July 1, 2020

Northern Marine Yachts Is Back!

northern marine yachts


I was particularly excited to learn that Northern Marine, known for its superb long-range expedition yachts, is back in operation. The yacht builder, based in Anacortes, Washington, has had its ups and downs in recent years, the most recent the untimely death of its owner. This is a shame, as Northern Marine is, in my experienced opinion, somewhat of the gold standard for expedition yachts operated without professional crew. Sure, there are other yards out there building long-range passagemakers to high standards, but the yachts from Northern Marine have a different heritage from most pleasure boats, and the difference is striking.

I first got to know the trawlers of Northern Marine in 1998 when I did a boat tour of Spirit of Zopilote, a new 62-foot expedition yacht built for Bruce and Joan Kessler. The 66-ton trawler was the first yacht from the new company. The production manager brought over two decades of experience at Delta Marine and was well versed in commercial boat building. Both co-founder Cliff Rome and Bruce Kessler had once owned Delta 70-foot trawlers and agreed these yachts were just too big. Something along the lines of 58 feet or so made more sense. This collaboration was the genesis of the new company.

My boat tour was so filled with interesting and unique information that my article was over 20 pages long, which is unheard of in magazine publishing. But everyone loved the depth of detail.

In the decades since, the company has continued evolving the long-range expedition yacht concept, gaining ever-increasing experience building 41 world-class yachts, each better than the last. New building techniques and technology allow the craftsmen to strengthen and reinforce fiberglass hulls, improve all systems with new levels of integration, and provide owners with the highest standards of finish and luxury appointments, essentially megayacht quality in a boat operated by a couple. Yet throughout this time, the company continues to pursue the basic premise of the ideal trawler-style yacht: seaworthy, quiet, comfortable, with plenty of room for fuel and stores.

So, the recent acquisition by Seattle Yachts is both welcomed and well timed. The work force can continue their mission. I have always been impressed by what boat builders, with experience building seagoing commercial fishing boats, bring to the table. Boats considered industrial strength, designed and engineered without compromise to keep the crew safe and protected in any kind of weather. Time is money, and there is no money to be made with breakdowns or equipment failures. Every component of every system must be carefully selected as the best solution for the job.

I spoke with Peter Whiting, partner of Seattle Yachts, about the recent acquisition. Peter is aware of the history and players of Northern Marine and is confident that the builder can now get back on track as the premier American yacht builder of long-range expedition yachts in this size range. Northern Marine is now the only yard in America to do so, a distinction that anyone looking to own one should carefully consider.

What makes these boats different from the pleasure boat trawlers developed since the late 1990s? In part, it comes from the commercial heritage. In typical pleasure boat construction, a boat is drawn by a designer, and then the builder figures out where to put all the equipment. If you have ever gone aboard some of these production trawlers at a boat show, this explains why one may find an oddly-placed, skinny access door into the engine room from the master stateroom or through the shower, or stabilizer actuators located inside furniture in a stateroom or other living space. Or an exhaust system that one must climb over to reach the fuel filters on the far side of the engine. And the pleasure boat practice that was popular years ago, of hiding all wiring and hoses and pumps out of sight, was to appeal to potential buyers used to a Mercedes or Lexus (when nothing under the hood is accessible). I recall many heated discussions with representatives from those companies, as I argued that was just plain wrong.

Spend time at the International Workboat Show in New Orleans, and you may get a glimpse of what I am talking about. Tugs, vessel supply boats, and offshore fishing boats are built with serious components that one won’t find at your local West Marine. Massive hydraulic windlasses, commercial fuel filling capability, pressurized engine rooms, paddle-wheel sight flow indicators on all hoses for easy visual inspection, sea chests to minimize through hulls, 360-degree engine access, articulated rudders, redundant autopilot systems, workbenches in stand up engine rooms, lube oil tanks, pre-lubing system to circulate oil before and after an engine runs, mechanical Murphy gauges on main engines to monitor oil and cooling water levels under way…the list goes on.

Need an analogy here? If Kenworth Trucks decided to create an expedition RV, I guarantee the vehicle would be vastly different from what Winnebago might come up with. Both are well-respected American brands, but the design spiral used by each is decidedly different, with different priorities. And it shows in these boats, especially when looking beyond the gorgeous, luxury interiors.

Experienced builder and designer Stuart Archer manages the Northern Marine operation today, and he views their big boat, commercial heritage as polar opposite from the pleasure boat industry. “Given where we came from, with a big boat mentality on all systems and equipment,” he told me, “we now must find ways to fit big boat components into the size of the trawlers we now build.”

