A sense of adventure

27 January 2015 • Written by David Pelly, • Written by Tim Thomas

The Voyagers Award, introduced at the World Superyacht Awards in 2009, aims to celebrate an owner who has made extensive use of his or her yacht in long distance voyaging and exploration.

In anticipation of 2010’s Voyagers Award, we brought you the stories of five very different superyachts who eschewed the milk run in search of far-flung adventure, proving in the process that any superyacht, suitably equipped, can head off the beaten track in search of the ultimate freedom

The boats featured are_ Marama_, _Red Dragon_,_ Senses, Shenandoah of Sark_ and Tenaz.

Marama (37.8m, Delta Marine/2008)

When Marama’s owners took delivery of this tri-deck expedition motor yacht, they had been planning their Pacific odyssey for five years. Familiar with the Pacific from their previous yacht (also a Delta), they had known exactly what they wanted.

‘Marama was virtually built mission-specific for the trip,’ they say. ‘Prior to this voyage, we had spent seven years in the South Pacific, and during that time we really understood what it takes to cruise in complete safety. We incorporated all that into this vessel.’

As a result,Marama boasts a fuel capacity close to 85,000 litres, and in addition she carries all spares that might be needed for maintenance off the beaten track.

‘You have to develop a mind set of total self-containment,’ her owner explains. ‘Everything you might need must be on board from the outset. You can’t have where you are going dictated by where you are going to buy fuel next, and the yacht must be able to handle all weather conditions. Preparation is everything.’

As a result, Marama has been built to handle virtually anything that could be thrown at her. ‘We definitely feel a long haul yacht should be full displacement, with a deep draught and excellent stability.

‘Marama’s hull was built to incredible standards by Delta Marine. We have been tested in every kind of situation, and the boat has performed incredibly – she can even take a 90° knockdown and come back. We’ve been doing this for 40 years, and we finally got it right – we nailed it.’

Marama was commissioned early in 2008, and began the first stage of her big tour of the Pacific with a short shakedown from Seattle to the San Juan Islands.

Over the following year and a half she logged an impressive 14,876 miles as she voyaged from Alaska to Sydney, Australia, taking in the western seaboard of the US before heading to Marquesas, the Tuamotu Archipelago, the Society Islands, Tonga, Fiji and New Caledonia.

Part of the appeal of extended cruising is the chance to experience moments and see sights that are truly unique. For the owners of Marama, a return to Fiji led to a highly emotional reunion with the 240 locals on the tiny island of Wakaya. Indeed, it was one of the villagers who gave the yacht its name – Marama means ‘lady’ in Fijian. More than that, though is the chance to explore otherwise inaccessible areas.

‘We like the most remote and desolate places,’ the owners enthuse, ‘like the Tuamotu Archipelago,’ a series of atolls, ‘which is just glorious. You feel like you are the only people ever to have gone there. It’s one of the real thrills.

‘We couldn’t live without our cameras,’ they say. ‘It’s almost sinful not to be photographing what you see out there – you need to document it or you will truly regret it. We carried all sorts of different types of camera equipment to cover distance work, underwater, etc – and our crew is very much into it as well.

‘We’ve collated everything and put it into bound books that we can show friends and guests. It’s a real must.’

Red Dragon (52m, Alloy Yachts/2007)

Choosing to head to a region that has hit the headlines in recent months as a centre of pirate attacks seems an unlikely start point for a successful voyage, but for Red Dragon – a Dubois-designed sloop built for efficient performance cruising – it was an easy decision to make.

‘I’ve done the Indian Ocean so many times, there wasn’t a huge amount of planning to do,’ says her captain, Ben Marshall. ‘The reason I like the Indian Ocean is because there are very few people down here, although piracy is an issue.’

For this reason, Red Dragon takes considerable care over planning the security aspects of its voyages, and will always travel through hotspots with armed specialists as well as running through precise security drills. However, the rewards are considerable for those who are prepared to brave the dangerous waters en route to prime cruising grounds.

After departing Palma de Mallorca on her latest voyage of discovery in November 2008, transmitting the Suez Canal and heading safely through the Gulf of Aden, Red Dragon made for a scheduled fuel stop in Sri Lanka only to be struck by lightning which fried the electronics, meaning the compass and sextant had to be brought out for the passage to Galle. The fun didn’t stop there.

‘We had a military escort on entering Galle in Sri Lanka, as it was during the civil war,’ Marshall explains. ‘Once we were inside the port they put nets around the yacht, and at night they set off depth charges every 20 minutes to deter Tamil divers.’

Once refuelled, but still without some systems, Red Dragon was hand-steered to Thailand where cruising could begin in earnest, taking in the southern Thai islands, Langkawi, Myanmar and the unspoilt Mergui archipelago, before returning to Phuket to make ready for the passage to Mahe in the Seychelles.

