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Crossing the notorious Tasman sea in a 1,000nm passage aboard a Riviera 51

Edition 8 - 2017

Crossing the notorious Tasman sea in a 1,000nm passage aboard a Riviera 51

Heart Beat III at anchor in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands.

BAY OF ISLANDS, NEW ZEALAND – Riviera owners regularly undertake extended cruises in their motor yachts to offshore islands and along rugged coastlines.

Voyaging at hull speed – around 10 knots – will give most Rivieras a range of at least 1,000 nautical miles.

However, with all of Riviera’s robust qualities and genuine blue-water capabilities, few owners would look across what Australians and New Zealanders affectionately call “the ditch”, the notorious Tasman Sea, a little more than 1,000 nautical miles of sometimes wild, deep water with only Lord Howe Island in between. Lord Howe is about 350 nautical miles east of Australia’s eastern coastline.

Heart Beat III rests in the crystal clear waters of New Zealand’s Bay of Islands.

Bob and Robyn Little have been associated with Riviera since the early 1980s, working for a time with the company’s Victorian and Tasmanian dealer.

“We delivered Riviera 32s and 34s to Tasmania and have owned five Rivieras over time,” said Bob.

In that period, the couple have voyaged virtually the entire east coast of Australia and today live on Queensland’s Gold Coast where Bob operates his business, Hardfacing Australia, a company that installs tungsten carbide tips onto graders for large mines.

Bob Little

They wanted to explore new coastlines and decided to have their Riviera 51 Open Flybridge, Heart Beat III, in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands for Christmas this year.

“I come from New Zealand,” said Bob, “and I always wanted to cruise the Bay of Islands and Tauranga further south. I spent a lot of time around Tauranga in my youth.”

Bob explained this was a “bucket list” venture.

Offshore from Bay of Islands, passing Motu Kōkako island, also known as The Hole In The Rock, a major tourist attraction.

“I had a heart attack when I was 50 and more recently a cancer scare, so we decided on this New Zealand venture 12 months ago.

“Robyn and I and our family have been around the world a few times, we have voyaged a lot of the Australian coastline. The Whitsundays is our favourite destination – warm, deep blue waters – but we wanted to cruise somewhere new.

“We discussed the idea of buying a boat in New Zealand or even shipping Heart Beat III over,” said Bob. “In the end, the economics and the adventure pushed us to hire a crew to deliver her.

“Sadly we could not join the crew. My business requires me to be on call at all times. Aside from that, seven days at sea travelling at eight knots is not that exciting!”

The most important work in preparing Heart Beat III for the September voyage was a comprehensive service of all equipment on board. The twin MTU Detroit diesel engines were serviced, drive shaft bearings and seals were replaced as were the skegs. The motor yacht’s marine electronics were upgraded, including the addition of a 3D sounder.

Skipper Scott Sutherland inspected Heart Beat III and described her as being in “mint condition”.

“A motor yacht that is used all the time is likely to be in the best possible condition,” he said. “Bob and Robyn are on board nearly every weekend and they undertake many long voyages. So they know their boat and know when parts need repairing or replacing. If a boat has been idle in a marina or a mooring for extended periods, it is more likely to have serious issues if you plan a long voyage.”

He describes the Riviera 51 as a “battleship” and Heart Beat III as a “awesome boat”.

The next step was to undertake a series of test runs to measure optimum fuel consumption and then calculate how much they would need to take on board. They would average eight knots and planned to be at sea for a week.

As well as the 3,700 litres in Heart Beat III‘s tanks, six 44-gallon (200 litre) drums of diesel were loaded into the cockpit and lashed safely in place.

Cockpit fuel tanks

“As soon as we have drawn 1,200 litres from the main tank, we will transfer all the drum fuel to dramatically reduce weight in the cockpit,” said Scott. “We have an electric pump that will transfer 50 litres per minute.”

As the crew prepared for the voyage, Scott spent much of the last day on the Gold Coast filling in paperwork.

“Robyn and Bob did a fantastic job in getting Heart Beat III registered as an Australian ship,” he said. “Only a few weeks ago, we took a boat across to New Zealand with Queensland registration. Suddenly the rules have changed and we needed a department in Canberra to organise Australian Ship registration.

“Then there are all the immigration documents, passports and so on that we will need, Customs clearances . . . it goes on and on.”

While the crew were stocking the pantry and fridges with food for a week, Bob pointed out a hatch in the galley floor.

“You’ll find a few spares in there,” he told crewman Adam Evers. Sure enough, the space was filled with various spare parts, down to containers of nuts, bolts and screws.


Up on the flybridge, Bob has installed a welcome addition – a wrap-around glass windscreen complete with wipers.

“It is special toughened glass,” Bob explained. “I had a crew from New Zealand come over to deliver and install it because I could not find anyone in Australia with the know-how.”

Scott described the week-long voyage as a “walk in the park”.

Top: A wonderful weather window gave the crew a simple voyage.
Above: Safely berthed at Opua in the Bay of Islands. Skipper Scott Sutherland, Bob LIttle and crewman Adam Evers.

“The weather window was perfect,” he said. “We spent much of our time fishing and caught a yellowfin tuna, a spearfish and some mahi mahi. It was a great supplement to our diet.”

He said Heart Beat III performed perfectly throughout the voyage.

“The fuel consumption was fantastic,” he said. “We still had about 1,000 litres of diesel in the tanks when we arrived at Opua in New Zealand.”

Bob and the family are already enjoying life on board in the Bay of Islands and Scott Sutherland joined Bob and son Tom for a couple of days fishing recently.

Left: Tom, Robyn and Bob Little. Right: Cruising in the Bay of Islands.

“This was the best thing I have ever done,” said Bob.


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