Coastal Cruising

“When choosing a liveaboard and voyaging yacht, many people tend to identify with the norm that magazines are pushing…” Ted Clements – The Cockpit as Safe Haven

Question: We are thinking of coastal cruising only around Australia. Do you think this is relevant to us? – Steve

Ted: Your specific question regarding the presentation of ideas in commercial media holds water wherever you are. Any advertising based information will have at its heart the prerequisite of selling something, you just have to discern if that is the something you want. So yeah, its relevant to you.

Assuming that you are interested in a wider answer; I am on the other side of the world so I have to rely on a sense for Australian coastal cruising gleaned largely from the very magazines that I suspect must have commercial motivation, (can’t win).
That aside, the place is famous for the variety of sea-going hazards that one may encounter, presuming Aussie bravado isn’t gilding the lily. There are no doubt substantial differences between the various coasts that surround the continent, all facing their respective seas. Generally, we are given to believe that the prevailing conditions tend toward the hot rather than the cool – as you can see I am scarcely qualified to advise but …
We have had several Antares 44 catamarans cruising in Australian waters, having traversed the Pacific to get there and they have reported no features of the vessel that would be detrimental to their enjoyability, there or anywhere en route. Perhaps from your standpoint, the question would remain as to whether they were over-equipped for coastal voyaging? Is ‘safe haven’ actually meaningful?
Some points;
  • The vast majority of boats are lost in coastal waters for one reason or another, a safer environment can’t do anything but ameliorate the risks. How close inshore do you need to be to ignore seaworthiness? I don’t see a lot of sheltered cruising water around Australia (Google Earth).
  • Bridge deck clearance is especially important in short steep water, prevalent in the near-shore. You will be very likely to be sooner or later obliged to work for an offing against less than tranquil conditions.
  • Good ergonomics apply in all conditions, a stubbed toe or a whack on the head will ruin your day wherever you are.
  • I would think sun protection is very important, especially in light of the ozone depletion concerns particularly high in Australia and New Zealand.
  • Presuming everyone is friendly, (Aus specialty), the helmsman ought to be in communication with everyone else on board.
  • In any raft-up or shared anchorage one boat tends to be the convening spot, invariable the Antares 44 so I’ve heard. I believe this to be a result of the communal atmosphere created by the cockpit space, despite its being ‘compromised’ with all the offshore safety considerations. (This means the owner may find himself with an disproportionate share of the fleet food and drink cost.) Dedicating square footage of valuable onboard real estate to walkways or inaccessible seating for an imaginary sit-down dinner party for twelve may not be appreciated when it compromises other desirable features applicable to day to day living aboard.
  • Does in never rain anywhere in coastal Australia? No bugs? Never chill? Would you never use an enclosure or awning?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice to know you could go virtually anywhere if you wanted, even if that may never happen?
The article that triggered your inquiry was a response to some particularly worrisome vessel designs that are being touted as safe for ocean voyaging. Nothing is exactly safe but there needs to be a balancing of parameters. These are frequently lopsided in favour of the glitz which makes a better ad photo. Party/charter boat designs are not rare and if that is all you will be doing, I suppose one could make you happy. You do however mention an intention to ‘cruise’. To me that means parties will occupy only a small part of the time spent on board. Cruising also means you will venture to the limits of your comfort zone and that could take you further afield than a straight line between marinas. If offshore safety features can be incorporated into a design that you can not only live with but enjoy, why not take them?
As a point of interest; the design exercise that led to the offshore capable Antares 44 had to address the needs of a US catamaran market concentrated on the east coast and Caribbean, zones renowned for their coastal cruising opportunities. Maybe you can have your cake and eat it too?
Steve: Thank you for such a comprehensive answer. I anticipated the spirit of some of the responses but it is good to have them now. My question may have been taken to be cynically suggesting that Antares 44’s are over designed for safety when only used for coastal cruising, but that is not the case. My partner who is also my first mate is a safety officer by trade and we both put safety first always. Given the frequent references to blue water cruising I was merely wondering if some of your points still applied. I see now they do. We are currently bare boat chartering in various locations around Australia which means smooth and partially smooth waters only, however we intend in time to buy our own Cat and ultimately circumnavigate Australia (which is a popular thing to do here). Thanks again for the intelligent response.