South end of Swinomish Channel

Updated 2-Jan-2022

We’ve owned our North Pacific since the summer of 2020. As of this writing, we have 257 hours on the main and have covered roughly 1,600 miles up and down the south and central Salish Sea. We’ve learned enough about the boat to write what I feel is an informed review. I’ll be expanding and updating this as we continue to cruise, the boat settles in, and we learn more about how she ages.

I enthusiastically recommend the NP45 as a comfortable, capable, long-range coastal cruiser. However, I’d recommend an early survey to uncover potential build issues early in the process, so North Pacific can resolve them while the boat is still under warranty.

Overview

Over-all, the North Pacific 45 is a well-thought-out coastal cruiser. The interior design is spacious and clean and the exterior is low-maintenance and reasonably tough. The entire vessel is designed for easy service, with far less “boat yoga” required for routine maintenance and troubleshooting than on other boats. The hull design enables efficient cruising up to about eight knots and she shrugs off waves up to about 3’, unless they’re directly on the beam. The base/recommended systems are all high-quality (Cummins diesel, Rocna anchor, Garmin electronics, ITR Hurricane Chinook heater, FCI Water Maker) and the default configuration favors simplicity (e.g. the charging system “just works” without much fiddling).

Two of the biggest benefits of owning a North Pacific are the owner of the company, Trevor Brice, and the Northwest Service Wizard Dave Rasmussen. Trevor is everything he appears to be – he’s honest, professional, and values integrity as his most important professional asset. He listens to customers and works continually to earn their trust. “The Cult of Trevor” is a real thing – and he earned it one customer at a time. Dave is one of the most versatile and creative marine technicians I have ever worked with. It’s hard to describe exactly what he is because his skills cover everything from carpentry to electronics to diesel engines and beyond. If he can’t fix it, he can fabricate a new one that will probably work better. He understands how people use these boats and can customize them to fit the needs of any owner.

We’ve had our share of issues – some common to boat ownership in general, but others specific to Turtle. Notably, we’ve had some issues with build quality. We found a few voids in the gelcoat that lead to easy chipping and we’ve started hearing the slight “crunch” of delamination on the decks just outside the pilot house (suggesting insufficient resin when the fiberglass was layed in the mold). The book-matched cabinets, while beautiful, shifted slightly out of alignment as the boat broke in, so many of the latches don’t align any more. There was also the bubbling dash, reflecting either rushed work or cost-cutting. In most cases, North Pacific has resolved these issues to our satisfaction, but the feedback loops to capture build issues seen by owners and get them fixed at the contract manufacturer in China seem insufficient.

There are also some noteworthy tradeoffs made in the design that prospective owners should be aware of. Notably, the design focuses on comfort and simplicity over “saltiness”. For example, the sliding doors are large, heavy, and well-made; and they allow for easy access to the side decks and cockpit. But, they can’t be sealed like the bulkhead-style doors on bluewater boats. Also, the spacious “split level” design has lots of headroom, which adds up to greater over-all air draft across four levels. This height, along with the hardtop and the upper-deck dinghy storage (coupled with light-weight aluminum mesh-framed floors) make the boat a little top-heavy, which can cause more rolling in beam seas than a lower-profile boat in similar conditions.

North Pacific is a very small company. Working without middle-men allows Trevor to provide a high quality product at a low cost. However, it also means Trevor can become the bottleneck for almost any issue. While he’s brought on people like Bill Nieman to help with build planning, there’s no real service and support team. Dave is a skilled craftsman, but he works out of Blaine, which is literally the farthest northern point in the continental Pacific Northwest (though he will travel for critical repairs). He also works alone, so there’s really no one in the succession plan who can replace him should he ever choose to retire. As the company continues to produce boats, it will become more and more challenging to provide the same level of personalized service that North Pacific Yachts is known for.

There’s also not much of a North Pacific owners community. Nordhavn and Ranger both foster an active and involved community. While we didn’t buy this boat for a social network, being able to connect with other owners on technical issues and travel plans would be nice. Trevor has connected me with several other owners, but it’s not the same as the active groups you see with some manufacturers.

Pros

  • Interior design is spacious and well-thought-out. Very clever use of all available space with minimal “spandrels” found in other boat designs. Good blend of traditional “boaty” woodwork and modern lines and appliances.
  • Exterior design is all stainless steel and fiberglass. All designed for low maintenance.
  • Hull design is very efficient, holding 7 kts at 3 gph. Shrugs off most small-to-medium waves.
  • Designed for service. Almost all systems are reasonably accessible.
  • High quality default equipment.
  • Simple electrical design. Everything is labeled and traceable.
  • Personalized service with high integrity.