Northern Marine is always looking for new ways to build a better, stronger, safer boat. The company pioneered a keel cooled, wet exhaust hybrid system that is the best of both dry and wet exhaust systems. The company is also known for its resin-infused fiberglass construction and reinforced hulls and bulbous bows.

Integrate the above focus with teams of highly skilled and experienced craftsmen capable of creating the most luxurious interiors and accommodations using the finest materials and finishes, hardwoods, granite, tile, appliances, and comfort systems. This is Northern Marine today, some 25 years later.

I have many fond memories of being aboard Northern Marine yachts. One that captures the essence of the expedition trawler lifestyle was when we anchored just off the beach in Thorne Arm, Misty Fjords National Monument. Not a soul in sight, no contrails in the sky. The four of us enjoyed a wonderful gourmet dinner seated at the dedicated dining table and armchairs, classic music playing quietly in the background. We watched a bear stroll along the beach, and as Joan turned off the music, an eagle landed on a tree branch not 50 yards from us. It was a magical moment, not a sound in the world save the faint hum of one of the boat’s 15kW generators.

On the same trip, and to emphasize the big ship capability of this Northern Marine yacht, when we approached a municipal marina in Ketchikan, Alaska, we encountered a strong wind blowing us off the dock. Bruce Kessler had my diminutive wife up on the flybridge, pushing both stern and bow thrusters’ joysticks in order to hold us next to the dock against the howling wind, while Bruce and I took our time to safely get our dock lines around massive bollards. Having two 30-horsepower, continuous-duty hydraulic thrusters made all the difference, eliminating the stress of what could have been a difficult situation. No electric thruster would have made the grade.

Months later, I enjoyed when the 64-foot Zeehaen arrived in Annapolis on its way up the coast. People on the East Coast were not familiar with this style of trawler yacht and at one point, the owner hosted a reception for a group of his new friends. Everyone’s eyes were wide open that evening, taking in the beauty of this comfortable yet elegantly sophisticated interior in a boat that looked utterly bulletproof, the very definition of rugged adventure. A very young James Knight (of Yacht Tech fame today) was on a nearby Nordhavn 46, and I remember his steady stare at the towering presence of this Northern Marine 64.

Stuart told me he is successfully getting his team back together, lead carpenters, mechanical techs, electricians, painters, and fiberglass crew and they are ready to move forward. He said their market niche has always been between 55 and 90 feet, as most couples feel that is as large as one couple can handle without crew.

Peter Whiting said they’ve started a 57-footer, and it is not too far along, so buyers could still have his and her tastes and preferences incorporated into the new boat.

I wish the Northern Marine team great success after the last few years of various difficulties. Now with the solid support and resources of the Seattle Yachts organization, the team can concentrate on what they do best: building world-class long-range expedition trawlers right here in Anacortes, Washington, fulfilling one dream at a time. As if to underscore the dream factor, Stuart added that he’s seen it over and over.

“The build process is every bit as exciting as using their new boat.”

I will follow the construction of this new Northern Marine 57, reporting on the progress, so stay tuned. Perhaps we can share in some of the excitement of the build process together. And if you happen to be the lucky couple who step up and make this raised pilothouse trawler your own, congratulations. You will own one of the finest expedition yachts in the world.


...where adventure and luxury meet

  • 85 TRI-DECK
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310 34TH STREET, ANACORTES, WA 98221 | 360.317.6700 | [email protected] | [email protected]

Northern Marine Yachts Logo

Founded in 1995

Northern Marine

Pacific Northwest luxury yacht builder Northern Marine manufactures expedition yachts and superyachts from 17 to 46 metres in length.

Luxury yacht builder Northern Marine was founded in Anacortes, Washington, by entrepreneur Richard “Bud” LeMieux in 1995. From the start, the shipyard manufactured rugged, oceangoing, luxury trawler yachts, in keeping with the seafaring traditions of this Pacific Northwest port, but utilised advanced composite construction techniques to build them.

Less than a decade later, luxury yacht builder Northern Marine added superyachts to its line, including the 39.6M custom motor yacht  Magic  designed by naval architect Ward Setzer and delivered in 2005. The following year, luxury yacht builder Northern Marine was acquired by Ashton Capital Corporation.

In addition to superyacht  Magic , luxury yacht builder Northern Marine launched the 44.5M tri-deck superyacht  Lia Fail  in 2005.

