation was that challenging I would change venues or wait until assistance is available.

We find the twins with no thrusters fine for us but i am sure at some point they would be helpful.

That said we love our really spacious salon and have no regrets.
 
I think you'll find the side deck question among the more controversial boat choices, there are strong opinions for both. For our boating/cruising, we would not want to give up interior cabin room for side decks.


Having said that, the next question to be answered, is what cruising grounds and how many crew onboard. Since WESTERLY cruises single handed most of the time, access to a float dock from the pilot house is very important (although specific conditions sometimes require access to the floats from the stern). A boat like the Nord40 does not make the cut.


With a crew of two onboard, the stern person stays at the stern, the bow person stays near the bow, there is no access to the side decks needed.
 
We have recently moved from a boat with side decks to a boat without. So far it has not been an issue. Anticipating it may be a problem at times we have purchased marriage saver head sets, have yet to use them.

I don't know about your past cruising grounds but generally in the PNW you will be making up to floating docks. This usually makes it easy to step from cockpit or swim step to the dock. You will usually not have shore side help, and what might be available usually has no clue on what to do to help. A challenge if you've not faced it in previous cruising grounds is many of the docks use bull rails rather than cleats.

We prepare the boat for docking by getting fenders out, need to open saloon windows for midships fenders. Laying out the bow line made off to a bow cleat then the a bight of the bitter end dangling just over the toe rail. She has a short boat hook within easy reach. I'm on the flybridge, so can be no real help with the lines. She's on the swim step.

We approach the dock with me putting the stern in first, it's counter intuitive and takes a bit of practice. She steps off and makes up the stern, no jumping allowed, while I keep the bow under control with the thruster. If she can't step off safely that's on me and we go around to try again, no yelling or ugly words allowed from either of us. She calmly walks to the bow, using the short boat boat hook if necessary and makes up the bow. We are now firmly tied up and can fine tune things as need be.

This has almost always been done with no shore side help. Honestly I prefer no shore side help. Most of them cause more problems than they solve.

Sometimes fuel docks are not floating. In those instances you have to get creative if the height difference between cockpit / swim step and dock is great. Sometimes in Ak that means waiting for a favorable tide height.

Love the wide body boats for the interior volume. Wouldn't want a wide body without a bow thruster.

But it can be done without a thruster, I ran a single with no thruster for many years. My technique is to get the stern made fast with some extra length, experimentation will teach you the right length for how your boat handles. When the aft end is secure turn the wheel towards the dock, yes, towards the dock. Then using short bumps ahead and finally at just the right moment leaving the boat in gear the boat will lay nicely to the dock and stay there while she walks forward to get the bow line. Experimentation needed here as well. How it works is the force on the stern line will want to pull the stern in. Rudder action will want to make the bow turn to the dock. The goal is to balance those two forces. Once you master it the boat will move slightly forward parallel to the dock until at the dock. This is one case were I can get quite loud. Telling the shore side "help" to leave things alone. If they tie up too soon or too short or to the wrong cleat it all goes wrong.

Your approach, single, twins, thruster or not is to be nearly parallel to the dock with the stern touching first. You don't want the bow hanging way out in the wind and or current.

Single handing a high control station no side deck boat is a real handful in all but the most benign conditions.
 
Welcome aboard and good luck with your search for the perfect trawler / motor yacht.

I read you have been sailing for many years and in that case you know that underway the stability of the boat is mostly a result of the sails being up all the time. A motor yacht does not have that same stability, so you may want to think on searching for a boat with stabilizers. They will make your life so much more comfortable while underway.
You probably know there are several different versions of stabilizers. Hydraulic, pneumatic, gyro, electric, only underway, underway as well as on anchor etc. There are quite a few topics about stabilizers.

As for the side decks. I can't speak about the US, but if you ever plan to come with your boat to Europe (since you have travelled so many countries) then you will need at least one side deck. In the Med we do stern to mooring where you have to walk a bow line from the stern to the bow. If you don't have that type of mooring in the area where to plan to use the boat then you can do without the side decks, which will indeed create more inner space.
If you plan to use the boat in a warmer climate I would want to have the option of sitting somewhere outside, eg a fly bridge. We sail in the Med, 8 months per year, and basically always use the fly bridge.

