By Caroline Strainig for Boat Gold Coast Magazine
Gordon and Louise Fraser are working like a well-oiled team, as they head out from their marina berth at Manly on their Fountaine Pajot Salina 48 sailing catamaran. Louise has the mooring lines all neatly organised and casts off and steps back on board at the transom with time to spare, while Gordon calmly pivots the boat around and manoeuvres Paikea out of what can be a tricky berth. The couple don’t have to talk – after many years of boating together even hand gestures are superfluous much of the time.
The hassle-free departure sets the scene for yet another lovely afternoon on the water, one of hundreds the couple has enjoyed since buying their 14.6-metre catamaran in 2011. They own a real estate agency at Toowong in Brisbane and escaping on the catamaran to explore Moreton Bay is their favourite way to chill out and enjoy the on-water lifestyle.
“And see – we can still handle enquiries if we have to,” Gordon says laughingly, after answering a business call as we motor out the leads at Manly.
From mono to multi
Gordon and Louise had watched catamarans sitting calmly at anchor while their 13-metre flybridge cruiser pitched and rocked for many years before making the decision to swap over. They opted to go for a sailing version even though they were not sailors, so they could add another element to their on-water adventures.
Mark Elkington, principal of boat distributor Multihull Solutions, listened to the couple’s wish-list and offered them a good deal on a new Fountaine Pajot Salina 48. The catamaran in question was being imported to showcase the brand at the 2011 boat shows and would be kitted out with every conceivable option, including a washing machine, water-maker and generator. As part of the package, the distributor offered to include five days’ sail training. Gordon could also get more experience helping two experienced professional crew deliver the catamaran to boat shows.
It was a deal too good to pass up, and months later the Frasers took delivery of their new dream boat, which they named Paikea, a Maori name, in honour of their Kiwi roots.
Baptism of fire
The couple had several weeks getting to know their new boat on Moreton Bay from its new home berth at Manly before Gordon and his two professional crew mates headed off to Sanctuary Cove, Sydney and Auckland on the boat show circuit. Louise went along for the coastal-hopping trips, but left the Tasman crossing to Auckland to Gordon and the crew, flying to meet the boat in Auckland.
Gordon could already navigate and handle their previous 13-metre flybridge cruiser well, but says he found crewing on a large boat offshore in challenging conditions for days on end was something different again.
“Five days out crossing the Tasman on our way to New Zealand with still 500 nautical miles to go we encountered a 40-knot-plus storm,” Gordon recalls.
“We were running with it, clocking up to 24 knots surfing down waves, and the noise was horrendous. The waves were taller than the mast. One of the crew told me to look back at the waves when I was helming. I told him I didn’t have to because I could hear them coming!”
Another amusing moment – well at least with the adventure safely behind them – was when one of the crew asked him where the sea anchor was stowed.
“I told him we didn’t have one,” Gordon said. “He just looked at me and quipped back that we’d have to make do then because there weren’t any shops out in middle of the Tasman.”
Thankfully, using the motors in reverse worked as a de facto sea anchor, and they made it safely to Auckland. This was despite the satellite phone location texts Gordon kept sending to their family indicating at one point that Paikea was 13 metres below sea level!
“While it was hard at the time, it was a great learning experience and did give me huge confidence in the boat,” Gordon said.
“One of the professional crew, who had been sailing for 30 years, said he’d never been through a storm like it, and he would take the boat anywhere, in any conditions.”
Another experience he will never forget is navigating Paikea through Sydney Harbour at night, with Manly ferries whizzing past.
“That was just so special, doing the navigating, and motoring into the boat show with all the lights around,” Gordon said.
Still in love
Seven years on, the couple say they still love the features that attracted them to the Salina 48 in the first place.
“For me, it’s the massive cockpit and saloon with the saloon settee facing forwards, so people can see where we are going, rather than be looking out the back,” Gordon said.
“And the space. You can have up to 25 people on board at boat shows and there is still room to move.”
“I have looked at monohulls at boat show and I think this boat has as much space as a 70-foot monohull. It’s a great family boat.”
Louise loves the galley, two fridges, oven and barbecue, which make entertaining on board a breeze.
She also loves the layout: their Salina is the owner’s version with the starboard hull devoted to a massive owner’s stateroom and ensuite and the port hull has two guest cabins and two heads, ideal for hosting their three grown-up children and six grandchildren.
The sail plan also ticks all their boxes. The helm station has room for two or three to sit comfortably, and just about everything on the boat apart from reefing can be done using the one electric and two manual winches on the cabin top just forward.
Work restricts how far Gordon and Louise can escape to most of the time, but they did make it up to the Whitsundays one winter and regularly spend days at a time on the boat.
Their favourite getaway spot is Lucinda Bay on Moreton Island, a three-hour or so motor or sail from Manly, which is usually much quieter than Tangalooma and the Sandhills.
For a quick getaway, they say it’s hard to go past Horseshoe Bay on Peel Island, an hour-long motor away.
Later this year they plan to base the boat on the Gold Coast for a few months to explore that area further because they have enjoyed the occasional expedition to the Broadwater so much.
They rarely go to restaurants when they are out on the boat.
“Eating out off the boat sort of defeats the object of getting away from it all,” Louise said.
“Anchored out enjoying a barbecue in some beautiful and peaceful spot – it doesn’t get much better than that.”
As we motor back into the marina at Manly at the end of our afternoon outing, both Gordon and Louise admit that sometimes they don’t even have to leave the marina for Paikea to weave her rejuvenating magic.
“Even just sitting here relaxing in the marina is pretty special and a world away from all the hustle and bustle of everyday life,” Gordon said.
Read this article and see many more great feature articles in this issue of Boat Gold Coast Magazine.