The Stewart family buy a boat, jack it all in and go sailing!

We bought a boat! (“You bought a boat?”)

It looks like we’ve found the boat for our adventures! It’s about 50 foot long, made of steel and the current owners want to hand over straight away – so our adventure is starting sooner than expected!

Last weekend was Mayday long weekend, and there was a boat for sale in Yeppoon that we decided to go and see.  It’s a good 6 hour drive and also near where Great-Grandma Joyce and Great-Aunt Colleen live in Rockhampton, so we thought it was be a good opportunity to visit them too.

A few days before we left, a girl got in touch via one of the FB pages I’m on, and where I’d posted that we were looking for a boat.  Anni said they were selling a suitable boat and they were in Gladstone, a couple of hours further south from Rocky. So we arranged to see that boat too.

The days Matt and I both had off work were the Sunday and Monday, so we had to whizz down on the Sunday and get back on the Monday, in time for school and work on Tuesday.  To complicate matters, I was signed up for the team relay in the Hammo Hilly Half,  a marathon event on Hamilton Island on the Sunday morning.  I agreed with Matt that I would take the first ferry back to the mainland, shower and we’d head straight off (instead of lounging by the pool with my team mates, patting ourselves on the back and sipping cocktails after the run, which was also quite appealing).

I had a gruelling but thoroughly enjoyable run with amazing views.  There was a great turn out, despite it being only a month since TC Debbie went through and devastated so much of our beautiful Whitsundays.  I had a wonderful team, the atmosphere was fantastic and I was on a massive high afterwards.  Somehow we floated back to the mainland and hugged goodbyes, finishing medals clinking.  Matt and the girls were waiting with our bags packed and the car running, and off we went.


We got to Rockhampton after hours of driving, a couple of them in the dark, which makes me nervous on the Bruce Highway (where roos, pigs and livestock roam).  After lots of hugs and a quick cup of tea with Great-Grandma and Colleen we all collapsed into bed.  The alarm went off early the next morning as we were due at the first boat at 8am and had an hours driving to get there.

The family selling the boat in Yeppoon were friendly and had older kids, who had clearly been told to stay off the boat whilst we were looking around and so were fishing/netting off the pontoon.  Tilly and Sasha were intrigued, and also loved the kid’s cabin in the forepeak. The boat however, felt sad and a little neglected.  There were lots of jobs that Matt and I could see that needed doing, that would be hard for us to live with.  After our allocated hour (we were on a strict schedule in order to get home to Airlie Beach that night) we said our thank yous and hopped in the car for the two-hour trek to the steel ketch.

We were met at Gladstone by the couple and their two younger kids in the marina playground.  Tilly and Sasha immediately threw themselves at the climbing equipment having been cooped up the car for so many hours and the mum offered to stay with them all whilst the dad showed us round the boat.

Iron Will is a steel cutter-rigged ketch, about 45 foot long (although no-one seems quiet sure of the exact measurements).  She was built in 2001 for an Antarctic expedition, so is solid and sturdy.  We liked her immediately, from her robust bowsprit with good-sized anchor to her solar panel and dingy davits astern.  We liked her wide decks and stout (almost agricultural!) deck fittings.  She had all the appropriate gear on board, bags of storage, a decent galley and the requisite accommodation set up we’re after – forepeak for the girls and aft cabin for us.

The kids came and joined us on the boat and we all sat and chatted.  There were some design curiosities – the passage from the saloon to the aft cabin is only about 5 foot high so you have to stoop and make like a Hobbit.  The cavernous top-loading fridge and freezer are also accessed in this tunnel and don’t have much space to lift the lids, so you’re hard pushed to look properly inside.  In the cockpit the engine controls are mounted near the companionway hatch, instead of by the wheel, which would make for interesting close-quarters manoeuvring!  However, no boat is perfect and we could see ourselves stepping on this one and heading off.

The owners had owned the boat for nearly 3 years and had been about to set off on a circumnavigation when they discovered they had a little stowaway! The stowaway was now an energetic toddler and had been joined by a little sister who was nearly one.  They had tried moving one board a couple of months ago and had found the kids were just too young at this stage.  They’d been offered a chance to be involved in the family business back in WA and were keen to sell the boat and start their new life – although they had a 5-year plan to get back on the water.  So they were flexible about price, and as we were cash buyers we all had lots of space to negotiate.

The timings were a little quick for us but we liked the boat and promised to get back to them, before hurrying up the pontoon and jumping in the car to start the long drive home.  We chatted about the boat all the way home, it was clear we both felt the same way (keen) and we talked through logistics –  whether we could make it work by keeping the boat on cheap pile moorings in Gladstone while we got organized over the next six months.  We decided there was no way we wanted to be doing this journey on a regular basis, so the boat had to be in Airlie Beach.

We got home late that Monday night, tired but still excited and sick of take-away food after two days of it! We spent the next few days nutting things out with the owners and by Friday we’d worked out that they would deliver it to Mackay as soon as they could and weather permitted, and Matt would join them for the last hop up to Airlie as a handover.  We all signed a contact saying we’d buy it from them and they’d sell it to us, and we transferred the deposit.

So now we’re hoping it will all work out, and the boat will get here soon.  We can only afford 3 months in a marina in Airlie Beach, which is one of the most expensive areas in Australia.  We won’t have much change from $5,000 for three months, which should keep us focused while we sell/store everything we own and rent out the house.  Hopefully it will also give us a while to transition to living aboard and give the girls a chance to get used to our new home.

Matt was hoping to help deliver it from Gladstone, and asked his employer for the time off.  They were short of skippers for the period required so it couldn’t happen, but it meant they were curious about what he was going to do with a boat.  Airlie is a small place and everyone

knows everyone and everyone’s business.  So Matt took the plunge on Friday and told his employers, so I now feel I can tell mine.

I’m very sad about leaving the school that I love and the friends that I’ve made, although I know that adventures await.  Tilly and Sasha also seem to have mixed feelings about leaving school.  Tilly is fairly sang froid about it all; her two closest friends left the area last year which made her very sad and a bit disconnected.  I suspect as long as she has books and a bunk to read them in she’ll be fine.

However Sasha is a bit fretful.  She’s excited at the thought of no more actual schoolwork but she loves her teacher, her friends and the school community.  St Caths is a very special and wonderful place and it’s good to know that when (if?) we come back in a years time the girls will be able to return.

We’ve decided that the kids and I will finish at the end of Term 2, which gives us nearly two months.  Matt will work as long as he can to keep filling the coffers.  Our three months in the marina will be up in August 2017 so we plan to head off then.  We’re thinking about first of all cruising around our own backyard, as the Whitsundays are a very special place, then we can head south at the end of the year and see friends and family down towards The Sunshine Coast and Fraser Island, away from the Cyclone belt.

Matt and I are already immersed in plans of what to keep, what to sell and what to move onboard.  We suspect we have a very busy three months ahead of us!