Intrepid adventurer Andrew Luxton – having just completed his amazing journey circumnavigating around Australia aboard his Riviera 51 Enclosed Flybridge Prime Mover – ponders the question of his most memorable moments.
“I am not sure how you sum up a journey like this,” he says. “There are so many places I would have loved to have spent more time. I have introduced many friends to offshore boating and sated the sense of adventure my parents instilled in me as a child.
“I am extremely lucky my wife Jayne jumped on board and enjoyed different legs with me … and supported my plan to take Prime Mover around Australia.”
It’s a journey most of us can only dream of … and it was inspired by the story of veteran seafarer Ian Reynolds who, at the age of 79, circumnavigated Australia clockwise aboard his Riviera 56 Enclosed Flybridge, Investigator IV.
Andrew – whose circumnavigation was in an anti-clockwise direction – says it was very special that Jayne, mum Helen, stepfather Ian and sister Katrina were there on Ray and Jenny Hadrell’s Riviera 565 SUV Rayzaway to see him complete the voyage, with father Barry ‘racing on his yacht outside Martha Cove as we arrived’.
“Thanks to Stuart Jackson from R Marine Jacksons in Melbourne, Prime Mover cruised into Port Phillip Bay in company of several other Melbourne-based boats and it was a momentous occasion worthy of the refreshments that began to be opened,” Andrew said.
Less than a week later, Andrew and Jayne are at the Riviera Festival of Boating on the Gold Coast – both instantly recognisable among the throng of 450 Riviera owners and Experience readers at The R Factor gala evening, celebrating success … and sharing special memories that only the boating life can bring.
“We had great support and warm welcomes from the R Marine network of dealers,” says Andrew. “They really do go above and beyond for Riviera owners.”
Here, we share the final leg of Andrew’s journey – from Albany (Western Australia) to Prime Mover’s home port of Martha Cove (Victoria), including crossing the Great Australian Bight …
Leg 9 begins
Looking forward to getting home to Martha Cove, Andrew arrived in Albany with the Great Australian Bight crew of fellow Riviera 51 owner Mark Slocombe, and his son Dan (the youngest crew member to date) and Adrian Lewis from what Andrew describes as: ‘the dark side’.
“He owns a yacht,” ribs Andrew in his travel blog, having stocked up on provisions and undertaken the usual pre-departure checks. First stop is Bremer Bay, 96Nm away, and then a 132Nm passage to Esperance.
“Esperance Bay has a lot of rocks above and below sea level, and being unfamiliar with the area I was keen to arrive earlier rather than later,” says Andrew. “Fortunately, conditions became good enough to increase our speed and arrive in Esperance even earlier than expected.”
Esperance (French for ‘hope’) has a major port servicing the gold-mining centre of Kalgoorlie and surrounds. It was an uncomfortable night tied to the pier when bad weather struck, and Andrew noted that the slop being generated forced the crew out of bed at 5.30am to readjust the mooring lines to prevent Prime Mover pulling out the rear cleat.
With fuel bladders topped at Bandy Creek, the plan was to head to Ceduna – at least until an email arrived advising that Ceduna Port wasn’t interested in supplying anything less than 10,000 litres of diesel – so an alternate plan needed to be hatched.
“We are now heading to Streaky Bay, where a local small company will sell us fuel,” writes Andrew.
But first … some fishing!
“With the outriggers deployed and three lines set trolling at 9 knots, we had a triple hook-up before the fourth line was deployed,” wrote Andrew. “We landed a bonito and after a few more hook-ups, Adrian had something possibly bigger on.
“As it got close to the boat, it was diving deep – have we got a southern Bluefin tuna? As the line breaks and we lose another lure … we will never know.”
Bonito after bonito were landed before young Dan hooked something big. “Was this the fish we were looking for?” With Dan tiring the rod was passed to Adrian to complete the task!
As the fish showed colour, deckie Andrew landed it on the rear platform and with excitement announced: “IT’S A BLUEFIN!” – mission accomplished.
Arriving in Duke of Orleans Bay, Mini Mover 2 was lowered into the water and the crew had a look around the bay before nightfall, and observed the low headed south, just west of their location.
The enormity of the Bight crossing started to really sink in.
With a late start the next morning, Prime Mover set off for Middle Island, where the small swell and wind forced Andrew to anchor at nearby Goose Island, where he transferred fuel from one of the bladders into the tanks while the rest of the Bight brigade set off aboard the tender to explore the pink lake on Middle Island.
