Ocean Child, then named Merea, with boat-builder Adam Baker on the Derwent Estuary, 2010
the adventures of Ocean Child
The vessel is heavy for its size at 9.5 tonne net, and is built for comfort rather than speed. Being heavy and underpowered with a relatively small sail setup, it's a forgiving yacht to sail, just right for a beginner like me. The chines and the position of the mast give the boat a pronounced weather helm, which can be a little annoying at times (especially in gusty conditions) but it is a safe feature. The yacht uses a Yanmar 3QM30(H) 30hp diesel engine, which, while old (1980), has a reputation for reliability.
Adam built the boat with sleeping accommodation for four adults and two children, however the two child bunks in the bow cabin have been removed and replaced by storage, and one of the saloon berths has been shortened when the space heater was fitted. There are two single 'beds' in the saloon, one port and one starboard. By day these are seats. The double bed in the rear cabin is a starboard bed, and is suitable for two persons say 5' 6" tall. The two saloon beds are suitable for persons 5' 4" and 5' 7" tall. When sailing an ocean crossing on a lean, we also use the saloon floor as a bed. The beds have lee sheets, which don't work very well, and lee straps, which work quite well. Unfortunately I cannot provide for crew who need sole use of a private cabin.
For coastal cruising, two people on board is the most comfortable arrangement (skipper and one crew). For an ocean passage, I like to have three including myself - we use the two single berths in the saloon, together with the rear cabin. Four persons are the maximum legal limit, governed by the size of the liferaft.
Ocean Child is a strict 'no smoking' boat; I do not have smokers on board as crew. As for alcohol, we carry very little, so you could almost regard Ocean Child as a 'dry' boat. Although I believe the most ethical human diet is vegetarian, I'm afraid I am a confirmed omnivore, and I prefer to travel with omnivores as this seems most practical (Kayla and Kara, however, were the most amazing vegetarian cooks I have ever encountered). I don't think it is necessary (or beneficial) to eat meat more than once a day. Shopping.
I crossed the Tasman Sea from Hobart to Nelson (south island, New Zealand) departing Australia on December 24 2013, and arriving on January 6, 2014. James Cope and Sacheen Gallop crewed for me on this 1200 nm trip. The boat's genoa furler needed to be rebuilt in a workshop in Port Nelson, so I stayed in Nelson for a month. Nelson is a great little city; I really can't speak highly enough of the services and tradesmen there. Alice joined as crew in mid-January, after James and Sach had left. Alice and I then established a new base in Opua (Bay of Islands, north-eastern NZ) and explored the area until mid-April, when Alice returned to Germany to commence university studies.
I had intended to spend the winter of 2014 in the South Pacific. However on May 19 2014, following a heavy fall, I was admitted to Auckland City Hospital for surgery. I returned to Hobart to recuperate, leaving Ocean Child in the Opua Marina. After some months I made a full recovery, more or less, and I returned to Opua on December 10, 2014. Anne Sachot joined me on February 10, 2015 and we spent time exploring the northeast coast of NZ. I have a particular interest in marine conservation, so we spent some time visiting marine protected areas in this region.
Once the South Pacific cyclone season ended, we were joined by James Cope and Tom Wallis (from the UK) and departed for Fiji on April 28, 2015. Nine days and 1200 nm later we arrived at Vuda Marina near Nadi. Anne, James and Tom spent a week having a look around, then flew home. Ocean Child remained at Vuda Marina for two months. I was hoping to get some professional painting done on the hull, but costs were excessive compared to NZ. I did some painting myself as a temporary measure.
I had planned an upwind sail from Fiji to Tonga to see humpback whales, but I gave this idea up because I could not get two crew committed to the difficult sailing conditions. So Anastasia Bondarenko (Moscow/Ireland) joined me as crew in Fiji from July 11 to August 10 (we explored the Yasawa Islands) and after that Camille and Frankie for exploration of Tavenuni Island. James Thorp, Liz Gifford and Giulia Clericetti crewed on Ocean Child from late October, for the sail from Fiji to New Caledonia via Vanuatu. After a brief stop in Anatom, the most southerly island of Vanuatu, we visited the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia, and sailed on to Noumea. James and Liz flew out, and Meg Teasdell flew in from Port Macquarie (NSW). We set sail on November 18, arriving at Middleton Reef for a one-day rest on November 23. We arrived at Coffs Harbour on the New South Wales coast on November 27, and moved to Port Macquarie on December 2, where Meg returned to her day-job.
