TRAVEL - Maritimo Muster

By: John Panozzo, Photography by: John Panozzo; Maritimo

Presented by
  • Trade-A-Boat

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Join the annual Maritimo Muster for two weeks of coastal and ocean cruising from the Gold Coast to the Whitsundays on an Australian-made boat built for the job.

TRAVEL - Maritimo Muster
TRAVEL - Maritimo Muster

The Maritimo Muster is a relatively new concept from the eponymous Australian luxury-boat builder designed to introduce new owners and reintroduce seasoned skippers to the joys of Queensland cruising. The event kicked off last year with just five boats. Given the great support, rapport and rollicking time had by the 15 loyal owners and their crews in the 08 Muster, the event is now a firm fixture on the company’s cruising calendar.

Expectedly, and unexpectedly, the chummy 15-day escorted cruise from Maritimo’s Hope Island offices on the Gold Coast north to the Whitsundays and beyond is a real adventure. But it is also real test of mettle, character and craft. As they say, no pain, no gain, and we started with a shakedown cruise, in more ways than one, before the well-deserved tropical soiree.

For Maritimo, the Muster is an opportunity to assess its purpose-built cruising boats in the environment for which they were designed. It is also a valuable aftermarket service and value-added experience For owners, it’s an opportunity to discover the potential of their boats and visit some of the country’s premier power-cruising grounds.





The non-Queensland brigade, who either brought their craft from across the border or were collecting new Maritimos from the factory, saw South East and tropical Queensland’s where otherwise it would remain a wish. Novices shared and exchanged information with seasoned sailors and likeminded souls. Then, after the Muster, everyone cruised home with confidence to places as diverse as Hobart, Darwin and the Kimberley.

For this writer, the 08 Muster was a real eye-opener to the way these Australian-made cruisers perform. It all began with a phone call, a flight and then a meet and greet with the Fleet Captain, Greg Alward, a long-time delivery skipper with 52 tours of duty under his belt. These include taking boats from Sydney to as far north as Port Douglas and Cooktown. As the company’s main deliveryman, he skippers Maritimos almost exclusively these days.

Attired in his trademark blue floral Hawaiian shirt, Captain Alward, a former Victorian domiciled for the past 18 years on Hamilton Island, knows the Eastern Seaboard better than most. But he was just one of several Maritimo employees at the company-sponsored "get to know you" briefing dinner at the Marina Quays International Resort on Hope Harbour the night before the fleet set off with an occasional sore head.

ANCHORS AWEIGH!
An early bird, Captain Alward roused the crews at 7am on Sunday September 21. At this point, on Day One, there were six boats in the Muster heading for the first night’s port of call: Mooloolaba. Although small at first, the Muster would, in a few days, total 15 boats as the remaining participants joining en route in a flotilla of 48s, 52s, 60s, and the latest 500 Offshore Convertible.

Above the fleet, as we departed Hope Island, hovered Maritimo’s Sales and Marketing Manager, Peter Jenkins, in his a branded helicopter. Back to the task at hand. To reach Mooloolaba before dark means traversing the shallow T-intersection before low tide. This is where the Broadwater ends at Jacobs Well. Locals have asked for it to be dredged for years, yet it remains perilously skinny.

In fact, the state of tide prevented the big Maritimo 60 and a 48,
whose depth sounder had failed, from progressing any further. The two boats turned south from Hope Harbour and instead took the alternate ocean route out the Gold Coast Seaway and north along the Pacific. With a nor’easter stiffening during the day creating a choppy 2-3m swell, the two boats were sorely tested before rejoining the Muster just north of Moreton Island.

For the remainder, the cruise north along the calm inside channels was a civilised affair of Bloody Marys and bow riding dolphins. After enduring such pleasures we eventually spilled into Moreton Bay, assembled in formation and sprinted to 20 knots for a helicopter-based photo shoot. Not long after, anchors were set near Redcliffe for the first round of the 2008-09 Offshore Power Boat Championship.

A marketer could not have scripted the powerboat race any better. Maritimo’s principal and owner Bill Barry-Cotter’s other passion is powerboat racing. He built and owns the reigning Offshore Class 1 champion boat Maritimo (driven by his son Tom and throttleman Pal Virik Nilsen) and Simrad (Peter McGrath and Luke Durman). Suffice to say, those two race boats dominated the Redcliffe 100 by finishing first and second respectively in the top division.

