You Need to See the Nord Star Pilothouse Boats

Nord Star 31 Patrol Port Side Running Shot -- Photo:  Allen M. Clark/Photoboat.com
Nord Star 31 Patrol Port Side Running Shot
– Photo: Allen M. Clark/Photoboat.com

I figured I might as well just get it out there up front. These are boats unlike any others you’ve likely seen. And although that alone would be reason enough to take a look at them, it turns out when you do see them I think you’re going to like what you see. They are strong, seaworthy, practical cruisers for couples and families who understand where the real value in a boat is. Yes, I know that sounds like a ringing endorsement. It is. And yes, there are a couple of nits I’ll pick but they’re nothing that can’t be easily fixed and some might just be my own opinions. Right now you’re going to have to do a little work to see one of these boats, which is one reason we’re covering them here on OceanLines. But if things continue to go well for Nord Star USA, the boat’s importer for the U.S. market, you’ll soon have a dealer near you no matter where you live.

Builder and Brand

First, a little background on the Nord Star brand. These boats, which comprise a model line known fully as the Nord Star Patrol series, ranging from 24 feet to 40 feet, are built in Finland by parent company Linex-Boat Oy, the Lindkvist family-owned firm that has delivered more than 3,000 recreational, commercial and government-class vessels. The patriarch of the Lindkvist family started building wooden fishing and workboats in the 1920’s. Today’s modern fiberglass production facility is certified to the highest ISO 9001-2000 standards and the boats themselves meet the stringent CE Ocean Class B rating for offshore seaworthiness. That last standard means, among other things, that the boats will safely handle seas up to 13′ and winds in excess of 40 knots. Suffice it to say the boat can handle more than you can.

The Nord Star Patrol line has a nearly straight sheer from its sharp bow to wide transom, with its lines dominated by the central deckhouse/pilothouse. The reverse angle on the windshield serves a very practical purpose in reducing glare and shedding spray, but also lends a working trawler look to the boat. Sturdy sliding doors on either side of the pilothouse add to that look and also make line-handling a snap, with a mid-ships spring cleat within easy reach. The boats are diesel-powered with modern, electronically controlled Volvo powerplants, all the way up to the IPS pod drives of the Nord Star 40 PatrolThe diesels drive beefy Duoprop sterndriveswhich help maximize efficiency and maneuverability. More about that later.

The interiors of the Nord Star line feature teak and pin soles and oiled teak cabinetry. The accommodations are somewhat cozy in the deckhouse but when you have to go outside in a rolling seaway along the extra-wide and deep side decks, you understand the value of that small compromise. Yes, the house could be a couple of inches wider, but those couple of inches serve the boat and owner better on the side decks.

The Boat

There are currently two models of the Nord Star line available for inspection and sea trial at the east coast dealer, Wilde Yacht Sales in Essex, CT. In addition to the 31 that we tested, there is also a 26. Although I didn’t sea-trial that boat, I took a good look through it and it has the same compelling features of the 31, albeit in a slightly smaller package. You can see the current (at press time) company brochure on the Nord Star 31 here.

The official name of this boat is the Nord Star 31 Patrol and upon first viewing, you would be forgiven for thinking you were looking at one of those U.S. Coast Guard harbor patrol boats. The Nord Star 31 features a sharp stem, forward-raked pilothouse windshield and overall salty look that would be entirely comfortable with a big blue-light bar on the roof of the deckhouse. In fact, John Uljens, president ofNord Star USA tells a funny story about how he was stopped by the Coast Guard while running back to Essex from the Newport, RI, boat show. The Coasties had never seen the boat before and were fascinated by it.

While I can imagine there might be some law enforcement customers for the Nord Star 31, don’t let the “Patrol” moniker confuse you. This is a family boat through and through and will host a family of four for a nice long vacation on the water, or just a day trip to a favorite anchorage. The deckhouse has plenty of seating for the whole group and squeezes in a cozy galley and an extremely clever dining table that slides up and down on a floor-to-ceiling pole. Raised to the roof it is out of the way; lowered to normal table height it’s ready to serve dinner on.

