Secret women’s business
It was a bright, buoyant day for a ladies’ lunch at Riviera’s waterfront café, R Restaurant, in Coomera. Spring had finally blossomed on the Gold Coast after weeks of inclement weather and the sleek vessels in the marina below were the ideal backdrop to inspire conversation.
Over a couple of piccolos of sparkling Lambrini and nothing but the freshest fare at R Restaurant, the Riviera women, many of them just back from the Jacaranda Experience from the Gold Coast to Yamba then up the Clarence Rivier to Grafton, a total of 230 nautical miles; told of their memorable experiences as part of the Riviera Family, and the innumerable years of cruising, or recent foray into boating for their own families.
Biddy Stevenson, owner of Riviera 51 Off the Hook, whose love of boating is only rivalled by a passion for travel, horses and exuberant joie de vivre, is a veteran of many years of motor yachting, despite bouts of sea sickness.
“I used to get sick on the Popeye cruise, up the Torrens in Adelaide!” But Travel Calm and myriad ginger remedies, plus dedication to life afloat have helped her overcome any squeamishness. These days, Biddy and Graham are avid boaters onboard the current incarnation of Off the Hook, their Riviera 51.
“Graham was very experienced when I met him,” she recounts, admitting that onboard she takes on either ‘wench or first mate’ role, depending on whether they’re cruising or fishing.
“We started out with a 37 and in 2006 I made my first ocean trip.”
Two years and several Riv adventures later, including Hamilton Island in North Queensland, Grafton in New South Wales and the Gold Coast’s Broadwater expeditions, a Riv ‘Cocktails on the Dock’ hosted by R Marine Queensland at Coomera convinced Graham the 51 was perfect for their needs.
“We wanted all the inclusions, like windscreen wipers, internal staircase and enough space for everybody. The 51 is not too big. We can both manage it.”
For Biddy, as with all the ladies present, the Riviera-organised trips away are as much about brushing up on the skills required for manoeuvring safely in all conditions as they are the camaraderie and cruising.
“The trips inspire you to get out, plus they give you the confidence to park at marinas or handle the boat when you’re fishing, always with the guidance of the R Marine team,” Biddy said.
Alison Van der Poel, owner of Sweet Surrender, came back to boating and joined the Riv family after several years’ hiatus from boating.
“Peter was working very hard, travelling six months of the year, so owning a boat wasn’t a priority. We sold our boat and always hoped that next time we got back into boating we would buy a Riviera,” said Alison.
Two years ago they bought a Riviera 38 and spent many hours getting back into the life they had put on hold, along with their two West Highland Terriers for company, Lucy and Harry.
“We enjoy being part of the Riviera family. You always have something in common with the people you meet and the rest just flows.”
Having owned a few other brands over the years, Alison and Peter had a shortlist of four when they were ready to move up to a larger boat.
“From the start, Riviera was different from the rest. They offered to help us sell our old boat, with no pressure at all. They were helpful, but not pushy. We went to the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show this year and chose our new Riv 45, exactly how we wanted it. We went to the factory and watched it being built, we spoke with the people involved and felt like we were a part of it all. The R Marine team look after us so well – it’s all those differences that count. We made the right decision.”
Idyllically located at Coomera Waters, Alison and Peter are content to “bob around the Broadwater”, staying at Jumpinpin, Tipplers, Tiger Mullet Channel and Wally’s Gutter, as well as making trips to Moreton Bay, Fraser Island and Grafton.
“Now that the boat is run in, we are looking forward to using it more,” says Alison, who hopes to get out fortnightly on Sweet Surrender, and they are investigating the logistics of going along on the next Riviera Hamilton Island trip.
“We do enjoy the friendships – new and old. It’s a great crowd and we always have fun!”
For Jan and Peter Barr, boating is all about the social scene and they enjoy the Riviera Experiences on board their Riviera 40, Diamonds and Pearls.
“We are water people and have always owned boats because we enjoy waterskiing, fishing, and cruising. Peter is a mad fisherman and I like the social scene. That’s why Riviera is great. You get the luxury for the ladies and the fishing credentials for the men,” explains Jan.
Jan, who ends up manoeuvring the boat, even though it’s not something she relishes, says she and Peter usually go ‘a long way out’ so that Peter can wet a line.
“We’ve been out to the 36s and beyond and there’s usually a big swell out there. The boat handles beautifully and we usually come home with a good catch of Snapper or Pearl Perch.”
Peter and his friends are regulars to the fishing haven of Lizard Island located on the picturesque Great Barrier Reef in tropical north Queensland, where they take out a mate’s Riviera 43 and spend at least 10 days fishing off the coast of Lizard Island.
Back home, Jan and Peter spend many weekends on board and often take their son and his family, including their fiver-year old granddaughter out cruising around the Broadwater.
“We’re in the market for a new boat now – a bigger one!” says Jan, adding that there are still many more places they are yet to visit.
