Maiden voyage from the heart for Belize 52

Tropical North Queensland, Australia: Voyaging comes from the heart and each new day aboard brings with it something special, explains Belize 52 Sedan owner, Richard Barnes, who has recently returned from a two month blue water voyage to the Whitsundays.

Looking relaxed and rejuvenated, Richard and his wife Annette recount their exciting journey from Runaway Bay on the Gold Coast north to Bait Reef in tropical North Queensland, a round trip of some 1400 nautical miles – not a bad effort for a maiden voyage.

“I always say that boating is character building.  It is a clean open air activity that teaches young ones, and older ones, a lot about the elements and how to live in harmony with them,” Richard said.

“Boating is a hobby for Annette and I and it acts as therapy – it keeps us agile and ensures we are constantly using our faculties.  Boating provides us a plethora of experiences.”

As seasoned seafarers with 10 voyages under their belts, the Runaway Bay couple ordered their new Belize 52 Sedan off the plan and worked closely with designers to ensure their dream boat met all of their cruising requirements.

“With all three children married and three grandchildren and counting, we decided it was time for a larger vessel.  A top priority for us was to have a vessel with speed and performance to enable us to run for shelter as the need arose, and we decided that 52 feet with a tender garage would be perfect,” Richard said.

“As fate would have it, we came across plans for the new Belize 52 Motoryacht and after a trip or two to Taiwan, where the boat was constructed.  Annette and I fell in love with the Belize 52 Sedan.

“The boat building process was an exciting journey, as we had exacting criteria drawn from our cruising experiences, and the Belize was built to accommodate our boating idiosyncrasies.”

Annette said the biggest highlight for her was meeting with Italian interior designer Giorgia Drudi in Sydney.

“We all met in the amazing Analu showroom in Rushcutters Bay with owner Angela Burlizzi and went through the fabrics, towelling colours and floor treatments,” Annette said.

The couple selected a stainless steel bench for the galley and a host of electronics and navigation aids including, two 15” G Series Raymarine screens plus AIS, radar, a second depth sounder, a weather station showing wind speed and direction, thermal night vision camera, engine room and anchor cameras.

“A key item for us is the ability to manoeuvre in close quarters and the Cummins Zeus Drive system with the joystick control works well.  No more jumping onto marinas, just step off the boat as it approaches a pontoon,” Richard said.

The couple took delivery of their new Belize 52 Sedan in April 2012 and aptly named her Annie, after ‘Granny Annie’, which is what the children fondly call Annette.

On August 14, the couple departed their home at Runaway Bay at 10.10am for the comfortable 18 knot, six hour journey north to Mooloolaba Wharf Marina.

“We met friends at Mooloolaba and celebrated leaving home on our northern adventure,” Richard said.

“We stayed in Mooloolaba for a few days before leaving at 5.40am on the 19th bound for Urangan.

“We arrived at 11.30am after a pleasant and safe crossing of the Wide Bay Bar at Fraser Island.  We tied up at the Boat Club where we enjoyed a leisurely lunch.”

August 20 and the couple left Urangan on a six hour journey to Pancake Creek where they spent the next day relaxing and enjoyed a walk to the lighthouse for a picnic lunch overlooking Jenny Lind Creek.

“Annette usually bakes some bread and we take a bottle of wine.  The 270 degree view is spectacular as it looks back to the Town of 1770 – a very special experience.”

The couple continued north towards their final destination, Hamilton Island; stopping at  Rosslyn Bay, Port Clinton, Mackay, Keswick Island, Scawfell Island, Thomas Island, Shaw Island, Billbob Bay and Goldsmith along the way.

Richard and Annette encountered heavy sea fog between Point Clinton and Mackay, which prevented any sight of the Percy Islands or Digby Island.

“We had a few anxious moments and adrenalin rush while travelling through the fog but Annie handled it superbly and we categorised this experience as another ‘adventure’,” Richard said.

“On our way from Mackay to Keswick Island we caught a School Mackerel.  Scawfell Island was a huge highlight with a whale experience to beat all experiences.

“We were anchored in a little bay at Scawfell and several whales had been swimming at the nearby headland all day.  At sunset, Annette and I were sitting on the deck when two whales came right up to the boat, lifted their heads and peered at us.  It was amazing, they just eyed us and then swam under Annie  before visiting two nearby yachts.  This truly was a memorable experience.”