THE SHAKEDOWN
After plenty of froth and bubble on Day One, we weighed anchors and steamed towards Moreton Island, following the shipping channel to Caloundra and then to Mooloolaba. To make that first port of call before nightfall, Caption Alward set a stiff pace of between 20 and 22 knots in the lead boat Muster into growing, growling seas and a brisk nor’easter. This last part of Day One was to be a real shakedown of boats and crew.

The swell was running at about 1.5 to 2m, growing to 3m passing Caloundra, and into a headwind that would eventually reach 25kts. The Maritimos handled the conditions admirably, powering over the bigger swells as though carriages on a roller coaster, disappearing in swirls of spray whisked off the waves. Not that it was an issue for us cocooned inside the air-conditioned flybridge, where the sound of spray on fibreglass drowned out everything else. Only one boat, whose crew was new to bluewater cruising, struggled to keep up in the conditions. The rest of the fleet motored on in stoic fashion.

"This is nothing," Captain Alward remarked as another 3m set approached and was steadfastly dispensed with by his Maritimo 48.

Another seasoned sailor remarked that most owners would avoid travelling in these types of conditions and, if they had to, do it at a lesser speed. But the sea trial gave participants the chance to experience what their vessels are capable of and revealed any flaws or post-delivery issues.

Actually, the only problems noted when we did reach Mooloolaba were a loose aerial, a dislodged towel hook (courtesy of a loose grubscrew), and a rattling tender cradle due, at least in part, to a heavyweight vessel on top of it. Minor stuff.

OCEAN TRIAL
Meantime, we all wondered how those two Maritimos fared on the ocean road to Mooloolaba. After all, they endured these conditions or possibly worse for 7½ hours on Day one. Well, fear not. A bemused Jim Bleasel (proud owner of the Maritimo 60 Imagination) and son Marcus reported no problems travelling at a sensible 15 knots. In fact, a journey in rough conditions is what the Bleasels were looking for in their new boat before their eventual return trip to Hobart!

"It takes five months to debug a boat," said Jim sitting in the flybridge at Mooloolaba, as twilight turned to night and son Marcus tweaked the extensive array of electronic equipment, including a top-shelf FLIR night vision system that took nine months to purchase due to a mandatory US Government security check.


"This (trip) is Imagination’s first big test. We’ll return to Hope Island to fix anything that needs fixing, but we’ve had no trouble thus far," said Jim. Imagination will be the first Maritimo to be based in Hobart and Jim and Marcus, who are seasoned Sydney to Hobart yachtsman, plan to have her there this month after taking their time enjoying all the points and ports of interest along the way.

But in some ways, the Bleasels aren’t altogether atypical of many Maritimo, owners. The 60 is Jim’s retirement ‘holiday house’. A spritely 73, he has spent a lifetime working seven days a week. He still owns a couple of pubs, a pharmaceutical company, a bottle shop and an 11-house development. So he’s edging slowly into retirement. Interestingly, Jim’s previous pursuits have included a mid-1980s stint at the South Pole as director of the Australian Antarctic Division, a trek across a glacier in Pakistan, and a trip to Mount Everest above base camp.

Meantime, a pithy saying on the transom of Jim’s boat catches my eye. It says a lot about Jim’s obvious love of science, if not his intellect. It reads: "Logic will get you from A to B Imagination Will take you everywhere" (Einstein).

This is the kind of philosophical approach to life that drives bluewater cruising sailors of all persuasions. But Jim’s logical side took over when he first when searching for a new boat to replace his old 33 footer.

Jim says he eventually settled on the Maritimo 60 for its superior safety, price and enclosed flybridge. The Australian-made product swayed him plus, at 60ft, the Maritimo is not so big as to be denied a marina berth in most ports of call.

"They are a very good buy," adds Jim, "I think Maritimo are winning on their prices."

He likes the remote bow and sternthruster control and the extended flybridge that gives his Maritimo 60 four living areas — two externally and two internally. As Jim says, on occasions we humans need our own space. No doubt that’s something he would have experienced on his polar expedition.

With grandchildren, safety counted. To this end, Jim embraces the 60’s deep bulwarks and his propeller-less 104hp Williams jet tender riding in the cradle up front. Jim commends Maritimo for adhering to his requests for things like a flybridge lounge that extends to create a double berth (an option that has kept his wife’s seasickness at bay).

A willingness to customise was something other Musterers iterated. Brett Rourke had the yard construct a unique one-hand operated gas-strut folding antenna and radar-dome frame on his 48 Aria so he can pass underneath low bridges.

