FEATURE - Don Mcintyre's Tradeaboats

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DON MCINTYRE details his fleet of adventuring-seeking boats, there has been a few and many he’s found by thumbing through our pages countless times looking for that bargain to carry him over the horizon.

FEATURE - Don Mcintyre's Tradeaboats
FEATURE - Don Mcintyre's Tradeaboats

I always try to be humble, but how’s this for a bold statement! I think I now own the ultimate liveaboard passagemaker, a total fun cruising boat, period! He is called ICE. Yes I find it hard to call it a "she", as women are not usually built like a brick dunny — well not my women anyway!

Of course most boat owners think the same of their boats too, so it is okay to be up front sometimes. Yet I have to tell you, after 10 months and 5000 miles living aboard, while cruising across the Pacific (even with a few dramas), ICE is up there with the best of the best. Supremely comfortable in any weather, able to carry heaps of toys, and easy to manage — all in a 15.2m package!

So why am I dreaming of another boat, I hear you say.

A bigger boat would be handy and I may just keep ICE as a home. I’ve been a two-boat owner more than once over the years and I have owned 12 oceangoing boats, large and small, and nearly owned many more. Yes, I am a serial dreamer, and like most who read Trade-a-Boat, the magazine has been a major part of my boating life.

During the past 37 years of boat ownership, all but two of my boats have been bought or sold right here within these pages. When erstwhile editor David Lockwood heard this he said, "You’re joking!"
I replied, "Nope!" "Tell me more," he continued.

Where did it all begin?

As a kid in Adelaide I built all manner of rafts, one nearly drowning me while I was a Boy Scout. Then I moved into a Heron sailing dingy for some camping and cruising on the Murray and the dinghy was followed by a 4m Kitty Kat Catamaran, with a big spinnaker. In the early ’70s I started building Sunshine, a concrete replica of Robin Knox-Johnston’s 32ft Suhali, the boat he sailed solo non-stop around-the-world and on into the history books as the first ever to do so. He was my hero. The girlfriend left partway through, so I sold it unfinished.

In 1976, shortly after my 21st birthday, I started building Skye, a Duncanson 29 in GRP. I had tendered for and won it, as a damaged hull and deck for $3195, (the subject of a court case). I finished it after a few years and set sail on a three-year cruise to the Reef and out into the Pacific.

With a 21ft waterline and 7ft6in beam it was not a big boat, but I set it up to take on any ocean. I fitted a Volvo Penta MD1B "Vibrator" for propulsion, complete with 8amp Dynastart to top-up the truck batteries. I built my own eutectic refrigeration system and my own mast. I fitted a Navik servo-pendulum windvane, the latest Autohelm electric autopilot, radio direction finder, CB truck radio transceiver, ham radio receiver, a Beaufort four-man liferaft and 8ft inflatable. The sails came from Helen at Cheong Lee sails in Hong Kong. (Amazingly, I finally met her 30 years later when ordering sails for ICE and she still had my 1976 letter!) I designed and built my own kero stove, 15-gallon water tank, dodger and stormboards for the windows, then waved goodbye.

Unbeknown to me, Jeff Toghill took a picture of Skye in Pittwater some years later and published it with a caption that simply said: "A well-equipped, capable, smart-looking cruising boat." It surely was. In 1984, I sold her in Sydney, throughTrade-a-Boat, for $27,500.

Next was Sponsor Wanted later called Buttercup. Officially launched in 1990, it was an aluminium 15.2m Joe Adams/ Graham Radford custom design for my BOC Challenge solo around-the-world yacht race campaign. She was a sailing submarine, unsinkable like theTitanic, with many watertight compartments.

I raced it around the world in 153 days, taking second place in my class, the highest ever placing for an Australian at the time. It took Margie and me eight years and about $750,000 to build and campaign. I first sold her in 1993 for $330,000 not long after my first Antarctic expedition. Unfortunately, the buyer could not close the deal, so I had to repossess it. Sometime later, I sold it again in Trade-a-Boat to an American girl. She wanted to become the first woman to sail solo non-stop around-the-world. I told her a friend of mine, Kay Cottee, had already done that, in 1988.

