It’s hard finding the perfect boat

My love affair with cruising began in the summer of 1986/87. My friends dad owned a Lidgard 42 called Renown and I was invited to spend an endless 5 weeks of summer with his family, cruising the Marlborough Sounds, Tasman Bay and Golden Bay at the top of New Zealand’s South Island.

As a 16 year old, this introduction to sailing gave me an incredible taste of the endless possibilities for fun and adventure when you had your own yacht. I dreamed from that day forwards of one day buying my own yacht, to go cruising with my family, and continue the adventure, I had tasted only briefly that summer of 1986/87.

It was the summer of 1986/87 that I spent on ‘Renown’ that Michael Fay also became a household name, when he funded New Zealand’s first challenge for the America’s Cup in Fremantle, Perth, Australia.

It’s funny how life is full of paths that cross by chance and the one-in-a-million coincidences that occur. It was the 1st of January 2012 and we were on our first summer cruising holiday on our yacht Ocean Gem 25 years later. We were anchoring at Port Fitzroy, Great Barrier Island, when I looked across the water and saw a yacht named ‘Renown’ tied up at the fuel dock.

Renown anchored at Port Fitzroy, Great Barrier Island

Surely this could not be the same yacht that led to my cruising obsession some 25 years earlier and more than 400nm south of where we now were. I approached the crew of the boat and shared my “Renown” teenage, 5-week summer cruising story and it was indeed the same yacht. The current owners had restored her to her former glory, rescuing Renown from seven years of neglect, on a mooring on Auckland Harbour. They said they had spent a lot of time and money on her restoration. I helped them fill in some of the gaps from Renown’s earlier life, as I knew she was built for the Fong family in Blenheim thatI had sailed with in 1986/87.

It was one of those days, when you take a chance and meet someone interesting. I assumed it to be a lucky sign that symbolised many safe and happy years of sailing ahead for me and my family on Ocean Gem, as we were starting our journey together on the water, 25 years after my first cruising experience.

Before we purchased our 1992 Beneteau 44.5 in March 2011, I had read every possible book on how to find the perfect yacht. With so many choices and so many things to consider, what helped me most was reading the tales of round the world cruisers and visiting several boat shows.

I had narrowed my choice down to a ‘40 something’ foot Beneteau, given it’s popularity with cruisers and its history as the number one production boat competing in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) and the Sydney to Hobart races each year. Its a yacht thats easy to sail short handed, its forgiving for novice families, roomy and easier to maintain than a wooden yacht.

Ocean Gem was the only yacht for sale that we actually looked at. It had spent its first seven years from new as a charter boat in the Bay of Islands before the current owners John and Kerry Peterson had bought and sailed her for the next 12 years. They had cruised coastal New Zealand, before doing some upgrade work in 2007 and then spending 6 months cruising the Pacific Islands.

Anchored in Mansion House Bay, Kawau Island, Hauraki Gulf on our first weekend away on Ocean Gem.

John was an Air New Zealand 747 captain. I learned within an hour of meeting John, that the quality of the yacht is a direct reflection of its owner. John went to great lengths to talk about his spare parts and maintenance programme. His knowledge of his yacht was passionate and detailed and as I started making pages of notes, I realised owning a yacht requires you to be a capable plumber, electrician, builder and all-round fix it guy – most of which I was not.

Ocean Gem was in great condition for 19 years old and priced at 60% less than the cost of buying new. I figured that if the engine, hull, rig, sails and systems were in good shape, she had to be value for money, so we purchased Ocean Gem in April 2011 and my love affair began.

A comfy saloon when anchored in wet weather

A spacious galley makes cruising enjoyable

My first introduction to anti-fouling in March 2013

This content is from my iBook – Sailing The Tasman Sea by David Hows, available in the iTunes store for $5.99.  It includes; 206 Pages, 46,055 words, 232 photos and 11 videos.