I considered leaving Ocean Child at a safe harbour on the NSW coast, and flying to Hobart for Christmas. However local sailors informed me that finding crew in NSW was particularly difficult, so I decided to sail to Hobart while the weather remained favourable. Ocean Child arrived in Hobart on December 20, 2015, almost exactly two years after her departure.
After an excursion to Port Davey on Tasmania's southwest wilderness coast with Alana (NZ) and Silvia (Italy), I took Ocean Child to Opua in New Zealand, arriving at the end of April. Kayla Roberts and Kara Kolow-Hay (AU) joined as crew. We departed for Tonga on May 30, arriving in Tongatapu (Nuku'alofa) nine days and 1000 nm later on June 8. The next day I suffered a broken collar-bone after a heavy fall, and returned to Hobart for medical treatment, leaving Ocean Child in Nuku'alofa. Kayla and Kara continued their adventures, taking a ferry to Vava'u, and later made their way back to Australia, via Fiji. Doctors advised me that I would not have full use of my left arm for five to nine months. I returned to Tonga (Tongatapu) on July 16. With the help of my crew Dieter Nikolai and Lydia Chaplin we sailed to the Vava'u Islands, the northern area of Tonga, staying until August 6. Lydia was offered a job on a superyacht.
On August 15 Ocean Child arrived at Vuda Marina, near Nadi Fiji. I tried unsuccessfully to source new batteries, and had minor repairs done to the headsail and furler. Dieter flew home to Hobart, and Kyra and David joined the yacht. Kyra was an exceptionally fast learner. We left Fiji on September 9, arriving in Noumea, New Caledonia, on September 14. After a short stay we sailed for Australia, arriving in Bundaberg on September 27. Kyra and David departed on a land-based adventure. Anna (Denmark) joined and we sailed north to Lady Musgrave Island. On our return to Bundaberg, Brigitte (Ky, D) joined, and we sailed south to Yamba on the New South Wales north coast. Anna left for New Zealand.
My original plan (in early October 2016) was to call in at Coffs Harbour or Yamba to get a small mechanical repair done there. I anticipated a relaxed trip south down the AU east coast. I planned to stop, where possible, at marine protected areas (for snorkelling) or national parks (for walking). Ocean Child's 'summer destination' was to be the beautiful and interesting north-east coast of New Zealand. So after Coffs Harbour, I would look for the right winds to cross the Tasman Sea to NZ.
However things went wrong. I had an unexpected crisis with my cash flow. I found a safe harbour for Ocean Child (Yamba) then I flew back to my home town of Hobart to sort out my business affairs. Ky came with me, as was a great help in many ways.
Early in 2017 my intention was to sail to New Zealand, and spend the summer and autumn around Whangarei. However Ocean Child's progress was beset by mechanical problems (anchor winch and gearbox). Samantha, Josh and Monique helped me sail Ocean Child from Yamba to Port Stephens, and Graham Breeze helped me move her from Port Stephens back to her home port of Hobart. We arrived in Hobart at the end of April, with a small oil leak from the gearbox unresolved.
In September 2017 Li (Malaysia/China) joined and we applied fresh anti-foul paint and replaced Ocean Child's rigging. In October Alex (France) joined and we left Hobart for Whangarei on October 12 (arriving October 26). In November I made repairs to internal wiring, some canvas, and a broken genoa pole. My friend Chun Wai Ho (Singapore) joined me in January 2018 for a trip to the Poor Knights Islands. Barbara (USA) joined in February: the weather outlook was so bad we made a car tour trip to the South Island.
Ideally, I would like to travel with a person interested in nature conservation, photography, ocean life, whales, snorkelling and diving. This person must be a non-smoker, and must enjoy cooking (I'm afraid I'm not good at this). SCUBA experience would definitely be useful (although there is no compressor on board).
Although I have not had much experience sailing the open ocean, Ocean Child is strong and forgiving. I do get seasick regularly, so if you have any magic cure for this complaint, please let me know!
A gear list is included below, and I am happy to talk with anyone about my experiences with different items of gear. The boat carries the usual safety equipment (as required by the Tasmanian Government). Note however it has no radar, no chart-plotter, and it also has only one (an electric) autopilot. If I do install a windvane autopilot at a later date, it will need to be on a swinging structure so that I can move it out of the way when I use the dinghy davits. I am presently interested in the CapeHorn windvane pilot, and I would very much like to hear from anyone with experience of this unit. The mainsail reefs from the mast, not the cockpit.
Contact: I can be contacted for further
"The ideal cruise requires a good yacht, pleasant company, and a strange coast with plenty of islands and rocks." Humphrey Barton, 1952. (Amongst other adventures he sailed a 25' sloop from London to New York)
Our passage from New Zealand to Fiji