Sammy Cacciatore is a Melbourne, Fla., attorney who loves to fish. That's not unusual in Florida, where sailfish, king mackerel, dolphin and marlin prowl the coastal regions. More bluewater action is just a few hours away in the Bahamas, and Florida's backwaters are home to snook, redfish, tarpon and countless other species.
Like many of us with the incurable fishing disease, Sammy has trouble finding time to actually wet a line. The lifelong boater has sailed and raced aboard his Cal 20, Irwin 25 and Morgan 35, and he has owned a Striker 34, a Hatteras 46 and a Hatteras 52. His goal is to fish more from smaller boats, ferrying them from one hot spot to another aboard a dream-boat mothership.
That's Moon River, his Nordhavn 62.
The yacht is well-known in passagemaking circles. Her shippy looks are romantic, creating an electrical arc of wanderlust as strong as the sparks around a finger stuck in a 240v outlet. Her allure is not empty: She carries enough fuel to steam nine knots nonstop for more than 3,000 miles, say from Portugal to New York.
We were barely under way, less than a mile from La Paz in Baja, Mexico, when I got into Moon River's groove and started to absorb the surroundings like a thirsty camel at a midnight oasis. Idling down La Paz channel after departing Marina Palmira en route to Isla San Francisco in the Sea of Cortez, I recognized the "rust, right, returning" buoy system in the harbor. It struck me that a long-range vessel requires a different attitude than a dayhop boat: Slow down, ease back and drink in everything you see.
Passagemakers are designed to run around the clock. At 9 knots, you need to be under way every hour to cover any ground, and Moon River's single 325 hp continuous-duty Lugger 6125 diesel chugged tirelessly. Noise fatigue is a worry on long trips because it wears you down, keeps you up at night and dulls your senses, but Moon River was almost silent. Her dry exhaust exits at the top of her mast, and the saloon sole is a submarine sandwich of 2" Nida-Core, Soundown insulation and half-inch plywood. The engineroom overhead and bulkheads are covered with 3" and 2" layers of lead foam insulation, which muffles machinery noise like sand absorbs water.
Just as important for a long-range vessel is self-sufficiency. You are on your own, with no detail too small to overlook. The infrastructure is yours to build, maintain and live by, which Sammy's longtime skipper, Capt. Joe Magrane, knew all too well as Moon River came together.
Sammy wants to fish light tackle and is experienced with fly-casting. Thus, two boats ride on the bow: an 18' Edgewater for trolling and bottom fishing, and a 16' Egret flats skiff. While the after deckhouse leaves plenty of room on the forward deck, the boats are mounted with a bias to starboard to allow passage to the bow. In addition, a stowage box in the Egret makes it easy to step into the flats boat or the skiff from the centerline opening in the Portuguese bridge.
Both boats are powered with 130 hp Yamaha outboards and use identical systems from steering to gauges, from hardware to electronics. The redundancy is like having a fully stocked parts store aboard wherever Moon River travels. Each boat has a safety package with drinking water and a few American dollars. Gas for both boats is carried in two 80-gallon tanks in Moon River's transom bustle. The Edgewater wears a console from a 15-footer, lowering the skiff's profile so Moon River's foredeck looks less busy when viewed from the side.
We arrived at Isla San Francisco after averaging 9 knots during the 40-some-mile trip from La Paz. At the anchorage, we noticed some activity aboard a pair of rusty shrimp boats and hustled over in the Egret to buy a few pounds for appetizers before our dinner of grilled lamb chops, avocado salad and merlot. Unlike a lot of first-evening meals, this one was full of alert, well-rested diners-a result of the steady, quiet ride in a stable boat.
Moon River has a four-stateroom layout, and other plans are offered. My stateroom with over-and-under berths was comfortable, but I was up early to watch the dawn's first rays kiss the rock formations on the island's highest point, 689' up. As the sun rises, the rocky hills in the cove turn from brown to purple to red to orange, all in less than a minute. A school of bottlenose dolphin carved up schools of forage for breakfast, and I looked forward to fishing with Sammy and the captain later that day.
We fished from the Edgewater that morning and afternoon off Isla San José in the Sea of Cortez, but unlike the dolphin, we found nothing biting in the clean blue water. Nevertheless, the day helped me appreciate the advantages of the Nordhavn as mothership: A month or more in the Bahamas with Moon River would permit unlimited exploring and fishing around the Out Islands. The owner could fly in, meet his skipper and skiff, and hustle back to the mothership to bonefish from the Egret. If marlin or wahoo were the quarry, the Edgewater could go into action. Afterward, the owner could fly out while Moon River moved to the next anchorage or marina.
I used to think fast boats meant more time for fishing, but the option this Nordhavn offers is quite tempting.
Of course, using Moon River this way means she has to be set up and safe for long-range travel. There are grab rails all over the boat, and the bow rail rises to mid-chest. The molded nonslip is coarse enough to scale fish (maybe a little too coarse). The main deck is molded as a single unit from the bow to the saloon foredeck. Because weight is not critical in a displacement boat, low horsepower is more than adequate. A bulbous bow further reduces horsepower needs and lessens pitching in head seas. More than 7,000 lb. of ballast keep her stable as she consumes fuel. Large scuppers drain water quickly.
Hydraulics operate most of the machinery, including the bow thruster, anchor windlass, davits and emergency bilge pump that manifolds to three watertight compartments. The hydraulics run off the Lugger 984, a 70 hp diesel that also serves as the backup engine should the main propulsion diesel fail. Two 20kW Northern Light gensets provide electrical power.
Although the engineroom doesn't have full standing height, the equipment is installed logically and is easy to service and repair. Abaft the main engine, for example, the 1,200 gpd watermaker is simple to maintain (the high capacity is good because the watermaker is used only when the generator is running). An inverter provides ample 120v power from the 12v system when the generator is shut down for quiet nights, yet is designed to start the generator to charge the batteries the instant reserved power falls to a predetermined level.
Because the 62 is semi-custom, owners can choose special items and features. Sammy passed on the galley dishwasher in favor of a second ice maker, to keep the fishing boats stocked. He installed a wine locker in the saloon and added a few extra grab rails, as well. On the flying bridge, he installed an electronic pilothouse information system: a black box that runs most of the electronics through computer screens and gives him e-mail access to his office.
Sammy is one of those yachtsmen who understands what he wants his boat to do. The rarity is Moon River, which does it well.
Contact: Pacific Asian Enterprises, Dept. Y, Box 874, Dana Point, CA 92629. (949) 496-4848; fax (949) 240-2398.