With the aim of increasing his sailing experience, 25-year-old James Gruzman joined a Seawind 1000 delivery trip, and got more than he bargained for, including investigating why Bundaberg rum has a Polar Bear logo.
How did it all start out? I was working at a yacht club in Sydney on the marina and I was asked to give a member a tender ride out to his yacht. On the way out, we realised that we had a connection through a family member, which helped us to become more familiar . The member is Dr Daniel Challis, a well-regarded gynaecologist who works in Sydney. Through the connection, Dan knew that in my year off after school I had cruised on a sloop from the UK to France, Spain and back. Dan told me that he had purchased a Seawind 1000 catamaran that was moored in Townsville and asked me if I would like to help him deliver it back to Sydney. I was already employed full time at the club but my job didn’t turn out to be what I expected, so I handed in my resignation. A trip like this would strengthen my sailing skills which had become rusty over the past 18 months, as I'd worked on a motor yacht in the Mediterranean for the summer and then worked on another one in the Bahamas for the winter season. The trip would also provide a great opportunity to see the Australian coastline and some of its ports on the way. It didn’t take me long to come to the conclusion that I should be doing this delivery.
Dan invited me over for dinner two nights before we were scheduled to leave and we went through the charts discussing the route and the safety of the crew on board. This all went well and Dan flew to Townsville the following day to prepare the boat. I flew to Townsville with two other crew members on Friday, November 24, and we were met at the airport by Dan. The other crew members were Nick and Peter. Nick had also just recently purchased a Seawind 1000 and came along to build up some miles and get a feel for the boat at sea. Peter has done a few deliveries before and prefers to do all the cooking for the crew, so there was no argument from any of the other members.
When we arrived at the boat, we each chose a bed and dumped all our gear. I was quite surprised to have my own bed and also new bed sheets to go with it. Catamarans have the advantage of being able to comfortably sleep more people than monohulls (in calm waters). This was my first impression, which didn’t take long to change.
The boat was fuelled up and Dan had an extra four, 20 litre jerry cans of reserve fuel. The liferaft, food, drink and ice came on and we were ready to go. The boat, Club Gravity, departed Townsville just before midday. When we got out past the break water and hoisted the main I found it very sobering to have the wind and swell on the nose and the forecast indicated that it would be like this for a fair old whack. To try to speed things up, we motor-sailed to make it out of the bay, as this is a catamaran and to try to point well into the wind was difficult. The water in the bay was very shallow and we had this awful chop which caused the bows to dig in on just about every wave. To add to this, the boat was powered by two 15 horsepower Honda outboards which would cavitate and over-rev with the passing of each wave. It’s not exactly a soothing sound to help you fall asleep. I was feeling a little tired from the early start so I went down below for a snooze. My bed was in the port bow and if I tried to sleep there in these conditions I would have covered the ceiling and myself with lunch. So I hot bunked with Dan who had his bed in the centre of the hull. Just as I was dozing off to sleep, I had the pleasure of a wave coming through the hatch, which soaked my legs. The hatch hadn’t been closed properly and more than enough water came through. Later on in the evening and not long after dinner, I struggled to hold my food down. For about four hours, I had the time of my life hanging over the stern being sick. We also had green water going all the way over the coach roof and hitting me on the way down. During this exciting time, the port engine collected a fishing buoy and bent the propeller blades. Once it was freed, the engine no longer had the push it once had and Dan decided to go back to Townsville to replace the propeller. We had already passed Cape Bowling Green and then had to turn around. All that was going through my head is that I would have to suffer the same leg again.
Round two. We departed Townsville again, this time with a new propeller and I had drugged myself up. Our first stop was Double Bay which is an anchorage two hours motoring from Airlie Beach. We spent the evening there on the 26th and then the following morning we re-fuelled at Airlie Beach and made our way through the Whitsunday’s. Between the Whitsunday’s and the tropics.
While making this passage, I was experimenting with a few of Dan’s fishing lures to try to land a meal. The last lure managed to do the job. Peter pointed to the rod which was bending like crazy and all the line had been pulled out, so the only thing holding it on was the knot at the end of the line. The jib was furled, engines started and I tightened up the drag to start reeling this monster in. The fish was giving a pretty good fight and there were a couple of occasions where it looked like it was going to wrap the line around the rudder, but this was prevented by Dan accelerating away from the fish. I got the tuna on board and it was a reasonable size. Then came the job of gutting and filleting the fish in the cockpit. This could have been an extremely messy job but it was better than I expected as the boat had a saltwater deck hose. So Dan ended up doing the gutting and I kept the deck wet to clear the blood away. At the same time, I was taking photos of Dan pulling this fish apart. I found it quite amusing, remembering that he is a surgeon.
