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Ocean Gem sailing experience testimonials 

We have had crew on board for our ocean passages and regattas that range in age from 16 to 70+. Here is what they have to say about their time on board Ocean Gem...

Natasha Edwards

Natasha Edwards - Artistic Director

There is something compelling about the ocean and like all sailors, I am drawn to it.  Sailing on Ocean Gem across the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand was an experience of epic proportions. The encouragement and support by skipper David Hows was brilliant.

Ocean Gem was primed, well equipped and wonderfully catered for, with safety first and prime focus on learning and fun. There was always great energy and comradeship throughout the passage amongst the crew. I put my hand up for everything and loved every minute.

The majority of my sailing experience has been racing so the Trans-Tasman passage gave me time to dial in and focus on my proficiencies, more time helming, trimming, learning advanced navigation systems, along with sharing knowledge, stories and jobs with the crew.

When the sea decided to spice things up and things got hectic and challenging, there was a calm quality about Dave as he organised the crew, our response and quick recoveries got us back on course and managing any repairs that needed attention. When I required emergency medical help, Dave took care and my safety was paramount, enabling me to enjoy the last leg of the journey.

I personally loved the solo sailing at night, nerves aside and trusting in all my abilities, star navigation combined with hi-tech equipment for optimum performance. Hearing the hum of Ocean Gem was superb.    

Mike Stone

Mike Stone - Business Owner

If you have ever had a passing thought that maybe you could try ocean sailing but let the thought pass thinking "I can’t do that" then bury that thought and book a berth on Ocean Gem. That’s the way I was thinking prior to Christmas 2018, but fortunately I listened to David Hows who kept me enthusiastically committed once I said yes! I sailed the "Pittwater to Southport" race starting 2nd January 2019 and had the time of my life. I had committed to this race with very little yachting experience, but bundles of enthusiasm.

I met my 7 team mates in Sydney on New Years Day; all strangers to me on Day One, but feeling that I had made good friends ,when we left the boat 5 days later. A word to the wise - take the "Paihia Bomb" (brilliant sea sickness pills), when they are offered on Day One, leaving the dock when all is calm. I thought I’d tough it out, pretending to be seasoned and paid the price of losing my dinner on night one,5 minutes after eating. Once I took the pills on lumpy days, I was fine for the remainder of the race. 

Being a novice I was grateful for the thoughtfulness of skipper Dave and some of the more experienced crew. Throughout the trip I was encouraged to get involved in many aspects of sailing the boat, to whatever degree I felt comfortable. We had a range of seascapes from 3 metre swells with waves breaking over the bow, to flat and glassy with no wind one morning, covering just 1 mile in 3-4 hours. I loved that someone made lunch every day, leaving me to languish on the rail, but I would loved to have had a soft cushion for my numb bum. Sleeping was an experience with 3-hour shifts each night. I loved the night chats, the tacks and loved that bunk for 3 hours even more.

We were well fed, well looked after and entertained with natures beauty for 5 days. Highlights for me were the great company, all the sailing experiences I could handle, the company of dolphins every day and the achievement of an adventure and ocean race, I have dreamed of often over the years and now realised. Thanks Dave for a fantastic introduction to ocean sailing, and a brilliant way to begin 2019. Time to look at booking another:)

Peter Chapman

Peter Chapman - Retired

Having done a little sailing many years ago, I jumped at the chance to crew on David Hows’ Ocean Gem in ‘Twilight’ and offshore races out of Southport Yacht Club. For three years now I have enjoyed sailing with David and other crew, many of whom have become firm friends. David is an easy-going, generous fellow whose outer friendliness somewhat masks his competitive spirit when racing.

The atmosphere on board is always positive, newcomers with limited experience are welcomed and there’s a constant emphasis on safety, while skills and teamwork are developed. David leads by example and from every race we take new lessons about sailing and racing, about the boat and about ourselves. The experience has been invaluable to me in my retirement, and I unreservedly recommend it to others.

Trish Greer Ocean Gem Sailing

Trish Greer - Flight Attendant

A trip out on Ocean Gem brings joyfull fun, exhilarating moments, breathtaking scenery, genuine great team company and much learning. This is no ordinary boat! Besides the obvious sailing machine it is,  it is David that makes the experience worth having. David is a very experienced knowledgeable sailor who is a practical generous teacher, level headed, effective communicator and keen to share his knowledge.