Also, if you want to spend a lot of time on the water I assume you want to have some comfort as well, which means electrical equipment and that means either a generator or solar panels. If you want to use solar panels you need to be able to place them somewhere and you will need a large battery bank to store the electricity. A generator is also an option, but it will use a lot of fuel all the time.

Anyway, these are just a few things to think about. Good luck with the search.

Never thought about Med Moor challenge but it's a good point.

All the N40s I delivered had no flybridge. I also delivered at least a dozen N47s, all but one had a flybridges. Having a flybridges definitely changes the handling of the boat. I know I can feel the difference in Weebles with the hard top even though it replaced a mast.

I used to be ambivalent on flybridges. We're now almost 200 nms south of Acapulco - Lat 16 degrees and dropping (Panama Canal is 7 degrees if I remember). We now spend 95% of our time underway at the flybridge and it's gorgeous. A good friend urged me to enclose the flybridge - felt we would need air conditioning. So far it's been great having the view and the breeze night and day. Since we're headed to Florida, strong case for a flybridge so I'm no longer ambivalent for us.

EDIT - picture is from 2-mins ago.

Peter
 

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We don’t have a trawler but our current boat doesn’t have good wide side decks. When we looked at it my wife said she didn’t want the boat because it didn’t have walk around side decks but rather a walk through windshield. She said she wouldn’t go up on the bow, and she never has. I told her we would put bow and stern thrusters on it so she wouldn’t need to go on the bow. I put permanent bow lines on each side and tie them off on the aft spring cleat. We always back into a slip. My wife takes the stern line and steps off the swim platform. Ties the stern off and then gets which ever bow line is on the finger dock side off the spring cleat and ties off the bow. By having the thrusters it is simple to back into the slip. I can also easily single hand the boat since the thrusters have a wireless remote control. So I can back into the slip and hold the boat against the finger dock while I go to the stern and step off with the stern line. Then do the bow as usual.
 
I think it pretty much comes down to what you're used to, and what your preferences are. Personally I wouldn't buy a boat without side decks. Our boat has a large walk-through door from the flybridge to the bow, couldn't be easier, excellent design in my opinion, but having gone through canals, mooring balls and more marinas than I can count, I wouldn't be without side decks -- and most of the time it's been my wife and I, or two couples, or my wife and me and two teenage kids. I know some boaters are very comfortable with no side decks and say they can easily work around it, but I don't want to handle canal lines from the flybridge or at a severe angle, or try to fend off or even place fenders or raft up with no side decks.
 
Never thought about Med Moor challenge but it's a good point.

All the N40s I delivered had no flybridge. I also delivered at least a dozen N47s, all but one had a flybridges. Having a flybridges definitely changes the handling of the boat. I know I can feel the difference in Weebles with the hard top even though it replaced a mast.

I used to be ambivalent on flybridges. We're now almost 200 nms south of Acapulco - Lat 16 degrees and dropping (Panama Canal is 7 degrees if I remember). We now spend 95% of our time underway at the flybridge and it's gorgeous. A good friend urged me to enclose the flybridge - felt we would need air conditioning. So far it's been great having the view and the breeze night and day. Since we're headed to Florida, strong case for a flybridge so I'm no longer ambivalent for us.

EDIT - picture is from 2-mins ago.

Peter

Happy sailing ! :thumb:
We still have to wait 1.5 months before we will be on the water again. Seeing this makes us envy you.
And indeed, sitting in this weather on the fly bridge, bit of a breeze, there is nothing better than that.
 
It`s "walkaround" vs "clingaround" in my experience. The trade off for walkaround is less interior space. I`ve had both, prefer walkaround, but there is normally still access, it`s best to maintain a handhold for safety. In an otherwise suitable boat it should not be a deal breaker, if there were 2 suitable boats and one was walkaround, It might become the more suitable.
 
It`s "walkaround" vs "clingaround" in my experience. The trade off for walkaround is less interior space. I`ve had both, prefer walkaround, but there is normally still access, it`s best to maintain a handhold for safety. In an otherwise suitable boat it should not be a deal breaker, if there were 2 suitable boats and one was walkaround, It might become the more suitable.