Spirit of Sydney was a famous boat. Sixty feet and built of aluminium, it was designed by the late Ben Lexcen at a cost of $1.2 million for Rod Muir of MMM radio fame. Ian Kiernan raced her in the 1986 BOC Challenge. Two years after it was built Spirit of Sydney was sold for $210,000. (I just about cried at the time, as I was struggling to build Sponsor Wanted). I bought Spirit as the third owner in 1994 through Trade-a-Boat for $205,000, down from the original asking price of $375,000.

When the "experts" at the yacht club bar heard we were taking her to Antarctica, they laughed and said we would die, as she was falling apart. I had checked and figured different. The first voyage south carried five-tonne of gear to build our hut there, for a year of living alone. Every summer she went south. She made eight more sailing voyages to Antarctica. During the last, she was crushed in the ice and nearly sunk, but returned to fight another day. Repairs cost $140,000 and she sold throughTrade-a-Boat for $400,000 in 2001. Spirit has been chartering to Antarctica every season since. Some boat!

About this time I decided to organise an around-the-world yacht race. To cut a long story short it did not work. I built a few boats for the race and kept one, Arctos. Launched in October 1999, she set off with my mate Dave Price at the helm. It was a six-month, 25,000nm adventure around the world, via Cape Horn, with a sponsor and eight paying crew.

The boat cost $680,000 to build. I sold it a year after they returned for $530,000 to a Singapore group that wanted to make a fast record-breaking circumnavigation. Eventually they walked away from the deal when their sponsors pulled out. The Supreme Court ruled they had to pay me $195,000 and I could keep the boat! I sold it again a year later through Trade-a-Boat for $325,000 to the Flying Fish sailing school.

In 1998 I started looking for a ship and found Tutka in Trade-a-Boat for $750,000 in Finland. She was built in 1960, a real classic, with an amazing history! Renamed Sir Hubert Wilkins with Dick Smith Foods sponsorship, it was 36m long, 600 tonnes and powered by a single 650hp B&W Alpha five-cylinder engine the size of a Mack truck!

With a volunteer crew, Sir Hubert Wilkins sailed across the Atlantic and Pacific to New Zealand for a major $500,000 refit and recertification. A helipad was built and Helicopter Jelly arrived onboard. It was a huge undertaking to sail for three Antarctic seasons and very high-risk financially. It drove Dick and me crazy! With Dick’s help we supported private expeditions, did some conservation work and located the southern magnetic pole for the first time.

In 2003, we took her treasure hunting into the Philippines. For that expedition air-conditioning was fitted, along with a five-man recompression chamber, ROV, metal detectors, and more dive and salvage gear than you could imagine. It was a Boy’s Own adventure to the extreme. It was a lot of fun and I eventually sold the ship through Trade-a-Boat for $1.3 million.

During this time Margie and I found a Walker H28 in Trade-a-Boat for $35,000 in Bowen, Qld. Just right for winter in the sun! We bought it for $33,000 and the 10m marina berth too. We gave it a French name Cheapas (very appropriate). We owned it for about a year but did not sail her much because we were too busy, so sold it in Trade-a-Boat for $38,000.

It was not long after the sale of "Huey" that we were offered Blake Expeditions, a boat I had been keen on years earlier, then called Antarctica. Kiwi yachtsman Sir Peter Blake had been tragically murdered by pirates aboard her on the Amazon delta, Brazil, in 2001, but we declined as we now wanted to go smaller.

I had been about to build a Radford 68 expedition yacht, when the same boat came on the market as a deceased estate in Darwin. I saw it in Trade-a-Boat and was on the next plane — $195,000 got me a big mess called City of Darwin. There was rotting food and rats in the galley! But it was a great buy. Built of aluminium and basically all there, it had to be rebuilt.

While planning the refit, Margie and I decided we would like a break from "people" expeditions and thought we would build a luxury boat, just for us! China looked like the place, so we set out on the road to building ICE I called up my mate Dave Pryce and did a deal on City of Darwin for $100,000 — I owed him some favours! He became the new owner, did the rebuild/refit and commenced chartering her, all around the world as Blizzard Expeditions.

If you followTrade-a-Boat, you should already know all about ICE. (You can read the test online). It is the ultimate 40-tonne, ice–strengthened 15.2m steel motorsailer and the culmination of all my boating experience in the one boat!

We started construction in 2005 and the two-year build then stretched to three at the Seahorse Marine factory in China. I made 15 trips to the yard during those years to supervise construction and I am very happy with the result. I was, however, distracted along the way.

