Nik Nak

Launched 1970
Owner Kerry Costello and Steen Riisberg
Purchased 1989
Configuration UK Original, i.e. low mast, powered by Beta Marine BD722
Colour White hull, grey and white superstructure
Berthed Hayling Island Sailing Club, Chichester Harbour, UK
Sail Number D 206
Australian Registration Danish
State Registration  
Call Sign XP7997
Builder Aqua-Fibre UK
Hull Number Lloyds certificate Y.H.Q 3906
Fit Out Michael Winfield and Partners Ltd
Previous Owners 1970 – 1972 ?, Denmark
1972 – 1989 Kaj Jolk, Denmark
Previous Names Pingvin

The Yacht’s Story

This is the worst season ever (2005)! Nik-Nak is all alone on her swing mooring and has only been sailing three times this season. A constant feeling of failure hovers over me and Kerry. How did we get to this?

For me it all started in Denmark in 1975, when my parents bought a Finnish motor sailor and moored her in the newly developed marina in Rungsted in Denmark. Their neighbour in the marina was Nik-Nak. I was the proud owner of a Vinga motor sailor at the time, but I just knew that Nik-Nak was the most desirable boat in the world and one day …… if my dreams were to come true – she would be mine.

Nik-Nak was born in England in 1970 and was exported to Denmark along with three other S&S boats from the same yard (two 34s and one other). Nik-Nak started her life as Pingvin and was raced by one of the leading race teams in Denmark. After two years Pingvin was sold and was renamed Nik-Nak. She was raced heavily by the new owner and his two sons. Apart from winning races, their greatest experience was when Olin Stephens came aboard the boat during a Skagerak race. “Do remember, she is fastest at a heel of 23.5 degrees”, Olin said, and they never forgot.

The sons grew older, girls came in to the equation, children were born and racing suffered. The owner was disappointed. At that time, 1988, my New Zealand wife and I had decided to emigrate to UK and were handing our old boat over to my daughter. During this we had a serious talk to our neighbour about the lack of activity by his sons and the outcome, 3 months later in 1989, was our purchase of Nik-Nak. The culmination of 14 years’ dreams!

For the trip to England we made very few changes. Nik-Nak had a good wardrobe, 14 sails all in good condition life raft, top range instruments, VHF and RDF. All we added was a Decca navigator and lots of charts.

Crossing the North Sea in a 34 footer is always a challenge and our challenges were serious trials. It was not the weather – that was glorious! Nor was it the wind – which was a brilliant reach most of the time. It was the food and wine. How do you keep the white wine cool in 30 degrees? How do you eat 9 days of pre-cooked gourmet meals in just 5?

Nik-Nak has lived on her swing mooring in Chichester Harbour in southern England since 1989. We use her solely for cruising and our cruising grounds are southern England and northern France. We have planned to take her to the Baltics and sail her there for some years and we might start this voyage next year. Or the next…

She is now 35 years old and we have updated/changed her in only a few ways. The old Volvo MD2 has given way to a Beta Marine (3 cyl Kaboto based). My research found that this is the only engine you can install right behind the mast without making any changes to the original engine base, and the engine itself has been perfect. We added an extra battery and have now 2 domestic batteries, each 100 Amp hours in addition to a separate starter battery. We changed the instrumentation. First to Cetrek, an advanced totally integrated very flexible system, which never worked and three years later we dumped. And then to RayMarine ST60. Its very old fashioned in comparison, but it works! The Decca has been swapped with a Garmin GPS, the tiller self steerer is now a Navico called Edward, but the old Helmsman (now RayMarine) – Hugo – was actually better. And the Link 2000 energy control system we installed to help us manage our energy was a pure waste of money – we settled on managing energy by trying not to use it! Conclusion, keep it simple – but we all know that don’t we?

Cosmetically we have a problem. The super structure is grey and white, and the grey gelcoat is simply worn through and cracked in several places so a repaint by hand was planed for the spring this year. However, with the normal English summer it turned out to be impossible to get her dry for an eight hour stretch and in the end we gave up and launched her in July. Immediately the weather changed, but painting 6 layers of Awlgrip Epoxy at sea is not an option, so in a couple of weeks she will come ashore again and put in a shed where we can do the paint work.

So that’s how we got to this season – the shortest in our history!

But even when we are lazy NikNak doesn’t let us down. She has been extremely strong and very cheap to maintain. Nothing serious has ever happened and she really looks after us regardless of the weather conditions. We (and our bank manager) have decided that she is our boat for many years to come, and the Swan 43 is too big anyway.

About the Owners

Kerry is the editor of the S&S Associations newsletter “The Wave”.


Photographs: Steen Riisberg

Chictester Harbour, 1990.

Steen in Haslar Marina.

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