On the 29th, we had to drop off Nick so that he could meet his other commitments and the closest place was Rosslyn Bay, opposite The Keppel Islands. While there, we re-fuelled and then moved to another wharf for more ice and bread. When we landed at this wharf, we were greeted by a staff member who abused us and told us that we were not allowed to berth there. After placating the attendant, we got chatting on the way to the office and I asked him what the main industry was in town and he replied tourism. All I could think of was, if that’s the case then don’t scare people away. So we went back to sea, one crewman less, but with plenty of ice and bread.
Bundaberg distillery visit
On Thursday the 30th, we arrived at Port Bundaberg. We pulled in here as a strong southerly front was scheduled to hit and to allow another crew member to join the boat. After scrubbing up, Peter and I hired a car for $30 a day from the marina office and went to check out all the action in Bundaberg. After doing the shopping, . Dan, Peter and I did a tour of the Bundaberg Rum Distillery.I was quite surprised at the number of Europeans visiting it. I had to ask the tour guides a question that had been bugging me for a while, which was why do you have a polar bear as a mascot for a Queensland rum’ The two things couldn’t be more opposite. I’m still not satisfied with the answer. That afternoon Paul, the new crew member, arrived and we departed in the evening. On Saturday morning, we had arrived at the entrance to the Great Sandy Strait and spent the day navigating our way through the channel. I thought that it was a much better route to take instead of going around Fraser Island. Here, you could see all the different islands and wildlife and it would make a good cruise if you had more time to explore. In the strait, we anchored for lunch to have a barbeque and in the afternoon we crossed the bar at high tide for a smooth ride out.
On Sunday morning, we arrived at Mooloolaba and berthed at the yacht club. Upon arrival we were told that the yacht club had been closed due to poor management so we shifted to the marina next door. Dan flew back to Sydney from here to be with his family and had organised for a delivery skipper called John Gamlin to join the boat. Sunday was a bit of a write-off for Peter, Paul and mef. We had an early boozy lunch at a bar on the main beach and then discovered the Surf Club and its views from the balcony. We stayed at the Surf Club for hours and ended up having dinner there. After spending a small fortune, we were asked to leave at 7pm because it’s a surf club and they don’t allow board shorts or thongs to be worn in the evening. I couldn’t understand their logic.
John arrived on Monday and we spent the next two nights in the surf club appropriately dressed. John made sure that he understood all the yacht’s systems, and that the safety gear was in order before we left Mooloolaba. He made a scary discovery that two of the batteries were dry so we topped them up with distilled water. We departed Mooloolaba early Wednesday morning into a south-easter. Later on, in the passage the wind shifted around more to the east which was beneficial to us. On Thursday night, the head became blocked and it refused to flush any waste away. So early Friday morning I reached the high point of the trip doing my business in a bucket while Paul took a photo of me. This same morning we re-fuelled in Port Macquarie and then were escorted out by dolphins. Friday was our last night at sea and we were reaching speeds of 12 knots over the ground with the east coast current as we approached Sydney. Finally, at 11am on Saturday morning.
Seawind owner's view – Daniel Challis
Every boat is a compromise – no point having an ocean crossing boat for mostly paddling about the harbour. I bought the boat specifically to go into charter – hence a survey boat to join an existing, well-managed charter fleet with two Seawinds – Sydney Harbour Escapes in Rose Bay.
Good points of the Seawind 1000: Space and privacy for a 10m boat is amazing with a good head and great galley. As it is only 10m, I am able to handle it by myself comfortably – no point having a 50 foot boat if you need four crew to leave the mooring. The ability to be in shelter from sun, rain and wind while sailing with good all-round visibility. Better visibility than so-called pilothouse monos. No heeling is good for comfort and safety. Easy to manoeuvre and shallow draft. Speed is at least 30 per cent better than a monohull of the same length (I previously had a Northshore 33 so I know). Safety – unsinkable with no lead keel and redundancy of two rudders and two engines – proven in incident off Cape Upstart – would have been a disaster if only a single engine was installed. The age-old criticism of cats capsizing is really unlikely in coastal sailing. Another important fact is a good resale value, as it is a well-known production boat. Finally, it's roomy and can comfortably entertain two or three families for the day (in survey for 22 passengers) with plenty of storage and good tankage for size.
Bad points include poor windward performance and noisy outboards which are difficult to refuel, with tanks under the dining table. Probably ugly to look at, not sleek like a monohull and more expensive to buy. Maintenance can be a chore – difficult to slip with a six metre beam which won't fit on most slipways.
During our trip, I thought the boat did well – I never felt worried – except in an electrical storm. I did not like motor sailing to windward, the motion was jerky and a bit uncomfortable. If you were cruising without a deadline, you would just wait till the wind was more favourable.