Port Stephens, NSW, Australia: It was a superb winter’s day in tranquil Smiths Creek in Sydney when Riviera owner, Damian, suggested cruising to Port Stephens for the Christmas break.
The suggestion was met with a harmonious ‘that sounds like fun, let’s go’ from Steve and John who had recently bought their Rivieras 3850 and 41 Open Flybridge respectively.
Somewhat of a ‘serial boat owner’, Damian found himself ‘in the middle of two boat deals’.
“John owned a brilliant Riviera 34 Flybridge and decided it was time for some more space, so after much searching, calls and inspections, John and his family settled on a very late model 41 Flybridge,” Damian said.
“Another mate, Steve, caught wind of the fact that I was a serial boat owner and said he wanted to buy his first boat, so the only advice I could give him was to buy a Riviera. We shopped around and found a 3850 that seemed like the one. I had previously owned a 3850 so after inspections and sea trials the boat was purchased and Steve started on earning his sea legs.”
And what better way for Steve to earn his sea legs than cruising 70 nautical miles from Broken Bay north to Port Stephens.
The journey would be a maiden voyage for John and Steve on their new Rivieras, but for Damian, an avid seafarer, it was his fourth ocean cruise to Port Stephens on board his fifth Riviera, a 40 Flybridge DreamR.
As Christmas approached, the boats were prepared, berths were booked around Nelsons Bay and the trio planned their journey for a Boxing day run.
“As we finalised our Christmas shopping and workloads, the weather turned, seas and winds had forecast for some ugly moments, not the fact that our now pristine presented boats couldn’t handle the conditions but who wanted to get knocked about with all that Champagne on board,” Damian said.
“We had to make a decision and the day before Christmas was the best window to take the boats up before the conditions closed in, which would have meant a shorter holiday for our families. We made a few calls to find some crew, which was a challenge the day before Christmas but nevertheless within hours four helping hands were rustled up wanting a run.
“We cruised up at 20knots starting at dawn and made good time arriving at Port Stephens some three hours later. We had a 1.5 metre swell about six seconds apart so it was rolling nicely and we were sitting on about 19 to 20 knots but as we approached Port Stephens, we cranked it right up and got through the heads at about 28 knots.
“After much fanfare on the radios and all having a ball sitting on our bridges, we gave the boats a quick hose down before catching a taxi back to Newcastle where we boarded a train bound for Sydney. The atmosphere in the carriage on the way back was great, Christmas Eve was here and we wondered why on earth we shouldn’t just stay on our boats.”
Following the Christmas Day festivities, the three families drove up to their ‘holiday homes’.
“We found the boats rocking up and down by 50 centimetres but still sitting in their pens. The weather did turn rough and for the next two to three days it remained that way,” Damian said.
“We had just about had enough of sitting at marinas and as soon as the sun came out again it was time to start looking for some dolphins and find some nice bays to anchor and unwind before New Year’s Eve came around.
“We all went our separate ways for a few days and on New Year’s Eve John and I decided to raft up in Fame Cove, which is known as one of the best anchorages in Australia.
“At 9pm and for the benefit of their kids we motored out in dinghies where we sat drifting in the middle of Nelson’s Bay watching the fireworks spectacle from three different shores.”
Steve and a flotilla of friends joined them in Fame Cove on January 2 for another celebration, Damian’s Daughter, Zara celebrated her 11thbirthday.
“Zara’s birthday was one of the highlights of the holiday, there were dolphins literally in front of our paddle boards, the weather was perfect and all the hallmarks of a boating lifestyle came together that day: friends, family, fun, good food and wine, kids swimming and playing on and around the boats – life couldn’t get any better.
After another week exploring in and around Nelson’s Bay they cruised Home in convoy.
“I was happy with the past few weeks of doing nothing but boating, John was pleased as punch he had found the right boat for him and had now used all systems to a T, and Steve who was a novice at first was now a fully fledged boat owner and beat both John and I back home to port,” Damian said.
“Already there is talk of larger Rivieras and Jervis Bay has already been tabled for the next destination to check out later this year.”