In 2007, superyacht builder Northern Marine delivered the 25.76M luxury expedition yacht  Spellbound , a fine example of the shipyard’s oceangoing displacement yacht line, with a range of 5,000 nautical miles.

Yachts built by Northern Marine

Northern Marine Luxury Yacht MAGIC Profile

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Northern Marine

Pacific Northwest luxury yacht builder Northern Marine manufactures expedition yachts and superyachts from 17 to 46 metres in length.

History of Northern Marine

Luxury yacht builder Northern Marine was founded in Anacortes, Washington, by entrepreneur Richard “Bud” LeMieux in 1995. From the start, the shipyard manufactured rugged, oceangoing, luxury trawler yachts, in keeping with the seafaring traditions of this Pacific Northwest port, but utilised advanced composite construction techniques to build them.

Less than a decade later, luxury yacht builder Northern Marine added superyachts to its line, including the 39.6M custom motor yacht Magic designed by naval architect Ward Setzer and delivered in 2005. The following year, luxury yacht builder Northern Marine was acquired by Ashton Capital Corporation.

Notable Northern Marine Yachts

In addition to superyacht Magic , luxury yacht builder Northern Marine launched the 44.5M tri-deck superyacht Lia Fail in 2005. Custom luxury motor yacht Lia Fail also features engineering and interior design by Setzer Design Group .

In 2007, superyacht builder Northern Marine delivered the 25.76M luxury expedition yacht Spellbound , a fine example of the shipyard’s oceangoing displacement yacht line, with a range of 5,000 nautical miles.

Specialisations of Northern Marine Yachts

Luxury yacht builder Northern Marine’s specialities include advanced composite construction of expedition yachts and superyachts, and commercial fishing vessels.


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Northern Marine 57

  • By Chris Caswell
  • Updated: October 4, 2007

northern marine yachts

If your nautical fantasies include nudging an iceberg to gather thousand-year-old ice for your drinks, pushing up a steamy jungle river or traversing the expanses of sea between those destinations, then the Northern Marine 57 may be the yacht of your dreams.

She’s an honest and serious expedition trawler for a husband-and-wife team. The word “honest crops up regularly when discussing this yacht. Unlike many of the faux expedition yachts attempting to capitalize on the market for adventure travel, the 5700 Series Expedition Trawlers are the real thing. From the bulbous bow to the array of antennas on the radar mast, everything aboard this yacht is done to make her rugged, seaworthy and easy to maintain. There are no styling touches, no gewgaws and no frills.

At a garden party of pretty white yachts, the Northern Marine 57 would be the one with the 101st Airborne Division tattoo on its arm and its T-shirt sleeves rolled up. The rugged exterior, however, doesn’t mean you’ll be camping out. The interior is fitted with all the amenities that make sense on a yacht such as this-sophisticated electronics, entertainment systems and the latest appliances. You won’t find suede headliners or blown-glass chandeliers aboard a 57, but that is not because Northern Marine is incapable of such flash. Clients who make the trek to the Northern Marine plant in Anacortes, Washington, want a serious voyaging yacht, not a Las Vegas penthouse.

The sort of yachtsman who appreciates a Northern Marine 57 is one who knows that there are two kinds of yachtsmen: those who have run aground, and those who are about to. For that reason, each 57 gets a steel shoe on the bottom of the full-length keel. It’s a husky 11/2 inches of reassuring protection when the 100-year-old charts in some remote destination prove to be hopeful rather than accurate.

Because this 57 may also bump into things harder than ice, the stem band that stretches from the trademark Northern Marine breastplate to the bulbous bow is a 21/2-inch prop shaft cut in half. Even the rub rails are solid 11/2-inch stainless steel.

Northern Marine has become synonymous with rugged offshore yachts, though the company’s reputation was built in just a few years. The first trawler from Northern Marine was Spirit of Zopilote, a replacement for the 70-foot Zopilote, a Delta-built yacht that achieved celebrity status among cruising yachtsmen for her globe-ranging voyages. The company made headlines again when it built the 76-foot Starship, which served as the mothership for a documentary film crew on a 76,000-mile three-year circumnavigation and is now owned by actor Gene Hackman.

Despite the molded composite hulls, previous yachts in Northern Marine’s 75- and 80-foot series have been essentially custom yachts. The 57 is designed to offer production savings while remaining semi-custom.

Raven , the Northern Marine 57 photographed for this article, is clearly intended for voyaging. Still rounded like her larger sisters, the 57’s hull is flattened aft and has slightly more rocker for stability down sea and in turns, while the sturdy keel has a more streamlined shape. According to the builder, attention to fairing results in an 11-knot top speed and a comfortable cruising speed of 9.5 knots at just six gallons per hour.

