With more than 350 square kilometres of lakes, lagoons and rivers, the Gippsland Lakes in eastern Victoria is Australia’s largest network of inland waterways – and ideal for enjoying the Riviera boating lifestyle. So say Karin and Peter Reed who spend most weekends on the Lakes aboard their 445 SUV K’Oma. And they’re not alone. In 2013, there were 12,658 boats registered in the Gippsland region.
“It’s perfect living here with a Riviera,” says Peter. “We overnight on the boat nearly every Friday and Saturday when the weather is good and if it’s not we’ll do a day trip.”
Despite there being thousands of boats, Peter says it’s easy to get away and be ‘totally secluded’. He reels off names of arms, beaches, inlets and bays: Chinaman’s Creek, Boxes Creek, Nungerner, Barrier Landing, Flagstaff, the G-Spot, Duck Arm, Steamer Landing.
Five years ago, the Reeds upgraded from their Riviera 36 Sport Yacht to the 445 SUV. K’Oma is ‘more boat’ and with a 1.1-metre draft, can still access most of the waterways.
“The Gippsland’s main channels are no worries, but the offshoots can get a bit shallow. For us, the 445 SUV is the perfect size. We can still get to most places and it’s still big enough to be a great boat with lots of space.”
They also have the added pleasure of being able to moor K’Oma at their Paynesville home.
“There’s nothing better than having your boat in front of your house,” says Karin, who is originally from Holland where boats and canals also happen to be a way of life.
All the creature comforts of home
Karin likens their ‘home away from home’ to a luxury caravan on the water. “We have all the creature comforts, a big lounge and plenty of space. It’s very comfortable and very social.”
The 445 SUV combines the open cockpit of a Riviera Flybridge with the single-level living of a Sport Yacht. A rear glass bulkhead and a sliding door opens the cockpit and saloon into a vast entertaining area. Inside, courtesy of two overhead sunroofs, natural light is plentiful. “And in the winter,” Peter adds, “the sun beams in and it gets warm.”
The Reeds opted for hard floors over carpet because, on a typical trip, they push up onto the sandy beaches of the lakeshores. They also added extra seating in place of a barbecue in the cockpit.
“Sometimes we raft up with six or seven other boats up on the sand. There’s only about a 300-millimetre tidal difference so all we need to do is secure the boats so they don’t swing if there’s wind,” says Peter.
The brine waters of the estuarine waterway make it a popular fishing destination for varieties including bream, flathead and King George whiting. And fish numbers are coming back courtesy of the Victorian State Government’s current phasing out of commercial fishing. There’s also a rare species of dolphin unique to these southern waters, the Burrunan dolphin. The Gippsland Lakes is home to one of only two known resident populations of the Burrunan, with numbers ranging seasonally from 50 to 150. Birdlife is also plentiful.
A fisher’s paradise
“Sometimes we turn on the underwater lights and with a dip net grab the prawns that come past. Others go floundering, spearing the fish as they walk along,” says Peter, although he admits they’re not mad anglers.
“We throw the rod out every once in a while, but we’d rather push onto a beach, raft up with a few good friends, and watch the boating world go by.”
While plenty of time is spent relaxing on beaches, the Reeds clock around 120 engine hours a year. The notable fuel efficiency of the Volvo Penta D6 IPS 600 lends itself to a speed cruise here and there.
“It’s got good fuel economy, but it depends on how fast you go. At around 20 knots we burn 90 litres an hour. The other day coming home I got pinged doing 28-30 knots by another Riviera owner and friend who was looking on his AIS (Automatic Identification System) from his home in Melbourne!”
Add a good half dozen pubs around the lakes and the Reeds are happy as clams.
“Sometimes we’ll just sail from one pub to the next and stop overnight somewhere along the way,” says Karin, clearly now an Aussie convert. Equally fond of a frosty is Peter, who praises the fridge space in his Riviera, especially the cockpit’s cool box, handily located in the port quarter.
“We love to live and boat in the lakes and national parks. There are no crocs, no stingers, no bull sharks … none of that Queensland stuff!” Peter laughs. “It’s absolute boating heaven.”