Diving, and the Nordhavn 62

Things are starting to come together for the big trip. The boat is out of the water at Delta, and has more people crawling over it than can be imagined. Jeff and I have been chatting every morning, as decisions need to be made.


I swapped an email with one of our crew members, Kirt, who is a diver. I’m working on making sure he has the right equipment on board for cold water diving. Between the three boats, we will be running over 15,000 miles of heavily fished water (3 boats @ 5,500 miles each). It’s tough to believe one of us won’t snag a net somewhere along the way (hopefully not me!).


As I was thinking about outfitting him, I realized that he shouldn’t be diving alone. I asked Grey Pearl and Seabird whether either of them has a diver onboard. Nope. Argh. This means one of two things. Either Kirt dives alone, or I dive with him. Of course, the hope is that no one dives ever. This isn’t a trip where anyone will be doing recreational diving. If someone dives, it’s because something is broken or tangled. I’m at best a rookie diver, and am not sure that a handful of dives each year, in 80+ degree water, is proper preparation for underwater operations in the Bering Sea. That said, I do feel plenty competent to keep an eye on Kirt, and assist him in getting to the surface, should anything go wrong.



This means buying a dry suit. A dry suit is roughly the same as a wet suit, but keeps you completely dry while diving. A dry suit is mandated for any diving in water under 60 degrees. Our last house happened to be in front of a beach, in Seattle, where they train new divers. I’ve seen hundreds of divers suiting up for diving in the cold waters of Puget Sound. It looks like a lot of effort, and a lot of bulk for diving. I was always amazed that anyone would want to do cold water diving, and am surprised that now I’m seriously considering it.


I mentioned this topic to my boating friend, John, and he said that one way or the other, I should buy a dry suit, to always have on the boat. I argued that I am a warm water guy, and have as a clear goal to never go anywhere near cold water ever again. I mentioned to John my fear that a dry suit would be confining and bulky, and that I wouldn’t be able to move. He said that this was nonsense, and that a dry suit can be just as comfortable as a wetsuit. I’m still skeptical, but he softened me a bit.


I have a ton of questions, all of which will be easily answered, but it is another project to be added to the pile. My guess is that the dive shop will be happy to answer my questions, as they ask for my credit card. I did some quick googling, and the first dry suits that popped up were $2,000, which has me thinking: Perhaps diving alone isn’t such a bad thing… Argh. That said, I know me. Compromising safety to save a few bucks is not my style. As an alternate idea… my recollection is that the water in the Bering Sea runs around 45 degrees in July. With my 5mm wetsuit, booties and a hood, could I safely dive for 15 minutes? I’d hate to be wrong. Speaking of which, it seems wrong to spend this much money on a backup that we are highly unlikely to need. Where does one draw the line on safety issues?


And, on a different topic…


I usually monitor the “Passagemaking Under Power” forum, and they’ve been talking about pilothouse placement on boats. Someone made the comment that they thought the Nordhavn 62’s pilothouse was in the perfect location, and I posted this message:


I can definitely say that the pilothouse sure seemed to be in the perfect location. It is at the center pivot point to the boat. We were in wild seas on several occasions, and you could clearly see where the center of the boat was. The closer you were to the center, the more stable you felt. On the N62 this meant the pilot house, or the aft deck behind the pilot house. It also meant the main salon. Interestingly, the pivot point didn’t seem to be at the middle of the length of the boat, but about 1/3rd of the way from the back of the boat. My interpretation has always been (and, correct me if I’m wrong), that this is because the center of the vessel (the center of gravity) is at the center of the vessel’s weight, not its’ length, and that with the engines towards the back of the boat on the N62, the center of gravity is aft of midship.


The other nice thing about the pilothouse location on the N62 was the huge bow in front of the pilothouse. Rarely did waves coming over the bow hit the windshield. In the pilothouse, we were a good 25 feet back from the bow. This also gives the N62 a HUGE bow which is perfect for tenders.




This led to my being asked whether the N62 is better in head seas, or the N68. Here’s how I answered:



John (Seahorse) said: “… Question – how does your 68 compare to the 62 in a head sea?…”


It’s impossible to really compare the two boats accurately. We sold our 62 nearly five years ago, and I have such fond memories of it, that it is difficult to be objective. But, I’ll do my best…


The N68 is amazing going into head seas. I’ve never seen a boat take head seas as well, and I have a few theories as to why:


– The “center of pitch” on the N68 is closer to the middle. This helps keep the bow down. Because the 62 has it’s fulcrum point further aft, the long bow has to move up and down more (imagine a teeter-totter, with an off center fulcrum).


– The 62 has a bulbous bow, and the 68 does not. The bulbous bow on the 62 is an older technology than what is being used today, and has a tendency to slap the water on re-entry.


– Weight is certainly a factor in the difference in the ride. The 62 weighs sixty tons, whereas the 68 weighs over 100 tons.


– The twin engines in my 68 may be a factor. I’ve never had the boat slow down when punching into head seas, unless I slowed it down, or a current did. I have plenty of power available, and the twin props take a big bite at the sea.


