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Trawler returns to California following circumnavigation

Jan 1, 2003

A 40-foot Nordhavn trawler that was sent around the world for a promotional adventure returned to Dana Point, Calif., in June, successfully completing a 24,000-mile circumnavigation that put 3,700 hours on the engine over the course of 170 days. The Nordhavn line of trawlers is part of Pacific Asian Enterprises based in Dana Point.

One of the company's owners, Jim Leishman, was elated, pleased that the voyage had been completed with few surprises. "We were very excited to do this trip, but once we got going and we realized how much attention we were receiving, we were pretty nervous. If something went wrong the whole trip could have backfired. But the boat held up perfectly; we had only some minor mechanical problems and some periods of bad weather."

The voyage, which departed California on Nov. 3, 2001, included stops in Hawaii; an un– planned stop in several Pacific atolls to ride out a major typhoon; Majuro; Singapore; Phuket; the Maldives; Oman; Djibouti; Suez and Port Said; Athens; Barbados; Panama; and San Diego. The roughest legs, weather-wise, were the stints across the Mediterranean, which took place in March, a bit early in the season, and from Hawaii to Majuro, when a typhoon nearly caught the yacht at sea. The crew diverted the vessel to Ailinglapalap, waited for the storm to pass, and then proceeded. The storm doubled back, however, and the vessel and storm arrived at an isolated atoll at the same time, the storm sitting overhead for a week and battering the anchored vessel with 50-knot winds and torrential rains.

Leishman said that the vessel had no trouble with piracy. Interestingly, he said the one area he was most worried about, around Yemen and Djibouti, was so heavily patrolled by U.S.-led coalition forces of ships and aircraft that he never felt safer than in this region. "We visited with some British sailors on a supply ship who told us that if we keyed our mike anywhere in the area of the Red Sea that we would have an aircraft overhead within eight to 10 minutes. We saw lots of warships and aircraft; they were everywhere. We heard them conducting these lengthy interviews via VHF with merchant ships: passport numbers, routes, all this minute information. They were checking up on anything that was moving in the area."

The vessel was equipped with security lighting to deter piracy, including several high-intensity spotlights and a police-style blue flashing light. But the crew never had any trouble with pirates, despite transiting two areas of known piracy activity, the Sulu Sea and Malacca Straits, and they never felt threatened. "At one time a small boat approached, but we shined these lights and it quickly went away." The vessel was not equipped with firearms, he said, adding that the rotating crews were all instructed not to offer a fight in the event of an unwelcome boarding.

The vessel suffered two mechanical problems, detailed, along with the voyage logs, on the company's website, www.nordhavn.com. Alternator belts broke a few times and the vessel's Naiad stabilizers would overheat. The most uncomfortable aspect of the voyage, other than that imposed by contrary wind and seas, was suffering the tropical heat in the Pacific. "When the typhoon came through, the boat had to be closed up tight for long periods of time. It got pretty hot and humid on board. We had one of our guys, who was joining the trip in Yap, bring along an A/C unit. That made a difference," Leishman said.

The vessel will be shipped to the East Coast for a tour of the fall boat shows before being delivered to its owner in Newport, R.I.

In general, Leishman said he and his partners at P.A.E. are pleased with the publicity and thought the effort worthwhile: "I'm really glad we did it. We learned a lot; it was a great adventure."


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