Kick-Start

Breath­ing New Life into North­ern Marine

Passage Maker - - Gear Products - BY BOB AR­RING­TON

This might seem like a story of boaters, their boats, and the peo­ple that build them. But this story is re­ally about per­sis­tence: per­sis­tence of an idea and per­sis­tence in pur­suit of a dream.

Jay Bern­stein grew up sail­ing with his fa­ther on Long Is­land Sound. He loved be­ing on the wa­ter with his fa­ther, but he knew early on that sail­ing was not for him. He en­vied the speed of the power­boats that passed them in Man­has­set Bay. Jay’s fa­ther would tell him, “You can’t ap­pre­ci­ate be­ing on the wa­ter at those speeds.” But the im­pa­tience of his youth said some­thing dif­fer­ent. And soon Jay had the op­por­tu­nity to own one of those power­boats him­self when a boat­yard owner who owed Jay’s fa­ther $400 made a pay­ment in the form of an old Chris Craft 15foot tri-hull with a “seized” 105-horse­power Chrysler out­board en­gine. As it turned out the en­gine was not seized, and with some mi­nor work it was push­ing that lit­tle 15-foot boat to thrilling if not dan­ger­ous speeds. The hook was set— Jay’s love of exploring the bays and in­lets of Long Is­land Sound would for­ever be an im­por­tant part of his life.

Thirty-two years (and eight highspeed power­boats) later, Jay fi­nally ac­cepted his fa­ther’s wis­dom of tak­ing his time and ap­pre­ci­at­ing a slower pace. But he wasn’t look­ing for a sail­boat. He wanted an ef­fi­cient long-range cruiser with a dis­place­ment hull. And he was will­ing to take the time to find ex­actly what he was look­ing for. As Jay says, “No trip at sea can start with­out a ves­sel, and the jour­ney to the ves­sel is just as in­tri­cate a part of the ad­ven­ture as the cruis­ing.” To as­sist in his search, Jay reached out to a trusted friend, Parker Bogue, a re­spected and knowl­edge­able bro­ker with good con­tacts in the trawler market.

Jay had a very spe­cific boat in mind. He wanted it to be 55 to 60 feet in length so it could be eas­ily han­dled by a cou­ple with­out crew. He wanted a boat with a real stand-up en­gine room, where all ma­chin­ery could be ac­cessed eas­ily. Jay had spent too many years wedg­ing him­self up­side down be­tween a bulk­head and heat ex­changer to re­place a sim­ple zinc. In this boat he was de­ter­mined to have enough room to make main­te­nance easy and maybe even en­joy­able. Ac­cess pan­els would need to be strate­gi­cally placed through­out to put the plumb­ing and elec­tri­cal sys­tems within easy reach. There would be no more dis­as­sem­bling half the boat to in­ves­ti­gate a prob­lem or per­form a re­pair. In ad­di­tion, Jay’s cruis­ing plans re­quired good fuel econ­omy and tank­age for long-range self-suf­fi­ciency. Like most long-term boaters, Jay had de­vel­oped very clear ideas around op­ti­mal cabin ar­range­ments and space re­quire­ments; now he just needed a builder with the will­ing­ness and flex­i­bil­ity to lo­cate bulk­heads and stairs to achieve the lay­out he en­vi­sioned. With Parker act­ing as his ad­vi­sor and buyer’s agent, Jay set out for the sea­son’s boat shows.

It didn’t take long to re­al­ize his needs would likely not be met in a pro­duc­tion boat. He re­calls one visit to a boat that the man­u­fac­turer had ad­ver­tised as hav­ing a stand-up en­gine room. While Jay—who stands at 5' 9’’—was bent over the en­gine, he asked the sales­per­son about the ad­ver­tised claim. She re­sponded, “You can stand up if you re­move the floor­boards.”

At this point Jay knew find­ing what he wanted would re­quire some per­sis­tence, so the quest con­tin­ued. In their search, Jay and Parker re­mem­bered a builder from a pre­vi­ous boat shop­ping ex­pe­di­tion years ago, North­ern Marine in Ana­cortes, Wash­ing­ton.

When they re­con­nected, Jay learned the com­pany had gone through sev­eral own­er­ship and man­age­ment changes, but the per­son at North­ern Marine who had im­pressed him the most, Stu­art Archer, was back at the com­pany. North­ern Marine had built a re­spectable num­ber of long-range cruis­ers that Stu­art had de­signed and were sim­i­lar to the boat Jay had in mind. Af­ter sev­eral vis­its and many dis­cus­sions, North­ern Marine be­gan con­struc­tion of Jay’s dream boat, Agave, in June 2015.

Over years of own­ing boats, Jay had been stor­ing away the best at­tributes of each one, wait­ing for the right op­por­tu­nity to com­bine all these elements into one ves­sel. At 57-feet overall with a 17’ 6” beam and a 5’ 10” draft, Agave had all the fea­tures he wanted and plenty of room for fam­ily and guests in a three-cabin lay­out that in­cludes a king mas­ter, queen guest, and gen­er­ously sized third cabin with a dou­ble bunk. But it was also small enough to get into most har­bors and find dock­age at most mari­nas. Pow­ered by an ef­fi­cient, sin­gle John Deere 325-horse­power con­tin­u­ous duty en­gine turn­ing a 42-inch five-blade prop, Agave has a range of over 4,000 nau­ti­cal miles, with 10% fuel in re­serve. With a tank ca­pac­ity of 2,600 gal­lons, Jay should al­ways have op­tions for where to buy fuel.

