Pacific Asian Enterprise (PAE) – Co Founder and Vice President Mr Jim Leishman
GUEST INTERVIEW – Mr Jim Leishman Co-Founder and Vice President of Pacific Asian Enterprise (“PAE”) makers of the truly remarkable, Nordhavn.
So, Jim, firstly thank you for your time. Before we start I have to ask what was your single high point and single low point of crossing from China to Vancouver in the brand new Aurora N120, your biggest Nordhavn by a country mile?
This was a long delivery. Entering Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor was amazing, seeing the disputed Kuri Islands north east of Taiwan, passing by and seeing Okinawa, the cold grey of the Bearing Sea and the beauty and isolation of the Aleutians along with a beautiful run down the Inside Passage and entering Vancouver – all combine to make for a very memorable voyage.
It was a really great experience to be in charge of such a magnificent yacht for those weeks and seeing her capability but low points? I guess for me the reality of operating a vessel of 414 Gross Tons in terms of the legal requirements. Entering Dutch Harbor required a pilot both inward and outward along with a small tug for transportation. That was almost $6,000 just to have a pilot aboard for less than 15 minutes on the inward and outward leg. Realizing too that a Certificate of Financial Responsibility (“COFR “) was a requirement upon entering Alaskan waters.
What is a COFR?
A COFR is a document that proves that we have the financial resources to clean up after ourselves if we spilled fuel or polluted the waters.
So is it safe to say that this crossing was your cruising highlight of all time, and if not, what was?
This was a great trip but I think of the voyages across the Atlantic aboard Jim Sinks Nordhavn 46 (the first Atlantic crossing) and the final trip across the Pacific aboard that same boat completing the first ever Nordhavn circumnavigation. Arriving in Dana Point to another dozen Nordhavns with cheering crews and a fireboat streaming water in celebration of our arrival.
There have been so many – Cape Horn aboard Egret, the legs aboard NORDHAVN during the ATW (Around the World) voyage where we set a worlds record for the fastest circumnavigation in a production powerboat (Nordhavn 40) which still stands today.
What do Dan, Jeff and you like to do in your spare time?
Personally my wife (Sue) I spend a lot of time aboard our boat at Catalina Island and fishing the local waters. I enjoy flying and have an aerobatic sport plane (RV 4) along with a small single engine trainer. We do some four wheel trips in the local mountains and deserts. I still spend a lot of time with my two sons (James and Eric) and new grand son James. We’re still very committed to work and there seems to be less time off now, than ever before.
Dan and Jeff have their own hobbies – Jeff; golf, surfing, camping, four wheeling and for Dan it’s gardening, motorhome and world traveling.
Jeff, Dan and Jim (L-R)
Jim, tell us something about PAE that nobody knows?
Dan, Jeff and I still have a huge passion for what we do. We love the boats, take problems very personally, put our employees before us in terms of compensation and always try to do the very best we can.
I sometimes wonder what a logistical nightmare it must be building what are highly complex boats and how this is managed especially considering we have just been through a monster recession which saw many a boat builder go to the wall?
It’s been an absolute commitment to get through the recession. After 36 years we simply had to do it and certainly lots of sacrifice was required. Failure was never an option but survival was expensive personally for Dan, Jeff and me.
What is the most complex stage of building a new boat – the moulds, engine installations, commissioning?
It certainly has to be the final stage of putting the completed boat into operation, to cross every T and dot every I. Commissioning is a formidable task.
So, if commissioning is the most difficult stage what makes it so challenging?
The commissioning phase of a Nordhavn transaction is by far the most difficult period. The new and shining boat arrives from the factory and goes into a multi week period of disassembly and chaos. PAE commissioning crews are aboard, electronics contractors may be doing complete installations, technicians are there to perform tests on engines, hydraulics, stabilizers, generators, interior soft good suppliers are involved, and the list goes on. Many of these venders are often hired direct by the Buyer and PAE has little or no involvement but they all combine to complicate the process. Headliners are removed, floor boards pulled up, mystery scratches appear that no one takes responsibility for. Furthermore, problems appear that have to be fixed, the owner has to face the custom changes and equipment he selected and may or may not be thrilled with the outcome. He has to pay for the boat, take responsibility for it, move his gear aboard, learn the operation of all its systems – it’s a stressful time for sure. Most people understand that Nordhavns are complicated and may not be comparable to the commissioning and delivery process of the “last boat” (maybe a Searay, a Bayliner or just about anything else).
Additionally it has to be remembered that many Nordhavns have to be delivered to an owner specified location where we have little or no resources. Some people might be surprised to learn that our employees cannot even bring tools into most countries? If the government knows we plan to do any work – commissioning, warranty or otherwise – we are denied entry. The complication and expense of commissioning a boat in Australia, Croatia, Malta, Turkey, Vancouver or Singapore (all commissioning locations used within the past twelve months) is huge as compared to California or Florida but we do the very best we can and on whole, are proud of the results. Not perfect – far from it and yes in need of improvement and we continue to try. Unfortunately, I don’t have a clear idea of how to make it perfect for all customers.
I can well imagine it being a difficult time for new owners, I know how long it took my wife and I to feel comfortable with Pendana N6220 – so I guess it is no surprise when you put it like that. So, Jim if there were one thing you could change about PAE and the superb products you build what would that be?
We strive for perfection but it’s always elusive. If we just had to build a boat to a fixed set of specifications by the time we built a few it would be easy to accomplish but each is different. Each owner has a different expectation and they’re not always right or happy with the changes they demand. In the end it seems like all dissatisfaction regardless of the true cause comes home to roost with us the builder.