The N40 has excellent access to the foredeck via the pilothouse doors and Portuguese bridge. The aft cockpit also has excellent access via the swim step and hull gates. The issue is about 12-feer (guess) where the saloon is full width. Above the saloon is a boat deck with excellent access to lay fenders.

Compared to an aft deck mororyacht or sundeck style trawler, the N40 is easy peasy. Mambo42 makes a good point about Med Mooring and I'm sure there are a few other situations.

We've been underway for 4 months. 325 engine hours. Or 10% of the time. And that's a pretty extreme example because we're underway and actively cruising. I would gladly trade more saloon space during the 90% were not underway.

Peter
 
As a couple, I wouldn't expect it to be a huge challenge. Single handed it might be more of a pain. With 2 on board, the helmsman stays in the pilothouse and then heads out the side door to handle lines as needed. The other person starts out in the aft cockpit where they can handle a spring and stern line and easily step off to the dock to secure those lines and then receive lines from the helmsman on the foredeck. Spring lines can be put in place before docking and led back to the cockpit so they're within reach to grab and step off with.

Basically it becomes a question of what areas on the boat you need to access while docking and whether you feel like you'll need to move directly between those areas or not. Not having side decks definitely hurts flexibility, but depending on the crew and layout it's not necessarily a big deal.
Thanks Rslifkin. We're usually sailing as a couple, your description of the process makes good sense.
 
welcome to the forum.

my current boat resembles the Nord 40 layout. No wide side decks, instead more salon space. Both have about 6 inches of side deck which is more than enough for an ex sailor when needed. However going thru cabin is more comfortable.
Docking for me at least is a breeze. With twins and if you want a bow thruster you too will handle it to the dock.
On rare docking conditions we have used a grapple hook on a 50 foot line (too long) to arrest having the wind blow us from the dock.
Steve, I'm enjoying the visual of heaving a grappling hook at the dock from 50 feet away!!! Hopefully the bow thruster will make that unnecessary !!! Thanks!
 
Back when they were in production, I delivered a half dozen N40s. Passage from PH to aft deck is simple - side decks not really needed (floor mats are). The extra width saloon is more than a benefit in comparison.

Related story. At the time I was aquatinted with the folks at Willard Marine. They were introducing a refreshed version of the Willard 40, in a pilothouse layout. They believed strongly that the boat needed side decks on both sides. Not a wide hull to begin with so the saloon was compact to put it mildly. They asked for an opinion (though I think they thought I'd be polite) and I told them they should pattern off the very first W40 built in 1974 - a Voyager with full width saloon. Or at the very least an asymmetric saloon with side deck down one side only. Nope, their marketing guy thought it really, really needed full side decks. It was a mistake that sunk the recreational arm of Willard Marine. At boat shows, folks would walk a ord both the N40 and the W40 that carried a similar base price. Not even close to a hard decision - N40 went on to a very successful production run while the W40 production was abandoned within a year or two.

The N40 is a great boat. Fantastic engine room. Head and shoulders above the venerable N46 that it essentially replaced. I never delivered an N43 but would expect that to be an even better boat - the naval architect Jeff Leishman learned a lot during those years. And they really hold their value and sell relatively quickly so while expensive to buy into, the TCO isn't too bad.

In my opinion, the side decks are not an issue. Actually a benefit in a boat this size. One reason I like the Helmsman layout (never been on one though).

Good luck.

Peter
Peter, I appreciate your first hand experience with the N40. Sounds like it might work well for us (though if I had a couple 1000 extra $$$ the N43 does look like a worthwhile upgrade!!!). Thanks!
 
Welcome aboard and good luck with your search for the perfect trawler / motor yacht.

I read you have been sailing for many years and in that case you know that underway the stability of the boat is mostly a result of the sails being up all the time. A motor yacht does not have that same stability, so you may want to think on searching for a boat with stabilizers. They will make your life so much more comfortable while underway.
You probably know there are several different versions of stabilizers. Hydraulic, pneumatic, gyro, electric, only underway, underway as well as on anchor etc. There are quite a few topics about stabilizers.