Cons

  • Some build quality issues that wouldn’t surface immediately without a detailed survey.
  • Top-heavy. In general, the boat is very tall which makes for great headroom, but can be more rolly in beam seas than a more squat design (e.g. a trawler without a flybridge)
  • Large sliding doors make moving around the boat easy, but they are heavy and drafty. I’ve slammed a finger in one and it was painful (a soft-close mechanism might be a nice addition). They also cannot be sealed against heavy seas.
  • The teak/holly floors scratch extremely easily. I would happily replace these with a tougher synthetic floor.
  • The stairway to the lower level folds up for access to the front of the engine, but the hollow wood cavity creates a resonance chamber that amplifies engine noise. The main engine room is very well sound-insulated, but these stairs are a weak point. I understand they’ve eliminated the front access in newer NP45s, though I’m not sure I would have made that tradeoff.
  • The light switches and panel switch choices were made by engineers who have never spent time aboard. Many of them make no sense. For example, the shower fan switch is located on a bank on the farther side of the bathroom, not on the bank next to the shower. The pilothouse light switch is in a place that everyone who comes up the stairs bumps into. There’re a lot of these small layout issues that suggest ease of cable runs over usability.

Design Tradeoffs

  • Comfort over Toughness. The North Pacific has large windows, tall ceilings, and lots of space. With everything battened down, she can handle reasonably rough seas. We’ve been out in 4-5’ waves in 50 kt gusts and, despite some slamming while pitching over sets with short periods, we never felt that the boat couldn’t handle it. We quit long before she did. That said, the lack of sealable doors, the slightly top-heavy design, and the very large windows would make me leery about tackling truly rough seas. This boat was build for long range comfortable cruising along the coast. It’s not a blue water tank.
  • There are a few design choices that complicate long-term cruising in cold weather. One of these is placement of the water maker (I’ll cover this below). The other is the use of plumbed drains to get water off the deck (instead of scuppers). During our recent extended cold spell, these became frozen and the sea water that broke over the deck wasn’t able to drain. We cleared them by pouring hot water down them.

Configuration Recommendations

Our customizations are on the About page, but I’d emphasize a few items.

  • Exchanging the water tanks for fuel was the right choice. We carry just shy of 700 gallons. Our burn rate varies from 2.5 to 6 gph, averaging 3 gph on most days. The difference between 3 and 4 gph can mean arriving two hours sooner on a long day (and not having to dock in the dark or being able to dodge bad weather). While we prefer to run at 2.5 gph / 6.8 kts. (It’s quieter and more comfortable), having the spare fuel to go faster when we need to is super important for year-round cruising. Tides, currents, weather, and the sunset aren’t always in your favor. Also, our generator and hydronic both require diesel, and 700 gallons means we don’t really need to worry about it. The extra fuel means peace of mind. Also, more fuel helps lower the center of gravity in the boat and helps contribute to a more stable ride in rough seas. Mostly-full tanks add 4,500 pounds at the water line.
  • The tradeoff was instead of 400 gallons of fresh water, we can only carry 235. This is plenty, if we’re conserving, but when we’re being lazy (long hot showers, thanks Hydronic) it goes quickly. The benefit of this configuration is the smaller tank fits in the bilge, adding more weight lower in the boat and making use of oft neglected space. We also sprung for the 70 gph water maker, so we can to top up reasonably quickly.
  • If you’re in a cool climate – spring for the Hurricane Chinook Hydronic system. In addition to five-zone heat, three words: unlimited hot water. SeaBits has a review of the system here.

Things I’d Have Done Differently

Placement of the hydronic. It was my choice to put it on the port side, right behind the midship stateroom. I wanted it there because we typically tie to starboard (since there are site lines from the pilothouse to the aft starboard quarter via the stairs) and I didn’t want the 180º exhaust right at kid-height on the dock. Unfortunately, this unit can actually be a bit loud, and the noise resonates in the midship cabin. We’re lucky the kids are heavy sleepers. There’s actually a bit of a Tetris problem here. There are two “equipment slots” in the lazerette and three in the engine room. We have the house battery bank and the water maker in the laz and the hydronic heater and domestic hot water heater in the engine room. If I’d thought it through, I’d have the hydronic and the water maker in the laz. They’re both loud and colocating them would allow the hydronic to keep the water maker warm during below-freezing spells. But, the house bank and the main DC junction panel is in the laz, so I would have needed to specify this early in the build.

Using a ceramic heater to keep the water maker warm when the temps dropped into the 20s for several days

More configurable electrical system. For the most part, the electrical system just works. The Magnum charger/inverter and Blue Sea charging relays work fine, the solar panels work fine, and the ProNautica 24v charger… is kind of a piece of crap. If I had it to do over, I would have selected components that talked to each other and could monitor each other. Victron has a pretty good ecosystem here, though that configurability comes with risks (and even systems made by the same company aren’t always well integrated).

Power Davit. Our dinghy crane goes up and down, but not side-to-side. Again, this is a simple, reliable system – which is how I like it. However, the dinghy weighs ~400 pounds and when the crane is rotated to starboard, the whole boat heels. If we’re in any kind of sea, it’s pretty challenging to pull the dinghy back on to the deck. If I had it to do over, I’d have upgraded with a power-assist on the rotation.

DC Water Maker. We’re big fans of our FCI and use it all the time under way. In two hours we can make 140 gallons. But, the unit is AC, so we need to run the generator to make water. Ultimately, it’s not a big deal, but getting a slightly lower power system that could run off the boat power may have saved some generator run time.