Despite my saying that it is impossible to directly compare the boats, we’re about to do it! Two 62s (Grey Pearl and Seabird) as well as my 68 (Sans Souci) will be running the Bering Sea, backwards, this July. We’ll be battling a head sea, and head wind, side by side for a couple thousand miles. Overall we’ll be running together for over five thousand miles. My guess is that by the time we arrive in Japan we’ll have some good quantitative information about how the boats compare in every type of condition imaginable. I’m just hoping that my stomach fares as well as either model of boat.



Ken W











9 Responses

  1. I saw the black Nordhavn, Dimma, at the megadock in Charleston SC in Dec. 2008 A friend from Sweden told me Dimma means darkness or fog in Swedish.
    Steve Willett
    Thibodaux, Louisiana

  2. Ken,
    If you not experienced in cold water lake diving it would be a bit too risky to dive the Behring Sea period.
    Issues you will face include poor visibility at unexpected times, subtle currents going in different directions at different depths, lack of visual reference and pain in the face causing headaches in most people.
    Drysuits are fine but dangerous if you don’t train in them first. The killer problem is to be deeper than 30 feet, add air to the suit and find yourself rocketing to the surface with a big ole bubble from the knees up (you’ll be upside down at this point) with no way to vent the suit. Unless you’re a very cool customer you/ll probably forget to blow out as hard and fast as you can and your lungs will pop on the surface. Train in a nice clear shallow pool first.
    A 5mm suit will keep you alive in the Behring Sea for an hour or so if your heart doesn’t stop in the first two minutes as the suit warms up the water that leaks in. A trick we’ve used id to pour hot water inside the suit just before putting tanks on then getting in the water as quickly as possible.
    As an old hardhat diver who now confines my dive adventures to nice quiet warm caves in Venezuela, I hope you make good decisions. You’re obviously a competent boater.
    Solo diving is fine for a competent diver after a few dozen safe dives in varying environments. Many experienced divers prefer solo diving with some additional safety equipment such as a Spare Air. I ALWAYS carry paramedic shears to cut through fishnet and the wire supports( I didn’t used to but that’s another sea story).
    Have a ball but try diving in a just thawed little lake first.
    Bill R

  3. Hi Ken,
    I’ve been lurking about for quite some time and really look forward to reading your blog. My wife and I currently sail a Hans Christian 43 in the SF Bay Area but we have decided to eventually move to the dark side…LOL! Within the next year or so we are hoping to pick up a N55. But now for the real reason for my post… DIVING. I have been certified diver for over 25 years and have done some winter diving, granted no ice diving but cold nonetheless. I’ve done many quarry dives on the east coast where water temps were in the high 30’s. The water temps in Northern Cal average in the 50’s and during your decent you can go through various thermal layers down to 40. All I ever used was a 7mm wet suit without a problem. Sure, a dry suit is nice but not necessary. Dry suits are great for repetitive dives and for extended bottom times but, additional training is needed if using a dry suit. For the type and frequency of use you are describing I think a good 7mm suit or perhaps even a semi-dry suit would be more than adequate, not to mention significantly cheaper. Although we have never met, say hi to Roberta and look forward to some day meeting you both!!

    Fair winds,

  4. Ken, we use an underwater camera for ice fishing in particular, and for exploring in open water. There quite a few out there, but the ones we’ve had the best luck with are the Aquaview’s. They have several models. The one I like the best gives the direction thr camera is pointed, depth and water temp. They’ll go down about 50 ft.

  5. Jon: A fun looking gadget! And, almost affordable… I hadn’t realized these even existed. It’s more than I’d want to spend, but I am intrigued. If I were actually able to try one, and it felt useful, I could “almost” see splurging. There just aren’t that many cases where it would be useful, and as a toy, I think the novelty would wear off quickly. Very cool (if it works). – Ken W

  6. Hi Ken,
    You mentioned you looking for Aleutians info and RU procedures. Sent you email and left VM, but did not heard from you. When you have a chance, please get back to me. Tnx Yuri N3QQ

  7. N4061: I’m feeling better about Japan. Everyone I’ve spoken to, who has cruised Japan, has said that it ranked as one of their top all-time destinations, and that the people have been incredible. One person said that they had trouble paying at marinas in Japan, because the marinas were so excited to have visitors from out of the country. I’ve had a heck of a time getting the marinas to respond to my queries (via email and fax). My guess is that this would be easily remedied just by picking up the phone. I know that we need an agent in Japan, for clearing in and out of ports, and helping me with all the bureaucracy associated with bringing in our dog. Therefore I’ve decided to give the project of finding us space over to the agent. I’m sure he will have no trouble, although as expected, he said that our options are very limited. We’ve identified a marina that we’d like into, and hope we’ll be able to get in.

    Thank you! – Ken W

  8. ken, in regards to people questioning your planned trip and the money you are spending I have to say it is no ones business. You and your wife worked hard and deserve the rewards. If you think about it you are in a position to contribute to the econemy by paying the salaries of those working on your boat. Without people with the means to spend in todays economy things would only get worse. In reference to the Japan part of your trip let me know if you are in need for more contacts. I have connections with the aerospace industry in Japan and could ask around if anyone knows anyone involved with coastal cruising.

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