I was sitting comfortably yet attentively in one of two Stidd 500N helm chairs in the pilothouse of The Good Life, a Nordhavn 72 on its way from Mystic, Conn., to Newport, R.I., helping Capt. Ken Coffer keep watch. Actually, there wasn't much to see in the thick gray fog, though the radar screen showed activity now and then. Visibility was right at one-quarter mile.
We weren't alone in the expansive pilothouse. Adie and Dudley Coy, owners of The Good Life, were sitting at the raised dinette table behind the helm, keeping company with their daughter Valerie and her husband Danny White, both of whom were experiencing cruising, and running in fog, for the very first time.
Things were going fine. Thanks to the lack of wind this morning, the waters in the vicinity of Point Judith were more like three-foot slop than the larger chop you usually encounter in this area. Even so, the standard Trac stabilizers were working quietly to smooth them. Capt. Toni Coffer, Ken's partner in the operation of this Nordhavn 72 (both are experienced USCG licensed professionals, 1600-ton with additional ratings) sat on the portside pilothouse stairs that led up to the flying bridge, taking it all in while planning lunch and discussing our dinner options.
Suddenly I noticed Ken leaning forward and taking a hard look at the radar display. We'd seen a number of fishing vessels already, plus a handful of larger commercial craft displaying the Automatic Identification System information next to their triangular icons. But what caught Ken's eye was a fast-moving blob that was approaching from our port quarter, closing quickly on a collision course. Without hesitation, he reached forward, put the autopilot in standby, pulled back the throttles and hit the jog control to alter our course to starboard. A quarter of a mile away and just abeam to port, a fishing vessel emerged from the fog, its booms extended like massive bird wings with swinging trawl boards at the ends. There was no one in the pilothouse, no one on deck. Toni had the glasses trained on his transom but could make out no name as the dark commercial hull disappeared back into the fog. After Toni said she was sure that the fishing boat was towing no line of any kind from its transom, Ken put us back on course and speed.
A good-sized wake took us on the beam moments before we resumed our old heading. While it could have caused concern, Dudley Coy just laughed it off and reminded us all that The Good Life had taken a pair of back-to-back 14-footers on the beam at night during their trip from West Palm Beach, Fla., to Bald Head Island, N.C. The N72 had rolled down with the energy transferred by two powerful and closely spaced walls of water, then regained stability immediately and proceeded. No one was hurt, although there was a bit of damage in the saloon when an unsecured dining table went flying.
If anything, the experience had served to reaffirm the capabilities of the N72 for its owners and its crew. And considering where The Good Life is bound over the next couple of years, that kind of confidence is valuable.
I had joined the yacht at Mystic, Conn., a fine port of call for cruisers who want to mix shopping and reprovisioning with the delights of Mystic Seaport. While the rest of the crew explored Mystic, Dudley Coy and I shared a cup of tea and got better acquainted. His confidence in Nordhavn designs is well founded. He and Adie took their first cruiser, an N50, to Alaska and back on their own. As they are doing with The Good Life, they invited friends and family to join them along the way, to experience the joys of voyaging and cruising.