|Beam||13 ft., 6 in.|
|Draft||3 ft., 4 in.|
|Engines||Twin Cummins QSB5.9 diesels, 380 hp|
|Base Price||As Tested $605,000|
|Twin Cummins QSB5.9 380 hp diesels, Teleflex hydraulic steering, trim tabs, underwater exhaust, inverter, electric cabin heat, Stidd helm chair, 10-gal. water heater, refrigerator/freezer, microwave/convection, 2-burner stove, Tecma head and more.|
|West Coast Dealer|
|Norstar Yachts, Bellingham, Wash.;
(360) 671-3669; norstaryachts.com
Posted: June 1, 2014 | Boat Type: Motoryacht
Continuing the extension of an iconic lineIf you were a member of an iconic Pacific Northwest boat-building family and you wanted to build a new powerboat for the slowly recovering marine economy, what features would be included in such a vessel?
That was the dilemma facing Gary and Steve Nordtvedt, sons of the late Arthur Nordtvedt, one of the best-known small-boat designers and builders in North America. Arthur was perhaps best known for the design, development and manufacture of the Uniflite marque. Other boats he designed included Valiant, Nordic (not Nordic Tugs) and Espirit, all built in the Bellingham, Wash., area.
Arthur designed 50 different boats and built 14,000. Gary and Steve operate Norstar Boats, also in Bellingham, and clearly wanted their Norstar 360 to be stylistically reminiscent of the Uniflites without being a copy, or a “retro,” which seems to be in vogue. In the opinion of many, Gary Nordtvedt’s design has succeeded brilliantly.
Boaters who saw Uniflites in the past will say to themselves, when they first spy the 36-footer, “I’ve seen that look somewhere before.” When they discover who the builder is, they will immediately connect it to the Uniflite lineage. Norstar’s styling has been cleverly modernized, bringing it right up to date while still paying tribute to Arthur’s original designs.
The Norstar 360 has an excellent dock presence and will be noticed immediately by anyone coming down the dock, even if it is not the biggest boat tied up. It’s a husky, broad-shouldered, tough-looking boat. The fiberglass work is excellent — not surprising considering the background and experience of the builder — without print-through or hazing, and the glistening dark hull of our test boat is perfectly fair. All the exterior hull fittings, including handrails, are securely and properly fastened and contribute to the overall look.
Strength and toughness were other Uniflite traits. In fact, Uniflite built boats so tough it was, reportedly, one of only two U.S. builders whose hulls were taken directly from the molds and fitted out for military service. Uniflite produced 750 River Patrol Boats (RPB) for use in the Vietnam War. Those boats were made famous in Francis Ford Coppola’s movie “Apocalypse Now.”
As Tough as the RPB
Our test 360 proved as rugged and tough as the original Uniflites. In fact, our test boat appears to be even tougher than the Uniflites, and I was on many of them when they were in their heyday.
The Norstar 360 hull is all hand-laid solid glass. The upper works is cored, but it is molded in a single piece, thereby reducing the opportunity for leaks. With a cored topsides, the structure is lighter and stiffer than it would be if built of solid glass, which has the effect of lowering the center of gravity on the boat as a whole, something that is always a good feature if a boat is going to be used in rough water.
The upper works and deck are joined with a shoebox joint, sealed with 3M 5200 polyurethane sealant and then mechanically fastened every 8 inches, a method of joining the hull and deck that produces one of the strongest joints in the industry and, when properly done, will never leak. The 5200 is flexible and waterproof and remains so during its lifetime.
There are reports of shipyard repairers having to cut away 5200 after 30 years in place to separate a fitting from a hull. It is not used very often in production boats, because it has a sevenday cure time (3M produces a 5200 that cures faster), but with Norstar’s deliberate decision to make its boats tough, strong and as close to maintenance free as possible, the cure time is not a problem. A good hull-to-deck seal is important over the long haul, since rainwater often wicks through a bad seal into the boat, where it begins to promote dry rot.
Weather and sea conditions during our test were great for boating — sunshine and flat water — which isn’t great for a boat test; however, we were able to do some wake hopping, and the Norstar handled everything in stride without any hull slamming or flexing. We didn’t expect either, particularly given the way the hull and deck are joined.
During our entire test, the vessel handled very well. It answered the helm smartly and precisely, and when we came off a wake, the boat simply plowed on with no veering or wallowing. Overall, the vessel handled very well even during our hard-over turns at wide-open throttle. At one point, after we had completed our speed runs, we took the way off completely, spun the helm hard to port and then slowly accelerated, keeping the helm hard over. The vessel dug in and stayed flat through the entire throttle range. There was no shudder, skip, skid or cavitation. Clearly, the power and running gear matched very well with the hull design
With both Gary and Steve Nordtvedt on board, we fired up the twin 380 hp Cummins QSB5.9 (408 cubic inches) diesels. The inline six-cylinder common-rail diesels started instantly, without smoke, clatter or hunting, and settled into a steady idle at 600 rpm. The engines comply with the EPA’s Tier 3 emission standards. Our noise meter, placed inside the deckhouse, as close to the engine space as possible, read 68 decibels.
We idled quietly out of the marina throwing no wake at all and burning only a gallon of diesel per hour. Visibility was good all around, even to the aft deck through an aft bulkhead glass door and window. There’s plenty of window glass in the deckhouse, so much so that the interior would be bright and cheery even on a cloudy day. The view was spectacular on our bright, sunny test day.
At 1000 rpm, the 360 made 7.8 knots and burned 3.4 gph. It burned 8 gph at 1500 rpm while making 9.3 knots. As the engines spooled up to 1910 revs, it made 11.3 knots and was burning 17 gph. At 2500 revs, it made 21.8 knots with a fuel burn of 26 gph, and wide-open throttle brought us 27.4 knots, with a 38 gph fuel burn. All speeds were measured by an independent GPS, and fuel-consumption information came from the engines’ onboard computers.
The interior layout is fairly typical: the galley and helm station along one side, and the dinette along the other. However, various other layouts are possible and will be installed at the same basic price. The vessel can be built with the galley up or down and with a single- or double-cabin configuration. In other words, each vessel is hand built, and its interior can be custom designed for each owner.
The solid countertops are big enough for cooking meals for a half dozen people, and they wipe clean in an instant. The galley boasts a refrigerator/freezer with a remote compressor, a microwave/convection oven, a two-burner electric stove and a deep stainless sink. There’s plenty of drawer and cupboard space, and the builders, being experienced boaters themselves, know that there is never enough good storage on a boat, so they have provided storage anywhere they can intelligently do so.
The vessel head is complete with a separate shower stall, a Tecma electric toilet, a vanity with a sink and stowage. The head has a deck hatch, portlights with screens and a power ventilator.
Norstar wants to produce four to six boats a year and can do that with its small crew of highly qualified, experienced staff. The 360 is a boat built for experienced boaters, those who have spent a lot of time pounding through lousy weather and 10-foot seas. It’s for folks who recognize that it takes three pantograph windshield wipers, each wiping one pane of windshield glass, to allow the skipper to see where he is going in a driving storm.
While the 360 is a strong, tough boat, the strength and toughness are put together with a warmth, elegance and sophistication not always found in the newest interior marine designs. Traditional woods are used throughout the vessel, including clear cedar-strip paneling in the master stateroom and well-fit and nicely finished teak-and-holly floors throughout the vessel.
As we left the 360 after our test, a colleague of mine commented on how tough the boat was and that he’d take it to Alaska regardless of the time of year.
My response? “So would I.”