‘The outer islands of the Seychelles, particularly the Amirantes archipelago, are very special,’ Marshall enthuses. ‘And as well as an abundance of fish to be caught, there is superb provisioning throughout the islands.

‘Alastair Maiden from Seal Superyachts in particular is superb, and he can organise all your cruising requirements in the Seychelles.’

Of course, a yacht’s design is a key element to consider for any extended cruise. ‘_Red Dragon_ was designed with increased fuel capacity,’ says Marshall, ‘and moreover it was decided not to carry petrol on board as it can be a real hassle finding petrol in some places. The tenders have diesel inboards and outboards so we can fuel up from the main tanks.’

Since her launch three years ago, Red Dragon has put a world-girdling 73,000 miles on her log – an incredible average of 83 miles per day.

Senses (59.22m, Schweers/1999)

Long range, the ability to carry a selection of tenders including a pilot boat launched from a ramp in the stern, and a helicopter with a retractable hangar, are among the key features of this purpose-built, rugged expedition yacht.

She was bought six years ago by brewery tycoon Sir Douglas Myers who, with his wife Barbara, planned to use the yacht’s capabilities for long range, extreme cruising. She also has an experienced crew, who have taken her up the Amazon, into the uncharted atolls of the Tuamotu Archipelago, close to volcanoes in the Andamans and through the red tape of Indonesian bureaucracy ‘whose twists and turns can be more difficult to negotiate than the reefs and currents in the channels,’ according to Max Cumming, the yacht’s first officer and relief captain at the time of the Myers’ second circumnavigation in 2008 to 2009.

‘Their aim was to visit favourite waters and ports from previous cruises, and also to get off the beaten track wherever possible to experience even more remote locales,’ says Cumming.

From Central America, _Senses _made for the Panama Canal, then San Diego for some yard work before heading to Alaska in pursuit of whales, bears, eagles and the vast and isolated wilderness of the Katmai Peninsular. It was then a non-stop passage to Hawaii and then on to New Caledonia, where the owner’s objective was fishing – bonefish in particular, as Sir Douglas is an expert in saltwater fly-fishing techniques.

After Papua New Guinea, in order to complete a circumnavigation, the Indian Ocean had to be tackled and once again, the risk of encountering pirates had to be faced.

‘Previously Senses has used the somewhat comical but effective ruse of a mock foredeck gun, which, added to her grey hull colour and military silhouette, had given enough of an impression to keep all but the Yemen Coastguard away,’ says Cumming. ‘This time, two British former SAS “chaps” were engaged for the expedition.’

Before heading back to the Med, there was a chance to take in the Seychelles.

‘The southern atolls are seldom visited,’ enthuses Cumming. ‘One of them, Aldabra, is a World Heritage site par excellence, while Madagascar is home to more endemic species than any island on Earth.’

Shenandoah of Sark (55.08m, Townsend & Downey/1902)

Classic yachts can be beautiful and romantic, but sometimes one has to admit that the science of naval architecture has advanced somewhat during the past 100 years.

The 55m schooner Shenandoah of Sark is a familiar sight in many parts of the Pacific because she maintains a nearly continuous cruising programme, but she does need an awful lot of TLC to keep her in top condition. Her 2008-9 cruising programme was therefore due to finish in mid-2009 at Auckland, New Zealand, where she was booked in for a major refit. For the previous year-and-a-half, the plan was to visit selected portions of Central America in addition to a large portion of the Pacific.

‘I love getting back into the Pacific Ocean,’ says her master, Gavin Reid, ‘but after so many years of tropical islands, crystal-clear water and white sand beaches, the places that really stand out are those which are a little more unusual.

‘The sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia will always remain one of the most incredible destinations we have had the privilege to visit for its rugged beauty and abundant wildlife. Madagascar too was so vividly different culturally and physically to anywhere we had been before that it made a very welcome change by the time we got there.’

With so much cruising experience, Reid and his crew have grown adept at dealing with officials and adapting to limited available resources.

‘I have never found bureaucracy to be too bad when off the beaten path,’ Reid says. ‘Such delights seem to be the preserve of popular destinations with overpaid officials. However, in countries like India or the Philippines where they love their paperwork, a good local agent is invaluable.

‘Crew need to be much more hands-on and resourceful than most are used to,’ Reid continues. ‘For example, if the stewardess needs flowers, go ask the local priest who decorates the church on special occasions for them, and more often than not you will either be directed to some little old lady who can get what you need, or a handful of local kids will spend the afternoon running around the village picking flowers with delight for you.