The galley is actually to your right as you step into the deckhouse from the aft cockpit. Immediately to your left are some steps down to a lower aft berth; probably a little too cozy for adults, but the perfect retreat for a couple of kids. Forward, the helm is on the right side, with a captain’s seat that features a flip-up bolster for those who like to drive while standing, and a comfortable seat with foot rest within reach while seated.


Helm View of the Nord Star 31 Patrol
Helm View of the Nord Star 31 Patrol 

The view from the helm is outstanding. The forward slant of the three big windshield panels eliminates glare and stays drier longer in a light rain. Sliding doors to port and starboard make line-handling at the dock simple. A mid-ships spring-line cleat is right outside the door. I did think the instrument panel should be laid out differently. As it is now, the chartplotter is in an angled panel below and to the left of the steering wheel, and there is an open flat forward of the wheel with a line of analogue gauges standing up at the forward end of that flat. If it were my boat, I would rearrange the panel to accommodate the chartplotter in the center or just to the right or left of a more angled flat forward of the wheel, with the gauges to the left or right of it. I asked John Uljens of Nord Star about that and he said the factory suggested mounting the chartplotter in a bracket. Another possibility would be to make the entire flat more angled to create room underneath for a flush mount of the chartplotter. Either way, it’s an easy fix and given that today’s NMEA 2000-compatible chartplotters can take inputs from the engines and other systems aboard, it makes sense to make the chartplotter the center of attention.

Specifications:

Nord Star 31 Patrol
LOA 32′-8″
Beam 10′-4″
Draft 36″ w/drive down
Displacement 11,030 lbs [≈ Adult elephant]
Engine Volvo D-6/370 hp
Berths 4
MSRP $356,000

Performance:

It would be hard to overstate the performance capability of this boat. Conditions on Long Island Sound on our test day were fairly wild. The seas were short and sharp, running 3′-5′, with several 6′ waves thrown in for good measure. The wind was out of the SW at 20 knots. It took the head seas straight-on handily, the sharp entry of its deep-vee hull easily slicing through the wave crests with a minimum of pounding. When our timing was off and we dipped into a trough, there was enough flare in the bow to lift the boat up the face of the wave, minimizing any green water over the deck. The wind-driven spray occasionally found the windshield but was whisked away by the heavy-duty wipers.

I ran the 31 at every conceivable angle. Beam to the sea in the troughs, she rolled a little bit but not too sharply and stopped after one cycle. When I cut the engines and put the tranny in neutral she lay beam-to the wind and stayed that way. Very predictable, which is what you want. With all the head-sea running, the course back to the mouth of the Connecticut River — our host, Wilde Yacht Sales is a couple of quick miles upriver from the mouth in gorgeous Essex — required running exactly down-sea. The propulsion for the 31 Patrol comes from a Volvo Penta D6-370, mated to a DuoProp sterndrive unit and it is responsive with a capital “R.” In this case, that made timing our ride home on the back of the waves very easy to do. The smooth and precise Volvo single-lever control let’s you match wave speed perfectly and adjust easily to maintain a safe position all the way in.

Oh, and when you slam that throttle forward, the 31 gets up and goes in a hurry. Bowrise was just a minimal couple of degrees and the helmsman never loses sight of the horizon — not even close. Add in some trim tab; or if you’re proficient with trimming a sterndrive you can practically elminate bowrise completely, and also speed the transition to on-plane cruise. Either way, the boat is fast getting up on plane and before you know it you’ll be passing 35 knots (40 mph) and thinking about maybe slowing down — or just enjoying the “need for speed.”

View of the Thick Noise Insulation on the Engine Hatch of the Nord Star 31
View of the Thick Noise Insulation on the Engine Hatch of the Nord Star 31 

A couple of other notes about this propulsion package. First, it’s incredibly quiet. Some of that comes from the fact that the exhaust is down in the sterndrive; some from the extreme attention to sound-attenuation in the design and construction of the boat. At idle, with the pilothouse doors open, my noise meter never even hit 70 dBA. That’s “conversation quiet.” Even at wide open throttle (with doors closed), it didn’t rise above 79 dBA. That’s the kind of quiet you notice. Speaking of speeds, I found that 2400-2500 RPM was a comfortable cruising RPM, and it translated into about21.5 knots to about 22.5 knots as measured by GPS.