With the big trek across the Bight ahead, Adrian had been referring to a website called predictwind.com, which he uses for sailing and race planning. Andrew says it was been incredibly accurate for wind levels and direction for specific locations. Adrian’s trip plan was to depart at 12.30am between two fronts across the Bight to Streaky Bay, with following seas and wind.
Into the Bight beyond
“We crossed our fingers that the conditions would remain stable,” says Andrew. “With Adrian rechecking the forecast on predictwind.com, it was still looking good to push on out into the Bight with a following sea of 1.5-2 metres and 10–20 knots of following wind.
“With Adrian and myself doing the first shift until 4am, and Mark and young Dan taking it through to 7am, this is our longest leg of the trip aboard Prime Mover, with the boat expected to be running for the next 55 hours around the clock.”
Back at the helm at 9pm for night shift, Andrew wrote that Prime Mover enjoyed great conditions during the day, averaging 10.5 knots and travelling 252Nm over the first 24 hours. And after being under way for 30 hours in fantastic conditions, Andrew was back at the helm at 6am and transferred the remaining diesel into the main tank, and increased speed to 19 knots for the rest of the day until nightfall.
“The only boats we encountered were a couple of fishing boats with one working on the shelf,” he reports. “We arrived in darkness with no moon at Streaky Bay, navigating around the outside lights and anchoring up at 1am in the morning.”
In the end it was 47 hours of sea passage across the Great Australian Bight.
Andrew writes: “With a bit of trip planning and luck, what was possibly going to be the most challenging part of the journey around Australia, the Great Australian Bight, delivered a smooth ride for Prime Mover and crew from West to East – another item was ticked off the bucket list today!”
The crew awoke the next day surrounded by a heavy fog and moved down to the wharf where they received a small top-up of fuel with ‘good old-fashioned service with a smile’ – Nigel from Killas Fuel & Tackle delivered the diesel on the back of his Toyota Hilux.
Next stop was Pearson Island where they planned to fish for the next couple of days, but with strong 40-plus knot winds expected late the next night, they decided to be sheltered in Port Lincoln, so it was off to Coffin Bay where they anchored close to the beach on the eastern side to ensure a good night’s sleep.
“As we departed Coffin Bay in the dark and rounded Sir Isaac Point, a fishing trawler was anchored off our starboard side. We cruised at 10 knots with an untidy sea all the way to West Point, and then increased speed for the remainder of the trip to Port Lincoln, where we refuelled ready for the next part of the trip to Kangaroo Island, and then Adelaide where Prime Mover will remain with R Marine SA while I fly back to Melbourne for work.”
Meantime, the Bight brigade flew out from Port Lincoln and a new crew arrived: Andrew’s wife Jayne, John Bagot and old school friend Andrew Gilfillan, who will help take Prime Mover to Kangaroo Island and Adelaide.
A new crew
It was John Bagot who recommended Pondalowie Bay on the Yorke Peninsula as the next anchorage, and his choice received glowing praise from all aboard. “It was beautiful … and with local surfers riding the incoming swell, it’s hard to believe that cage-diving with the white pointers is only 32Nm away,” writes Andrew.
Next stop was Snug Cove and then off to American River at Kangaroo Island, where Michael Pitman from R Marine South Australia arranged a mooring and also a rental car to tour the island.
Hopping around Kangaroo Island
Jayne Luxton writes: “This morning saw Prime Mover anchored at American River on Kangaroo Island – 3 knots of wind speed – stunning sunrise and bacon and eggs on the menu!
“Andy G decides its fishing o’clock and up comes a huge crab … but it was one that got away! Then the boys hooked a stingray which took all three men to pull close to the boat – it was so strong but it managed to unhook itself and swim off, thankfully, as its barb was thrashing precariously close to Andrew who was trying to free him.
“A drive around the island for lunch at Marron Cafe saw us try (and love) the local Marron, or freshwater crays – unbelievable! Then on to Cape du Couedic which saw the New Zealand fur seals and beautiful lighthouse. Back to the boat for cocktails and another barbecue … because these blokes can’t fish! (We need former crew member Simon Kelly!)”
The following day the men left Jayne aboard the boat for study and set off in the hired RAV4 for Kingscote (the “capital” of Kangaroo Island). There they bought a chocolate bar full of honey, and discovered a fresh seafood outlet where Andy G managed to deliver on his promise to ‘catch’ some flathead for Jayne. Prawns and oysters were also purchased to set the scene for a delightful lunch, complemented by some delicious white wines selected after much consultation between John and Jayne.
Andrew Gilfillan writes: “With lunch concluded, Captain Andrew was keen to kick the engines into life and we glided out of American River. Cruising conditions could not have been better and so it was all hands to the flybridge where, having set George (the autopilot), it was time to relax and enjoy the view.”