The saloon on Raven is paneled in mahogany finished with tung oil for a pleasant look that requires little maintenance. Comfortable is a word that comes to mind. There are panoramic views through the large windows. To simplify service in faraway ports, household appliances complete the galley. A flat-screen TV swings down from the overhead to conserve space in the saloon.

Staggered accommodations and the bluff bow give the 57 some ups and downs that can be off-putting at first, but she offers complete privacy for two couples and a comfortable layout for cruising.

The master suite is down from the saloon and simply furnished with a king-size berth, a settee to port and a bureau that doubles as a desk. Absent are the usual headboard and overhead treatments, and the result is a serene and comfortable getaway. A large head with a faux wood sole and a spacious shower completes the master.

The VIP stateroom is forward, accessed from the saloon by going up to and across the pilothouse, then down past the day head (which also serves the stateroom). The cabin is simple but comfortable, with two ports, an overhead hatch and an exceptionally large walk-in hanging locker.

The pilothouse is seamanlike, with a Stidd helm seat, a simple black instrument panel with space to lay out charts, and a settee with table against the after bulkhead. The windows are set a bit high for good views while standing, but this will be remedied on future 57s. The pilot berth folds out of the bulkhead, which allows two people to stay in the pilothouse on long voyages, with one sleeping while the other keeps watch. A rack that hangs charts behind the settee prevents the navigator from struggling against the curl from rolled charts.

The usual watertight door to the side deck is on the starboard side, but the port side is unusual with the door leading into a vestibule that is open to the deck and includes the stairs to the flying bridge. This not only provides weather protection, but creates an easier way to get food to the bridge from the galley.

The split-level upper decks are immense. The bridge has a simple fiberglass helm pod ahead of an L-shape settee and barbecue, all surrounded by coamings high enough that a windscreen is unnecessary. The boat deck, which extends over the lower side decks, is so large that the Zodiac RIB and Brower crane seem lost on its 21-foot length.

Voyagers will delight in the engineroom’s full headroom and-thanks to the single 330 hp John Deere 6081 diesel-wealth of space. The 17.5kW Onan generator has a power take-off, which, at the touch of a button, can provide a 6-knot cruise without the main engine, according to the builder.

Even better, the get-home system has full Mathers shifting, and it can be used for economical slow-speed operation. Because the John Deere main is a slow-turning diesel, the Onan also provides hydraulic power for the bowthruster. With 2,500 gallons of fuel, the 57 has long legs at cruising speed.

Other systems aboard Raven include a Kabola furnace that uses hot-water radiators, CruiseAir a/c, a Sea Recovery 600-gpd watermaker and a 5.5kW Fischer Panda genset for night use. A large sea chest/dump chest reduces the number of holes in the hull to three.

Northern Marine has a reputation for go-anywhere yachts with outstanding systems, and this 57 is a fine example of that philosophy.

Northern Marine Inc., (360) 299-8400; www.northernmarine.com .

Find more yachts by Northern Marine here .

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northern marine yachts

New Northern Marine 57 with 5,000-Mile Range

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Northern Marine has just launched its latest 57 pilothouse long-range expedition yacht, designed for an owner-operator to cruise anywhere in the world.

Stuart Archer, the general manager of Northern Marine in Anacortes, Washington, wrote me that the 57, powered by a single 325-hp John Deere, has a range of 5,000 nm at 8.75 knots. The boat holds 2,600 gallons of fuel and burns 4.2 gph at that speed. Top speed is over 10 knots.

Northern Marine has a rich heritage of making commercial fishing boats, working trawlers and long-range expedition yachts. It was bought by Seattle Yachts in 2019, with a fleet now going from the 57 up to 100 feet.

The new 57 is the sixth hull in that line, and it has a two-stateroom, three-head layout, with an additional sleeping area in the settee in the pilothouse. Built for global travel, the 57 has two 17kW generators. An emergency get-home drive powered by one of them will deliver a 5-knot speed. The boat also has bow and stern thrusters.

The large engine room provides easy access to the machinery and also houses a sea-chest, replacing a series of through-hull fittings, to provide water throughout the boat. The sea-chest has a clear Lexan cover on top, above the waterline, for easy inspection and cleaning.

Two overhead cameras monitor all the gauges and systems in the engine room. The fuel filters are mounted above deck on the starboard side for an easy change underway.

