Yet another Northern Marine build, this time a special 64-foot custom project, sets its course for the kind of travel and adventure limited only by imagination.
Text and photography by Capt. Ken Kreisler
The words came into my head as if I had just read them.
“Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide after he has sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit, and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was acquainted; moreover he suffered much by sea while trying to save his own life and bring his men safely home…”
“Whoa there Ken,” I said to myself, shaking off the momentary space-out I was experiencing as I, at least for now, ushered the translated words I had long since memorized of the opening lines of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, out of my consciousness. Even after all this time, since first reading the classic work in high school and later on in scholarly study at college, it still had the same, mesmerizing effect on me.
For those of us who are fortunate enough to seek destinations beyond the realm of terrestrial life, it was one of those all too familiar instances, sparked into an almost-reality by the mere fact of being aboard a boat and away from the dock. Only this time I was at the wheel of Aquila,a special custom Northern Marine 64 build with my present location the deep, dark waters of the Guemeus Channel off of Anacortes, Washington. Troy was a long way off from the rugged terrain of the Pacific Northwest but the effect was the same.
I had been enjoying my momentary revelry for several minutes after having my hands on the wheel up on the bridge deck where I stood with Northern Marine’s president Andy McDonald and Tod Taricco, the boat’s captain, owner, and major design contributor for this particular build.
“We’ve revamped our approach over the last few years of what I call a young company,” said McDonald as we zipped up our fleece parkas against the bit of chill wind coming in off the water. “It makes it easier to get lots of fresh ideas from our designers and workers. In the end that means we are constantly working to improve the process and thereby, the product.” Adding to the build philosophy is the fact that Northern Marine’s fully custom profile relies heavily on owner involvement.
To McDonald’s point, Aquila—which, by the way, is the legendary eagle of Greek mythology; a powerful and magical entity that held Zeus’s thunderbolts in its talons, making it quite the formidable presence—and what has become known as Northern Marine’s Aquila Class of builds, is the tenth 64-foot hull the builder has sent down the ways but the first designed to meet U.S. Coast Guard Subchapter T-class standards and be so certified by adhering to the stringent regulations as to the vessel’s design, functionality, operational efficiency, and safety.
“On this project, the engineering cycle was a bit different. Everything had to be sent to Washington D.C. for approval, even prior to starting the actual build,”said Taricco. With past 64s, a more traditional approach resulted in a four stateroom, four head layout below with entertaining and dining areas and pilothouse on the main deck with a topside bridge and tender and crane space among other cruising amenities.
“With this particular project, and given Aquila’s commercial dive/charter/expedition yacht profile, with the ability to operate both in U.S. waters as well as foreign, and to carry paying passengers in international waters, the design was a bit more specific,” continued Taricco. “Andy and I made efficiency and energy-saving a priority.”
Aquila has a bit of understated elegance to her interior that definitely suits her purpose. And given Northern Marine’s fully custom abilities, Taricco got exactly what he envisioned. For example, a large communal salon was designed to allow everyone to be comfortable after a day of diving or exploring; a galley capable of providing not only the ability to serve food but also with plenty of storage space for ships stores while away from port for extended times; an engine room designed for ease of operation; and a pilothouse nothing short of a skipper’s dream. The original layout had the all-important pantry and laundry center down below. But during the mock-up phase; that’s where everything is laid out in actual size and arrangement, it was discovered there was wasted space underneath the stairs and therefore, a much more practical positioning was accomplished. The same thing occurred up forward with some of the door sizes and passageways, the layout of the crew mess, and the addition of the wet head outside enabling divers or others to utilize it before coming inside.
A big deal aboard is the boat’s rugged commercial systems including the rotary actuated, rack-and-pinion steering, robust pumps, waste treatment, life saving, and electrical. “Our mission critical criteria will sometimes mean that some of our crew, on any given expedition, are not us. They are employees and in our design here we’ve endeavored to make every ship-board system to be as easily operated as possible.”
