Before dawn on Boxing Day 2013, Andrew Luxton freed the mooring lines of his Riviera 51 Enclosed Flybridge Prime Mover and idled away from Martha Cove marina on Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay.
Ahead lay a circumnavigation of both Tasmania and the Australian continent, a 10,000 nautical ‘milestone’ to celebrate his 50th birthday.
The voyage had been inspired by fellow Victorian Riviera owner Ian Reynolds, who had circumnavigated in a 56. Andrew was confident that his pristine 51, bought in 2012, would handle the test. He added night vision radar and a second satellite dome to be safer.
In company with his wife Jayne and a small crew of friends, Andrew began his lap of Australia by heading south to Three Hummock Island off the north-west Tasmanian coast.
“After a safe crossing of Bass Strait we spent the afternoon at Coulomb Bay where I caught my first fish, a large pike. We anchored in Shepherd’s Bay on Hunter Island,” Andrew says.
The crew soon moved onwards to Macquarie Harbour, where they toasted in the New Year. After a slow start they weighed anchor for a four-hour trip up the Gordon River then deployed their tender to tackle the misty Franklin.
Following were stop-overs at Recherche Bay and a cruise down the Huon River.
With a change of crew at Hobart, Andrew hugged the coast between Cape Pillar and Tasman Island before heading to Schouten Island.
“We headed up Bear Hill on Schouten, which is an amazing climb through shrubs and then a scrabble across granite face. Stunning views across to Freycinet,” Andrew noted in his trip diary.
As they headed north, windy conditions forced them to shelter at Lady Barron Wharf.
They refuelled ready for their final run home to Martha Cove, via Deal Island and Wilson’s Promontory.
The journey took 34 days and included some of the most pristine anchorages imaginable. It was to be the perfect entrée for the ‘main’ course.
Stage Two began again from Martha Cove, destination Cairns, with 1730 nautical miles separating them.
A bouncy ride up the NSW coast ensued and Andrew was grateful to see the Gold Coast seaway. He booked Prime Mover in for maintenance at the Riviera factory.
Once in Cairns, Andrew left Prime Mover, but made a mercy dash back for a cyclone-enforced marina evacuation. Around 400mm of rain had lashed the region, but at last the wind abated.
The Cairns-Darwin leg began on May 6 when Andrew, Jayne and another group of friends departed for Port Douglas. Arriving at Michaelmas Cay, the crew enjoyed lunch and snorkeling.
From Port Douglas it was time to head offshore to inspect Endeavour Reef. While there, a Customs aircraft did a low-level pass on Prime Mover to ascertain its movements.
The crew spent the next day exploring Cooktown and refuelling for the Thursday Island leg, via Cape Flattery.
“We arrived at Lizard Island in the afternoon, venturing through the treacherous entry of Blue Lagoon to take a look,” Andrew says. “But it was so rough we retreated to Mermaid Bay.
“We snorkeled with giant clams, cobalt blue starfish and an array of beautiful reef fish, with batfish feeding off the back of the boat.”
Over the next two days Prime Mover made its way to the Lockhart River, stopping at Blackwood Island to collect oysters before continuing down Princess Charlotte Bay.
Fuel supplies were replenished at Thursday Island before a quick departure for Margaret Bay. The crew hooked a yellowfin tuna and enjoyed sashimi as they steamed towards Escape River in preparation for Cape York.
A day that began with a mangrove jack got better as a major ‘bucket list’ item was ticked off as they rounded Australia’s northern-most tip. Horn Island in Torres Strait was the anchoring and refuelling point for the night.
Now turning south in the Gulf for Weipa, the crew encountered its first large croc in Ducie River. A final troll before Weipa saw a triple hookup of spanish mackerels.
The voyage from Weipa to Darwin began on May 21 with new crew and fresh fuel from Evans Landing before the run across the Gulf of Carpentaria. Perfect conditions accompanied them for the 22-hour, 317nm trek to Gove Harbour. Permits were arranged to anchor in the Wessel Islands region, which is under Aboriginal title.
Andrew again topped-up the tanks and two 600lt bladders. Over the next five days, the crew declared ‘Battle of the Mackerel’, but also found themselves among giant trevally and queen fish.
Crew member Susie writes: “Mayhem erupted as Simon landed a giant trevally … we released it and then, bang, a shark attacked. With one chomp, half the fish was gone.”
Finally it was time to face the Arafura Sea. They left the Wessel Islands and, 21 hours and 220nm later, arrived at Malay Bay on a rolling swell. Nearing the end of the leg, the crew toured historic Port Essington and Adam Head to visit the Victoria Settlement, one of the first British outposts on the northern coast.
Squinting in the afternoon sun, Andrew felt an adrenalin surge as he finally approached Darwin, 1710nm from Cairns. The marina manager arranged for a 20m berth at Cullen Bay.
A few weeks later, the adventurers were bathing in the swimming holes and waterfalls of the Kimberley. Anchored at the mouth of King George River, they drank in the setting sun in a perfect amphitheatre, listening to everything from Skyhooks to the Stones.
“On our second night we heard a loud thumping sound and discovered a four-metre crocodile lurking alongside our tender,” Andrew writes. “This was the biggest croc I’ve ever seen – next time I’d definitely invest in a larger dinghy with ‘croc-proof’ sides.”
On departure the next morning, the crew did a double-take when, as Prime Mover passed by the rocky shoreline, two stark naked people were spotted fishing. The crew was left to ponder whether this was some kind of special Kimberley fishing tactic …
It was then onwards to the Osborne Islands and Mitchell River.
“We woke the next morning to do battle with the fish and Andrew’s rod bent over double,” crewman Simon tells. “Barramundi!” The 88cm fish leapt and dived around the boat until being landed after a robust fight.
