My New Love!

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It’s more than a decade since I’ve owned an offshore-capable yacht and a lot longer than that since I owned a multi (that was Catamundlepigeons, a Crowther 40 which I had built and subsequently extended to 43ft).

The desire for a new boat never waned during those 10-plus years of being “yachtless” – but my workload (which I was enjoying), and the associated travel, caused me to put that high priority item that was part of my bucket list, onto the back-burner.

Most interesting for me at the time was the thought of buying another mono never entered my mind: it had to be a cat. This wasn’t surprising really because near 30 years ago I chartered the famous 60ft Crowther design, Shotover, and took to two-handed racing with my great mate, Duncan van Woerden. We were both members of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in Sydney at the time, a time when to mention multis while sipping on a cold one at the bar was deemed by most members to be as sacrilegious as it was offensive. Regardless, we saw the light and have been multihull enthusiasts ever since – even though we still love racing monos as well as multis.

I’d lived in Sydney all my life, right up to when I last became “yachtless”. The sale of that yacht coincided with my move from the northern beaches there to Main Beach on the Gold Coast. Duncan was already well ensconced on the coast with his wife and three wonderful daughters, so it was inevitable that every conversation we enjoyed after I arrived here had a multi element to it.  In early 2013 – when it started becoming all too apparent that life’s runway was getting shorter, not longer – I decided the only thing to do was find my yacht and get sailing again… as a boat owner. Initially the thought was to build a custom design that would incorporate every feature Duncan and I would like to see on a cat. It was a plan based on a firm belief that no existing production cat fully utilised the exceptional benefits that can come from a catamaran concept.

I found a designer in Canada who could get his head around most of the things we wanted for what was a somewhat radical path: among many things, the design incorporated a free-standing bi- plane rig. There were numerous reasons for this rig configuration, but most importantly, it was primarily because my last monohull was a Ben Lexcen designed Revolution 38, which had a free- standing schooner rig that was incredibly simple and easy to handle.

Time killed that plan: it was going to take too long to complete the design, build the boat and get her in the water. The only other option was a good production boat that ticked most, if not all, the boxes. After considerable research I settled on a Fountaine Pajot Lavezzi 40 Maestro (three-cabin version), and then the search began. I couldn’t find what I wanted locally, so, working through my brother, Bruce, who is a yacht broker in America, I found just about every Lavezzi for sale in that country. Frustrating times followed as each offer I made did not lead to a deal. I also scanned Europe, and the Pacific without any luck, and then … wouldn’t you know it … fate played its hand: “THE” boat bobbed up less than 100 kilometres away – in Mooloolaba.

I was on the Multihull Solutions stand at this year’s Sanctuary Cove Boat Show talking with “El Supremo”, Mark Elkington, about my frustrating search – and 24 hours later he and broker, Kelvin Gorrie, had come up with what they were certain was the answer. They were certain there was a Lavezzi 40 Maestro, named Carpe Diem, in Mooloolaba with my name written all over it! It sounded good on paper, and looked good in the images … so, after so many disappointing experiences during my preceding “Looking for a Lavezzi” mission, I just about burnt rubber driving between the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, just to make sure I was first to see her.  What followed was that surreal experience: I sensed from the moment I saw her while walking down the dock that this was my new “girl”. A whirlwind period of negotiations followed, then 24 hours later, it was “BINGO”! As far as I was concerned, I’d won the jackpot.

It appears that the owner was as confident that he was going to sell his yacht as I was that I was going to buy it: he suggested that the trial sail be from Mooloolaba to Boat Works at Coomera, where I wanted to do the survey. The guru of yachting meteorologists, Roger ‘Clouds” Badham, provided the perfect forecast: a light north westerly for our early departure from Mooloolaba in early July, then a 15-18 knot westerly for our passage south down Moreton Bay. We were off… It was another monumental moment in this sailor’s life, guiding away from the dock with what would soon become my latest acquisition in a wide range of sailboats owned over almost five decades – starting with 16ft and 18ft skiffs.

The sun had barely brought full light to the new day, and the air was crisp, as Duncan, Kelvin and I began the preparation work for setting the main and genoa while heading out of the MooloolahRiver. I was immediately impressed by the yacht’s speed under power, and manoeuvrability, but for a while I struggled with the “softness” of the hydraulic steering: I prefer the positive feeling that comes with cables. We had plenty of time to adjust to the yacht (not yhat it was difficult) on the 25nm reach to Skirmish Point, at the southern end of Bribie Island. I actually felt like I was a kid with a new toy at Christmas time – checking everything possible and already planning some minor changes.

One of the many plusses that come with owning a multi shone through once we got to the southern end of Bribie Island: instead of having to navigate the shipping channels for much of the way into Moreton Bay, we set a course that took us directly to Macleay Island, 30 miles to the south … the direct benefit that comes with a draft of little more than one metre. Despite the cloud and the chilly bite in the westerly wind, we enjoyed a glorious reach all the way. Best speed: 12.3 knots. This part of the passage was particularly interesting for me as it reaffirmed research I had done for my two latest books – “Flinders, the Man who Mapped Australia” and “Cook, from Sailor to Legend”.

It made me realise what great seafarers and navigators those two men were, and the difficulties they faced as they tried to find their way around the banks and shallows in Moreton Bay (Cook actually named it Morton Bay).  It proved to be a wonderful day of sailing for us. Not even an unexpected 25-30 knot burst of breeze out of the west spoiled it. Instead, we dropped the sails and motored on to our intended destination for the night, Canaipa, on Russell Island. Once there and at anchor we relaxed on the trampoline enjoying “sundowners” while watching the big golden orb disappear below the western horizon in spectacular fashion.

We were up and underway early the following morning, heading for the Gold Coast. With the benefit of a favourable tide we enjoyed a pleasant cruise down the eastern part of the Broadwater, then a delightful run up the picturesque north arm of the Coomera River. We were docked at Boat Works early in the afternoon.  Once the survey was complete the deal wasfinalised Carpe Diem was on her way to a new home, with a new name. She’s now Toucanoes, and she’s docked very snugly at Southport Yacht Club. I sense already that this is going to be a long- lasting love affair. Audi Hamilton Island Race Week is on the agenda for next year; and Duncan and I have managed to mention the Brisbane to Gladstone race … but we have since realised that thought was probably influenced by alcohol.

SYC-Sailpast-2014-2

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