On the all-important electrical side, Taricco gave me a crash course in Aquila’s unique cascading bus system. The way it works is that the selected power required from the various sources; inverters, shore power, large generator, for example, allow the loads that are capable of being handled by the selected source to be turned on. So it you have the 27-kW genset in operation, you can run everything. As you drop in kW to the smaller genset, certain things that are not necessary or important at the time, such as the Jacuzzi, won’t turn on. And with shore power, no matter where you plug-in, whether it is in South America, North America, wherever, you are good to go. “We’ve got 6-kW of inverters aboard driven by two large alternators that eliminate the need to run a genset during most crossings,” added Taricco. Another facet to the electrical system is the sophisticated Allen Bradley programmable logic controller which does things such as turning on the nav lights and any pump on the boat; it can monitor current draws, and trends in exhaust temps among many other functions. “From the electronics to the electricals, we have emergency and back-up systems backing up the emergency systems.”
The Aquila build was a challenge for MacDonald and the entire Northern Marine team and one that they met head on. Because of the build’s uniqueness, the company has already begun to integrate some of what it learned into the current production boats already on the line. “As I said before, we are constantly looking to improve our processes to make as superior a product as possible,” said MacDonald.
So the next time you hear the Sirens of Circe singing, it’s time to listen to your own personal muse. And if that happens to be when you chance to be looking for an ultra-cruising boat, make sure to see what Northern Marine has to offer. You just might find your own odyssey unfolding before you in a most special way.
Northern Marine 64: SEA TRIAL
RPM SPD(KN) GPH dB(A)
600 4.5 1 51
900 6.0 3 55
1200 8.0 5 58
1500 9.0 9 59
1800 10.5 17 62
Test Conditions: Speeds were measured by GPS in 100 feet of water on the Guermas Channel, Anacortes, Washington with calm seas and no wind, with 3,100 gallons of fuel, 500 gallons of water, and four people on board. Fuel consumption was calculated by the electronic engine monitoring system. Sound levels were measured at the helm.
WATER: 500 gal.
FUEL: 3,100 gal.
ENGINES: 1 x 400-hp MTU Series 60
OWNER PROFILE: Fred Kirsch Balances The Ledger and Gets A New 80-foot Northern Marine
Fred Kirsch has an outgoing and welcoming personality and one that pulls you right into the conversation. “My father inflicted his sons and daughters with a disease called boating when he bought a 21-foot CruiseAlong back in 1951,” he recollects, an infectious smile spreading across his face as we stand on the reality-in-progress work being done on the foredeck of his new Northern Marine 80 footer.
Hailing from the Chesapeake Bay area, boating has been a major part of his and wife Sharon’s lives. When they married, they promptly acquired an 18-foot runabout until working their way up to a 36 Chris Craft Constellation. “I remember wandering into a yard and seeing a 46 Hatteras Convertible. Three years later, we had a 48 LRC. We put 100,000 nautical miles over the years on Playpen by buddy boating and traveling all over the Caribbean, the Great Lakes, Bermuda, through the Panama Canal, and working our way up to Alaska. My wife liked that boat and so did I.”
The ever-traveling Kirsch’s saw their first Northern Marine years back and had the kind of impression most boaters do when they realize they are looking at their future. “We spent some time researching all sorts of production boats and kept coming back to the custom builds. Having been in the home construction business all my life, I did my due diligence and decided on Northern Marine. Building a custom boat is not for everybody but, here I am and finally getting what I want. These guys know what they’re doing, from the grinders on up to the fabricators and engineers and especially Andy. It always starts at the top.”
What the Kirsch’s are getting is New World Adventure, an 80-foot custom-built yacht with the kind of amenities, accommodations, systems, equipment, and rough-and-tumble, robust build to fit their cruising lifestyle and needs. It’s something that can be summed up in a discussion Kirsch told me he had with his wife when they felt they were ready. “Fred, the ledger books say we can do this.”
The Kirsch’s are planning to spend almost a year in the Pacific Northwest before heading out to, well, wherever they want to. Fair winds folks. Fair winds.