If you’ve been driving inboard boats with straight shafts recently, you need to adjust to the vectored-thrust mode of a sterndrive (or outboard/jet drive for that matter). That means that in many circumstances you need to keep the power on through a turn. The sterndrive isn’t that much of a rudder all by itself. So, resist the urge to pull off the power completely in a sharp turn, and realize you may need to goose it a bit if you need to swing the bow quickly. Having said that, the sterndrive is extremely efficient. The Volvo DuoProp is good in both forward and reverse and the thrust angle can be trimmed up and down to suit the conditions.

The Volvo diesel is electronically controlled, with a common rail and it will take you a long way on a tank of fuel. I’ve provided a link to an official Volvo fuel-burn assessment of the actual boat I tested. Interestingly, the Volvo engineers recommended coming down one size of prop, although at the light load I tested the boat at I had no trouble at all reaching recommended WOT RPMs. You can see in the chart that at 2700 RPM, the Nord Star 31 Patrol will achieve a mileage of 2.32 NMPG, a fantastic number for a boat that will be cruising at 26.5 knots while gettingthat kind of fuel economy. All this means you’ll have no trouble running more than200 NM between fuel docks, a very manageable distance given its coastal cruising application.

Back at the Dock

After we returned from our open-water tests on the Sound and a subsequent photo session on the Connecticut River, we docked the boat back at Wilde Yacht Sales and I got a more extensive walk-thru tour with John Uljens. I didn’t run the boat from the fly bridge, but ther is a simple stainless ladder from the aft cockpit up to the fly bridge, where three people can enjoy an al fresco driving environment. The roof of the deckhouse will also handle kayaks and light inflatables, too so you can keep the cockpit and foredeck uncluttered. There is also a fairly massive swim platform, with a large storage box nestled up against the transom that can hold fenders, lines and hoses.

The engine room is accessed through two large hatches in the cockpit sole. The hatches come up easily and are supported by beefy gas-assisted struts and on their undersides you can see the thick noise insulation foam that contributes to the boat’s “run-silent” personality. There is plenty of room around the Volvo D6 to work and all the other major systems are there, too, including the water heater and the generator. The boat is not yet technically NMMA certified, although it meets all the requirements. Uljens is working through the NMMA process and as of press time was only awaiting results of actual “test-to-destruction” evaluations of the Nord Star’s fuel tanks (a duplicate set was sent to the test facility in Florida). It strikes this writer that American boat buyers would be well-served by having the international marine industry agree on some reciprocal certification. The Nord Star line must conform to rigorous safety and build quality standard of the European Community and in fact, its Category B rating requires demonstrated stability, freeboard, buoyancy, flotation and deck-flooding evacuation performance — standards that are not universal in the United States.

As a result of the strict European safety standards, you will see massive scuppers in the cockpit of the Nord Star 31, as well as beefy stanchions and rails all the way around the boat from aft cockpit along the extremely wide and deep side decks to the bow pulpit. Oh, a word about that pulpit. It’s WIDE and sturdy. In fact, the anchor roller is mounted on the right side of the pulpit with the rode locker behind it. But there is plenty of room for a crewman to sit or kneel safely and securely up there on the pulpit next to the anchor so as to be able to wash it off as it comes up. Very nice touch.

With its generator and Raymarine E120 electronics suite, camper-back canvas, air conditioning and diesel stove (yep, that’s right; a diesel stove!), and diesel heating, this Nord Star 31 Patrol has a suggested price of $356,000. We’ve put together a rather extensive gallery of photography of the Nord Star 31. Much of it was taken byPhotoboat.com owner Allen M. Clark, with whom we’ve worked several times. If not credited to Allen, the photos are the writer’s. Check out the gallery here.

Copyright 2009 OceanLines LLC