In 2010 the Jester Challenge race was setting out across the Atlantic in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the OSTAR (Observer Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race), the event that started solo yacht racing. The Jester Challenge had no rules, other than turn up in a boat under 30ft! I had to do it.

In 2008 I started looking for a boat. I considered using a timber 25ft Virtue as David Lewis had done in the first OSTAR. I made an eBay bid on one in the UK, but lost it. Then I found a junk-rigged North Atlantic 29 in Nova Scotia for $30,000. It was designed by Blondie Hasler (of Jester fame) and Angus Primrose. Deal was done, sight unseen! I renamed her Joker and was going to be busy in 2010.

I continued working on ICE but had always dreamed of doing the Bligh Bounty-boat voyage. I was getting older, a relative thing of course. The decision was made; I would set sail in 2009. Another busy year ahead, but life got in the way when Margie had major back surgery, so we postponed the Bounty Voyage to 2010. I already had Joker, so that plan had to be cancelled. Bugger… I rang my friend Chris Bray and suggested he buy it for $20,000 and do the Northwest Passage. He did and after a major rebuild, was on his way.

In 2008, a 15-year-old Jessica Watson rang me. Six months later, I bought an S&S 34 in Trade-a-Boat for $56,000 so she could fulfil her dream. I also guaranteed to underwrite all her equipment and organise and fund the first press conference. Many people have supported me over the years, so this was the ultimate payback. It was such fun. I had backed a winner and new it from day one. Jess bought Pink Lady from me after her voyage and it is now in the Brisbane’s Queensland Maritime Museum.

When I arrived in Kupang, at the end of the Talisker Bounty Boat voyage in June 2010, I was given my copy of Trade-a-Boat. I found a bargain. It was one of the IOOD 50 around-the-world raceboats I built, then sold for nearly $600,000 in 2002, and was on the market for $135,000. (Jess had got me all fired-up about another solo ocean voyage).

Some months later I bought it for $110,000. It was a crazy price and I had to take it, if not for me, for someone else who needed a boat like this. A young Tobias Fahey read my Ocean Adventure columns in Trade-a-Boat and felt enthused enough to email me of his solo-sailing dreams. He was passionate. I rang Tobias and told him he needed to buy my new boat for $100,000. He sold everything he owned, borrowed more and did! He sets sail this year. (See www.tobiasfahey.com.au).

What next? Well, I need a bigger workboat for the "Treasure" (see www.bluetreasure.me). LOL! But the Dream? One last big sailing ice-ship. It will be called Arctos II… stay tuned! Life is an Adventure!

My dreamboat ICE is real headturner on the marina, red makes all the difference. Most wonder what it is, I know what it is — the best boat I have ever owned.


My Duncanson 29 Skye after two years building in the front yard of my parents’ house in 1979 is on its way to the water. I was 22 and ready for adventure!


Sponsor Wanted leaving Sydney on the third leg of the 1990/91 BOC Challenge solo around-the-world race with a new name Buttercup. Without Buttercup Bakeries sponsorship I was sunk. It took eight years to build and I owed $350,000 when I started the race in Newport, RI, USA.


Spirit of Sydney sailed nine times to Antarctica and carried everything for our year of living "together alone" there in a "box" in 1995. In 2001 she was crushed in the ice and nearly lost!


Ice strengthened and with its own helicopter, Sir Hubert Wilkins was the greatest little expedition ship you could ever own. With sponsorship by Dick Smith Foods, we were able to do some amazing expeditions. It was a fun period in our lives.


, the North Atlantic 29 junk-rigged for the Jester challenge that I bought and sold sight unseen... now cruising the Northwest Passage!


A special boat for a special expedition.


Pink Lady began life as a simple S&S 34 bargain in Trade-a-Boat that I bought for that voyage. I loaned her to Jess Watson and both became legends.

, a "bargain" Walker H28 was a great boat, but we couldn’t get to use it!

The next big project? Arctos II is 33m long, carries its own float plane and plenty of toys — I have the plane already!

McIntyre Marine Composites built 24 of these 16.5m boats. Arctos was the best and one of the first yachts in Australia built to Australian standards. We kept this one for "us" and had some fun with it.

Blizzard, formally City of Darwin, is a 68ft 25-tonne simple expedition sailboat that we trucked from Darwin to Yamba. Dave Pryce bought it then sailed it around the world, and to Antarctica many times.


From Trade-a-Boat Issue 424, March 2012


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