The yacht’s aft deck is full width and protected by the overhang from the boat deck. It has a sink and fridge. A weather-tight door leads to the salon, with an L-shaped lounge to starboard, twin chairs and a high-gloss table to port. A flat-screen TV between the chairs can be raised on a power lift to face the galley with a white quartz stone countertop. Extra-large side windows let in lots of natural light.

The gourmet galley is up a step from the salon, and is equipped for a long cruise, with a trash compactor, dishwasher, fridge and other appliances, all with walnut veneer panels. A large pantry is on the port side.

Up two steps, the pilothouse has a four-person, L-shaped settee and a table that convert to a double berth behind the Stidd helm chair. Five fixed windows in front are at a reverse angle to reduce glare and shed water. An on-deck head is on the port side, just aft of a watertight door leading up to the flybridge.

Up top, the flybridge has two Stidd helm chairs, an ice-maker, fridge/freezer, sink and barbeque and unobstructed views forward. The flybridge is protected by a hardtop. The boat deck aft has a 1,500-pound hydraulic Steelhead crane.

The master stateroom is on the main deck under the pilothouse, with a centerline king-sized bed and large en suite head. You reach the guest stateroom via a separate stairway from the pilothouse. It has a walk-around queen bed and an en suite head.

Specs.: LOA: 57’0”; Beam: 17’6”; Draft: 5’10”; Disp.: 135,000 lbs.; Fuel: 2,600 gals.; Water: 420 gals.; Power: 1×325-hp John Deere. Read more:



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Consider Northern Marine Yachts For All Reasons

northern marine yachts for cruising

Over the years, I have watched the evolution of the cruising powerboat go from minimally equipped, slow trawlers that provided basic seaworthy characteristics, to fully modern trawler yachts that are stabilized, luxurious, and have all the comforts of home. They provide the ultimate cruising experience.

Most of today’s trawler yachts, however, do not have the long legs needed to cross oceans or remain self-sufficient for extended periods of time. Yes, it has been done, but it really isn’t what these boats were designed to do. Venerable brands, such as Grand Banks , Mainship, Ocean Alexander, and Krogen , offer a high degree of real-world capability for couples who cruise coastal waters and spend winters in warmer climates. Whether at anchor or in a marina, these boats carry reasonable amounts of fuel, water, and storage for independent living for a couple of weeks at a time.

But, as we all come to realize, this independence is short lived. Soon, the holding tanks need to be pumped out, water tanks refilled, and fuel must be taken on from either daily use of the main engines or to power the generator while at anchor. For most people, the compromises are accepted as part of the program.

But there is another option that should be considered. Those global traveling yachts, often described as expedition trawlers , have everything it takes to circumnavigate in safety and comfort. The highest quality of the breed, such as those from Northern Marine , compromise little in terms of livability and comfort, and are built to provide their owners with a fabulous experience voyaging from continent to continent.

What I would like to suggest is that what makes these boats so fantastic for long distance passage making also makes them superlative cruising boats for the rest of us, who may not be interested in circling the globe or seeking adventure in high latitudes.

I have lived aboard both sail and power boats. Starting out as little more than camping on the water, I eventually graduated to powerboats that provided most of the creature comforts we expect in the modern cruising boat. Air conditioning, washer/dryer, on-demand hot water, central vacuum, fresh water marine toilets…really, a long list of systems that today define pleasure boating.

I was recently reminded of another element of the liveaboard experience when I toured a 39-foot Nordic Tug at our Seattle Yachts office in Annapolis . This popular cruiser, which displaces around 22,000 lbs., is an ideal choice for the Great Loop or Alaska or the tropics. It is a good size for a couple and a dog.

Seen below: The Nordic Tug 40 is the newest model in that size range.

nordic tugs 40

A slight chop in Spa Creek made the trawler bounce around in the slip, and it brought home the downside of the semi-displacement hull form so popular today. Flat sections of the hull, in a shape that is also kept light enough to go fast with a larger horsepower engine, provide a performance envelope that extends cruising speeds from single digits into the teens. That offers flexibility to the cruiser. But the downside of this is the semi-displacement boat can also be squirrelly at slow speeds or at the dock when it is windy, or the water is anything but flat calm. This is accepted for a cruising boat, up to a point, but when one is living aboard, it can be uncomfortable.

I think back to living in a marina in Stuart, Florida, aboard my 41-foot power catamaran , for a winter down south. On days when the fetch across the St Lucie River made things lively in the marina, it was unsettling enough that we would get off the boat and go to a movie to get a break from the motion. Safely tied in our slip, we were in no danger, of course, but the comfort level was not much fun.

