NEW CALEDONIA: Living the Life isn’t simply the name of Regan and Sandra Fleming’s much-loved 68 Sports Motor Yacht – it’s a creed they’re now experiencing to the fullest while wandering the tropical South Pacific.
When Regan answers his phone, you don’t ask “how are you?” but rather “where are you?”, as there is currently no “fixed address” for the Gold Coast family. They simply move with the wind and tide from one idyllic isle to another, not a care in the world.
On the day of our interview, the answer is Isle of Pines in New Caledonia – Regan is reclining on the yacht’s mezzanine deck, overlooking azure waters in a sandy bay lined with swaying coconut palms.
Each day they explore new places, swim and snorkel in the sparkling lagoons, or fish for mahi mahi (dolphin fish) and marlin. At night, they return to a 5-star “home” that moves around with them.
“We’re the only motor yacht here at the moment but there’s about eight sailing yachts with us – mostly from Australia,” Regan says, painting the colourful scene. “Our 11-year-old son Joel is here as well, and he’s loving every minute of it.
“His teacher has come along for the ride, so they do schoolwork on board when not out exploring.”
Landing in the French-speaking paradise was the culmination of a two-year dream for the Fleming family, having previously operated a floor covering business on the Gold Coast.
The 780-mile ocean crossing from Southport to Noumea took 92 hours, at an average speed of 8.5 knots. With the optional MAN 1800s at minimal throttle, average fuel burn was just 5.15 litres per nautical mile – this included constant genset usage to power the gyro.
Having picked an ideal weather window, the breeze stayed below 10 knots the whole way and the seas were a languid 1½ metres.
There were four on board for the passage, three of whom had extensive boating experience. Friend Mitch previously owned a Riviera 45, as well as numerous smaller vessels, while another friend Pat holds a Master V and MED 2 cert and works on various 60-70 footers between Sydney and Hamilton Island.
Together, they operated a 4-hourly watch system during the nights at sea, with two people always at the helm station. During the day they were more relaxed, allowing rest periods to those who needed it.
“It worked well for us with the company on the overnight watches, ensuring that no one fell asleep,” Regan explains. “Also, Sandra had all the meals prepared beforehand, and we ate very well with lasagne, shepherd’s pie and a meat stew frozen in single portion sizes for us to simply heat and add some salad to.”
About 30 friends and family members monitored their progress with keen interest, including Regan’s father Tony who is a 40-year veteran of New Zealand’s Coast Guard. Regan phoned Tony twice a day with updates, which were subsequently relayed to the mailing list.
“Anyone with messages passed them to Dad and he gave them to me during the call. That was much easier than trying to communicate with 30 different people. The Mazu system also sent out automatic position updates every six hours to Dad’s email address, so he always knew where we were.”
Regan, himself, has been a mariner since the tender age of five, and Living the Life is the Flemings’ third Riviera, following on from a 51 and 56. After taking delivery in July last year, they spent considerable time familiarising themselves with the onboard systems during an extended stay at Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays.
With quite a few coastal miles clocked, and everything finely tuned, they felt confident and well prepared before setting off for New Caledonia. Nothing, however, prepared them for the emotional joy of conquering the voyage with such relative ease.
“It was surreal, to tell you the truth,” Regan says. “We’d been planning this trip ever since we ordered the boat, so it was an awesome feeling to land in a totally different country.
“The boat has surpassed all our expectations. We’ve lived aboard since taking delivery back in July last year, so it definitely feels like our home now and we’re not lacking for anything.”
The 68’s generous staterooms offer privacy for teacher Dan and his partner Krissi, who have been aboard since December last year. Dan, incidentally, had limited experience on larger boats before setting off but now has considerable sea miles under his belt, while Regan has also been teaching him the operation of the yacht.
Sandra is adept at starting the motors, lifting anchor and driving. She loves the 68’s mezzanine deck for entertainment and, as a keen angler, also appreciates the low-set cockpit.
“She loves her fishing and is very successful at it,” Regan adds proudly. “You will usually find me driving the boat.”
With regards to tailoring this beautiful yacht for their personal needs, the couple selected the Presidential master stateroom to gain additional width. Interiors were pieced together from the contemporary ranges offered by Riviera, and the Garmin electronics array was also “straight out of the box”.
Regan opted to equip Living the Life with a hard-wired satellite phone for their passages, along with the aforementioned Mazu satellite weather system to ensure there were no surprises. They also specified a Seakeeper gyro, optional swim platform and upgraded the engines from standard MAN 1550s.
They’ve got everything they need without compromising, along with the 68’s inherent long-range expedition prowess.
“We were sitting down last night, having a beer at sunset, and thinking about our next leg to Vanuatu,” Regan adds. “It’s a very cool feeling being able to think about such things. To take a boat like this from one country to another is just an unbelievable experience. We have no complaints whatsoever.”
As a footnote, the Flemings have since landed at Port Villa in Vanuatu after selecting another perfect Pacific weather window. Photos depict burnt orange sunsets, trays of ocean-fresh fish and lobster, and islanders peddling their wares via hollowed-out canoes.
Where to next? Well, they are looking at Fiji in the first week of August, weather gods willing. The crossing from Port Villa is anticipated to take 65 hours.
“We will keep you posted,” Regan assures, as we bid bon voyage to him and his crew.