Living at Raby Bay, Glenda and Alec Parker enjoy their boat, a Riviera 40 Flybridge called Ratha-B as a couple, but had fun times as a family throughout their three children’s teenage years onboard a Riviera 33.
“We started with small boats, fishing and puttering about with the kids, then progressed to a Riviera when they were older. We bought a new Riviera 40 when the kids left home and now we just fish, read, relax and spend the time together,” said Glenda.
The Parkers, like many business owners, were in danger of burning out working in their company.
“When we bought the boat, we put in a manager and made sure we planned to take the boat out regularly. It’s forced relaxation – which everybody needs for their mental and physical health.”
From Raby Bay, it’s just a short skip to the sheltered waters of Canaipa Passage, a favourite of Brisbane and Gold Coast boaters because of its sheltered anchorage, then out to the Coral Sea, the Sunshine Coast and the Great Sandy Strait near Fraser Island.
“There are whales and other birds and marine life, which is an experience in itself. Seeing these when you’re out revives you every time.”
The Parkers often take Ratha-B to the Sunshine Coast where they have a unit and a pontoon at Minyama.
“The grandkids stay in the apartment and we head down to the boat to sleep. At Christmas time, it’s great for extra guests. The kids think of it as a floating cubby house!”
Robyn and Alastair Duffield aren’t happy unless they’re out on the water.
“It’s a mutual obsession,” she says.
“We are always out on the boat, or planning the next trip. Sometimes we just sit on the boat at the marina and enjoy the company of other boaters. There are always people at Horizon Shores and we get on really well with them – whether we know them well or not.”
Still brimming with stories from the recent Jacaranda Experience, Robyn believes boating allows you to ‘have a life’ beyond work and commitments.
After a lifetime of owning small boats and Alastair being an active member of the Sandgate VMR, they bought a larger boat as a means of escaping the daily grind.
“Alastair was working seven days and had no interests. You can’t work yourself to death. I told him to get a boat.”
They started with a 30’ US brand, but decided they needed a bigger, better equipped motoryacht and Riviera was the natural choice. The Riviera 36 Flybridge Picture Man was previously owned by a photographer and suited their needs to a tee.
“It’s spacious, beautifully finished and easy to handle.”
For Robyn, Riviera was the aspirational ideal for its quality and the network that backs the brand.
“What I like is that there are many social events and Riviera is always on hand if you have any questions or technical concerns. On our trips away, R Marine Queensland takes care of every little detail. Melinda and Randall are amazing! It makes it worthwhile and makes us proud to be part of the Riv family.”
Getting away from it all hardly means opting out for these avid boaters. Robyn’s favourite part of the boating lifestyle is the socialising.
“Our friends are always amazed at the quality of our nibbles! They say ‘this is happy hour?’ when they see the oysters, prawns and the effort all the women go to.”
It’s also a family affair for the Duffields. “Our son, Nathan, is 17 and he has grown up on the boat since he was 10. He loves fishing, crabbing and driving the boat. He’s a very independent person and when he hasn’t been out for a while, he gets real cravings for it.”
“When you have a gorgeous boat, it’s a possession that you’re proud to own,” says Alison. “It does give you satisfaction to know you’ve earned it and can afford the lifestyle.”
Says Biddy: “People who haven’t experienced it don’t realise what a great lifestyle it is. The fishing, fun, all the activities on the water and on land. You’re not stuck out at sea or in one spot – you have your choice of resorts, restaurants, marinas and anywhere that takes your fancy. You can change scenery whenever you like. When our friends come out on our boat, they are always amazed at the socialising and range of activities.”
“There are great waterways in Australia and wonderful people to meet,” adds Robyn. “As part of the Riviera family we are all ‘friends of friends’ anyway! We always hit it off!”
For Robyn, part of the appeal is the travel and discoveries along the way. “There are no limits to where you can travel. In summer, there’s the water and lovely walks. Then in winter, you can snuggle up in the saloon and read, whale watch, explore. It’s never dull and never the same. Life is too hectic these days.”
“We’re busier than we’ve ever been,” says Alison. “Boating is the opportunity to slow down, to be calm and catch up on rest, reading, cross stitch, whatever you want, far from distractions. Even at home we are busy and there’s always something to do. We never rest. Out on the boat we are able to switch off and relax.”
“It’s what you make it,” says Robyn. “You can relax and get away, or raft up with friends old and new for a party!”
Click to enlarge image:
Biddy, Jan, Glenda, Alison and Robyn
Over a superb seafood lunch boating chat flowed with ease
Graham and Biddy Stevenson enjoy a drink while anchored at Hexham Island, North Queensland
Alison Van der Poel
Alison Van der Poel's Riviera
Jan Barr with her Riviera 'Diamonds & Pearls'
Robyn Duffield with a good sized mud crab