Guest Interview – Josh and Natasha Tofield – N52 Samba

Josh and Natasha Tofield with lovely Loxie
So, Josh, tell us a little something about your cruising to date and where you have been so far?

Since 2005 we have cruised from Seattle to beyond Dutch Harbor, putting over 30,000 miles on our two boats, Samba Nordhavn 40 and then Samba Nordhavn 52. Our home port is Kodiak Island, Alaska. We most enjoy poking our noses into out of the way places and have been in 500 different anchorages along the way. We feel that Alaska, and the waters beyond Southeast Alaska in particular, have the best cruising grounds to be found anywhere. The combination of scenic beauty, wildlife observation, fishing, lifestyle, friendly locals, and the challenge of the weather, currents and nautical judgement necessary to be here make our cruising an unending adventure.

Geographic Harbor
Castle Cape
Why did you choose Nordhavn? 

Prior to buying a trawler, I had a long succession of sailboats, and over 30,000 miles cruising the South Pacific, Hawaii and Mexico. We knew that a powerboat was best suited to Alaska cruising, and diligent research brought us inevitably to Nordhavn as the best semi-customizable trawler. Samba was James Leishmans first new boat sale, and she was the first Nordhavn imported into Seattle to Don Kohlmanns welcome.

What has been your cruising highlight so far? 

We would have to list several:

The emotional impact of Lituya Bay, kayaking the Situk River in Yakutat, some of our Kodiak Bear encounters, Entering Dutch Harbor on Memorial Day (in homage to my Uncle who was part of the Aleutian campaign in WW II.) The wonderful friends we have made in Kodiak. Cruising the Shumagin Islands and Sanak.

Lituya Bay
Kodiak bear
Do you travel with an animal/s on board? 

Loxie, is our 9 year old yellow Labrador retriever. She has been aboard since she was 6 months old.

If you cruise with pets, do you have any fun stories about your pet

When she was younger, she would unfailingly do her business on the swim step. In later years she insists on going ashore to poop. We call this bear roulette. It is not a question of whether, but when there will be bears on that particular beach. This also means that going ashore to hike with her takes an extra degree of alertness and care.

What training or skillset would you consider a must have prior to buying a boat? 

The hardest thing about cruising is the need to be able to fix stuff while underway or away from port. There is such a myriad of repair skills, tools, materials needed to cruise safely that the new sailor can be overwhelmed. The only way to learn is by doing, taking classes, helping on a friends boat. Another must would be to learn the collision rules and take a Power Squadron course.

What upgrade do you most wish you could make to your boat? 

We would like to have forward looking sonar and a high quality night vision camera.

In your past life what did you and Natasha do? 

We are retired from the practice of Plastic Surgery.

Josh, if there is one thing Natasha does that irritates you while underway what would that be? 

She reminds me to stop acting like a bossy captain, when bossiness has nothing to do with nautical matters.

And Natasha, if there was one thing Josh does that irritates you what would that be? 

See above.

We have introduced aboard the concept of Personal Time. Anyone can call at any time, I need some personal time and that person is left alone with no repercussions!

This helps to keep things smooth when you spend 5 months never more than 50 feet away from each other.

Onto irritating things, have you ever run out of something while at sea that has caused problems? 

If a part fails and there is no replacement or jury rig possible.  We once had a seal on the autopilot motor blow out. The challenge is to have fall back procedures to manage things until you can get the part. Another great thing about Alaska is the US Post office. You can get parts in the smallest villages delivered by Priority Mail to General Delivery.

What is the shortest trip you have made?

Long Island is one hour from Kodiak City. Great hiking, great anchorage, flowers, mushrooms, beautiful vistas and no bears! We go here to kick back and hike around.

What is the longest passage you have made?

Under sail: from Puerto Vallarta to the Marquesas, about 3000 nm. On Samba: from Seward to Sitka non-stop.

What have been the tallest seas and strongest winds you have encountered? 

Tropical storm off Mexican coast in 44 catamaran. Sustained Force 10. 20-25swells. Lay to sea anchor for 24 hours.

With Samba, 8-10 seas, 30-40 knots. One of the quotes in our pilothouse is, Any fool can be uncomfortable.  We try to stay out of bad weather which should be possible with mostly coastal cruising.

If you didnt own your current boat, what boat would you like to change to?

Nordhavn 63.

When you purchased your Nordhavn, what were the key features you were looking for?

We loved our Nordhavn 40 but changed because we wanted:

Hydraulic stabilizers, dual helm chairs in pilot house, more headroom in engine room, a separate head for guests, more storage, better rough water capability for our area.

Would you describe yourselves as more hunters or more gathers? 

Actually weve become both. Natasha is a master fisherman. We smoke and can salmon aboard. We started hunting for deer and elk since coming to Alaska. We also gather berries and the four kinds of mushrooms that cannot be confused with anything else. Natasha bakes two or three times a week. We make our own caviar, sushi and lox.

I understand you charter Samba out and have guests travel with you.  Tell us a little more about that works?

For the last few years we have been doing week long guided educational charters. Most of our clients are couples interested in buying a Nordhavn and seeing if the cruising lifestyle suits them. They want some experience before taking the plunge. We do intensive teaching about boat systems along with seamanship, navigation, tides and currents, rules of the road, repairs and tools, etc. The guests can fish, kayak, photograph the Kodiak bears, see the whales and marvel at the beauty of Kodiak Island.

Mom and her triplets
Wolf brothers
Sounds like a great way for prospective Nordhavn owners to get a feel of what it is really like before taking the financial plunge, thats for sure.  Have you had any dreamers aboard?

