James and Janice Knight – YachtTech Inc.
Frist up James, why is it that Mount Gay Rum called me directly and asked to sponsor your interview? Any ideas?
So, James, what is an Englishman doing living in Florida?
Well James, sometimes I ask myself the same question! I floated in here on someone else’s boat, met a girl, got married and one day, I’m hoping that she’ll float off into the sunset with me. I’ve lived here in Florida for longer than I’ve ever lived in one spot before. Sometimes I miss the UK but really, this place is pretty awesome, other than there are too many people. The summers are great for boating, swimming and exploring the Bahamas. The winters are cool and breezy but the sun shines almost every day. I love driving to work with the top down on a sunny Florida winter morning with the heater blowing warm air on my tootsies and getting into the Christmas Spirit!
What do you like about living in America as opposed to the UK?
Hmmmmmmm…………. People like my accent? Petrol is cheaper…… I can drive a big truck and the locals don’t think I’m crazy, the weather, the boats….and on and on it goes.
Just as well petrol is cheaper! 0-60 in 3 seconds.
What don’t you like about Florida in particular?
The heat and humidity are pretty oppressive when you are trying to work. I can handle the high temps if I’m on the sandbar with a rum and coke, but it’s tough if you’re in the bilges of a boat that’s out on the hard.
How did YachtTech start and when?
Well, I started a company Called “Yacht Tech” in the UK back in the early 90’s. I looked after sailing boats, racing boats, did deliveries for customers and was also a boat broker on occasion. I closed down that business in late1994 when I took a job as a captain in the Caribbean. I landed here in 1999 and started Yacht Tech Inc. in 2001 with a plan to learn more about Nordhavns.
How many staff do you have?
We have 17 on the payroll today and we are looking for one more before the season kicks in.
So how many Nordhavns do you look after?
It varies depending on the season. We may have as many as 30 Nordhavns here at the dock and on the hardstand. Right now I think we have about 15 or so. If you consider the Nordhavns that I expect calls or emails from once in a while for help, at the dock or at sea, (but are not actually on our docks), then I would say the real number is closer to 150 or so.
Yacht-Tech Tees make their way to the Brisbane River, Australia.
I have often heard you referred to as the Guru of Nordhavn’s are you comfortable with that tag?
Not really. I’m pretty good at trouble shooting stuff and I try to think things through logically. I’ve seen and fixed many of the problems you’ll have with a Nordhavn, probably more than once. I have a pretty good memory for what can cause problems and I don’t get confused with other boat brands because we just don’t work on anything else.
Do you think there is one Nordhavn model that is the better than the others?
I love almost all of them, but if you have to make me choose just one, then the Nordhavn 57 sticks out as being one of the better performing and possibly, better looking Nordhavns (depending on who you are talking to). But there are also things about the 57 that I don’t like. The biggest of course, being the distinct lack of space.
Nordhavn 57 pictured above.
James preparing for yet another offload.
What changes over the past decade have PAE made to their boats that you think really works?
There have honestly been so many changes for the better that it’s tough to decide what to put down here. Moving to 24volt on the N62 was a good one. Putting in the Ultra Safety Systems bilge pump switches was also a good one. (That was my idea by the way. They were designed and built by a guy here in Palm Beach. So I purchased and sent one to Joe Meglan back in 2002. I told him they needed to use the ultra safety switch instead of those silly air pressure switches and they did). The list of improvements goes on and on.
Tell us a little something about your boating life and when you started?
I started sailing when I was pretty small on my brother’s topper dinghy. I bought my first boat when I was 13, with my paper round money. I bought a flying fifteen when I was 15 with milk round money. The rudder broke off while I was surfing down a wave at high speed one day and my dad helped me build a new one with marine plywood and Aerolite Adhesive. I was pretty interested in how my Dad shaped and glued the rudder together, and so I eventually decided to go to boat building college. It’s been boats ever since!
James dreaming of the day he would be in command of a larger boat!
James knight on his much loved Flying Fifteen.
What has been your cruising highlight so far?
I was lucky enough to land that job running a private boat in the islands for 5 years. So I got paid for doing what some folks save up all their lives to do. The first year I was in the Caribbean, I only saw the owner for 6 weeks. There were so many great experiences; I can’t even begin to tell you. The best is being able to take my kids back to some of my favourite spots in the Exuma chain of islands in the Bahamas.
James with his son Matthew in the Bahamas.
James if there is one thing Janice does that irritates you, what would that be?
There are so many things it’s hard to pick just one! That being said however, the one thing that really, really irritates me is when she drinks all my Mount Gay Rum!
