In 1999 my partner, Jess, and I decided to invest in a cruising yacht to be placed in the charter fleet in the Whitsundays. After many years racing dinghies (mainly NS14s) together, we were to embark on a journey that would eventually lead us to owning and cruising a blue water capable yacht and sailing nearly 28,000 together.
I had previously read about cruising catamarans so we visited the 1999 Sydney Boat Show and inspected a Seawind 1000. We fell in love and after receiving a lot of positive feedback from the charter businessw we decided that a cat would be the best way to proceed. So we chose a Seawind 1000 and lined up with a company called Tropical Sailing.
The boat (#1073) was built in Wollongong by Seawind and because Tropical preferred their boats to have “Tropical” in the name (they already had Tropical Sunset and Tropical Fever) and this was their first cat, we named her “Tropicat”. She was launched in June 2000 and was taken immediately to the Whitsundays.
Over the next 6 years we enjoyed our stints on her in the beautiful Whitsundays and pondered what vessel would meet our requirements as a blue water cruiser so that we could comfortably sail further afield. The decision turned out to be easy, after our great experience on the Seawind 1000 it had to be a Seawind 1200. We’d seen and inspected quite a few boats but the Seawind 1200 outshone all others for capability and strength. And so it was that in 2006 we sold Tropicat and bought “Champagne Blue”. Settlement on both happened on the same day.
Champagne Blue was in the Whitsunday Rent a Yacht fleet and we kept her there for 2 years until we were ready to go cruising. Then in June 2008 we retired her from charter work, renamed her Caravanserai and went cruising. First we sailed to Cairns and back, with stops at Mourilyan Harbour, Port Hinchinbrook, Cape Bowling Green, Cape Upstart and Greys Bay on the way back. After cruising around the Whitsundays with various guests aboard and having a wonderful time we departed on the journey home to Eden with 2 friends aboard for assistance..
In 2009 Caravanserai journeyed to Darwin and back over 9 months. We stopped at so many great places including extended stops in Cairns, Gove and Darwin. Cruising the North Queensland coast and across the Gulf of Carpentaria were highlights of this amazing journey. The best part of the return journey had to be the sailing across the top of Arnhem Land. We often set sail at dawn and had 5-6 hours of southerly land breeze before the wind swung easterly and we anchored for the afternoon and night. We also sailed to the South and East of Elcho Island on the way to Gove. Total mileage 6667nm.
In January 2011 we left Eden to sail to Tasmania. We had decided to do a anti-clockwise circumnavigation and so once rounding Cape Howe we headed for Deal Island then on to Stanley on the NW corner. After a week in Stanley to avoid strong SW winds, we sailed to Cave Bay on Hunter Island for a night then headed south along the west coast. We then had a week in the spectacular Macquarie Harbour. While there we took Caravanserai 18nm up the Gordon River to Sir John Falls, lowered the dinghy and motored through the 2 sets of rapids and into the Franklin River, an awesome experience.
After this it was on to Port Davey in the SW wilderness area where we visited Melaleuca and the home of Deny King. The next leg was again under motor, around to New Harbour, then to Recherche Bay. Several weeks were spent exploring Hobart, the Dentrecasteaux Channel, Huon River and North and South Bruny Island area before heading home. Most of the trip around Tassie consisted of strong winds when we stayed in port or winds too light to sail. On this trip we covered 1438nm.
2012 was spent preparing Caravanserai for a cruise in the Pacific in 2013. We registered her as an Australian Ship, unfortunately we had to list her home port as Sydney as Eden is not a recognized Port of Registration despite being a Customs Port. After hearing some amazing things we decided to join the Island Cruising Association and participate in the 2013 Pacific Circuit Rally. The Rally was scheduled to depart Opua in the Bay of Islands, NZ on 1 May.
Therefore on 6 February we left Eden and headed directly for Nelson on the northern end of the NZ South Island, seven and a half days later we were tied up. The crossing was uneventful. The weather was exactly as forecast, a slow moving high centered on the Sydney-Auckland line. We spent 5.5 days broad reaching on port tack, then 2 days broad reaching on Stbd tack after a weak front went through. The sails were either 2 reefs in the main or 3 reefs in the main with the genoa furled accordingly. We rounded Cape Farewell at 0430 on 13 Feb in 30 knots SW doing 13 knots.