‘I have sent chefs off into the jungle with a couple of islanders, armed with a machete to go “shopping”, and we do everything we can – catching fish, making preserves, drying herbs – to eek out our fresh produce for as long as possible. However the chefs definitely need to be willing to experiment with all the weird and wonderful local produce.’

A bit of local knowledge also goes a long way. ‘French Polynesia, for example, is ridiculously expensive,’ Reid explains. ‘You stock up in Panama on the way through – a year’s supply of toiletries, cleaning supplies, beer for the crew, batteries – anything that is hard to get or outrageously expensive in the islands.’

Garbage management is also a major issue, particularly as many of the small islands have their own garbage issues.

‘We strip everything of as much packaging as possible before it comes on board,’ says Reid, ‘which also helps avoid bringing weevils and cockroaches on board.’

Of course, being more than a century old,  Shenandoah of Sark  presents a challenge on the maintenance front, but Reid does not see this as a reason not to take a classic cruising. Amongst the skill set off the crew there is always a rigger, a carpenter, and someone good at metal fabrication and general gear maintenance.

‘We also have two of everything,’ says Reid, ‘and we carry a vast inventory of spares as well as timber of every type used on board, sailcloth, and rigging. We always work on the principle of keeping enough spares and supplies on board so we can go anywhere in the world at short notice.

‘We also carry two parachute-style lift bags as used by salvage divers which have proved invaluable for lifting a fouled anchor, and we carry four very long floating lines for mooring to trees, rocks, reefs, etc.’

For all the cruising that Shenandoah of Sark and her crew have undertaken, though, they have one piece of advice for owners and captains seeking to plan a voyage. ‘Do not be put off cruising a particular destination by the negative comments of someone who may have visited the area before,’ Reid urges. ‘Many a time when investigating a new destination I have been told “the locals can be difficult”, followed by some horror story, but I often think this comes down to the manner and personality of the crew when dealing with the locals.

‘If you are friendly and respectful of their culture and their rank within their society you generally get a wonderful reception in return – even if it does take a while to break the ice. It is important for guests and crew alike to be informed of local etiquette and taboos before going ashore.

‘These simple considerations make for a much better cruise for all, and it is these cultural elements that are a large part of what makes remote cruising so rewarding.’

Tenaz (40m, Pendennis/1996)

A year-long cruise through the Indian Ocean, via the Far East, and on to Australia proved that having a young family is no barrier to global adventure. For the owners of the Dubois-designed sloop Tenaz, it was a chance for their three daughters – aged 9, 10 and 12 – not to miss a year of school, but rather to enhance their education.

‘We had a crew of six and a married couple to tutor our girls,’ say the owners, ‘and alongside the adventures, the girls went to school, with formal lessons in the morning covering the regular subjects of maths, English, languages and the sciences.

‘In addition they did regional modules to learn about the area we were exploring – the culture, languages, geography and history. Often a dive or a visit ashore would be thrown in, adding so much to the rich learning they were getting throughout the year.’

There was also a further module for the girls: IMO Competent Crew, with sea time, of course. In this they had a special role model in Amy, the lady captain of Tenaz.

Halfway through their voyage, they were in the Maldives, and from here _ Tenaz _set sail for Thailand, the family’s first taste of Asia. ‘We were delighted by the friendliness and energy of the local people,’ they say. ‘At a sail loft a group of Thai women flaked, rolled and carried our 400kg mainsail like a group of butterflies moving a stone.’

From the Andamans, they returned to the Asian coastline before heading south for the Straits of Malacca – for centuries feared for its pirates – which now provides a demanding revision course in night pilotage thanks to the heavy traffic of everything from small fishing boats to aircraft carriers.

Singapore was the crew’s last contact with city life for four months; shortly afterwards Tenaz reached latitude 0. From this point on the plan was to get as far from modern life as possible.

In Borneo there was a wonderful opportunity to get close to orang-utans, and a reliable tender made many adventures possible, such as a lengthy trip up the Amut River to stay overnight at a Dyak village where they received an enthusiastic welcome that gradually turned into an all-night party.

The longest non-stop passage was from Sorong to the Solomon Islands which took 12 days and enabled everyone on board, including the girls, to stand watches.

After visiting Vanuatu, four more days of brisk sailing brought the Tenaz to Brisbane, where she glided up the river at dawn, completing a deeply satisfying voyage of discovery that lasted a full year.

Tenaz was joint winner of the inaugural Voyagers Award in 2010.

Originally published: March 2011

Images courtesy of Christian Fevrier/Bluegreenpictures.com, S/Y Tenaz, S/Y Red Dragon, Max Cumming, S/Y Shenandoah of Sark, Teresa, Resare-Jaffe, Andy Brown, Luke Feeney, M/Y Sense

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