Per­sis­tence Pays Off

Upon de­liv­ery, Jay wasted no time in putting Agave to the test. In May 2017, Jay set out from Ana­cortes for a month­long shake­down cruise through the San Juan Is­lands. With the con­fi­dence that all sys­tems were in good work­ing or­der, Jay and crew pulled lines and headed north for Alaska. Over the sum­mer, they would cruise to

Alaska and back, as well as make mul­ti­ple ex­cur­sions through the San Juan Is­lands. The more time Jay spent on the boat, the more he re­al­ized his dream had come true. Agave was prov­ing to be the per­fect boat for his cruis­ing plans.

A Good Idea

While the boat Jay en­vi­sioned was quite spe­cific, it wasn’t un­like what many oth­ers would want in a long-range cruiser. So it was ac­tu­ally sur­pris­ing that this com­bi­na­tion of fea­tures didn’t ex­ist in any of the pro­duc­tion or semi-cus­tom boats al­ready on the market. The fact that North­ern Marine could com­bine these fea­tures into a proven blue­wa­ter hull form was a tes­ta­ment to the idea on which North­ern Marine was orig­i­nally founded.

Many ideas in life and busi­ness are force-fed, re­quir­ing con­tin­u­ous in­put to keep them alive. How­ever, some ideas—re­ally good ones—have an in­trin­sic en­ergy to them. Once con­ceived, they feed them­selves, re­fus­ing to die. North­ern Marine was al­ways a good idea. Founded in 1995, it was a unique Amer­i­can builder of medium-sized long-range cruis­ers ca­pa­ble of com­pet­ing with the best in­ter­na­tional builders. Formed by a team of ex­pe­ri­enced de­sign­ers and builders, since its in­cep­tion North­ern Marine has built an im­pres­sive fleet of globe-cir­cling boats, many still op­er­ated by their orig­i­nal own­ers.

North­ern Marine’s ex­pe­di­tion yachts are lux­u­ri­ous de­scen­dants of seago­ing com­mer­cial fish­ing ves­sels. The com­pany be­gan with the idea that there was a market for boats that com­bined the rugged, lon­grange cruis­ing her­itage of those ships with the lat­est marine tech­nol­ogy and per­sonal com­forts of a yacht. Yes, North­ern Marine has had its strug­gles over the years, like many com­pa­nies mak­ing a prod­uct de­pen­dent on dis­cre­tionary in­come. How­ever, through the own­er­ship and man­age­ment changes one con­stant re­mained: Their boats were all made us­ing the finest com­po­nents and sys­tems avail­able. Be­gin­ning with world­cruis­ing-ver­i­fied hulls, North­ern Marine’s boats are more likely to do real blue­wa­ter cruis­ing than most other builders’ ocean pas­sage­mak­ers. That North­ern Marine has con­tin­ued its ex­is­tence in spite of chal­lenges, both ex­ter­nal and self-in­flicted, is a tes­ti­mony to the value of the idea. There is a place in this market for a well-built, Amer­i­can-made long-range cruiser.

North­ern Marine’s New Owner

Af­ter thou­sands of miles and months aboard Agave, Jay was even more im­pressed with the po­ten­tial of the com­pany. Yet while Agave ended up be­ing ev­ery­thing he dreamed, the build process it­self wasn’t per­fect. Dur­ing con­struc­tion Jay had a sense not all was well un­der the com­pany’s cur­rent own­er­ship, but he be­lieved in the prod­uct and the po­ten­tial for the com­pany’s suc­cess. He be­lieved there were op­por­tu­ni­ties to im­prove the in­ter­nal work­ings and man­age­rial over­sight of the com­pany. Af­ter tak­ing de­liv­ery, Jay ini­ti­ated con­ver­sa­tions with North­ern Marine about ac­quir­ing the com­pany.

When Jay started this process of find­ing his dream boat, he never imag­ined that one day he would not just have his own North­ern Marine but that he would own the com­pany as well. In Jan­uary 2017, Jay Bern­stein—along with part­ners Stu­art Archer and Parker Bogue—be­came an owner of North­ern Marine. With Stu­art’s proven de­signs and con­struc­tion ex­pe­ri­ence, Parker’s sales and mar­ket­ing knowl­edge, and Jay’s busi­ness acu­men and com­mit­ted guid­ance, North­ern Marine has a bright fu­ture and a se­cure place in the Amer­i­can boat­build­ing in­dus­try.

Op­po­site: U- gal­ley pro­vides plenty of stor­age and full-size ap­pli­ances. Above: Run­ning in the N57’s na­tive habi­tat, the San Juan Is­lands. Below: The im­mense for­ward berth in­cludes walk- arounds and plenty of un­der-berth stowage.

Star­board side set­tee and gal­ley leads to the raised pilothouse helm with ad­di­tional seat­ing.

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