First, it's important to know how we use our boat since that drives many of the design decisions. 90% of the time, it's just the two of us on the boat. Neither of our kids has inherited the boating bug, so they are only aboard on rare occurrences, mostly when we have a large gang aboard which is even rarer. These usually take place around whale watch trips. From time to time we will have another couples join us, and that makes up the other 10%. With longer passages we expect the 10% time with guests to go up a bit, but we'll never be like a lot of people who always have a multitude of people on board. The biggest manifestation of this is around the number and configuration of state rooms.
For our "normal" cruising, two staterooms is fine, just like on our current boat. And a third is great for long passages where we may need to get some extra help on board. Four we don't need.
Now let's talk a little about the N55/60/63 "family" of boats. All three share a common hull, at least the forward 80% of it. The N60 is a stretched version of the N55. For the first few N60s that were built, the extra 5' was just an elongation of the hull section behind the rudder. The keel was no longer, the prop position was unchanged, and the rudder position was unchanged. In later models, the keel was lengthened and the running gear moved back in keeping with the longer hull. If you look closely at the pictures on the Nordhavn web site, you can see examples of both the new and old underside.
On the N60, all the extra length appears in the cockpit and the boat deck. The interior of the N55 and N60 are identical. We really like the extra open space in the cockpit, and it includes room for a nice built-in seating area and table for outside dining and lounging. On the boat deck, the N60 transforms a space cramped by a dinghy into a space for a larger dinghy with room to walk around and more easily carry kayaks and/or bikes. This is what sold us on the N60, and it's a modest 5% cost increase over the N55.
Speaking of the boat deck, there is an additional extension that can be added that brings the boat deck almost completely over the cockpit. As a sun non-worshiper, this was very appealing to me, and was the difference between an outside seating area that I would never use, and one that I would use regularly. It also gains another 4 feet of boat deck up above, and that's a real prize. With the boat deck extension, there is now room to stow the dinghy athwart ships on the extension, and open up the main boat deck as a lounge area even with kayaks and bikes. It's another big bang for the buck.
On the interior, there are two layouts, and the only difference is in the forward stateroom and head. For both, the master stateroom is midships. Forward in the standard layout, there is a hall/study with a guest stateroom off to the side and a head forward. The stateroom is on the small side and has a somewhat V-shaped berth - fine from one person, but two will be playing footsie. And unless you value an office, it's a waste of space. The alternate layout has a fully forward guest stateroom with a more conventional bed shape and head off to the side. The office in an integral part of the guest stateroom affording more space to the stateroom, but requiring invasion of the stateroom to use the office space.
We went with the standard layout. I value the office space, and need a place where I can work or be on a phone call without bothering others. There is a sliding door which opens the guest room onto the office, so when the office isn't in use, the guests can enjoy that extra space like it was always theirs. As for playing footsie, we figure if two people are sharing the bed then footsie shouldn't be a problem, and perhaps a benefit.
This explains why we picked the N60 and how we have set it up, but what about the N63? The N60 and N63 share exactly the same hull, but have different above deck and interior layouts. The N60 is a forward pilot house (FPH) design with the pilot house slightly forward of ship's center, and an aft boat deck. The N63 is an aft pilot house (AFP?) with the pilot house about 70% aft of the bow and the boat deck forward. On the N63 interior, everything flows forward on a single level (maybe a step here or there) with the same forward stateroom setup that's optional on the N60. The big difference is that you can access the forward stateroom via a hall, where on the N60 you need to either go through the master, or go up to the pilot house then back down to the hall/study. If stairs are a problem then the N63 starts looking pretty good. There also is an argument (a valid one, I think) that the ride is better in the aft pilot house compared to the forward pilot house. In general, the further aft in the boat, the better the ride in rough seas. The N63 also forgoes the fly bridge. We have gotten to a point where we only use our fly bridge in spectacular weather, so I don't place huge value on it, but when the weather is nice and you are whale watching or otherwise enjoying the sights, it's a pretty nice place to be. The other thing the N63 has is a mini-cabin down in the laundry room, presumably for crew or kids. Storage space is more important to us. The forward boat deck has some advantages, in particular the ability to carry a larger dinghy, but it's not large enough to carry our 1965 17' Boston Whaler (which would be really cool, but isn't realistic), and the dinghy blocks one or more of the hatches. Bottom line - we prefer the N60.
Other than picking from the standard option list, we have made what I gather are very few customizations. I doubt it's more than a 1/2 dozen things. I've learned that it's not uncommon for buyers to hire designers who specialize in boat interiors to set up the boat to their ideals. And others hire marine consultants to help specify the equipment and machinery. I don't know if this is the norm or the exception, but we have done neither. Hopefully we won't regret it. We have renovated a number of houses and become pretty good at spelling out what we want. We are also fortunate that Laurie has a really good sense of space and visual appeal, and I have a good understanding of the systems and machinery, so we have the Ying and Yang covered and are not running blind. We are by no means experts, but have a pretty good idea what we like and want.
One funny story serves as an example. Selecting granite for the counters, etc. can be a time consuming, flip-flopping process. When the time came, the PAE crew hauled out a container of samples for us to go through. I pulled one off the top of the pile and said "There it is. This is the one we want", and Laurie agreed. They were dumbfounded. What they didn't realize is that we had picked that same granite for two other houses and had already agreed we wanted to do the same thing on the boat. The one we wanted just happened to be on the top of the pile, but even if it hadn't, we would have found it in a matter of minutes. Call us boring, but we can pick out granite quickly. The same goes for fabric, etc. When in doubt, I defer to Laurie, and except for the Christmas-vomit sofa, she has never failed.
Back to the customizations, here's what we changed, or at least what comes to mind right now. Most of these were inspired by changes made by the owner of the boat we toured.
- We shrank a cabinet in the salon to make more room
- We shrank the dining table in the salon to make more space
- We shrank the galley sink to make space for larger drawers
- We added commercial-style door handles/locks to the fridge and freezer
- We made the master bed a bit larger (we are both bigger than average)
Oh, one other thing. The standard boat comes with a bath tub in the master head. A tub would only be usable at dock or in an extremely calm anchorage without sloshing water all over the place, and the rest of the time it's in the way. Plus, what a strain a tub would put on the water supply and hot water. So we went with just a shower.