I can recall a similar experience on other boats, even up to a 60-footer. And the forward staterooms on some cruising motoryachts come to mind at several of the Miami in-water shows, where the motion in the bow was downright nasty. Even tied up on display for the boat show, no way anyone would choose to live in those staterooms in such conditions.

My point is that the comfort level on many boats depends to a large extent on the conditions, and it does not matter if the boat is safely tucked in a marina or at anchor. Motion is motion, and it is tiring.

Now, compare this kind of boat to a Northern Marine or other heavy, full displacement yacht. Let me tell you that being aboard a Northern Marine 64-footer that displaces 180,000 lbs. is an altogether different experience than on that tug. You must remind yourself that you are even afloat, as the rock-solid stability and lack of motion is remarkable…and very comfortable. When I reflect being aboard a Northern Marine 80 a few months back, with its displacement of over 280,000 lbs., I felt certain we were sitting on the bottom of the creek. Such displacement allows large tanks for water, fuel, gray and black water, and the hull is still fully ballasted to keep the boat stable. It is, by any definition, a small ship.

Seen below: The stunning Northern Marine 64.

northern marine 64

I know several Northern Marine owners who have no interest in crossing an ocean but enjoy an outstanding living experience in local waters. It is home for many of these couples.

Even a larger motoryacht, which may have a displacement of 65,000 lbs. or more, will be affected more by outside conditions than a full displacement trawler yacht. That is something to consider. Nothing beats displacement for comfort.

Getting It Just the Way You Want

Among other considerations, there are also benefits to building your boat in the U.S., even if they are not obvious. Normally, when one orders a new production boat through a marketing company, such as Nordhavn , Kadey-Krogen, or any number of other popular brands, the actual builder is in China, Taiwan, Turkey, or some other distant land. So, the construction of one’s boat is pretty much hands off until it arrives by ship to this country. That is the case for most all the cruising production boats out there. It is the way production boat building evolved in today’s recreational marine industry.

Compare the above scenario to Northern Marine, which has been doing it differently since it began operation in Anacortes, Washington . Bud LeMieux, one of the founders of the company, said it was always key for the builder to communicate directly with the customer, to really understand what their dream yacht was all about. No two custom boats are ever quite the same, and Bud believes the company got good at building custom boats from mostly stock parts sourced from the commercial marine industry. Bud spent several decades at Delta Marine, building commercial fishing boats as well as mega yachts. He was already familiar with building high quality yachts that also could be maintained, using robust commercial equipment unlike what is normally found on recreational boats. His experience told him what would last the test of time, and he chose gear that fit that mission statement.

“What set Northern Marine apart from the beginning was our DNA,” Bud told me. “Our background was building rugged and reliable fishing boats and super yachts. The other pleasure boat builders came from building sailboats and small boats. The two are worlds apart.”

And this remains the case today at Northern Marine. Stuart Archer is Northern Marine’s general manager, and Stuart is quite clear about the build process and the value of it happening in this country. The result provides an exceptional experience for the owners of their boats.

“It all starts with the client and why they want a boat,” Stuart explained. “What we try to do is understand what they want and where they plan to go boating. How many guests and overnight beds are needed where they plan to take the boat? The key early on is to separate the 80 percent of how the boat will be used from the one to five percent of what might be on the wish list.”

In each case, the process starts with the general arrangement, which drives the actual size of the boat. Given the commercial background at Northern Marine, it also means the general arrangement begins with a full size, stand up engine room. There is never any doubt where this builder’s priorities are. A pressurized engine room, with exceptional access, where there will be no kneeling down for an owner to change the oil in the genset(s). There are no compromises in the engine room.

And the boat grows from there.

Seen below: A peek inside a Northern Marine engine room.

northern marine yachts engine room

On almost all the boats Northern Marine has built to date, the size of the boat started out smaller than the finished boat because, as a custom builder of long-range yachts, they fit the boat to the needs of the client. Adding another three feet to the boat means they can accommodate that day head or carry additional fuel. And speaking of fuel, the boats are set up for extended cruising with a range of at least 3,000 miles. The longest distance between any two major ports, according to Archer, is 2,300 miles, so they ensure each yacht has the range to get there easily.

And unlike building a production boat, there is a great deal of flexibility. “We would build to any level one was willing to pay for,” Bud said. No small claim, considering its craftsmen could built up to the quality of a super yacht, gold fixtures and all.