Keeping his crew and boat safe is paramount for him. And somehow he effortlessly forms a relaxed team around him. (Even in those unexpected close moments that come with racing!) A memorable moment for me being a friendly interaction with a whale moving the racing buoy during a race off the seaway! If you want to put a smile on your face, drop the tension in your shoulders and improve your health go for a sail with David on Ocean Gem!

Jeff Lavery

Jeff Lavery - Full time Dad

For many years it has been a dream of mine to learn how to sail. Upon moving to the Gold Coast, I made it a priority to make it happen. A friend suggested that I try twilight racing on Thursday at the Southport Yacht Club. Thankfully I met David who invited me to join his crew even though I had no sailing experience whatsoever.

From the start he was extremely welcoming and encouraged me to learn as much as possible. The crew on the boat are equally as friendly as David and freely give advice on learning how to sail. I can truly say that sailing with David has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. He is extremely capable as a sailor but also fosters a very positive environment for people like me who want to experience sailing. If you have ever considered trying sailing, I highly recommend contacting David. He has certainly fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine and I am sure that he can do the same for you.

Samson Sommerville

Samson Sommerville - Adventurer

It’s a rarity to find an experienced captain with a good ship who isn’t bundled with an unpleasant prickly demeanour. David is one such rarity. Even in rough seas and short on sleep, his stoic nature never fades— David is always calm and focussed. I hesitate at the thought of sailing on any other vessel because David has set my bar of expectations so high.

Learning to sail from zero is challenging enough without a short-tempered captain. I learnt everything I know about sailing on the Ocean Gem. Since joining the team in 2016, I’ve crewed for long deliveries, and countless inshore and offshore races on the Gold Coast and around Queensland. The whole experience of learning to sail has been a very fluid motion. I am very grateful for sailors like David Hows — he succeeds in bringing an uncommon professionalism into the sailing culture.

Lena Padukova - Professional Adventurer

As a professional adventurer, I value unique experiences, challenging routes, exotic, remote or extreme places and environments - while proper planning, effective execution and meticulous risk management all have to work together for a successful outcome. Sailing with David Hows on Ocean Gem has provided all of it, plus excellent possibilities to learn - and a great fun factor!

On our recent Trans-Tasman passage from Auckland to Southport, David again proved he is a great skipper, very competent, skilful and high-performing, but also respectful and patient. His organisational skills are exemplary; nothing is left to chance. He's a competent leader and a great guy. 

I highly recommend sailing with him to anyone, and especially those who are looking for true adventure sailing on a very well-equipped boat, with possibilities to learn from a pro. Lena Padukova, professional adventurer, Sweden.

Joanne Harpur

Joanne Harpur - business woman

I recently completed the Southport, Queensland to Auckland, New Zealand voyage on Ocean Gem with David Hows. The boat was very well prepared with systems thought out and functional. The food was a highlight and very practical and nutritious. David led an adventure with good humour and patience throughout the trip.

I met three other new crew members and we five aboard combined well. The trip included the unpredictable; some nautical, some not. We had very benign weather for the entire crossing with 7 days to Opua, New Zealand, then a delightful 17 hour cruise down the coast to Auckland, followed by a post-cruise dinner on Waiheke Island. Off-shore sailing is not always fun, it can be cold, tiring, and unforgiving. Would I sail with David Hows on Ocean Gem again? Absolutely. The Brisbane to Hamilton Island race is looking good...

Guy Reeve Sailing

Guy Reeve - Technology Executive

Sailing 800nm with David Hows on Ocean Gem from Southport to Lord Howe Island and Pittwater via Middleton and Elizabeth Reefs was an absolute blast and one of my all time top trips, with conditions ranging from challenging to cruisy.  I can't speak highly enough of David's relaxed, humorous but exemplary leadership and teaching style.