As they continued their journey to Broome, they stopped at countless secluded and picturesque spots along the way.
“The journey through the St George Basin was spectacular. At one point, we hit 120m of water below us. A glassy surface saw incredible mirror images of hills in what was a perfect day,” Andrew recalls.
In Spitfire Creek they anchored in 9.5m before launching the tender for a foray among the famed mangroves. As the tide ebbed, so too did the water below Prime Mover’s keel. The decision was made to move when the depth hit 2.5m.
With no moonlight to show the way, a crewman took a torch and headed out in the tender to be the advance sounder.
The following day they prepared for their journey to Prince Regent River, which is almost perfectly straight for its entire 54-mile length. The waterway is riddled with sandbanks so Prime Mover inched its way upstream to the famous Kings Cascades waterfall.
“Clothes couldn’t be discarded fast enough as four of us jumped into the billabong and refreshed ourselves,” the log reads.
Andrew was equally impressed with Montgomery Reef. Arriving on September 15, they watched in astonishment as the reef ‘rose’ out of the water with the falling tide.
Broome appeared on September 19, with Prime Mover passing the 6000nm mark. After a three-day layover, they headed for the coastal town of Exmouth, via the remote Rowley Shoals.
The seas built quickly and Prime Mover was soon surfing its way to the Rowley Shoals Marine Park, which comprises three coral atolls – Clerke Reef, Imperieuse Reef and Mermaid Reef.
“Clerke Reef is about 160nm offshore, northwest of Broome, and is the best reef I’ve ever snorkeled,” Andrew says. “We could have spent a week here, but we had nice weather conditions for a 26-hour passage to the Dampier Archipelago.”
The ensuing three days saw the crew visit the Montebello Islands, a group of 174 limestone islands interspersed with white sandy beaches, before the last dash to Exmouth.
Continuing south again, they rounded the most westerly point of Australia, Steep Point, and headed at a relatively leisurely eight-knots for the Abrolhos Islands.
“The wind was 20 to 30kts, seas two to three metres and very sharp-sided, so we kept to six to seven knots for the 19-hour journey,” Andrew records.
“The seas weren’t big like Tasmania, but it looked like a washing machine. We picked up a public mooring at Turtle Bay and enjoyed a beer to celebrate.”
Next came Beacon Island, where many of the Batavia survivors were murdered. They travelled further south to the Easter Group and Rat Island for an overnight anchorage before continuing to Pelsaert Island.
Prime Mover spent the next month in Geraldton before continuing 200nm to Rottnest Island on December 2 and, finally, Fremantle. They cleared the bridge on the Swan River with 30cm to spare.
For Andrew, his next and arguably most difficult journey resumed in February. The Southern Ocean waited as he pushed for Albany.
Mandurah was next port of call, where the local R Marine dealer was preparing for an owners’ beach party. Andrew’s one lament was not staying a few days longer to attend.
“With three Riv 51s parked on the end pier it was an impressive sight, but we had to push on to the R Marine Perth Getaway to Busselton, where we would join 22 other Riviera owners,” he explains.
Hugging the coastline in ideal conditions, Andrew reported a 20kt ride, which was in stark contrast to Prime Mover’s eight to 10kt average since leaving Cairns.
The Getaway soon got into full swing, “with fresh oysters, champagne, live entertainment, finger food and a speed-painter, it was a fantastic night.”
Another milestone passed as Andrew rounded Cape Leeuwin – the mainland’s most south-westerly point. With increasing swell, they headed to Augusta and its new marina.
Next came a 145nm dash to Shelter Island, maintaining 15 to 18 knots.
Finally, Prime Mover was met at Albany Marina by “a friendly local by the name of Mark … and a zillion seagulls.” Andrew bought some bird tape before he flew home to await the April weather window.
He returned to Albany with the Great Australian Bight crew, comprising fellow Riviera 51 owner Mark Slocombe and his son Dan, as well as yachtie Adrian Lewis.
After Esperance, the plan was to head across the vast Great Australian Bight to Ceduna – until an email advised that the South Australian port wouldn’t supply anything less than 10,000lt of diesel. Streaky Bay was chosen instead.
Using website predictwind.com, the plan was to depart at 12.30am between two fronts across the Bight, with following seas and wind.
“We crossed our fingers that the conditions would remain stable,” says Andrew. “This was our longest leg of the trip, with the boat running non-stop for the next 47 hours.”
The plan worked, delivering a smooth ride from west to east. At Coffin Bay they anchored close to the beach to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Port Lincoln was the final refueling point before Kangaroo Island and Adelaide, with Jayne and some friends replacing the Bight crew.
Arriving in Adelaide, the crew had a full day of wine-tasting in the Barossa Valley. It was then back to Melbourne for work.
A few weeks later Andrew rallied his new crew for the journey’s completion. It was the first day on the trip that he didn’t wear shorts.
The historic Victorian town of Port Fairy offered the cheapest diesel bought on Prime Mover’s trip plus a $30 abalone entrée, which was all of a mouthful.
The coastal resort of Apollo Bay was to be the final stop before a triumphant return to Martha Cove. With a short run of 70nm, Prime Mover slowed to ensure arrival at midday into Port Phillip Bay.
“As we neared the heads and completed 10,000nm, the weather gods turned on a cracker of a day to finish the trip,” writes Andrew.
At Martha Cove they washed the salt off Prime Mover and celebrated with family and friends.
“I’m not sure how you sum up a journey like this,” Andrew reflects. “I am extremely lucky my wife Jayne supported my plan and enjoyed different legs with me.
“I have introduced many friends to offshore boating and sated the sense of adventure my parents instilled in me as a child.”