After 6 weeks tied up in Nelson Marina as we explored the awe inspiring South Island we sailed via the Marlborough Sound to Wellington then on to Opua via the east coast of the North Island. There we met up with the ICA fleet and John and Lyn Martin of ICA. Here 2 weeks were spent in boat prep, seminars on a wide variety of topics, passage planning and social gatherings.
The itinerary was: Leg 1 Opua to Tonga arriving at Uoleva Island in the Ha’apai Group; Leg 2 Neiafu (Vava’u Group) to Vanua Balavu Island in the Lau Group of Fiji; Leg 3 Musket Cove in the Yasawas to Anatom Island in Vanuatu; Leg 4 Port Vila to Lifou Island in the Loyalty Islands in New Caledonia; and, for us, Leg 5 Noumea to Brisbane.
Departure occurred on 1 May as scheduled. We stopped at Minerva Reefs after 5 days while the fleet (about 25 boats) came back together and enjoyed a cricket game between Australia and NZ on North Minerva Reef. It was declared a draw. (NZ umpires). We spent 4-6 weeks in each of the countries visited cruising in company in groups of various sizes depending on where other boats wanted to go. The only constraint was to be at the departure point for the next leg well in advance of scheduled departure for customs and immigration purposes. We arrived in Brisbane on 29 October after 4.5 days from Noumea. We arrived home on 13 November after 9 months and 7370nm.
The Rally went smoothly and it was very convenient to have the Customs and Immigration people come to us rather than us having to go to them at most entry and departure points. Some great friendships were made. There are so many great anchorages and places to visit on this Rally and it is highly recommended as a way to get into Pacific cruising.
2014 was quiet until December when we set off for Tassie again, this time to visit the north coast, in particular the Tamar River, which we had bypassed on our 2011 trip. We sailed from Eden directly to the Tamar River. We made our way up the Tamar, anchoring off Rosevears for Christmas Day, Here we had lunch at Rosevears pub on Boxing Day so we could watch the start of the Sydney Hobart and the cricket. Later we arrived in Launceston and tied up in the marina.Then back to the boat and out of the Tamar to head for Devonport where we tied up at the Mersey Yacht Club. After a few days in Devonport we headed for Melbourne and tied up at Royal Brighton YC after 1.5 days. It was 10 January 2015. 11 days later we headed out of the heads for Eden, arriving home on 24 Jan.
Our next trip was planned for a December 2016 start. It was to essentially be via Melbourne (for Christmas with family), Kangaroo Island, Adelaide and Port Lincoln to Ceduna in the Great Australian Bight with the option of crossing the Bight to WA if the weather conditions allowed. Second option was to cruise Spencer Gulf and do lots of land cruising as well, particularly SW Victoria, SE South Australia and the Eyre Peninsula. As it turned out the weather did not comply and after a stint in Ceduna we went with Option B.
The cruise back from Ceduna to Port Lincoln was excellent. A stop in Port Lincoln for a month allowed for a trip by air to Perth to visit family and to visit the Margaret River region. After returning to Port Lincoln the boat was slipped prior to a cruise into Spencer Gulf. Despite the uncomfortable legs through Backstairs Passage and Endeavour Straight the trip was very enjoyable with Spencer Gulf and the towns around it the best part of the trip. We arrived home again in early June 2017.
Since taking Caravanserai out of the charter fleet in 2008 we have done about 28000nm. Over the 9 years Caravanserai has been regularly serviced, standing rigging replaced, a watermaker added, charging systems upgraded and expanded, sails replaced and regularly serviced, tramps replaced, one engine replaced and the other re-built, aft cabins modified to provide better long distance cruising accommodation, headsail furler replaced, winches serviced, internal timberwork re-varnished, saloon upholstery replaced, fridge replaced, and so on.
Now we look forward to visiting all those places we stopped at or sailed past from the land and venturing much further inland. Caravanserai is now up for sale, in great condition and ready for her next adventure. If you would love to live this dream, she is the perfect boat for blue water cruising, check her out here.