There's no doubt that safety and crew wellbeing are uppermost in his mind, but he has a particular talent for creating a most enjoyable and positive learning environment and running a safe ship in a calm, low key yet very effective way, even when the wind and seas pick up. His competence and depth of knowledge is remarkable and inspires confidence, as does his ability to communicate some of the subtleties of sailing to others.  I have no hesitation in recommending a passage with David on Ocean Gem to anyone

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Madison Hows - Student

I have had the privilege of sailing for the past 7 years on Ocean Gem and have gained many great memories. I have enjoyed both cruising and racing and loved the challenges of both. With cruising there is the excitement of discovering a new destination and the joy of exploring natures backyard, with  crystal clear bays and new landscapes.

Whether it be the sound of waves moving against the boat, having a steady breeze set the sails or watching the stars at night, you can't help but feel relaxed and miles away from everyday life. On the other hand racing is also a lot of fun. Nothing beats the adrenaline rush when you are inches apart from other yachts on the start line or the feeling of contentment when all the hours of trimming the sails and navigating the best course to sail pays off and you win the trophy. By far the most rewarding aspect is being part of a team and sharing a common goal of having fun, learning and working together to get a great result. The rewards are great but it really is the team culture created by the skipper that keeps you coming back.The experience of David and his easy going nature make you feel at ease but you also know you're in good hands

Rod Routh Ocean Gem Sailing

Rod Routh - Consultant

The difference between sailing on Ocean Gem and other boats is the ability of David to coach and mentor each member of the crew on “why we do it this way” as well as “how we do it”. I am sure this is the main reason we have been so successful. We have a great core crew, some of who are experts in their positions and have been trained in multiple positions by David. This has resulted in a really well-trained team and is reflected in the results we have achieved.

Steve Tucker

Steve Tucker - Entrepreneur

In August 2017, I joined David and his crew aboard Ocean Gem for the annual Hamilton Island Race Week Regatta. I have known Dave for close to 20 years through business in New Zealand. When he invited me to join the crew for the regatta I jumped at the opportunity. I have been a casual sailor since I was a teenager and was happy to join the crew as a general deck hand. David and his team blew me away with the sailing and social experience I had and needless to say I am returning to Hamilton Island Race Week from New Zealand to join the crew again in 2018. As a skipper, a team mate and sailor David is exceptional.

The environment he creates is relaxed and yet his competitiveness is infectious. He communicates and teaches in a way that puts everyone at ease. He likes to win and yet is just as happy to sit with a beer at the end of the day and reflect on successes and failures for the day. Also more than happy to have the odd joke thrown into the discussion, especially if its a bit of the old Aussie/Kiwi banter. David is certainly a cool and calm skipper and an extremely competent sailor. I look forward to the next time I step onboard Ocean Gem.

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Tim Wolff - Real Estate Agent

Sailing on Ocean Gem is the highlight of my week. As a young boy I used to sail dingy’s in Auckland and had to give it up as the family moved to the South Island of New Zealand. I was given an opportunity to sail on Ocean Gem in a charity regatta in 2016 and was bitten by the sailing bug again. Since then I sail every Thursday in the twilight series and the occasional offshore event when work allows on the weekend. With my very limited sailing experience,

Dave and the crew have taught and mentored me over the past 2 years. We are competitive, but fun and safety always comes first. So from as  a complete novice I have raced on the good ship Ocean Gem at Hamilton Race Week,  in the Sail Paradise Regatta, the Queensland Beneteau Cup and the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race. I thank Dave and his family for these opportunities and they have always made me feel welcome, and have supported and have taught me so much. I look forward to learning more and the fun times ahead. David’s passion and enthusiasm for sailing Ocean Gem is contagious and has had a positive impact on my life. Thanks Dave, ever thankful Tim Wolff.

Kevin Holland

Kevin Holland - Retired

It was with great intrepidation and uncertainty that I first contacted David at Ocean Sailing Podcast in regard to obtaining a place on the Tasman Sea crossing from Auckland, New Zealand via Norfolk Island to Southport, Australia. While I had done a lot of dingy sailing in the past, I had no experience in passage sailing and lacked confidence in my ability. What a wonderful opportunity this proved to be for me. I loved every exciting moment of the experience from the 1681nm distance, to the raging seas, 16.1 knot speed record surfing 2-3 metre swells in up to 25 knot winds, to being on the helm alone during night watch, hardly believing that I was actually doing this, to swimming in shark infested waters at Norfolk Island and being allowed to be hoisted to the top of the 17 metre mast to untangle a couple of loose halyards in the dark. What more could one ask?

