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Riviera's new 4400 Sport Yacht was the idyllic setting for a three-day postcard run from the Gold Coast to Fraser Island and return, writes DAVID LOCKWOOD.

Riviera 4400 Sport Yacht

DECEMBER, 2008 - Ordinarily, boat testers are lucky to grab a few hours aboard a new model, the engine hour-meter risks turning a brand-spanker into a depreciated demonstrator, and the new owner has finally had?enough of your erratic driving. So the opportunity to spend three days on the new Riviera 4400 Sport Yacht on a cruise from the Gold Coast to Fraser Island, to sleep and eat with the family and other good company, came as a pleasant surprise. And in so doing we got a better idea of the latest in sportsyacht living.

As the clock struck midday, with the saloon door closed, the generator and tropical strength air conditioning running, we moseyed on down the Coomera River where it soon became abundantly clear that Volvo Penta's IPS 600s engines and their installation have led to a remarkably quiet cruiser. Conversation flowed mellifluously without ever needing to raise one's voice. Even with the saloon door open and the throttles pushed forward, the 4400 Sport Yacht is quiet and consenting.

Ordinarily, the river takes a tedious hour to negotiate due to no-wash zones. But today we take the mangrove-lined North Arm anabranch and save 20 minutes. It's a shortcut you can only take at the top of the tide.



But it's on the Broadwater that our voyage really begins. We take the Main Channel that runs behind the Stradbroke islands to Moreton Bay, cross over to Tangalooma, beat north to a point east of Caloundra and then swing west to Mooloolaba to complete the first leg of our voyage to Fraser. After a night aboard there, it's upwards and onwards along the Sunshine Coast to the Sandy Strait and Fraser.

Among the highlights of the Main Channel is the settlement of Jacobs Well. You can anchor here, take the tender to shore, walk to the pub, lean on the old wine barrels they use as tables, and eat decent fish and chips. Or you can duck into Calypso Bay just before the town and visit the Irish Pub that has a berth.

Big things are planned for adjoining Horizon Shores by way of a $500 million marina and residential development. Just beyond Cabbage Tree Point I note the entrance to the Logan River. Mind the powerlines if you're sailing but in a small boat you can range for hours upstream. Mud crabs are plentiful, I'm told.



That local boating bible, Beacon to Beacon, reveals the navigation markers before they unfold along the next impending narrow stretch of the so-called Main Channel. We jink this way and that at Redland Bay before spilling into Raby Bay at the bottom of Moreton Bay which, like most big bays, is a fine boating waterway providing the wind isn't blowing.

Coinciding with our arrival, the morning zephyr turns into a 15-knot northeast headwind as we pass Peel Island, one of the better anchorages with some neat reefs for snorkelling and a beach for a swim and barbie. We pick up the shipping channel wide off the entrance to the Brisbane River. It's here that we cross the bay.

But don't dismiss Moreton Bay as a destination. There's plenty to see. Of the seven turtle species in the world, five are residents. They are the green, loggerhead, Pacific ridley, flatback and hawksbill turtles.



There is also a relatively large population of dugongs in Moreton Bay, plus plenty of sub-tropical and tropical fish, wading birds, eagles and more. But take care swimming. Sarah Kate Whiley, 21, from Brisbane was mauled to death by a pack of three sharks while swimming at Amity Point off North Stradbroke Island on January 7, 2006.

In fact, such is the prodigious wildlife that there are plans to turn huge tracts of Moreton Bay into yet bigger marine parks. Public input is being sought on the rezoning, which could change the way boaties access and use the waterway.

?Of course, wind and bays create a stirring mix, so we shoot across to Tangalooma, which is marked by a resort with daily handfeeding of tame dolphins, and a series of scuttled wrecks off its signature sandhills that provide a decent anchorage. When we arrive on Sunday afternoon, local boaties are pulling the pin. I proffer that we could drop anchor for the night but, as ever, time and tide wait for no man. So we must forge headlong into the building seas to reach Point Cartwright and Mooloolaba before nightfall.

