Nord2AK Re­cap Dou­glas Cochrane

Passage Maker - - Contents - By Dou­glas Cochrane

The seeds were planted in 2012. We had been cruis­ing for sev­eral weeks in the re­mote wa­ters of north­ern Bri­tish Columbia, where it isn’t un­usual to go for sev­eral days with­out see­ing an­other boat. Then sur­pris­ingly, two other Nord­havns sailed into Sea Ot­ter Cove where we were an­chored on the west side of Van­cou­ver Is­land.

The Nord­havn fam­ily is a close knit com­mu­nity. Two Nord­havns in the same an­chor­age usu­ally means a party. Three boats in a dis­tant lo­ca­tion in­creased the odds, es­pe­cially since we al­ready knew Jim and Lynda Frantz, the own­ers of N40, Albe­dos. Over the next cou­ple of weeks, Orion, Albe­dos, and an N62 named Is­land Greeter sailed south, hop­scotch­ing each other from cove to fjord to an­chor­age.

When we reached Barkley Sound, near the south­west cor­ner of Van­cou­ver Is­land where the Pa­cific Ocean meets the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we were joined by Skookum, yet an­other N40. Of course this called for an­other party. Nicky Hud­son on­board Skookum or­ga­nized a pic­nic on a small is­land, with hot dogs, marsh­mal­lows, and kayak tours. Imag­ine four Nord­havns an­chored to­gether just off a sunny beach— it was prac­ti­cally a world record!

Fast for­ward to 2015. Orion was re­turn­ing to the Pa­cific North­west af­ter three years cruis­ing the South Pa­cific. We rem­i­nisced about our friends who we hadn’t seen in over three years. “Why don’t we or­ga­nize a ren­dezvous?” “With a bit of plan­ning, we might get 8 or 10 boats to­gether this time.” Lit­tle did we know what we were get­ting our­selves into.

Jim and Lynda were the first cou­ple to re­spond to our in­vi­ta­tion. The four of us be­gan plan­ning what, when, and where. We con­sid­ered all the usual places, such as Port Lud­low and Ana­cortes. But Nord­havns have long legs, so we de­cided to look fur­ther afield. Be­fore long we had agreed on Petersburg, Alaska, a charm­ing lit­tle village with a good har­bor, a great har­bor­mas­ter, and a deeply rooted Nor­we­gian back­ground. “Nord­havn” sounds Scan­di­na­vian enough, so it made sense to gather in the “Lit­tle

Nor­way” of Alaska. Nord2AK was born.

Our tar­get of 10 boats meant roughly 20 peo­ple, and the lo­cal ho­tel had a con­fer­ence room that would seat 20. But it was al­ready be­com­ing ap­par­ent that we might at­tract more than 10 boats to our party. The other lo­ca­tion was the Sons of Nor­way hall, which would com­fort­ably seat 100 or more. We girded our loins, pulled out our check­books, and made the leap. Af­ter rent­ing the big­ger hall, we hoped for the best. We put to­gether a shoe­string bud­get and started ac­cept­ing de­posits.

It didn’t take long to prove that the big­ger hall was re­quired. Sign-ups came pour­ing in as we be­gan our event plan­ning. By De­cem­ber we were be­gin­ning to panic: the event had grown to 50 peo­ple. We were con­cerned that it was get­ting too large. The lead­er­ship team held a vote and an­nounced that reg­is­tra­tion was closed. But Jim Franz, who was keep­ing the at­ten­dance list up-to­date, ap­par­ently didn’t have the word “no” in his vo­cab­u­lary. In Fe­bru­ary we made a firm de­ci­sion to cap reg­is­tra­tions at 70. But by the time the event opened on Fri­day, July 8th, we hosted 28 Nord­havns and 92 peo­ple in Petersburg.

And what a party it was. Pa­cific Asian En­ter­prises (par­ent com­pany of Nord­havn) pres­i­dent Dan Streech gave the key­note ad­dress, shar­ing sto­ries about the com­pany’s past and present, and even a few tid­bits for the fu­ture. Early on we had de­cided not to seek the usual list of sus­pects for pre­sen­ta­tions. Nord­havns cruise the oceans of the world so we felt

that there was plenty of ex­per­tise within our mem­ber­ship to fill the slate. These are peo­ple who are liv­ing the dream, not just writ­ing or lec­tur­ing about it. We or­ga­nized two full days of classes in sub­jects rang­ing from ad­vanced radar tech­niques and cur­rent leak­ages at the dock, to fish­ing, dock­ing, and great cruis­ing grounds.

The catered din­ner on Satur­day night fea­tured a full Nor­we­gian smor­gas­bord and a troupe of young dancers in na­tive cos­tumes who got ev­ery­one on their feet in a Nor­we­gian ver­sion of the conga line. Boat tours and cock­tail par­ties,broke out all over the har­bor and through­out the warm and wel­com­ing village.

Usu­ally Mon­day morn­ing hits an event like this like a bad hang­over. But Nord­havn own­ers are hardy folk. We ar­ranged a boat pa­rade at the early morn­ing tide change. This was the largest gath­er­ing of Nord­havns in his­tory and it was a thrill to see so many beau­ti­ful yachts cir­cling around in front of the town for an hour of photo ops. Then we all steamed off in a line for Portage Bay, a large scenic an­chor­age 25 miles far­ther north, where we spent two sunny days on dinghies and kayaks, ex­plor­ing, vis­it­ing, and re­duc­ing the lo­cal hal­ibut pop­u­la­tion. No one left with an empty freezer.

It was a solemn and rainy Wed­nes­day as one by one, we hauled an­chor and de­parted for our var­i­ous des­ti­na­tions. It had been a record-break­ing and heart­warm­ing event.

The take­away? Nord­havn own­ers are won­der­ful, ad­ven­tur­ous, in­no­va­tive peo­ple. Nearly all the boats are owner­op­er­ated, mostly by older cou­ples with some younger fam­i­lies who raise their kids on­board. Many of us have mi­grated from sail­boats to trawlers as we got older. A sub­stan­tial con­tin­gent live aboard and the rest spend about six months a year cruis­ing.

The level of ex­per­tise is un­der­stand­ably high as these are boats that spend a healthy amount of their lives cruis­ing re­mote areas where Ves­sel As­sist doesn’t ex­ist.

Pa­cific Asian En­ter­prises is very sup­port­ive of the com­mu­nity, even though many of the boats are now in sec­ond or third own­er­ship. Although Nord2AK was en­tirely or­ga­nized and op­er­ated by vol­un­teers, PAE made a sub­stan­tial con­tri­bu­tion to its suc­cess.

Will we do this again? Per­haps… there is al­ready dis­cus­sion of gath­er­ing in Prince William Sound on the west side of the Gulf of Alaska. All plans are fluid and we are driven by the whim. So time will tell.


This Photo: One of the first of 28 Nord­havns to ar­rive in Petersburg, Alaska. Be­low: The group poses for a pic­ture.; 92 at­tended the fes­tiv­i­ties.

Sleepy res­i­den­tial Petersburg, site of the largest Nord­havn ren­dezvous.

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