I guess the only way to prevent the excessive changes is to design it so good in the first place that the customer cannot improve upon it and thus accepts the standard every time. While I love some of the custom interiors we’ve done at owner’s requests – I’d like to see us building more standard models. It’s easier on the smaller Nordhavns but almost impossible for the larger boats.
If there were one thing you could change in the world (not related to PAE or boating) what would that be?
I’d like to see an end of the piracy problem in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea. It’s so sad for me to see people feel they shouldn’t transit these waters and follow the traditional circumnavigation route. In the early sixties when Robert Beebe took Passagemaker from Singapore to the Mediterranean, he never mentioned a word about safety concerns within this region. Even after 9/11 when we went through on our 40 we considered it pretty safe. Now it’s the topic of every conversation amongst cruisers contemplating passage through the area.
Three of Jim’s crew at his favorite anchorage, Catalina.
Does PAE allow staff to have pets at work?
Yes, everyday. I have a Chihuwawa sitting under my desk now, Jeff has a Norfolk Terrier and in the hallway Justin Zumwalt’s Yellow Lab is sleeping outside his office door.
Jim, we know that both you, Dan and Jim have been in business for a long time but how long exactly has PAE been around?
Dan started Dan Streech Yacht Sales in 1974 and I went to work for him that same year. Another partner Joe Meglen joined us about a year later and in 1978 we incorporated as PAE with equal ownership. Joe retired in 2004 and Jeff became a share holder that same year.
Dr Gill Royce, Mike Clark, Jim Leishman, Dan Streech and Dave Harlow 1982 customs office in Bimini(L-R).
How many staff does PAE have, and other than Dan, Jeff and yourself who is the longest running employee with PAE and what do they do?
PAE employees over fifty people directly and in excess of over 500 more within our three Asian Partner Yards that build our Nordhavns
Our longest term employee is Larry Gieselman who came to PAE in 1981 as a service manager than transitioned into sales. Larry has consistently been a top producer at PAE and is affectionately known around here as “Big Guy” He just left my office with a new Nordhavn 68 Letter of Intent signed last night (Actually to an Australian).
Larry Gieselman on a 51 ft Sparkman and Stephens in Catalina Island, 1981.
Larry Gieselman aboard a Nordhavn 40, with my family, Prince William Sound 2014 – (Larry, you havent changed a bit!)
Would you describe yourself as more hunter or more gather and why?
I guess a gatherer. Seems like a hunter would be a more noble choice but I like to plan a boat, get it into production and through low key persuasion and technical logic – convince buyers. No one at PAE is really aggressive, I think we just feel if we design, build and provide the best boats we can, the Buyers will come.
If Dan, Jeff and you were all animals what animals would you be and why?
I think throughout the recession we’ve pretty much considered ourselves as “Dogs”.
What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened to you while at sea?
We were en route from Annapolis to Ft. Lauderdale on a Mason 63 about 30 years ago and Jeff was engaged to his wife Nancy. At that time Jeff didn’t have a lot of experience off shore or with marine radios. I announced that we were coming into vhf radio range and Jeff could place a call and gave him instruction on how to proceed. Of course we were hundreds of miles from any VHF marine operator and I gave him an obscure frequency and he made his call. Unbeknownst to him I was in a different part of the boat with a hand held and received the call, I tried to sound official and far away, collected the phone number he wished to call, made the necessary sound effects of a ringing phone and answered Nancy’s phone as groggy Bob that sounded as though he was very tired and just woke up. Jeff asked for Nancy and Bob told him she was showering and to call back later. I’ll never forget the sound of Jeff’s voice or the look on his face when I appeared at the Nav table with the hand held radio. The entire crew laughed for hours.
That’s hilarious! So I have to ask, what has been the biggest mistake you have ever made on the water?
Trying to get into Bimini on that same Mason 63 mentioned above with a seven foot draft.
It wasn’t so much getting stuck as it was getting ripped off by the self proclaimed pilot that offered to escort us in. Upon tying up to the Customs dock he demanded four hundred dollars for a few minutes of service and a huge dispute ensued that soon involved the cops , the harbor master, the customs guy and had us terrified.
That was during another recession and an extra four hundred dollars was not in the budget.
It finally resolved itself when the owner and driver the Boston Whaler used by so called Pilot, parked his skiff and entered into the collection attempt. He suddenly realized that he was getting ripped off. The pilot had told him that we were being charged fifty bucks and that half would go to him for use of his boat and time. The two almost went physical and the Cop supervising ran them both off the dock and suggested we give him the fifty dollars for “distribution” and take off which we promptly did.
This may not be the mistake you were looking for but it’s all I’ll admit to here!
Are you scared of spiders?
No but terrified of snakes.
What’s your favourite photo ever taken while at sea and why?
This is a photo of Peter Eunson, Jeff Leishman, Dave Harlow, my wife Sue and me on a beautiful voyage to Panama via Cocos Island from Dana Point, California.
(L-R) Pete Eunson retired at PAE after 30 years of service, Dave Harlow, Jeff Leishman and Jim Leishman taken 1991.
What would you never leave behind when heading out to sea?
Well to be perfectly honest – I’d hate to leave the cold beer behind!
And… finally, who has the best sense of humor in your office and why?
That’s the toughest question yet. It certainly is not me. Paul Hutton in sales could make a living as a standup comedian. With his British accent and endless repertoire of jokes (keep the youngsters in the other room) is pretty amazing.
Dave Harlow will keep you laughing too.
Thank you very much for your time and on behalf of all Nordhavn owners, thank you for building a product that we all trust with our lives, literally!
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