They arrived at Hamilton Island on September 7 to prepare for their son Ben and his wife Ayesha and their two children, Dalton, 3, and Piper, 1, who joined them on board for one week on September 8.

On September 9 they went to Cid Harbour where they enjoyed a day on the beach with their grandchildren.

Strong south easterly winds the next day had them seeking shelter in Refuge Bay at Nara Inlet, but the following two days were picture perfect with lots of fun activities including, a Party Day to celebrate the three September birthdays, and sundowners ashore.  They baked a birthday cake to mark the occasion.

“On September 13 we enjoyed snorkelling in the turquoise waters at Blue Pearl Bay, Hayman Island,” Annette said.

“Having children and grandchildren on board, while challenging at times, provides a joy that is hard to describe.  For example, watching three-year-old Dalton take a used drink can to the crusher up forward and pull the handle and watch it crush was very entertaining and amusing,” Richard said.

“The next day we went to Chalkies Beach for a swim and lunch before cruising back to Cid Harbour.”

On September 15, they left Cid Harbour and returned to Hamilton Island where they said goodbye to their family and set off for Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays for a few days.

After Airlie, they headed to Stonehaven on September 21 and on to Bait Reef for a snorkel over the Stepping Stones, which are a series of flat topped coral pinnacles fringing Bait Reef and forming ‘stepping stones’.

Richard recounts, “One special day was when we travelled to Bait Reef, north east of Hamilton Island and in the middle of the ocean we snorkelled over the bommies (shallow reef).  The sea was a glass-out and a giant trevally played around our stern.  We topped off the morning with a barbecue lunch before heading on to Monte’s Resort adjacent to Gloucester Island for a dreamy sunset dinner.”

“When cruising, most days bring something special.  Sea passages are usually exciting as one is never sure what challenges may arise.”

The next leg of the journey was from Monte’s to Mackay and then on to Port Clinton, Keppel Bay Marina to refuel and then on to Pacific Creek, a cyclone creek at the top of Curtis Island, where they spent three days from September 25 to 27 doing a little beachcombing.

“The tide range in this narrow mangrove creek is 3 to 4 metres and on Friday (September 28) we left Pacific Creek bound for Gladstone Marina via the Narrows.  Rule of thumb is to depart (heading south) the green beacon one hour before the Gladstone high tide as long as the tide is greater than vessel draft plus 2 metres.  We have done this many times and the cattle cross over at low tide so it is a fun exercise.

“For information, I note that when heading north one departs Black Swan Island one hour before the Gladstone high tide on the same basis.

“Annette always seeks out patchwork and fabric shops in downtown Gladstone.  The boat performed beautifully with Annette sitting in the helm area sewing while I navigate.”

On Monday, September 30, they were off to another favourite anchorage at Pancake Creek where they stayed for four nights before heading to Bundaberg Port Marina, Urangan for refueling and then back down to Mooloolaba.

Richard and Annette arrived back at Mooloolaba Wharf Marina on October 9 but strong winds emerged, so they decided to stay until the weather improved.

On October 14, they left Mooloolaba bound for Moreton Bay, Tiger Mullet anchorage at Jumpinpin and then the next day they enjoyed a comfortable cruise back to Runaway Bay, ending their two month shake down voyage on board Annie.

For the past eight years, Annette and Richard have enjoyed their annual pilgrimages north every winter and sometimes south to Sydney.  They often ask themselves if they would ever tire of it.

“Our answer is that while we still have the ability to do this, we have our favourite anchorages and each voyage brings different experiences and people to meet.  I said to Annette that maybe if we take delivery of a new vessel in the year I am 70 and use her with family and friends until I am 80, that would be a good outcome.  We believe the Belize is the vessel for us in this context; the rest is up to us.”

Richard celebrated his 70th birthday on board Annie on 21 December, 2012 and he looks forward to celebrating many more milestones on board their Belize 52.

“Vessels nowadays are quite complex and one has to live the vessel and understand her to be able to enjoy the moments.  Confidence in one’s own ability is paramount.  The sea can be beautiful one day and scary the next, so learning gradually with others is a good way to go.  It goes without saying that some boaties are better mentors than others, so choose carefully.”