Not long after, the tender tried to abandon ship, a trim tab broke free in a furtive attempt to sabotage our passage, and I was reduced to lying on the floor in a boat that bucked like, what else, a bronco. Though our baby girl, Summer, thought it an amusement ride, the delivery trip wasn't all beer and skittles. As with most ocean passages when the wind is on the nose, it wasn't smooth sailing.

We also pass two whales spouting off but for the most part, the floor is the best place to be during the choppy crossing, the views are lousy and the boat is enveloped in spray. An hour out of our lives later and we complete the 20nm punch from the top of Moreton Island to Point Cartwright where the breakwall marks the entrance to Mooloolaba. It's four hours since we left the Broadwater.



Quite by chance, we have arrived during the annual Mooloolaba Seafood Festival. There are stalls and rides, a fireworks display, and the local crustaceans have that just-caught snappy ocean taste that seafood-lovers might endure a bumpy passage for.
Though deep-draft yachts need to arrive at the top of the tide to cross the bar, Mooloolaba is inviting. The marina is big, restaurants are many and you can walk a few hundred metres to the surf beach.

Lots of portly retirees are exercising as we body surf in the 23ºC water. A shower, breakfast on deck, and we're off on the final fling to Fraser Island. At last the weather gods are smiling.

You don't need to have a degree in celestial navigation to find your way to the world's biggest sand island. Back to the boating bible Beacon to Beacon: Fraser Island is a 42nm passage from Mooloolaba travelling at 357º. This takes you to a point just north of Double Island Point, where a run of eight nautical miles northwest at 286° brings you to the leads guiding you through the Wide Bay Bar.



Negotiate the bar and you are in the Great Sandy Strait, the home straight, which runs for about 20-odd nautical miles along the western side of Fraser Island. Needless to say, Wide Bay Bar and the Sandy Strait are best negotiated at the top of the tide or last few hours of the flood. With a runout and a big southerly set, the bar can be horrendous and boats twice the size of the Riviera 4400 Sport Yacht have been swallowed up before.

We make haste in the morning, departing on the back of a light northwesterly, a convection wind that will swing to the northeast and become a headwind as the land heats up. Before long Mooloolaba Yacht Club is astern, Mooloolah River is a memory and the first landmark, Mudjimba or Old Woman Island, is off the bow.

The only other hazard off Mooloolaba is Gneering Shoals a few miles farther out to sea and an interesting dive site with coral. The shoals break in heavy seas but fortunately, a navigation buoy marks them - keep clear. We stay inshore and enjoy a splendid cruise along the Sunshine Coast. Alexandra Headland is to the west, yet it's the mountainous backdrop beyond that steals attention. The 13 volcanic peaks are collectively known as the Glasshouse Mountains - Mount Beerwah towers 557m above sea level.

The beaches fall like dominos: Mudjimba, Marcoola, then Mount Coolum near the entrance to the Maroochy River and Point Arkwright, followed by Coolum, Peregian, Marcus, Castaways, Sunrise and Sunshine.

Though their names defy their beauty, Devils Kitchen and Hells Gate flank Alexandria Bay, around which are the boulders of Granite and Tea Tree Bays, the latter a famous surf break. Elsewhere, hoop and kauri pines tower above small rainforest pockets.




It is possible in calm seas to anchor in Laguna Bay and take the tender into Noosa, says Alan Lucas in Cruising the Coral Coast. But the Noosa River is so shallow that its bar is impenetrable. We trace the back of the breakers along the huge sweep of beach running north from Noosa. The sea is so agreeable we're now cruising at 26kts in the open ocean, kicking back on leather lounges in air-conditioned comfort, watching the scenery flash past.

At Teewah you can see the wreck of the Cherry Venture, then come the amazing sandhills that range all the way to Rainbow Beach in the Cooloola National Park, which has the largest intact sand dune system in the world. It's here that Mother Nature is at her most benevolent - the sea is sparkling, shoals of small fish are shimmering on its steely surface, gannets are on the wing, and dolphins cavort off the bow.

The coloured sands are stunning and dwarf the procession of 4WDs scooting along the beach. School holidays mean camps dot the base of the dunes all the way up to Double Island Point with a lighthouse that's been operating since 1884.