David is a true gentleman, a wonderful mentor and the type of person I aspire to be like. Nothing was a problem to him or the others. I never was made to feel bad for making mistakes and this provided an opportunity to improve, improvise and learn. My experience was further enhanced by the two other fantastic crew mates in Lena and Steve.

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Kris Hook - Builder

I have completed more than 2,000nm of ocean passages as a crew member on Ocean Gem. In this time I've experienced a very committed skipper who always puts the safety of the crew and the boat at top of the list. Ocean Gem is very strong and safe and is well set up to handle heavy weather. It has the ability to win races in light winds and handle the rough weather with ease. It's been great to be part of an experienced crew who are easy going, helpful and more than happy to pass on their knowledge. 

Alex Lomakin Offshore Passage

Alex Lomakin - Business Owner

Sailing on Ocean Gem over the last few years has been a fantastic experience. Getting the opportunity to compete in world class ocean races like the Sydney to Hobart as well as Sydney to Gold Coast, Hamilton Island Race week and local regattas has been outstanding.

David makes a great teacher and mentor and has the patience and temperament to bring the best out of his crew and the boat. Ocean Gem has proved to be an extremely competitive boat performing well above what you would expect a boat of this type to do. This has been all due to the never give up and positive attitude of David and all who sail with him. I have learnt a lot over this time, be it regattas, twilight racing, ocean racing, delivery trips; its all been a fantastic time. Its a great group so much so that my wife is now a keen participant and it has proved to be a great training ground for her. I love the experience and always look forward to the next sailing opportunity.

Lena Padukova

Lena Padukova - Professional Adventurer

I had the privilege of racing in the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race onboard Ocean Gem, with David Hows as the skipper. Arriving from the opposite side of the world on Christmas Eve 2017, I had not met anyone from the racing team and only had met David through email and a Skype interview. However, my trust in his competence proved to be correct, and I could not have wished for a better boat to race on. I was very impressed by the management and leadership skills of the skipper.

Apart from the excellent planning, execution and follow-up of the project, David managed to get together a well-functioning team, motivate them to work their hardest and make everyone feel appreciated - as well as have fun! In all situations, he led by example, and stayed even-tempered and positive, even when the going was tough, which resulted in the crew doing the same. I enjoyed the relaxed yet respectful atmosphere and felt appreciated as well as 100% safe. Being willing to share his competence, while staying patient, respectful and open-minded, makes David an appreciated coach by sailors, regardless of skill level. I would highly recommend sailing with David on Ocean Gem!

Lena Padukova, professional adventurer, Sweden.

Shaya Laughlin

Shaya Laughlin - Journalist

I had the opportunity to sail with David and his crew on Ocean Gem for the 2016 Sydney to Gold Coast Yacht Race and while training for it, several months in its lead up. David was extremely professional but also had a fun, inspiring way to share his passion for sailing with everyone. I learnt so much about the sport and always felt supported during training and races. My time on Ocean Gem is something I will forever cherish. 

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Mark Gallick - NSW Trains

Sailing with David Hows was a great experience and made me realise - yes I do want to get another sailboat. As I read through some of the other testimonials on this page everyone seems to say the same things, especially how “safe and comfortable” David makes everyone feel. After spending a week with David, I would have to agree, as that was my experience from the time David met me at Hamilton Island Airport, until he dropped me off at the Gold Coast Airport and all 600nm onboard Ocean Gem in between. 

I would have liked to stop at more islands on the trip, but I didn't think about the 30-40 knot winds that were forecast three days down the track. David’s cautious planning meant we arrived at the destination 4 hours before the winds picked up. David made everything seem so easy and effortless, but I know it was his experience and forward planning that made it possible. I look forward to sailing with him again. Thanks again David. P.S. I also enjoyed the food!

Find out more about joining us for ocean racing and regattas or ocean passages and check the sailing calendar for upcoming events. Here is our going list of media features and stories.