COOMERA, QUEENSLAND – “Squeaky sand! As we walked along the beach, the sand under our feet actually squeaked – it was so fine,” exclaimed Diane Holmes.
Diane and husband Mike were walking on the beach at Middle Percy Island, part of a group group of islands in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Late last year they came to Australia and the Riviera facility from their home in Seattle on the United States Pacific north-west where Mike manages Holmes Electric, a large and successful electrical contracting business.
Now they were on a shakedown cruise north to the iconic Whitsunday Islands to learn more about their new Riviera 5400 Sport Yacht, Wire Less.
Scientists still do not know for certain why sand “squeaks”. Squeaky sand is particularly fine, almost pure quartz with small well-rounded grains and little or no shell material. Whether the sound comes from the grains rubbing together when stepped upon or whether it comes from air escaping from the spaces around the grains is still unknown.
Diane and Mike were also captivated by the natural beauty of Lady Musgrave atoll and island at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef.
“Of course, we’ve seen plenty of photos of atolls,” said Diane. “But we have never actually seen one, let alone anchored in a lagoon and explored an atoll. It was so exciting – a protected beach and calm lagoon in the middle of the ocean!”
Lady Musgrave provided the perfect introduction to Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef and its waters and an ideal opportunity to become familiar with their new yacht.
“We saw manta rays swimming close to our boat and turtles on the beach,” said Diane. “The water was warm and crystal clear. And of course the fine white sand was wonderful to walk on.”
Mike and Diane are experienced boaters around the Pacific north-west.
“We have owned a number of motor yachts over the years, including flybridge and pilot house cruisers,” explained Mike.
Diane went on: “The problem always was that Mike, as skipper, was left out of the party while we were cruising with friends, sitting up on the bridge or in the pilot house. We wanted a new motor yacht in which the skipper is right at the centre of activities on board. The Riviera Sport Yacht delivers that perfectly.”
Their research led them to the Riviera 5400 Sport Yacht.
“We loved the luxurious single-level layout and open space of the Sport Yacht,” said Diane.
They wanted to know more about the concept, design and build that makes Rivieras renowned blue-water cruisers around the world. So, after they signed a contract for a new Riviera 5400 Sport Yacht with Riviera dealer Emerald Pacific Yachts in April, they arranged to fly to Australia to take delivery.
“We have never been to Australia so we were curious to learn more about the local waterways and to see how Rivieras are built,” said Mike. “It is difficult to understand a design until you understand the environment from and for which they are developed.”
Mike and Diane toured the Riviera yard at Coomera in south-east Queensland and saw first hand the complete process of building a 5400 Sport Yacht.
“The care and attention to detail of the build is extraordinary,” said Mike.
The couple’s primary purpose was to spend time on board their new Riviera in Australian waters before returning home and awaiting its delivery in Seattle.
With highly experienced skipper James (Jimmy) Thorn, Mike and Diane headed north, first through the channels that connect the Gold Coast Broadwater in the south with the wide expanse of Moreton Bay, 20 nautical miles to the north. From there, they took to the open ocean of the Coral Sea and, eventually, Australia’s iconic Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Islands.
“These waters are a challenge even for experienced local boaters,” said Mike. “Coming from America, there is no way we would tackle this without a skipper such as Jimmy.
“A fantastic additional benefit was Jimmy’s knowledge of the Sport Yacht. As we travelled, we had so many questions and he was able to answer them all. I took the helm virtually from the moment we pulled away from the Riviera marina, and Jimmy was at my side all of the time, offering advice, explaining the systems and showing us how to take best advantage of them.”
Jimmy took the opportunity during the cruise to demonstrate the trim capabilities of the Sport Yacht as well as explaining the setup and use of the sophisticated CZone digital electronic switching system on board. He was even able to provide Diane with a brief masterclass in the use of the induction cooktop on board.
As they cruised north, Mike and Diane shared their experience with friends Erik and Tamara Nelson.
At the Percy Islands, they stopped to visit the Percy Hilton, a renowned A-frame structure adorned with memorabilia of sailors who have visited over the decades.
“We had a contest to find out who could find the oldest marked item,” said Diane. “Tamara found one dating back to 1963.”
Upon reaching the Whitsunday Islands, the Nelsons flew out and Mike and Diane were joined by Bob and Shelly Tomberg and Cherie Hill for the return voyage.
They visited Hill Inlet on Whitsunday Island, fished near Lagoon Rock, anchored at Turtle Bay on the southern side of Whitsunday Island and spent time in the marina at Hamilton Island.
“We had heard about the devastation on the island from Cyclone Debbie in March 2017, but there was barely any evidence of it when we arrived,” said Mike. “I understand they are still rebuilding some of the condominiums, but the marina and the village were very alive. There were plenty of staff on hand, working to improve and maintain the grounds.”
They climbed to Passage Peak, the highest point on the island.
“That was my favourite moment in the Whitsundays,” said Diane. “We had 360-degree views of the island group. It is spectacular.”
The voyage confirmed everything that Mike and Diane had initially loved about the Riviera 5400 Sport Yacht when they first saw it with Ron Ginsberg and Rob Scott of Emerald Pacific Yachts in Seattle.
“Comfort, luxury and an incredible quality of build,” said Mike. “She has an extraordinarily good hull; responsive and strong, capable of withstanding very difficult seas if necessary.”
Both Mike and Diane believe their visit to the Riviera yard and time spent on board cruising Australian waters was invaluable.
“We much better understand why Rivieras are built so well. They need to withstand the true blue water conditions that many other environments don’t offer,” said Mike. “Aside from seeing some beautiful places and cruising in incredible style and comfort, we have learned a great deal about our motor yacht in a very short time that may have taken us many months to discover back home.
“Why wouldn’t any overseas owner invest a little time and effort to do as we have done. It has been a wonderful experience. And it has whetted our appetite to return.
During their two-week voyage, they travelled a total of 1,250 nautical miles and clocked 92 engine hours. Mike was impressed by the fuel consumption of the Volvo Penta IPS system.
“We averaged half a gallon (1.9 litres) a mile,” he said. “That is great economy on a boat of this speed and size.”
Mike and Diane will cruise Wireless around the san Juan Islands off Seattle and plan to venture north to Alaska during the northern summer.
And why the name Wire Less?
“The motto of our business is Wire Right,” Mike explained. “I am looking forward to working less and spending more time aboard our Sport Yacht. And we will be – wire less!”
Having enjoyed this story, you can read many more about the adventures of Riviera and Belize owners cruising many of the fabled waterways of the world and cruising in company in “Celebrating the Riviera Family”, our plush limited edition coffee table book. To learn more, please click here.