When a flotilla of 10 Riviera motor yachts passed through the heads to Sydney Harbour, two owners were fulfilling a dream.
Steve and Joanne Payne said the moment was the highlight of their 12-day adventure with Gold Coast Rivera and Belize representative R Marine Crawley.
“We took delivery of our new 4800 Sport Yacht, Crusher, just before the voyage to Sydney, so it was a fabulous shakedown cruise,” said Steve Payne.
Joanne and Mick Walker made the journey in their 5400 Sport Yacht The Ghost.
“Coming around Bradley’s Head to see the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge ahead in bright sunlight was a breathtaking moment,” said Joanne.
The 10 Rivieras had cruised south from the Gold Coast for the R Marine Crawley Hawkesbury Experience in mid-March. The adventure would take them to magical anchorages in Sydney Harbour then the northern Sydney waterway of Cowan Creek and the Hawkesbury River.
Patty and Braydon Winch also used the Experience as a shakedown for their new Riviera 52 Enclosed Flybridge.
“The weather was delightful through the entire two weeks,” said Patty. “Our first day at sea took us to Coffs Harbour and a chance to get to know one another as we played with dolphins at a marine park and later got together for an evening drink.
“We explored Muttonbird Island the next day.”
Joanne Payne said she appreciated the single level design of the Riviera 4800 Sport Yacht.
“Crusher is a wonderfully comfortable motor yacht,” she said. “The layout means that Steve and I are always in touch.”
The next stopover was at Port Stephens where the adventurers took a four-wheel drive tour to Stockton Bay and its beach.
“We tobogganed down the dunes,” said Patty Winch. “We also saw a little cottage near the beach that was used during the shooting of the first Mad Max movie.”
After their magical entry into Sydney Harbour, the fleet anchored at Athol Bay on the harbour’s north shore, close to Taronga Zoo.
“Three of the motor yachts in the fleet – including us – rafted up and everyone joined us for a party,” said Patty. “We could see the Opera House and the bridge from our anchorage.
“Ben Crawley positioned his Riviera opposite and a two-piece band in the cockpit of his yacht entertained us. We all dressed up in pirate costumes and had a great time. Ben and his team really know how to spoil us!
“It was bizarre to wake in the morning to the sound of wild animals.”
The fleet moved to a more quiet anchorage at Bantry Bay in Sydney’s Middle Harbour for the following night.
“I had never imagined that there could be such a secluded and apparently untouched place in the middle of a large city!” said Joanne Walker.
Joanne and Mick had rarely spent more than one night on board until this voyage.
“The two-week Experience allowed us to learn a great deal more about our motor yacht,” said Mick. “I exchanged information with the other owners whenever we were anchored or rafted up together.”
The fleet motored to Sydney’s northern waterways and a special experience at the renowned Peat’s Bite restaurant on the Hawkesbury River.
“It is quite remote,” said Patty Winch. “We were told it can be reached only by boat or seaplane.
“The food was gorgeous and the owner sang for us during our dinner.”
The following day the fleet turned back into the main waterway and into Refuge Bay.
“We walked on the beach and explored,” said Patty. “We took our tenders around to the next cove, America Bay, and climbed to the top of a waterfall.”
The following day the fleet venture further into the waterway, to Cottage Point and the restaurant on the water’s edge.
“It was exciting to watch a seaplane touch down and then come in to the restaurant’s pontoon,” said Patty.
A final night in the Sydney waterways was spent at The Basin in The Pittwater where the crews enjoyed a barbecue on the beach.
“We had joined the Experience not knowing anyone else, ” said Patty. “By the time we reached The Basin, we all knew one another well. The camaraderie was fantastic.”
Steve Payne said the two weeks away gave him and Joanne a year of experience in a short time.
“I am very impressed with our Sport Yacht,” he said. “She may have all the latest electronics on board, but they work so well together that the result is simplicity and comfort.”
Mick and Joanne Walker agreed.
“We learned a great deal about our yacht – and about ourselves – in the two weeks,” said Mick. “It was a fantastic investment.”