..and Janice it’s only fair that I ask you the same question, so what is it that James does that irritates you?
When we are boating he will often ask me to take the helm and once I am at the helm he promptly disappears downstairs and out of sight. This always seems to coincide with, another boat coming into view, while I might add we are in a very narrow channel. As I don’t really have a clue what to do, I start calling for James to come quickly but it always seems to take a very long time for him to appear, as I am sure he likes me to panic just a little bit before coming to my rescue, which, he always does!
James, if there is one thing you see owners of Nordhavns do that irritates you, what would that be?
Steering the boat with the bow thruster instead of using the rudder!
On to irritating things, have you ever run out of something while at sea yourself (other than Mount Gay!) that has caused problems?
I was 19 and we were leaving Madeira for a transatlantic passage to the West Indies. In a rush to get out before a storm hit, we filled the water tanks until water came out of the fill pipe. About three days into our trip we realized that the water tank was pretty close to empty. There must have been an air bubble in the pipe, causing the water to back up the fill and lead us into thinking the tank was full. Oops! Without much water and without a water maker, we started collecting rainwater from the sails. The water was filled with red sand from the Sahara desert. An important lesson learned on that trip.
Trying to get home after running out of water.
What have been the largest seas you have ever been in?
Big enough! It’s not so much the size but the shape that hurts. I recall taking my 23 foot hunter 701 around the Bill of Portland in the English Channel. OMG…… Although the seas were as high as the mast, I have been in much bigger seas without a worry at all.
Would you describe yourself as more a hunter or gatherer?
Whatever I need, to be to get the job done.
Getting the job done!
If you were to buy your own Nordhavn what would you name her?
I would like to think I could leave the name as it is, depending on the name. It has to be a good “Radio Name” of course. Something like “Pendana” would be ok I guess. Papa, Echo, November………..
Thanks mate, so do you have any animals?
Yes, I do I have two lovely dogs which I love to bits.
Ellie (Doberman) Korra (swimmer extraordinaire) posing for the camera.
What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened to you while at sea?
Getting hit in the head by a cold, wet flying fish in the middle of the night. Boy did that wake me up!
What’s the biggest mistake you have ever made on the water?
My uncle told me to watch out for Foulness Sands (Outside the river Thames entrance) Well, I didn’t do so well on the navigation and I found Foulness Sands OK, even in the fog. I spent a couple of hours wondering if the keel was going to punch through the bottom of my boat.
Are you scared of spiders?
The ones you have I am!
What’s your favourite photo ever taken while at sea and why?
A picture of my Mum and Dad holding up a Big Dolphin fish that we caught while crossing “Kick em Jenny” on the North end of Grenada. It reminds me of the last really cool adventure that I had with my Dad.
James Knights parents showing off their catch!
What would you never leave behind (besides your family) when heading out to sea?
James Knight on a Cat he helped build and crew in the Caribbean. Would seem he doesn’t like to leave behind his woollen socks either!
James, tell us something about yourself that nobody knows?
My wife knows pretty much everything about me, and what she doesn’t know, I’m not sharing with you!
Oh come on James…
Ok, Ok, I am in love with snap on tools.
James’ Snap On collection.
James, if there was one thing Nordhavn owners should check religiously and don’t what would that be?
I would say that placing their wing engine into and out of gear while its running is something most are guilty of not doing. When we pull boats from the water we often see that the wing engine propeller is jammed i.e. the propeller doesn’t fold / unfold correctly.
…but what about thru hull valves not being exercised regularly, surely that has to be one that owners forget to do?
When was the last time you exercised yours?
Three weeks ago!
Don’t believe you!
Well, that’s because I hadn’t done it for the past six months and a few were completely jammed.
Well then, there is your answer!
Let’s move on, with the success of Yacht Tech’s service business what are your plans to expand?
I would like to think that during the coming years I may find an appropriate marina / boatyard to accommodate the growing number of Nordhavn followers / clients that have grown to appreciate the services we provide.
Finally, where to next for you personally and YachtTech?
As I said, I’d like to buy a boatyard / marina and fill it with Nordhavns. My goal is to find a few more really good people that want to learn the boats the way I have. That way my customers can have their boats dealt with by a dedicated team who are truly committed to the product.
Thank you very much for your time James and all the very best for the years ahead! I for one know that team Pendana would not be in as good a shape without you.
James’s Facebook page can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Yacht-Tech-Inc/391894784245262
And Yacht Techs company website can be found at: http://nordhavnonly.com/
May I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! GUEST INTERVIEWS will return on February 1st 2015 as we will be spending January on the boat while trying to secure Mount Gay Rum as an ongoing sponsor!