The epic adventures of Burger's first explorer Northland

1 March 2021· Olivia Michel

Planning your next superyacht voyage? Take some inspiration from captain Jeff Callahan of Burger yacht Northland, as he discusses the explorer's adventurous itinerary through the South Pacific…

“We built the boat to do exactly what we're doing now; to explore the world, and also fish while doing it,” said captain Callahan of the 31.3 metre Northland. Launched in 2017, the Burger-built superyacht spent her second year on the water covering almost 4,000 nautical miles as she cruised the South Pacific.

Image credit: Jeff Brown/Breed Media

Beginning in the idyllic islands of French Polynesia, the world-girdling Northland would end up in Australia’s immense Great Barrier Reef 12 months later. On the way, she stopped by the palm-fringed islands of Fiji and onto New Caledonia, where the flora and fauna are unique and more diverse than anywhere else in the world, and “the waters are pristine and beautiful” as Callahan describes.

A significant focus on this trip was fishing, which is unsurprising, given that the stern of Northland is entirely dedicated to an angler’s needs. Features such as bait tanks, livewells and a custom-made fighting chair helped the owner catch mackerel and tuna for fresh dinners on board, as well as hooking a prize Marlin weighing over 135 kilograms.

Image credit: Jeff Brown/Breed Media

In Australia, they ventured into the territory of some even bigger fishes – one of the few things that Callahan felt wary about during the voyage. “There's a lot of sharks there, and they're not the nice ones." Between visits to Australia’s grand cities of Cairns and Brisbane and stops at dazzling islands like Hamilton, Fraser and Lady Musgrave, the owners swam amidst the reef’s colourful coral gardens – all the time aware that they could be in the presence of bull sharks, great whites and even crocodiles.

Image credit: Unsplash

And while time in the water was eventful, stepping ashore was the highlight of the voyage. When planning the journey with the owner, who Callahan has worked with for over a decade, it was clear that the main aim was to discover new lands, from taking in scenery they had never seen before to experiencing local culture. “We run with a very small crew. And my boss is big on giving people time off to go and explore,” he said.  From road tripping to zip-lining, “we were going on tours whenever we could, exploring the islands and the culture, even the food."

In Fiji, the owners had a taste of local culture by partaking in traditional kava ceremonies. A key formality to welcoming newcomers, the ceremony involves drinking the golden juice of a crushed yaqona root from a communal coconut shell bowl. Drinking the nectar produces feelings of relaxation and euphoria due to its narcotic properties, and this social activity accompanies everything from storytelling to conflict resolution.

Image credit: Unsplash

“When you visit some villages it’s a requirement, and you have to bring kava root with you and it's a full presentation. If you don't, you're not invited in,” explains Callahan. “It is a big cultural difference between our way of life and theirs.”

Callahan felt heartily welcomed by the Fijians, but of all the places visited by Northland the Polynesian islands were a favourite. “The biggest surprise was French Polynesia,” says Callahan, which he describes as “absolutely stunning.” Specifically, the lush island of Moorea left everyone speechless at its unspoiled splendour. But while the remote and undeveloped nature of these islands lends itself to their castaway charm, travelling in some of these far-flung destinations can mean that superyacht facilities are limited. Northland, however, was well prepared.

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Part explorer, part sportsfisher, the ABS-classed Northland has a steel hull specifically developed for undertaking long crossings. In fact, it is Burger's first steel-hulled yacht since 1963 and the first ever from the Manitowoc shipyard built with a steel hull and aluminium superstructure. Stabiliser fins and safety features offer enhanced security, which helped her navigate sizeable waves when the crew experienced severe weather conditions around the Great Barrier Reef. For long stretches at sea, she also has a lot of surpluses. "We have big water makers and very fuel-efficient engines, so I don't have to take on fuel very often,” said Callahan.

Image credit: Jeff Brown/Breed Media

A look inside her interiors will also make it clear how this Luiz de Basto-designed superyacht could comfortably accommodate her guests for so long. Onboard amenities such as a sundeck Jacuzzi and bar, along with al fresco and indoor dining options, are complemented by elegant living spaces finished in glossy woods peppered by ornate artwork.

By the time Northland finished her adventures, things in the US looked very different from when she had left. “Once I reached Fort Lauderdale, it was at the height of the American COVID [pandemic],” said Callahan. This caused some trouble getting home, as well as putting off impending plans to visit Europe.

Image credit: Jeff Brown/Breed Media

Once travel is back on the cards though, the next big adventure will be the Nordic realms of Norway, Sweden and Denmark along the Cool Route. This will test Northland’s cold water cruising capabilities, of which her captain is very confident. But for now, Northland will stay closer to home, coasting through Maine and New England and enjoying what her native shorelines have to offer.