As for the side decks. I can't speak about the US, but if you ever plan to come with your boat to Europe (since you have travelled so many countries) then you will need at least one side deck. In the Med we do stern to mooring where you have to walk a bow line from the stern to the bow. If you don't have that type of mooring in the area where to plan to use the boat then you can do without the side decks, which will indeed create more inner space.
If you plan to use the boat in a warmer climate I would want to have the option of sitting somewhere outside, eg a fly bridge. We sail in the Med, 8 months per year, and basically always use the fly bridge.

Also, if you want to spend a lot of time on the water I assume you want to have some comfort as well, which means electrical equipment and that means either a generator or solar panels. If you want to use solar panels you need to be able to place them somewhere and you will need a large battery bank to store the electricity. A generator is also an option, but it will use a lot of fuel all the time.

Anyway, these are just a few things to think about. Good luck with the search.
Mambo, all good points. I've med-moored many times in Europe, and you're right, I hadn't considered tying up stern to the dock without side decks! Anything is possible, but this could be a real Chinese fire drill!!! Happily, we have no plans to run this boat in Europe. Just thinking of US and Canada west coast. Possibly back down to Mexico.
 
We are sailors as well and purchased our boat with no side decks. We have never had a problem, but I am also rather tall and can get off the boat to the dock if need be to receive lines. As a practical matter, 95% of the time dock hands are nearby. Of course you cannot rely on that, but we have only had a few occasions where I had to play monkey whilst The Admiral passes lines down to me. If the situation was that challenging I would change venues or wait until assistance is available.

We find the twins with no thrusters fine for us but i am sure at some point they would be helpful.

That said we love our really spacious salon and have no regrets.
Thanks, Osprey. Good to hear your boat w/o side decks is working well for you. I'm not tall, but sounds like it could work better than I originally thought.
 
Thanks, Jay. We normally sail 2 up, not single handed. (though we like to know either one of us could make it back to safety should anything happen to the other).
 
For 2 people, our typical docking method should work well. For most docking scenarios, I bring the boat up to the dock, the admiral steps off aft with a spring line in hand. Once the spring line is cleated, I can pin the boat against the dock with the engines while the admiral grabs and secures the stern line. At that point I can walk forward passing down a forward spring and a bow line, then return to the helm, shut down the engines, and hop down to the dock to adjust and add any additional lines we want.

We have side decks, but provided I could get forward and to the dock in some reasonable way from the helm, blocking off a section of the side decks wouldn't really change that process.
 
Portage, I really appreciate your detailed description of your docking process. The stern first approach sounds right, and will be good to practice. Like you, we hate to hand lines to unknown folks on the dock. Inevitably they want to pull hard on the bow line and ruin an otherwise perfect approach!!! Cindi's pretty good at just giving them the spring line, even when they "girl" her and demand the bow line!!! Joys of cruising.

All boats we're looking at have bow thrusters. Some stern thrusters as well, which would definitely help with a single screw hull. I appreciate your description of the process.

And it is sounding like the tradeoff of more cabin space vs side decks is well worth it. Besides, we much prefer to anchor than stay in marinas anyway.
 
Steve, I'm enjoying the visual of heaving a grappling hook at the dock from 50 feet away!!! Hopefully the bow thruster will make that unnecessary !!! Thanks!

You are welcome. I should have been more clear. I lay the boat along the dock, but in advance if the wind will blow us off we lay the grapple on the bull rail, tie it off until we can get dock lines placed. We do not heave it 50 feet, not even 10 feet. :rofl:
 
Thanks for the comments Comodave. You're another one for the stern first approach. I like it. It sounds like prepping before getting to the dock is key (like any docking maneuver). the lack of side decks could be a non-issue!.
 
Docking from a fly bridge does sound like it changes the equation. Definitely another consideration!!! Thanks.
 
Bruce, I agree.....if all else were equal, (or I had the cash to make it so!), I'd choose a boat with accessible side deck(s). We'll have to see how the search goes, but I like learning how either option could work ok.
 
Good one, Peter. I hadn't thought about hanging fenders from the boat deck up above. Thanks!
 
Hah, gotcha, I was kidding about heaving the grappling hook. But it does make sense to quickly drop it over the bull rail to keep in place until the lines are all secure, thanks
 
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