It’s always interesting to see a powerboat that has been designed by sailors, because they don’t have any preconceived notions about how things “have to be. The new Norseman 480 Flybridge Motor Yacht, for instance, carries forward much of the same spirit as the line of Bob Perry-designed Norseman yachts of the 1980s. Built in the Orient to very high standards, intended as fast and luxurious cruising sloops, they still command high prices on the used-boat market.
Continuing the Norseman line was no chance happening, however. Wally Freeman at Golden West Yachts, who imports the Norseman, saw a need for a quality fast trawler with conservatively classic lines and an accessible price tag. It’s also safe to say that he guessed there are probably more than a few Norseman sailboat owners who are ready to make the switch to power; if so, then the quality of the new 480 will be familiar to them.
On the 480, for example, there is not one inch of usable space that hasn’t been turned into a locker or a drawer or a cranny because, as we all know, there is no such thing as too much stowage on a yacht. In the saloon, there is a handrail cleverly integrated as part of the wood trim in the overhead, and it’s perfectly placed so you can move around securely even in the worst of seas-another mark of sailors.
But the 480 also has a simple but thoughtful concept: a yacht that is comfortable for two couples, yet which one couple can easily handle. Thus the Norseman has two staterooms and two en suite heads with showers, with civilized amenities in each. Too many designers try to cram in a contrived third cabin, ostensibly for kids or for crew, but it usually becomes just a storage bin for blankets and duffle bags.
The saloon is an ingenious arrangement that blends a curved dinette, a settee, the galley and the helm into one living area surrounded by large windows framed in stainless steel. Teak is the standard finish (the cherry on our test boat is optional) and the sole is teak and holly.
The helm is amidships, and the back of the helm seating is used for the standard aft-facing 30-inch flat-screen TV. The twin leather helm seats are raised for good visibility and very comfortable, which should be no surprise because they are actually the front seats from a Nissan Pathfinder.
Once again, this is out-of-the-box thinking. The result, a really luxurious helm seat, is fully adjustable (including the back); fitted with headrests and flawlessly finished, it is a pleasant change from the usual doublewide bench seat. (That said, the seats on our test boat, the first 480, will be refined on future 480s because of metal mounting brackets, which seemed a bit industrial, and a lack of armrests.)
The dashboard, a large and showy leather-trimmed console, has more than enough space for electronics and communication gear. Our test boat had the comprehensive Raymarine package, which includes everything you’ll need. There was space to spare, but I’d still be tempted to put the dash on a diet in order to devote more flat space to laying out charts.
The big, wood-rimmed wheel is comfortable for sitting or standing, and overhead cabinets can hold additional instruments. I particularly liked the easily read KVH compass directly in the skipper’s line of sight. A slick pantograph door to starboard gives easy access to the side and foredecks.
The galley is to port, so a single-handed skipper can cook breakfast from the helm. Just joking! It’s actually a very nicely arranged galley with ample counter space, a great view out the opening windows, and a Force 10 gas stove with pot clamps you’d expect to see on a sailboat. The refrigerator and freezer are in U-line drawers under the counter, but I think I’d find another place for the microwave because the overhead cabinet blocks everyone’s view, including the skipper’s. (Perhaps we could sacrifice the liquor locker?)
The master stateroom on the Norseman is located amidships for the least motion at sea or at anchor, and it’s pleasantly spacious with exceptional headroom for an airy openness. The centerline berth faces forward from atop a platform that allows drawers on each side as well as a pair of nightstands. Two cedar-lined hanging lockers are outboard, and a 20-inch flat-screen TV is on the forward bulkhead. This is all very nice, indeed.
The master head compartment is nicely sized with the quiet-flush ITT head recessed into a Corian base for easy cleaning, a shower with a hatch to release steam, and a port for light and air. The washer/dryer is concealed in the master stateroom, so you probably won’t be doing your laundry after you turn in for the night, but it’s certainly convenient.
Forward along the starboard side passage is the VIP cabin, which fills the tapering bow area with a raised berth that allows a three-drawer bureau underneath. Two hanging lockers are in the cabin, while a third is behind the door that closes off the passageway.
At the entry to the guest cabin is a simple counter with a sink, leaving the en suite head to serve double duty as both toilet compartment and as a Corian-lined shower (with a seat over the toilet).
The flying bridge is sizable, with a fiberglass helm console forward of the single helm chair, an L-shaped settee with table to port, and a console with icemaker/fridge. The boat deck can easily handle a RIB tender, and comfortable stairs lead to the teak-planked afterdeck with its twin transom doors.
On deck, the 480 provides good security with wide side decks and high, welded stainless steel rails atop teak caprails. A boarding gate is provided forward on each side. At the bow, a teak platform is set up for twin anchors with two rollers and a Maxwell windlass for both chain and line. A spare rode locker is oversized, so it’s easy to sort out any chain problems, and a washdown gets rid of mud.
Under way, the Norseman had an easy motion in the long Pacific swells, and her modified V-hull has enough chine flat to keep her from rolling, even in cross seas. Our test boat had the standard twin Cummins 450 hp diesels and, though 540 hp diesels are an option, the standard engines pushed us easily to 24 knots.
Like all first launches, we had some teething problems: The trim tabs were trying to outthink us, and the 480 would benefit from some prop testing. But, hey, 24 knots without using trim tabs is quick enough for most conditions, and she came up flat without bow rise.
Our test boat also had the optional stern thruster (a SidePower bowthruster is standard), so handling in tight quarters was a cinch. In spite of the teak and holly cabin soles (always noisier than carpet), the 480 was a quiet boat, barely reaching 78 dB(A) at full throttle. An Onan 8 kW genset is standard, and easily capable of handling the four MarineAir reverse-cycle air-conditioning units.
The earlier Norseman sailboats had a reputation for seamanlike systems, and the new power version is no different: Access to the usual maintenance points is good; all the wiring and plumbing are secured and tidy; and through-hull fittings (seacocks and rudderposts) are sturdy.
Considering the long list of standard equipment, the Norseman 480 would seem underpriced at less than $600,000, delivered, and you’d start looking for areas where the builders cut corners. The surprise is that you won’t find them. Well built, with pleasing lines and a thoughtful interior, this is one yacht that you have to see to believe.
Contact: Golden West Yachts International, (310) 823-3838; www.norsemanyachts.com.