Lord Howe Island is a destination on the radar of many motor yachting enthusiasts. Yet most see it is a stretch too far. About 350 nautical miles off the east coast of Australia, it is well within the range of Riviera motor yachts, but there is no safe harbour in between.
Yet it is a wondrous place, with a coral lagoon teeming with colourful fish, towering mountains, extraordinary bird life and an environment certain to put a smile of the face of every visitor.
Andrew Luxton is well known to our Experience readers for his epic voyage around Australia aboard his Riviera 51 Enclosed Flybridge, Prime Mover, completed in 2015.
Now Andrew has undertaken a new voyage inspired by his father.
Andrew acknowledges his circumnavigation was also inspired by the stories of Ian Reynolds’ voyage around Australia in 2008 – at the age of 79.
Ian took his Riviera 56 Enclosed Flybridge, Investigator IV, on a shakedown cruise to Lord Howe Island before the circumnavigation and Andrew was determined to make the voyage himself. His father, too, sailed to the island many years ago.
“Dad talked about his voyage to the island for years afterwards,” says Andrew. “Inevitably it went on my bucket list.”
Andrew planned to take his Riviera to the Whitsunday islands in autumn and decided to turn east and take the voyage to Lord Howe on the way north.
On this voyage, Andrew travelled in convoy with friend and fellow Riviera 51 owner Mark Slocombe aboard his own Riviera 51 Enclosed Flybridge, Legend III.
Andrew and Mark met about eight years ago through their mutual love of motor yachts and Mark shared some of the legs of Andrew’s circumnavigation.
“That experience instilled in me a desire to take my own Riviera further afield,” says Mark. “Until this latest voyage, Legend III and I had cruised in Western Port Bay and out to the islands of Bass Strait.
“When Andrew told me of his Whitsundays plan, I immediately put my hand up to travel in convoy.”
Travelling with friends and family on the voyage north, the pair made a stop at R Marine Pittwater in northern Sydney for a couple of weeks and then on to Port Stephens on the New South Wales mid north coast to prepare for the leg to Lord Howe.
“We carried bladders of fuel for this part of the voyage,” says Andrew. “We knew that Prime Mover and Legend III were more than capable of travelling the 350 nautical miles on the fuel they carry in their tanks, but we also wanted to travel north to Elizabeth and Middleton reefs. The additional fuel would allow us to be independent throughout the voyage, only requiring more fuel to return to the mainland.”
Andrew and Mark chose a weather window carefully and were rewarded with two to three metres swells and a following sea.
“We travelled at an average of 10 knots, operating watches of three hours on and three hours off with a good friend Richard Doyle. My sister, Katrina, also came along for the voyage.
“We diverted a little south to take a look at Ball’s Pyramid on the way. It is an astonishing sea stack rising a little more than 550 metres straight out of the ocean.
After a comfortable 37 hours at sea, Andrew and Mark and their crews entered the Lord Howe lagoon, picked up moorings and awaited the arrival of their wives, Jayne Luxton and Janine Slocombe and friends who flew to the island.
“We snorkelled and had a lot of fun in the lagoon with our new Aquayaks. These are compact, lightweight kayaks that fit easily on the foredeck of our Riviera and the folding paddles stow in cockpit lockers. Great fun.
“We also did a lot of walking. It is hilly but – except for the two mountains in the south – not too hard going. I did call it ‘exercise island’ or ‘torture island’ after a long walk.
“But perhaps the best thing about Lord Howe is – mobile phones don’t work! Apparently the locals were offered a mobile tower a few years back and they refused. Best decision ever.”
Prime Mover and Legend III also took their crews to Elizabeth and Middleton reefs. At Elizabeth Reef they set about an informal fishing competition with a trophy awarded to the winning team.
“The fishing at Elizabeth Reef was one of the highlights of the entire voyage for me,” says Mark. “Clear, deep water and an incredible number and variety of fish.
“Our team, thanks to Sam Taranto, managed to hook a 22kg tuna at the reef and, after out-fishing the Prime Mover team, we took out the Promac Air trophy!
“Middleton is an incredible sight with the shipwrecks sitting high on the reef.”
After three weeks exploring the island and reefs, Prime Mover and Legend III were refuelled and the crews turned westward toward the mainland again, returning to Pittwater.
They now lie at Airlie Beach awaiting their owners’ next adventures.