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS
As luck would or wouldn’t have it, I endured pain for little gain. You see, Monday morning or Day Two dawned in stark contrast to the previous afternoon. I had to fly back to Trade-a-Boat’s not-so-tropical Melbourne offices, as the Maritimo Muster departed Mooloolaba for the Great Sandy Straits, that snaking channel that divides the mainland from Fraser Island, on millpond-like waters that remained that way for the entire four-hour or so journey.

To get inside Fraser Island, one must cross the Wide Bay Bar, which can be tricky and deserves the upmost respect. On this occasion, it was delightfully benign. Kingfisher Bay Resort was to be the overnight stop but, due to the nor’ westerly, it was decided that Hervey Bay might be more comfortable. I believe that proved true.

On Day Three, the Muster made for Gladstone, a busy shipping terminal. Again, much to my chagrin, the fleet was blessed with fair winds and seas. Ensconced at Gladstone Yacht Club, some dined ashore, while others used their Maritimo galleys and provisions to great effect.

The following morning, Day Four, was to be an early cruise from Gladstone immediately north along the scenic mangrove encrusted Narrows between the mainland and Curtis Island. However, due to a neap tide it was decided to err on the side of caution and head around the outside of Curtis Island on the way to the Great Barrier Reef.

BOUND FOR THE GBR
Emerging into the Coral Sea, the Muster headed to the Capricornia Coast islands, in particular, the beaches of Great Keppel Island, near the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. Afterwards, it was across to the mainland for an overnight stay at Rosslyn Bay boat harbour, just south of Yeppoon and, for some, dinner at Keppel Bay Marina’s restaurant.

On Days Five, Six and Seven, the fleet dropped into Port Clinton (Island Head Creek and the superb Pearl Bay) for an overnight stay, the Percy Islands for lunch the following day with the night spent at Mackay Marina, before reaching the Whitsunday group and island hopping to Hamilton Island and spectacular Whitehaven Beach.

On Day Seven, the Maritimo crew circumnavigated Hook Island and visited Manta Ray Bay, Butterfly Bay, and Stonehaven and Nara inlets, before returning to Romano’s Italian Restaurant for the Maritimo Muster dinner back on Hamilton Island.

The Muster departed Hamilton Island on Day Eight for a lunch at anchor off Cape Upstart before ranging to Magnetic Island just south of Townsville for a layday. The remaining three days of the Maritimo Muster were spent fishing the Great Barrier Reef and exploring the Palm Islands, Port Hinchinbrook and Dunk Island, where the friendly crews had dinner and a presentation night at the marina restaurant.

Musterers returned to Hamilton Island on the final day, after which the fleet disbanded for their own home ports with, for some, visions of a return journey next year with a new group of Maritimo owners. Meantime, what better holiday home than one you can take wherever and whenever your whims fancy? Wagons, roll. And put me down for a longer stint.

For further information about the 09 Muster, contact Maritimo at www.maritimo.com.au.


JOIN THE MARITIMO SET
At its height, travelling north to the Whitsundays and beyond, the Maritimo Muster attracted 15 boats with a collective value of more than $20 million. If you fancy joining the Maritimo set, the entry- level model, the 500 Offshore Convertible, has a base price of $1.08 million. Race, fish or cruise ready, with accoutrements such as watermaker, tender and more, it’s about a $1.2 million boat these days.

Based on the Gold Coast, Maritimo builds anywhere from 60 to 90 boats a year depending on the economic climate. But even in these tough times, Maritimo CEO, Bill Barry-Cotter, rejects the idea that the boating industry is facing nothing but doom and gloom.

"I’m not saying it’s easy out there, but the fall in value of the Australian dollar against the US greenback has certainly given exporters assistance," Barry-Cotter said. "Because we still buy raw materials and engines in from offshore, this could mean a price increase locally of some five per cent, but in the US our retail boat prices will drop by better than 10 per cent."

"The single aspect all of us in the industry must come to terms with is the importance of price. No matter what some may think, it has been Maritimo’s experience that the final retail price is what will get a sale across the line. That is why I have curtailed customisation, why we manufacture so much in-house, including propellers, it’s all aimed at beating the competition at the price barrier," Barry-Cotter added.

Maritimo currently manufacturers three ranges of boats: Cruising Motoryachts including the 48, 52 and 60; Offshore Convertibles in 500 and 550 models; and the Sports Cabriolet in the C60 size. Future new models include the C50 and C55 Sports Cabriolets, a new flagship 75 Cruising Motoryacht, and Aegean Series of open Euro-styled flybridge cruisers headed by a new A60.

The best-selling Maritimo of all time is the 48, which is nearing 100 built, but the new 500 Offshore Convertible is now the hot seller, with 16 sold since its release at the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show.















 


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