Author: Roger McAfee
This past December was one for the record books and made the test of the new North Pacific 39 an adventure. At the time of our test the temperature hit a 41-year low of 0 degree F; with a 35-knot wind, the local meteorologist said it was “20 F.
When Trevor Brice decided, in 2004, to look for a family boat suitable for operating in the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia and Alaska he couldn”t find what he wanted.
So with the help of his father, who had introduced him to boating as a child, he set out to design one and have it built. That was the North Pacific 42 and since then he has sold more than 36, which is a success by any standards.
Based on that success, his newest model at the time of this test was a slightly smaller version of the 42, the North Pacific 39.
DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION
The 39 is a hand-laid, semi-displacement hull built of solid glass, with a cored glass, single-piece deck and superstructure. The hull bottom and sides between the waterline and
rubrail are reinforced with a molded grid bonded to the inside of the hull. According to the manufacturer this adds to hull stiffness, preventing wracking in heavy seas. It also provides extra bottom stiffness when pounding into a head sea.
On our test boat the glasswork is true and smooth with no signs of print-through, thin, or dull gelcoat. Stainless rails are solidly attached and the welding of the rails themselves appeared professionally done, with no signs of thin beads or undercut.
While North Pacific owns the molds and related tooling, and is the entity that receives the hull identification numbers, the boats are manufactured, under contract, in China, at Ningbo, just south of Shanghai.
The cockpit can be accessed by either a transom door from the built in swim step or by a door in the starboard side of the hull opening into the cockpit just aft of the deckhouse. Molded non-skid walking surfaces can be found on the deck and cockpit. The cockpit is deep enough to be secure and big enough to make a great fishing station. It is protected from the rain in the Pacific Northwest, or the blazing sun in the tropics, by the deckhouse aft overhang.
The foredeck is home to the electric anchor windlass, a 45-pound anchor, with 300 feet of galvanized chain, mounted on a self-launching chock, complete with a stainless steel bow roller. A fresh-and seawater washdown pump system is also located up front. The foredeck rails provide good security.
The command bridge can be reached with a ladder from the cockpit, and visibility from up top is excellent. The topside helm includes the usual engine gauges and controls as well as controls for both the windlass and bow thruster. There”s plenty of storage in the bench seats and a cabinet on the starboard side of the dual helm seat.
The radar arch is hinged and can be lowered to service the radar or any of the antennaes or lights mounted on it.
The aft salon including the galley, a raised pilothouse with engine space underneath and the spacious queen berth cabin, complete with separate standup head and shower, are traditional for a boat of this type, with one exception. That exception is the salon; it runs the full width of the hull making it very spacious and comfortable for a 39-footer.
Entry to the salon is from the cockpit through sliding glass doors. The teak and holly sole and teak paneling give a rich, warm, feeling throughout the vessel. The fit and finish is very nice.
To the port side of the salon is the galley complete with a double stainless sink and drainboard, a three-burner electric stove with oven, a 7 cubic-foot Norcold refrigerator and Corian countertops. To the starboard of the salon is an L-shaped settee and a high-low teak dining table. The table drops down to form a base when the settee is converted to a double bunk.
The bulkhead between the salon and the pilothouse does not go all the way to the overhead, allowing for an unobstructed view and easy conversation between the galley/salon and the pilothouse.
Pilothouse access from the salon is up a couple of steps. It can also be accessed directly from the sidedecks by port and starboard sliding doors. The helm station is to the starboard side of the dash, and the helm seat is slider mounted so it can be moved forward when not under way, creating more useful space. Positioning the helm to starboard allows for a large, unobstructed flat dash capable of being used as a paper chart table, or as a mounting position for adding more electronics.
The pilothouse contains a bench seat complete with an adjustable table that doubles as a single berth while the open layout makes it possible for the skipper to see anyone in the salon or galley.
Our test vessel was equipped with an in-line, six-cylinder Cummins MerCruiser QSB series diesel engine with a displacement of 359 cubic inches (5.9 liters). This common-rail, 1,350-pound diesel produces 225 horsepower at 3000 rpm. These engines are standard for the 39, but more powerful ones can be fitted.
The engine room is reached by tipping up the hinged stairwell leading from the salon up to the wheelhouse. While this is not a stand-up engine room, there is more than enough space to sit upright and perform all service required on the machinery. The engine space sole is solid checker plate aluminum, something not found in other glass vessels. Aluminum is very easy to clean, does not absorb oil, does not stain, dissipates heat very well and does not corrode in salt water.
Diesels that have been sitting in freezing weather for days are often difficult to start, but this computer-controlled engine fired instantly. It hunted a bit – revs varying up and down slightly while at idle – and then settled into to a nice, quiet hum, without vibration or smoke.
We moved easily away from the dock and idled through the marina at 700 rpm, under complete control at 3.3 knots and creating no wake at all. It is not always easy to have the good low-speed performance required in crowded marinas. Clearly the 39 has a larger rudder than most boats this size.
As we cleared the breakwater we ran head on into really bad weather. It was still blowing 35 mpg, and the sea was running at least 4 feet. The first bit of spray that hit the windshield froze instantly. The second, much heavier sheet of spray also froze instantly, and visibility through the front windshield disappeared. When the third sheet hit, the ice had built up sufficient thickness that it fell away under its own weight.
Visibility returned and we saw that the seawater had also frozen to the rails, forming icicles. When the icicles were about 4 inches long the wind ripped them off and hurled them back against the pilothouse.
We upped the engine to 1800 rpm and were soon making 6.8 knots and burning 3.6 gallons per hour. This is excellent fuel economy considering we were pounding into a head sea that by this time was running at 6 feet. The pattern continued, spray freezing to the windshield every time we plunged into the oncoming sea, breaking off after the third dousing, followed by the sound of small icicles breaking off the rail and rattling against the pilothouse.
We really weren”t concerned about the temporary loss of forward visibility – we could see fine out of the side windows – but even more important there wasn”t another boat in sight. It appeared we were the only boat out that day.
The vessel handled the conditions extremely well. While spray lashed the upper works no green water came on board and there were no leaks anywhere. Nothing came loose inside, no drawers or doors flew open, and the vessel never, at any time, appeared to be overwhelmed. It simply plugged along on its heading.
When we decided to do a 180 and head back to the marina, the vessel had to come around through a beam sea and onto a course with the weather astern. It came around smartly, once again because of the large rudder, with no unpleasant nastiness as we swung through the beam sea.
It is clear that the North Pacific 39 has been designed and put together by experienced boaters. We tested the vessel in the most unpleasant conditions and it did everything very well. The interior layout makes this boat an excellent cruiser. It has storage everywhere and features a light, bright interior. At a price of $299,000 it represents very good value for the money.