This flexibility continues today. “We try to advise our owners to set up their boats to cover how they plan to use their boat most of the time,” Stuart told me. “We typically make suggestions to our owners about systems and equipment that can make their cruising more comfortable. In some cases, we will do things no other builder would consider. If the destinations include Panama or the Caribbean, for example, we suggest they consider installing two watermakers. Or if they want to remain in a quiet and pristine harbor, we might suggest a small nighttime generator or increasing the inverter and battery bank. And for those planning to cruise Europe, we might recommend adding a frequency converter to change the dock shorepower from 220v, 50Hz back to the boat’s 110v, 60Hz service. This is a large piece of equipment, and if it is not needed right away, it could be left out and added later if we pre-wire the space dedicated for it.

“The build process can be just as exciting as cruising on your new yacht. The more involved the owners are in each decision, the better. The floor plans, countertops, fixtures, moldings, inlays, even door handles. The process can be fun and enjoyable…or it can be overwhelming.

“At the end of the day,” Stuart continued, “what we build, and sell is the dream. For most, the dream is that place of peace and comfort one cannot get anywhere else except on a boat. There is something about being on the hook in a remote anchorage that provides the best sleep.”

And what a dream it can be! I still recall spending a couple of weeks aboard Spirit of Zopilote, the first yacht from Northern Marine, a 64-footer, launched in the mid-‘90s. With her exquisite lines drawn by talented yacht designer Steve Seaton, this lovely yacht was the perfect platform to cruise SE Alaska and Misty Fjords National Monument with owners Bruce and Joan Kessler. Each day was a delight, seeing beautiful wilderness and nature while living on a luxury yacht with every convenience. The perfect hosts, Bruce and Joan shared their love of boating and Alaska’s wilderness, and it remains one of my favorite memories. Seated at a proper dining table, eating a gourmet dinner while watching a bear walk the beach not far away, the world in total silence. It was fabulous.

See below: The Spirit of Zopilote.

spirit of zopilote

Bruce and Joan still own and cruise their Northern Marine 64, now based in Maine, and Captain Andrea Gaines runs the boat for the couple. Spirit of Zopilote is still as strikingly beautiful as she was in 1996, truly a classic yacht that stands out in any anchorage.

How Fast Do You Need to Go?

No question, the benefit of the semi-displacement cruiser is its ability to run at higher speeds. The popularity of today’s cruising motoryacht is proof that many want to cruise in the mid-teens, powered by two large diesel engines capable of pushing even a large motoryacht up to almost 20 knots.

However, such speed comes at a price, and not just increased motion under way and at the dock. Higher speeds mean significantly increased fuel burn. While these yachts carry large fuel tanks, the higher fuel consumption by two large diesel engines means refueling happens on a regular basis, perhaps daily.

Now compare that to cruising on a full displacement trawler. I recently caught up with Mike and Mia Harrington, who live aboard their Northern Marine 64, Gallivant. They told me they enjoy traveling at 9 knots, which is a safe and pleasant speed, even if the boat could go faster. The motion is easy, and there is no need to hold on. In fact, they don’t have to put things into the galley sink before they leave, which they had to do on a previous semi-displacement trawler.

Under way, they go about their normal routines, even working on their business, instead of being planted in helm chairs as the boat rushes along into whatever sea conditions of the day. The ride is comfortable and the stabilized Gallivant runs along without distress or unnecessary motion. They arrive rested and relaxed.

It’s All About Comfort

To the Harringtons, and most other owners I’ve met over the years, all considerations lead back to the comfort level. A comfortable ride when they are under way, the enormous stability of the boat when at a dock or at anchor, and the luxury of having all the fresh water, for example, to take long showers, rivals anything ashore. When they have guests aboard, they treasure the fact that there is no rationing of resources, and their guests can enjoy the comforts of the boat without compromise.

Seen below: A video produced by the Harringtons on board their Northern Marine.

Adding to the comfort level is how easy it is to drive and dock the boat. Because of its size and displacement, a Northern Marine yacht is quite controllable, and easy to dock with its hydraulic bow and stern thrusters. There is never any need for drama, as the heavy boat just sits there until one uses the controls to put it into a slip or alongside a pier. Everything happens slowly, and modern yacht controllers make easy work of maneuvering the boat. The weight of the boat and the thrusters make all the difference.

Continuing with the comfort theme, the Harringtons find the boat to be a perfect home for two people, every bit as comfortable as a home on land, but with the ability to move to new locations on a whim. Spend a couple of weeks living aboard in Port Townsend? No problem. Want to stay longer or move somewhere else? Again, Gallivant is their home, and as comfortable as any home anywhere.

