The hydraulic transom slowly and silently reclined to convert into a huge teak-lined marlin board, as skipper Mike Antalec, also the boss of Perth-based Australia Yachts, prepared to reverse into the pen.
“What’s that in the water?” I yelled. Mike walked aft, bent down, and reached over.
“What’d I tell you – even the gods pay me to take her to sea!” he joked, as he plucked a $50 note from the briny. “We could take her to Rottnest and back on this and we’d still probably have change for a coffee,” he added.
How lucky do you have to be to find a $50 note floating on the ocean? He was right, too. That $50 could take us a long way in this sleek, three-cabin Secret Harbour 46 luxury cruiser.
Back in 1996, while cruising the remote islands of Exumas in the West Indies, Antalec made his way through a reef to an anchorage in the lee of Cambridge Cay. It was so beautiful and deserted he thought he’d found his ‘secret harbour’. It was here he found the inspiration that lead to the birth of the Secret Harbour range.
Built along classical lines, the luxury SH46 boasts some of the seaworthiness features of the typical Western Australian rock lobster boat – a boat designed to cope with the rough conditions experienced along a wild, rugged coastline, considered by many as the most remote in the world. The west coast of Australia is the graveyard of many ships, dating back as far as the 1600s.
The 15m SH46 has luxury fittings and the latest technology, and is powered by a Cummins 480hp engine and Zeus pod drive in each of its tunnel hulls. The end result is remarkable manoeuverability, with little resistance, plus extremely good economy.
Having already made a name for himself as founder of Hanseatic Marine at Henderson in the Australian Marine Complex south of Fremantle, and successfully building large aluminium vessels including the 73m superyacht MV Silver, Antalec wanted to fulfill his lifelong dream.
He moved from building aluminium ferries bound for foreign shores to found Australia Yachts Pty Ltd. Recruiting shipwrights from some of Britain’s leading motoryacht manufacturers, he started production of the Secret Harbour 46, with a focus on seaworthiness, luxury and minimal running costs.
The first SH46 debuted at the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show in 2009, before it motored down to the Sydney show shortly after.
THE ACID TEST
To demonstrate and support his claims for miserly running, Antalec, with a few friends joining him along the way, skippered the boat from Sydney to Fremantle in time for the Club Marine Mandurah Boat Show, using just one fill-up of the twin fuel tanks. That gave him 3000lt and Antalec knew the vessel had a range of 3000 nautical miles – enough for his plotted course from the Pacific, across the Southern and finally into the Indian Ocean.
He planned to run with just one of the Cummins QSB 480 engines at a time. Built to commercial survey 2B, the 16-tonne Secret Harbour 46 will run all day at 28 knots (51.9km/h), while it has a fully loaded top speed of 32 knots (59.3km/h).
Built using the technique of vacuum resin infusion, the boat’s weight has been kept to a minimum, while maintaining maximum and uniform strength throughout. The tunnel hull design, accommodating the Zeus drives aft, reduces drag.
In calm conditions during his epic voyage the SH46 made 5.8 knots (10.7km/h), burning just 6.6lt/hr. In the rough the revolutions were slowed, using more fuel. The Cummins SmartCraft digital engine management instrumentation at the helm monitored consumption and the vessel’s average fuel burn was 1.26lt/nm, while doing a speed of 5.2 knots (9.6km/h) on one engine running at 970rpm.
Antalec had plotted his course to take advantage of wind direction and currents. But as we all know, things don’t always go according to plan.
He was told it was the wrong time of year to make such a crossing, and that he should wait for summer – but the Mandurah Boat Show crowds beckoned.
The Secret Harbour 46 battled a Force 9 gale and 8m waves not long after leaving the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia at Sydney’s Rushcutter’s Bay.
“The boat is very seaworthy,” said Antalec, a mariner with over 20 years of experience and 400,000 sea miles to his name. His qualifications include certification as a US Merchant Marine Master of All Oceans (unrestricted).