Amazing how many people are devotees of the Nordhavn Dreamers website. Five of our guests have since either bought a used boat or have contracts on a new build! Nordhavn has been a wonderful addition to our life, and we feel that we are giving back by passing on what weve learned.

Whats the longest charter youve done?

Two weeks.

So, I have to ask, how much does it cost to come aboard one of these once in a lifetime trips?

Our 2018 fee is $10,500 per week.

Why did you name your vessel Samba? 

There is a beautiful Bossa Nova tune called Summer Samba with the lyric take my hand and Samba through life with me.

Now, how romantic is that!

What other names did you consider?  

None. It was love at first sight.

What is the one lesson every boater should learn? 

We have four quotes mounted on our pilothouse dash. The first is, Its serious every time we leave the dock. As basic attitude to being on the water, that pretty much covers it.

What is your favourite anchorage and why? 

We have to name two. The first is Geographic Harbor on the Alaska Peninsula in Katmai National park. Stunning scenery and bears galore. The second is Simeonof Island in the Shumagin Islands. Tundra covered island, tricky entrance and absolute isolation with bald eagles nesting in the grass. Hike anywhere.

At rest in Simeonof Island
Biggest surprises with your cost of ownership? 

Our yearly costs are much lower than the 10% (of boat value) figure one often hears quoted. Partly because our harbor costs are low, partly because we do almost all maintenance ourselves, our costs are more like 3%.(Not counting all the extra costs that go into running our charter operation, particularly the cost of charter insurance and guide insurance, permits and taxes, supplies, shore transport vehicle, etc, etc.)

What is your favorite activity while aboard?

Wildlife photography, fishing. Most of all, exploring new areas.

Eagle chick
What is your favorite Marina and why? 

Kodiak Harbor. Certainly not for glorious amenities. This is a working fishing harbor and our dock neighbours are the limit salmon seiners and halibut boats. The supplies in town are what it takes to keep the fishing fleet going, no yacht stuff. Marina is a misnomer in Alaska.

But, we have met so many generous, friendly people and have learned much about subsistence as a way of life. We talk with the fishermen and ask them to go over charts of the local area with us, and that is how we learn about all the stuff thats not on the charts, the currents, hazards, weather factors that enable one to explore this fascinating area.

Kodiak harbor does not freeze in the winter, although substantial gales can blow through.

What is your favourite quote and why? 

Of the four quotes, my favorite is If we dont go, well never know! Natasha said it while making a decision in the Gulf of Alaska whether to press on in gnarly conditions to a new destination.

Whats the funniest thing that has ever happened to you while at sea? 

We spring a surprise man overboard drill on each of our charter clients. Natasha sneaks off to the cockpit and throws a large yellow buoy with a short line attached overboard, then comes running in shouting, MAN OVERBOARD! By the time the boat got turned around and near the buoy, a sea otter had swum by, grabbed the rope in his teeth and was backstroking away as fast as he could go.

Sea otter trying to steal our MOB buoy!
I passed the tug easily, and then to my horror realized that there were two tugs abreast each hooked to the barge with their own cable. I was right in the jaws of the advancing V. Those extra lights were on the second tug hooked up in a Honolulu tow. I started the Atomic 4 gas engine to add some speed to the gentle wind in the sails.  The ketch and I barely made it. We were lifted by the bow wave on the outer side of the outer tug.

What is your most hated boat job? 

Josh Easy. Dealing with head hoses.

Natasha Cleaning slime out of the cockpit after landing a halibut

Whats your favourite photo ever taken while at sea and why? 

Orcas leaping and playing with each other.

What would you never leave behind (besides each other) when heading out to sea? 

Boy, theres a list. It has to include Survival suits, tools and repair stuff. For getting weather info our Iridium phone and computer hook up as VHF Wx is simply not available in many areas.

Josh, as you know Pendana has been to north Alaska and commonly refers to the area as the greatest cruising ground on the face of planet earth (and we barely scratched the surface).  Why do you believe more boaters dont make the short run north from S E Alaska to explore this part of the world?

Dealing with weather challenges. To see Prince William Sound, Kodiak, the Peninsula, the Kenai, and to venture further out to Dutch Harbor really requires a minimum of two seasons.

Samba in Prince William Sound
Dutch Harbor from Mt Ballyhoo
Natasha tell us something about yourselves that nobody knows? 

I always wanted to be a ballerina!

If you were to give one piece of advice to someone thinking of cruising the world, what would it be? 

Eric and Susan Hiscock had this quote carved into a beam on Wanderer:

Grab a chance, and never be sorry for might have been.

If you were advising someone as to the best area of the world to go cruising, where would it be, and why? 

No contest: Alaska, for all the reasons weve given above. It also depends on ones temperament. We would rather deal with the challenges of weather and bears, than deal with manmade difficulties and dangers.

And finally, where to next? 

Wed like to venture further in the Bering Sea to the Pribilofs and further out the Aleutians.

Thank you very much for your time, will be watching this years progress closely. 

Good luck with your travels!

To read more about their travels please visit:  HERE.

Proudly bought to you by: Pendanablog

1 thought on “Guest Interview – Josh and Natasha Tofield – N52 Samba”

  1. Peter Merritt

    Last year we joined Josh and Natasha for a one week charter as a ‘try before you buy’. They are both wonderful people, excellent boaters and terrific teachers. All that is included in this blog post was true in our experience. Well worth the cost and long travel from Australia.

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