Arriving in Adelaide, Ross from R Marine SA jumped aboard to assist the crew through the loch at Glenelg and into a berth virtually opposite the replica tall ship Buffalo. Once tied up securely, the crew set about an exterior shampoo and rinse for Prime Mover and retired early in preparation for a full day of wine-tasting in the renowned Barossa Valley, ending with Andrew lamenting his undying support for Richmond.
Lest We Forget
The next morning, the Prime Mover team was up at 5.30am and attending the Anzac Day Dawn Service at Glenelg, this year commemorating 100 years since the Gallipoli landings in 2015.
This is an important day on the Australian calendar – and especially this year – it serves as a time of remembrance and respect for all the brave men and women who have died serving their country in times of war.
The following day, it was back to Melbourne – with pressing work commitments and forecasts of bad weather.
Unscheduled delays aside, a few weeks later Andrew rallies his new crew together – Warren Neale and Steve Hopper. Warren had in fact started on the trip up the East coast of Australia in 2014, and would be aboard for the circumnavigation’s completion.
“We shifted out through the loch at Glenelg to the fuel bowser to top the tanks up and head off to Kangaroo Island,” Andrew writes. “We were underway at 10am with a southerly wind varying between 10–29 knots, we cruised along at 10 knots to anchor at Red House Bay on the eastern end of Kangaroo Island.
“With cool temperatures it was the first day on the trip around Australia that I did not wear shorts – jeans all day!
“And with Warren and Steve doing a very poor job on the fishing, I think I better get the steaks out of the fridge for dinner.”
The next day was an 117Nm journey from Kangaroo Island to Robe, and the forecast of 15-20 knots easing to 2.5–3 metres seas was ‘not quite right’. “The wind rarely dropped below 20 knots, and at times 29 knots with seas 2-4 metres, with the occasional 5 metres – it was a slow run to Robe but, even in the messy swells which shook us all day, we had many dolphins escorting us.”
The next day was calm and Prime Mover set off for Port Fairy, 160Nm away. Andrew recalls seeing many trailer boats out working the water for tuna in a 2-metre swell as they approached Portland.
“The Moyne River at Port Fairy is a very beautiful setting with boats parked along the side of the river. We turned Prime Mover around in the river and pulled along the fuel wharf for a final top-up and what a pleasant surprise: Port Fairy has the cheapest diesel purchased on Prime Mover’s trip around Australia!”
It was here that Warren ordered a meal he will never forget: a $30 Abalone entree which represented one mouthful of food. “Steve and I were glad we ordered the pork,” ribs Andrew as they head the following day for Apollo Bay, the final stop before heading home to Martha Cove.
The final run into Martha Cove
With a short run of 70 miles and 20 miles remaining, Prime Mover slowed to ensure arrival as expected at 12 noon into Port Phillip Bay.
“As we neared the heads in Bass Strait and completed 10,000Nm, we were met offshore by Ken James on his Riviera 47 Skip. With no wind and flat seas, the weather Gods turned on a cracker of a day to finish the trip. Warren Neale celebrated spending the first day on the trip up the East coast, and last day arriving home from the West coast.
On arrival at Martha Cove we found our pen at Hidden Harbour, washed a bit of salt off the back of Prime Mover and celebrated with family, friends and other Riviera owners that had welcomed us home.”
As for what’s next, Andrew says Prime Mover will go up on the hardstand for repairs, an anti-foul and well-deserved polish so she looks like new for the ‘Prime Mover Party’ reunion of the Around Australia crew members in late November. He says the RIB Mini Mover 1 will back on the front … and the aluminium (croc-proof Mini Mover 2) will be sold to a new home (with offers for this nostalgic piece of history gladly accepted!)”
Jayne is also keen to give Prime Mover a makeover, throw out the old bedspreads and cushions and give her a new lease on life, ready for the next big adventure.
And where might that be?
“We are planning to head down into the Bass Strait Islands over Christmas, up the NSW Coast and to Hamilton Island for the next Melbourne winter, and Lord Howe Island in 2017,” says Andrew. “Long-term we would like to go to New Zealand and leave a boat there for 12-24 months … maybe that will be our next Riv!”
Prime Mover’s log
Vessel: Riviera 51 Enclosed Flybridge, Prime Mover
Distance travelled: 10,015Nm (18,548km)
Days aboard: 193
Date started: 26/12/13
Date finished: 17/05/15
Highlight: Top End fishing, Rowley Shoals, Tasmania, plus many more