‘Rotto’ is the local slang term for the island, a picturesque reef nine nautical miles off Fremantle, near Perth Western Australia. It’s been a Mecca for boat owners for many years, with skippers heading out on weekends to moor in the over than 20 reef-bound bays found around the island’s shores. In fact, Ken Sims, of Western Australian Riviera dealer Beacon Marine, says that on fine weekends the bays ‘fairly bristle’ with boats of all sizes, ranging from trailer boats to fifty-footers.
During summer months, a strong breeze, known to locals as ‘the Fremantle doctor’, usually whips up out of the south-west and this can give skippers and their crews a rough trip back to the mainland, the wind and wave hitting square on the starboard beam. Although Perth and its surrounds boasts an extremely high proportion of boat owners per head of population, it does not offer the splendid boating waterways found on the Australian eastern seaboard. Greg and Gill Wilson did not ‘muck about’ when they decided to break from the usual Rottnest Island run aboard their Riviera 36 Single Cabin (Hull #3) ‘Sea Shack’.
They undertook a five-week voyage north along the Western Australian coastline to Dampier and the Monte Bello Islands. In their blissful five weeks they covered 2020 nautical miles (3700 kilometres) and experienced only seven days of bad weather conditions, spending those in safe anchorages relaxing with good books and letting the conditions abate in their own good time. ‘Sea Shack’, powered by a dual 315hp Cummins Marine Diesels, averaged 14.22 knots over the voyage, with a fuel consumption (including that used by the genset) of just 66 litres per hour.
The couple needed only six fuelling stops, Geraldton, Carnarvon, Exmouth, Onslow, Dampier and Shark Bay. Highlights were numerous throughout, but it would be hard to beat the sight of great whales leaping from the sea, their calves mimicking them and crashing back into the ocean with tails waving. Greg nominated other highlights as being other sea life, such as turtles, dolphins and crays (lobsters to the uninitiated) and calling into the many pearl farms and oil rigs along the way. “A fantastic area for boating,” Greg added. On the way home, ‘Sea Shack’ really showed what she could do.
Despite a 2.5 metre sea swell, the Riviera hoped along at an average speed of 20.38 knots for the final 284 nautical mile leg. “That included a lunch break,” Greg explained. “If we had not stopped for lunch our average speed would have been over 21 knots”. Greg and Gill’s major comment concerning their beloved ‘Sea Shack’ was simply this; nothing failed throughout the voyage. “All the boat needed on our return was a wash down,” Greg said. ”And it handled the wide variety of conditions we encountered better than many larger craft we have been aboard”.