Later in the trip, the SH46 cut on the inside of Kangaroo Island off Adelaide, adding 12nm to the trip but avoiding a 2-knot (3.7km/h) head current and a 3-4m swell for 20 hours, effectively saving them an equivalent 28nm.
During the trip across the Bight the vessel hugged the coast, avoiding two or three cold fronts further out to sea. At night they could see the headlights of east-bound traffic on the Eyre Highway crossing the Nullarbor. Motoring on they passed the spectacular Baxter’s Cliffs, named after explorer John Baxter, who was brutally murdered by two indigenous members of Edward John Eyre’s historic expedition from Adelaide to Albany in 1841.
Rounding Cape Leeuwin, the SH46 headed north for the final leg to Mandurah. The voyage of 2375nm took 21 days, with a total fuel burn of 2950lt.
Antalec is an experienced mariner, but he takes no chances. He knew he had 3000lt in the tanks, but prior to heading across the Bight he took on an additional 500lt at Port MacDonnell, in South Australia’s east.
The hull and deck is primarily of a sandwich-type construction, comprising multi-axial ’glass skins and a closed-cell foam core. These high-strength materials were engineered to achieve the best overall results for weight, strength and impact resistance. Vacuum infusion of the hull offers health and safety advantages by virtually eliminating styrene emissions. The fuel, water, and holding tanks are integral to the hull’s construction, and provide added strength and safety. Teak is used on the foredeck, side decks and cockpit.
With more interior volume than other similar-sized boats, the Secret Harbour’s state-of-the-art galley features a full-sized refrigerator with icemaker, cooktop and microwave convection oven, plus dishwasher.
Sleeping quarters comprise three cabins: the master at the bow; a starboard single with double bunks; and another double on the port side aft. There are two bathrooms, port and starboard, each with full-sized showers.
The interior features classic styling with quality finishes, including leather lounges, teak cabinetry and marble bathrooms. Being custom built, buyers have the opportunity to select their preferred furnishing materials. Outside entertaining includes alfresco dining, a barbeque, plus fishing and diving areas. Antalec admits some people say they’re happy to do away with the teak decks due to the maintenance factor, instead opting for the moulded finish.
During our trials, cruising speed at maximum load achieved 26 knots (48.2km/h), registering 3000rpm on the Cummins Zeus drives and giving a range of 577nm.
The test run saw us head north from Mandurah to Rottnest Island and back, and with a reduced load on the run home we topped 34 knots (63km/h). You couldn’t complain about the fuel economy, even at this heady pace – especially once we’d thrown in the sea gods’ $50 ‘cashback’ bonus, awaiting us back in Mandurah!
SPECIFICATIONS: SECRET HARBOUR 46
Deadrise: 17 degrees
Displacement: 18 tonnes
Engines: Cummins QSB 480 Zeus
Fuel capacity: 3000lt
Water capacity: 630lt
Price: From $1.3m
Price as tested: $1.6m
For more information, visit: www.australia-yachts.com.
Since this boat test took place, production of the Secret Harbour range of vessels has shifted to the United States.
Australia Yachts Managing Director, Mike Antalec, who is also an American citizen, recently moved his operation to Port Charlotte, on the west coast of Florida, where he has opened a factory roughly double the size of the original premises in Perth. Work is now underway on the new Secret Harbour 50, with plans for a 40 also on the drawing board.
“The Obama administration is doing everything possible to attract the manufacturing sector to rebuild the American economy and with the current exchange rate of the Australian dollar we can now build the boats for between $200,000 to $300,000 cheaper,” said Antalec. “A fully-loaded SH50 will now sell for between $800,000 to $1m,” he added.
“While Australia’s Federal Government was telling Australian manufacturers and farmers that it was only the mining boom that mattered, America is opening up its doors to manufacturers. It believes the manufacturers will lift America out of this recession. Australian banks also stopped providing the marine industry with bridging finance during the GFC, whereas US banks are still doing their job. So the Australian banks, too, are forcing us out,” he said.
Australia Yachts is still a local company and the Secret Harbour is still an Australian product. “It’s just that we are now producing in the US so we can sell the boats cheaper,” says Antalec.