Steve and Larelle McPherson have owned large boats for just over a decade. Their most recent acquisition is their Maritimo 60, named The Beach House, which they picked up from the Gold Coast in August last year and ran it in 'taking a couple of weeks, wandering, whale watching, exploring The Whitsundays' on their way back to their home town, Townsville.
Travel is this couple’s raison d’etre.
Besides cruising local waters, the duo has a passion for overseas travel to exotic destinations, braving the wilds of Africa for a safari last year, and traveling during April to Italy, Switzerland and France.
Boating is on the itinerary, of course says Steve. 'Churches and castles get boring after a while, so we’re cruising the canals of France. We just can’t get away from boats. We love the lifestyle. You meet so many people who all enjoy the social aspect of boating.'
That was one of Steve’s main objectives when he sold his business and retired a few years ago.
'There’s so much world to see and much of it can be reached by boat. There’s no point retiring at a ripe old age and not having the health to enjoy it. Retirement is about having the time to travel, savour life and stay fit and active.'
The McPhersons have always been keen boaties. 'We love fishing and diving, spear fishing, chasing crays, there’s a dive compressor onboard so we can fill our own tanks, we have kayaks and a big duck up the front for exploring our own stamping ground around Townsville – Hinchinbrook Island, the Palm Island Group, which consists of 12 islands.
'There are some really remote spots around there and you can pull up and have the whole island to yourself.'
Fortunately, the whole MacPherson clan is hooked on boating and when Steve and Larelle’s two children, now 26 and 27, living in Sydney and on the Gold Coast, visit their parents, they spend as much time as possible out on the boat.
'We always averaged a couple of hundred hours a year on the boat, but now, we’ll be clocking up around 600 or more!'
Adding kms to the Caterpillars will be trips to Princess Charlotte Bay, Cooktown and as far north as Lizard Island for a month from mid-August.
'There are some fascinating, fabulous places around Orpheus Island and on the eastern side of Great Palm Island. Cooktown is a remote place, approximately 260km north of Cairns.
'It’s an old settlement on the Endeavour River with nothing to do but fish, dive, cruise around the Reef and take in the scenery.'
Cooktown is characterised by peaceful waters. - MIAA
With just 1200 residents, Cooktown could be deemed a quaint coastal backwater, but it attracts a steady flow of tourists and waterborne visitors and it caters to their interest in the history and natural assets of the region. It was here that Captain James Cook took refuge during his travels after claiming Australia as a British colony in 1770.
It boasts a well-decked out museum, featuring original artefacts from Cook’s ship, Endeavour, among them the original anchor and cannon, jettisoned when Endeavour struck a reef and began taking on water.
Cooktown is a small townlet with a big history. - MIAA
The McPhersons will no sooner be back from their northern voyage, than they will refuel, restock, reboard and in December, head off for a three month jaunt to Tasmania.
'We’ll head down to the Gold Coast for our 12 month service and anti-foul, then keep going,' says Steve, adding that the three months at sea doesn’t phase them at all.
'It’s a very big boat with all the mod cons. We never feel boat-bound.'
Though some may baulk at heading that far south at that time of year (think the worst of Sydney to Hobart conditions), according to Steve, if you don’t have to stick to a strict schedule, if you are patient and pick your weather, Bass Strait need not be daunting.
'People are frightened of heading to Tassie because of Bass Strait’s reputation. But it’s only 136 nautical miles between Wilson’s Promontory and Tasmania, which is about the same as from Townsville to Hamilton Island.
'Our boat will make it with no worries. There are many boats smaller than ours that enter the Sydney to Hobart! And there are plenty of sheltered bays on the coast of Tasmania. It’s really wonderful for boaties.'
Sandwiched between the northern exploration and the Tassie trip, Steve and Larelle will venture to Broome in October, not on their boat – although that is another voyage slated for the future – but via plane to meet up with the True North Charter boat for a five-day dive trip at Rowley Shoals to experience swimming with whale sharks.
'What we’re into is adventure travel,' says Steve, whose appetite for unexplored territory was acquired during his years at the helm of a contract ore-crushing operation, which also took him to Papua New Guinea.
And that’s next on the calendar.
In April, once back from Tasmania, the intrepid Steve and Larelle intend to explore more of the east coast and then from October 2009, spend three months aboard The Beach House traveling to and immersing themselves in the waters of PNG.
'I worked there for a while, my former business partner is still there. He has boats and planes and all the rest, so we’re really going to be seeing the region to its best advantage.'
Not content with filling the pages of next year’s calendar, Steve is planning further ahead. Darwin and Noumea are likely destinations to be scheduled 'over the next few years'.
'Then maybe New Zealand for a good look around. I’ll take the boat over, but my wife will need convincing. She might have to fly over.'
Although Steve thinks at this stage that Larelle might lack the stomach for the trans-Tasman cruise, he acknowledges that 'she is a really confident sailor'.
'Larelle can handle the boat comfortably, moorings, everything. She is also a very, very good cook.'
A favourite with the McPhersons is cray tails in sweet chili sauce, done on a hot barbeque plate with onions, lime and 'all the bits and pieces'. They also have the inclination and skill to make their own sashimi.
When barbequed and home-made seafood delights don’t tempt, the couple stops at any one of the myriad award-winning restaurants and resorts around The Whitsundays.
'That’s the secret to not getting sick of life onboard – getting off, whether for dinner or to dive, tackle a walking trail on an island or just read a book on a beach. Then you get back on your boat, which is like a compact luxury home away from home anyway.'
More at www.maritimo.com.au