Award-winning design and ocean-crossing range find a home in one near-100-foot yacht.
In writing, redundancy is an undesirable trait, something to be avoided, a strategy that shouldn’t be practiced, an unwelcome attribute of storytelling, an exercise in overkill. But in boating, especially in long-range cruising, redundancy is key, and the Nordhavn N96 is rich with redundancy, from the engine room to the helm.
Each of the CAT C-18 diesels has dual fuel filters and strainers. Plus, as even more redundancy, the day tank includes a centrifuge system that spins water and other contaminants out of the fuel. All of that should put minds at ease during a crossing to Hawaii or the South Pacific. At the helm, the captain has access to Furuno Navnet and Nobeltec Timezero chartplotter software — displayed on one or more of five 16-inch MFDs (though owners have the choice of how to equip the dash) — in case one or the other encounters trouble. Plus, there’s a backup computer in case the main one goes down and takes both charting programs with it. There’s more, but you get the idea.
While captains and crew get excited about features such as redundancy, it takes a combination of luxury, comfort, layout, design, safety, ease of operation, sociability and more to impress potential buyers and owners of other yachts. It appears the N96 has succeeded there too. In May our test boat, Lacey Kay, claimed top honors in the Best Yacht Design (25-40 meters) category at the International Yacht and Aviation Awards, a competition hosted by European magazine Luxe et al and focused on innovative design.
An expansion of Norhavn’s proven N86 — literally, as a 10-foot extension was added to the hull — the N96 offers more room in the crew quarters, the cockpit and salon, the skylounge or upper master (depending on the layout), and the flybridge. Owners who choose to have the upper master stateroom, such as on our test boat, enjoy a bit of expanded interior room for a king-size berth, multiple built-in lockers and bureaus, and an en suite head. But the real treat is the private aft deck — a lanai of sorts — which has room for chairs and a table, so owners can enjoy a quiet breakfast together or take in the sunset with a cocktail or glass of wine.
In the fully covered cockpit, the expansion was put to social use. A transom settee spans the space between the twin boarding doors from the swim platform, and two tables front the settee, each with three chairs around it. A gap between the tables allows people to access the settee itself. An L-shaped console with a stone countertop abuts the main cabin’s aft bulkhead. It houses a grill and a sink up top and storage and a drawer-style refrigerator/freezer beneath. A second console sits to starboard and includes more storage. Cabinets are above both consoles.
Through a single watertight door is the salon, dining space and galley. Two sofas and four chairs ring the aft third of the space, while an eight-person dining table occupies the middle portion. Forward of that is the galley, which includes all of the appliances and tools any chef-wannabe owner or crew could need to prepare gourmet meals. And, as one would expect from Nordhavn, the stone and hardwoods (both of which are cut at the boatyard), hardware, lighting and fabrics are luxurious, and owners can choose materials to suit their taste.
Occupying the forward quarter of the main deck is a stateroom. It’s owner-worthy, but on our test boat it’s the VIP, because the owner’s room is on the second deck. A king-size bed faces forward, with nightstands to each side and a loveseat to port and a built-in bureau to starboard. A TV is built into the forward bulkhead, which serves as the aft wall of the en suite head.
Down a set of stairs just forward of the galley are the guest accommodations, three staterooms, all en suite, that share a landing. Tucked forward is a stateroom with twin berths in an L configuration. Aft and port is another stateroom with a queen berth, and to starboard is one with twin beds. The aft two have built-in nightstands, bureaus and hanging lockers. Portholes let natural light in, and LEDs provide soft anytime illumination.
Way up Top
While the foredeck is occupied by a 3,500-pound MarQuipt davit and a dinghy, tan seekers are not completely shut out. Forward of the flybridge and out from under the hardtop is a sunning platform large enough for two chaise lounges. Inside the flybridge proper are twin built-in settees separated by a walkway to the sundeck. A six-person dining table sits in the middle of the deck. To both sides are built-in consoles whose contents make the level nearly self-sustaining for the day. Starboard are two deepfreezes and storage. To port is a grill, a sink, and refrigerator and freezer drawers. A Jacuzzi tub sits aft, mostly out from under the hardtop. Its forward wall is slightly taller than the other sides, to accommodate a counter-height bar that hosts three aft-facing stools. There isn’t a day head, but there’s one just a level down, near the pilothouse.
From the pilothouse, the captain enjoys 270-degree views, and watertight doors to port and starboard ensure he can step onto the sidedecks quickly to see behind. Plus, wing driving stations put the captain outside and to the appropriate side for docking maneuvers. Being up a level from the main deck also ensures the view over and to the sides of the bow is better than it would be from lower.
Aft of the helm and the twin captain’s chairs is an elevated companion settee, a C-shaped unit wrapped around a wood table whose middle section folds open to allow better access to the seating. Drawers abound in the base of the settee and the elevated platform it rests atop.
The helm itself is a tribute to modern electronics and the aforementioned redundancies the yacht employs. Monitors and displays for the engines, the autopilot, the ABT-Trac hydraulic stabilizers, the compass and more occupy an overhead panel. The MFDs — custom on our test boat — are front and center, keeping everyone apprised of every system and instrument on the near-100-footer. The VHF radios, engine controls, computer system inputs, genset controls, entertainment system and more are close at hand, too.
On the Water
As this is a Nordhavn, we weren’t tearing around San Diego Bay at high speed, but that’s not this yacht’s mission. Its mission is to go far, and our tests bore that out. Our test boat’s fuel capacity is 9,200 gallons (7,000 is standard) spread across seven tanks, so its range is extensive. At 8.5 knots, the twin Caterpillars were burning a combined 10 gph, for a range of 7,038 miles (with a 10 percent reserve). Bump it up to 9.6 knots, at 1300 rpm, and fuel burn increases to 15 gph, resulting in 5,300 miles of range. We hit a top speed of 11.4 knots on test day. At that speed the engines are revving at 1820 rpm and burning 46 gph, dropping the range to 2,050 miles. Slow down only slightly, to 11 knots, and range increases to 2,530 miles. Slow down significantly, to 7.3 knots, around 900 rpm, and range eclipses the 10,000-mile mark by 75 miles. Who wants to go slightly less than halfway around the Earth at its equator on one tank of fuel?
Our test boat had already been to Mexico and back before our sea trial, and it left for Alaska shortly after it, so the N96 has been put through its paces far beyond what we can accomplish in a day. We had the owner’s captain with us during the sea trial, and he had only good things to say about the yacht’s performance in all waters so far. And that’s a good thing, considering the vessel can reach nearly any waters on the planet.