For a young family or a couple starting out in the cruising life, the Nord Star 26 just might make the perfect Sport Utility Vessel. Summer cruises on the coast and weekends afloat the rest of the year; it’s all made possible by the extremely efficient layout of the boat and its powerful yet fuel-sipping Volvo diesel. The fit and finish of the basic hull, systems, and interior woodwork represent the best of old-world craftsmanship.
First, a little background on the Nord Star brand. The 26 is part of a model line that ranges from 24 feet to 40 feet, known fully as the Nord Star Patrol series. They are built in Finland by parent company Linex-Boat Oy, the Lindkvist family-owned firm that has delivered more than 3,000 fiberglass recreational, commercial, and government-class vessels. The patriarch of the Lindkvist family started building wooden fishing and workboats in the 1920′s. Today’s modern fiberglass production facility is certified to the highest ISO 9001-2000 standards; the boats themselves meet the stringent CE Ocean Class B rating for offshore seaworthiness. That last standard means, among other things, that the boats will safely handle seas up to 13 feet and winds in excess of 40 knots. Suffice it to say the boat can handle more than you or I can, or at least more than we would want to.
The Nord Star 26 is probably one of the smallest cruising boats that can comfortably take a couple or young family on long weekend cruises. However, it’s also the kind of boat that you will use not just for cruising but for just about everything else you can do with a boat. It’s not so big that you wouldn’t just drop by the marina and take it out for a spin by yourself.
There’s a V-berth for two, along with a separate head compartment and a small but functional galley below. An ingenious layout in the main cabin includes convertible seating and hi-lo tables — all with a magnificent view. The kids can sleep on the convertible seats, and a cool bimini for the aft cockpit that shades but doesn’t get in the way would let Mom and Dad enjoy a nightcap under the stars.
I tested the boat over a couple of hours out of Mattituck Inlet on Long Island, New York. The head of Nord Star USA, John Uljens, brought the boat over from its base in Connecticut and we ran her through a series of test runs.
A Nord Star boat looks like a cross between a pocket tug and a government patrol boat. It’s a unique look that draws attention at the dock and on the water. Uljens told me that he was stopped by the Coast Guard on his way from Newport, Rhode Island, to Essex, Connecticut, not because they wanted to conduct a boarding but because they had never seen a boat like this that wasn’t a government boat. But don’t be misled — it’s all about form following function. The reverse rake to the windshield minimizes sun glare from outside and instrument glare from inside at night. The tall house and large windows open things up and make the cabin feel larger than it is. The boat I tested also had a sunroof that easily rolled back to let in the fresh air. That was unexpected on this small a boat.
The Nord Star 26 has a functional aft cockpit and an amazing swim platform that feels like it could host an entire picnic while on the hook. Actually it could, because there’s also a huge storage box on the platform, tucked up against the transom. The engine access hatch is in the cockpit sole and when you raise it on its gas struts, you see the thick insulation that contributes to the quiet ride. There are unusually wide side decks to make transiting forward and aft safe. The transom has sturdy gates to allow boarding from the platform.
The performance of the boat is impressive. The modified-V planing hull comes up out of the water quickly and with minimal bow rise. The Volvo Penta D4 diesel drives a DuoProp sterndrive and supplies fantastic torque all the way up the RPM curve, unlike a gas engine that you might see in a boat of this size. Within seconds you are skimming along the water in the mid-20 knot range. There really isn’t any significant noise at the helm. Decibel readings stayed below 80, which means less fatigue on longer transits.
Maneuverability is superb. The DuoProp sends the thrust right along the steering vector so turns are instantaneous and speed loss in a sharp turn is minimized. The hull leans gently into turns. A bow thruster makes docking effortless.
On our test ride, I pulled the throttles back to idle and let the boat settle into the troughs of the modest waves on Long Island Sound. The Nord Star drifted nicely along, beam-to, without any uncomfortable roll that you see with some deep-V hulls. The view from the pilothouse is superb, and I loved being able to open the side door right next to me. The hardtop has plenty of room to mount all the radio, GPS, and radar antennae you want, as well as room to bolt on some kayak cradles or dinghy pads.
If you want to slow down and enjoy the view, the electronic diesel will happily run just above idle, running at 6-8 knots and sipping fuel.
Next week we’ll review the Nord Star 31.
For more information, visit the Nord Star 26 web page.