You need to watch Wolf Rock, which dries at low tide, and, if the tides aren't right to cross Wide Bay Bar, you can anchor around the northern side of Double Island Point. It's hard to contain our enthusiasm upon seeing Fraser Island across the far side of Wide Bay.

We avoid the South Spit and pick up the directional beacon on the bottom of Fraser Island to negotiate the minefield of sandbanks. At night, you would look for white lights instead of seeing a port or starboard light. Of course, the C-Map card on the plotter reveals the line for the leads on the screen.



Halfway through the bar we pick up the leads at Inskip Point to the southwest. These direct you down what's known as The Mad Mile and into Great Sandy Strait, where cardinal marks and navigation buoys are common. You need to abide by them as there's just a metre of water at low tide at Sheridan Flats near Tooth Island. And note: the markers are geared for travelling downstream when you arrive from the south - the fairway or directional marker is in Hervey Bay - so keep to starboard of the port markers.

Of course, this will make perfect sense once you have perused the charts, guidebooks and your GPS chartplotter. As Mooloolaba is just 55nm away, you should wait for the right tides and weather before setting off for Fraser. A swell greater than two metres on the surf beaches and you will see plenty of action at the bar. Also, note the ebb tide races to 2.5kts and tides are in the three-to-four metre range.

But for the bar, Sandy Strait is a boating mecca, with seemingly endless calm-water cruising. The anchorages are many and there are towns and marinas to explore. Start with Tin Can Bay where you can provision and/or catch a tourist ride across to Fraser.

Halfway along The Strait is Mary River, which runs up to the city of Maryborough about 20nm upstream. Back in the Strait, we pass popular Gary's Anchorage. You can walk to one of Fraser's famous freshwater lakes from here as well.

The water improves in colour and clarity farther north towards Hervey Bay. It's outside popular Kingfisher Bay that we drop anchor in Riviera's 4400 Sport Yacht and raft-up with the Riviera 41 support vessel.



Queensland prawns and a big salad, a tender ride to shore and a swim in the 23ºC water are just rewards for our passage north. Big and Little Woody islands are across the way and, with the northeaster starting to gather pace, it's time to think about a night anchorage. The decision is made to sneak up the deep channel alongside Big Woody.

The sun sets over the mainland, where it lingers, paints the sky vermilion, before ushering in a carpet of twinkling stars.
Sadly, at some point, one must sleep.

Morning dawns on the Sandy Strait and we waste no time hightailing it to Urangan Harbour, which has a number of marinas bedecked with cruising boats ready to explore the Great Barrier Reef which starts nearby. Another four hours and you can be at Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave islands.

The boat is slipped, a trim tab repaired, as we wander off to sample a plate of local scallops at a chummy waterfront eatery. Of course, none of it has sated our appetites to see more of Queensland by boat. Now we know how to reach Hervey Bay there are plans to stay for a month. After which we could head to Gladstone and the Keppels. Then we're really into god's country and the tropical island archipelagos. This is Sportsyacht living and cruising.



(Facts & Figures)



The Riviera 44 Sport Yacht, hull No. 1, was selling for $927,005 w/ twin Volvo Penta IPS 600 turbo diesel engines and optional hydraulic swim platform, LCD TV in stateroom and aft cabin, teak cockpit floor, dishwasher, icemaker, washer/dryer, cockpit awning, upholstery upgrade, interior carpet upgrade and soft furnishings, and more



$835,980 w/ Volvo Penta IPS 500 turbo diesel engines



Material: Vacuum-bagged GRP hull and Divinycell foam cored hulls and deck
Type: Moderate-vee monohull w/ underwater exhausts
Length overall: 15.12m w/ bowsprit and boarding platform
Hull length: 13.91m
Beam: 4.58m
Draft: 1.20m
Weight: 12,500kg (dry w/ std motors)




Berths: 5 (+ 1 on saloon lounge)
Fuel: 1500lt
Water: 460lt



Make/model: Twin Volvo Penta IPS 600 fully electronic 435hp D7 diesel engines
Drives: Independent propulsion system w/ fly-by-wire steerable drives and forward-facing Duoprops




The Riviera Group, 50 Waterway Drive, Coomera, QLD, 4209 (07) 5501 0000,

Source: Trade-a-Boat, Dec 2008

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