Mike and Mia like to have guests aboard and find the large boat deck allows them to carry electric bikes, kayaks, paddle boards and other water toys. Guests enjoy the comfortable lifestyle and adventure of visiting new places aboard their lovely home.

“One doesn’t need to have global dreams to enjoy a Northern Marine,” Mike told me. Its offshore and bluewater capability provides supreme self-sufficiency on the water. The single Volvo D-9 diesel only uses 8 GPH while cruising, so having 2,800 gallons on board means they only top up once a year, and the water and holding tanks also do not require frequent attention. There simply is no need to be concerned about refueling, refilling water tanks, or pumping out. Those activities can happen when they are in the mood, or it is convenient.

The Cost of Admission

One thing I wondered about is how difficult it is to become competent in owning and operating such a vessel, which, as I stated before, is really a small ship. Mike and Mia made their initial move to Northern Marine from a 45-foot Ocean Alexander motoryacht. They built their first Northern Marine, the 80-foot Meander, in 2003. Mike explained how he found a mentor willing to share his knowledge to develop the necessary skills in running a big boat. Cliff Rome, another one of the founders of Northern Marine, was an enormous help in getting Mike up to speed. He quickly learned maintenance and basic knowledge of the main engine and generator. And, as Mia pointed out, their mood slowly moved from apprehension to confidence.

“I initially thought, ‘Oh, no, something is wrong,’” Mia told me. “Then it became interesting to figure out the issues and solve them.” Attitude, above all else, is key.

Bud LeMieux told me there are now schools that teach many of these skills, available to owners who want to learn about caring for the machinery on their boats. Skagit Valley College has the NW Center of Excellence in Anacortes, and there is the Landing School in Arundel, Maine. Some of these schools even offer group trips where owners learn by cruising on their own boats under the watchful eye of a cruise leader, well versed in the maintenance of the modern yacht.

The Harringtons, much like the rest of us, have had to adjust their cruising plans because of Covid, and have stayed more local than they originally planned. Living in the Pacific Northwest, however, is no hardship, as anyone familiar with the area well knows.

But they do have Scandinavia on their horizon. Once they take off on that trip, they expect a fabulous and comfortable adventure that will bring them back East, a chance to visit the Bahamas and Caribbean, as they make their way to their eventual cruising destinations in Norway, Iceland, and Greenland. Gallivant is the ideal boat for this couple.

Talking to Mike and Mia reminds me why I remain such a fan of the Northern Marine brand, and why I enjoy time aboard these incredible yachts. They are the real deal, with modern systems, built by people with experience gained from commercial fishing and the workboat community. And everything is meant to be seen, inspected, and maintained.

One owner told me how he and his wife refrained from shoving off to the South Pacific directly but instead spent a summer in SE Alaska, taking the time to learn the boat and its systems. He intended to become a proper ship’s engineer, a role that he knew would pay off handsomely when he and his wife did decide it was time to explore the world.

Sure, it is fun to blast across the Gulf Stream at close to 20 knots to put that cantankerous beast in one’s wake, but when I consider the overall performance and what it costs, I always come back to a comfortable ride aboard a heavy displacement boat that doesn’t need a tether to shoreside facilities. It just makes me feel good. No drama, no ongoing large fuel bills, just quiet and comfortable capability, every day of the year.

And no matter where in the world I happen to be, I am home.

Enjoy these other boating and cruising articles by Bill Parlatore :

  • Northern Marine Exhaust Systems Are Better
  • Moving From A Sailboat To A Trawler
  • Taking On The Great Loop
  • Cruising Boats Come Of Age
  • Boat Buying Done Right
  • Tips For Preparing For The Great Loop
  • Changing Rituals
  • Did Wisdom Come To The Ancient Mariner?
  • Going World Cruising? Not So Fast
  • What Engines Are In Your Boat?
  • Letting Go But Still In Control
  • Learning To Handle A New Boat
  • Improving The User Experience
  • A Paradigm Shift In Cruising
  • Consider Buddy Boating
  • A Matter Of Staying Safe While Boating
  • Should I Carry A Gun While Cruising?
  • A Boater's 3-to-5 Year Plan
  • Boat Tools: A 4-Part Series
  • Provisioning Your Yacht For Extended Cruising - Bahamas
  • Provisioning Your Yacht For Extended Cruising - Alaska
  • The Evolution Of The Trawler Yacht

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Northern Marine Yachts for Sale

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