Wiz­ardry of Oz

Yachts International - - Contents - By Kim Kavin

In Syd­ney, the 120-foot Ocean­fast Sa­hana of­fers a taste of ev­ery­thing great Down Un­der.


Syd­ney Har­bour, from end to end, is barely 7 nau­ti­cal miles. Look­ing at its count­less in­lets and har­bors on a chart, though, is like try­ing to de­ci­pher a Rorschach test, and see­ing its shores from the wa­ter is an ex­er­cise in lim­it­less cul­tural di­ver­sity. As I sit on the bow of the 120-foot (36.6-me­ter) Ocean­fast Sa­hana, cruis­ing past the Syd­ney Opera House and be­yond, I see ar­chi­tec­ture that looks clas­sic Euro­pean, then con­tem­po­rary, then Amer­i­can Colo­nial. Lob­ster boats that would fare well in Maine cruise by, fol­lowed by ex­press cruis­ers rem­i­nis­cent of south­east Florida and sea­planes evoca­tive of the Pa­cific North­west. An oc­ca­sional mil­i­tary craft re­minds me of cruis­ing in Mary­land near the U.S. Naval Academy at An­napo­lis.

I look to star­board and see the cityscape, a blend of sky­scrapers and his­toric build­ings along­side the Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge’s 440-foot-tall (134-me­ter) steel arch. Wa­ter­way traf­fic buzzes like New­port Har­bor in Rhode Is­land on a Satur­day in July, and pedes­tri­ans scam­per along the side­walks and in the wa­ter­front parks, look­ing just like the New York­ers who wave at boats cruis­ing up the Hud­son River.

I look to port and see a hand­ful of fam­ily boats at an­chor next to a beach, all sur­rounded by a for­est of eu­ca­lyp­tus (or gum trees, as the lo­cals would say). The un­touched land­scape might as well be a back cove off the In­tra­coastal Wa­ter­way in Ge­or­gia or South Carolina, save for the oc­ca­sional call of the na­tive kook­aburra bird.

A stew­ardess makes her way to the bow with a tray of hors d’oeu­vres: com­pressed wa­ter­melon with Per­sian feta cheese and olive salt on French-style brioche. It would be fol­lowed by lo­cal Cof­fin Bay oys­ters with pick­led cu­cum­bers and a Viet­namese sauce. The chef ’s style of cook­ing, she tells me, is fu­sion. Of course it is. Aus­tralia is a bucket-list char­ter des­ti­na­tion for many Amer­i­cans, a place whose cul­tural dis­tinct­ness is born of va­ri­ety. The con­ti­nent is a cross-sec­tion of the world, and Syd­ney, one of its largest cities, of­fers a bit of ev­ery­thing.

Sa­hana, one of the largest yachts for char­ter here, is much the same. She al­ter­nates sea­sons be­tween Syd­ney (Oc­to­ber through April) and the Whit­sun­days/Great Bar­rier Reef re­gion (April through Septem­ber). For Amer­i­cans book­ing a char­ter dur­ing the up­com­ing season, Capt. Paul Busk, a na­tive Aussie, rec­om­mends three days in Syd­ney and three or four days along the nearby Hawkes­bury River.

“This is city buzz,” he says of Syd­ney. “Go to the restau­rants. And the har­bor’s re­ally cool at night. Christ­mas, New Year’s, Aus­tralia Day on Jan­uary 25— the Syd­ney-Ho­bart race starts here, and that’s a mas­sive event. They’ll use any ex­cuse for fire­works here.’”

Busk is right about the en­tic­ing shore­side

at­trac­tions, but dur­ing meal­times, I’d stick with Clancy Atkin­son, a free­lance chef who, dur­ing my char­ter, was join­ing Sa­hana for his first stint with the yacht’s per­ma­nent crew. Atkin­son is a Bris­bane na­tive who grew up in re­mote Dar­win with what he calls “a lot of mul­ti­cul­tural refugees. So the food scene is more ad­vanced there, maybe more than any­where else in the world. I learned by going to my mates’ houses. I’d be in the kitchen with their mums while they were out­side play­ing.”

His pas­sion led him to train with one of Aus­tralia’s most cel­e­brated chefs, Rus­sell Arm­strong, and then to cater for com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Louis Vuit­ton and Gucci dur­ing the days when Tom Ford was cre­ative di­rec­tor.

“He had guide­lines for ev­ery­thing to do with the brand: how much wa­ter goes in ev­ery glass, how many canapés on each tray,” Atkin­son says. “From him, I learned pre­ci­sion. I had to. He was a per­fec­tion­ist.”

Hence those color­ful, fla­vor­ful and no­tice­ably uni­form wa­ter­melon bites with feta on brioche that I en­joyed on Sa­hana’s bow, one of sev­eral spa­ces on the yacht that were re­built after the 2008 launch got her cur­rent owner in 2013. He gut­ted the sa­lon, state­rooms and bridge deck aft, which went from car­ry­ing ten­ders to hav­ing a nearly full-beam bar along with sun­ning and shaded lounge space. The in­te­rior dé­cor is now chic in grays and whites, in­clud­ing a prom­i­nent black-and-white photo of America’s fa­vorite son, Ol’ Blue Eyes.

“He likes con­tem­po­rary cool,” Busk says of Sa­hana’s owner. “He’s a jazz singer, and he loves Si­na­tra.”

The owner also is prone to sea­sick­ness, which is why Sa­hana has ABT-Trac at-rest stabilizers, two Sea­keeper gy­ros and ex­tra sound­proof­ing in the guest ar­eas, to ease noise and vi­bra­tion. I, too, am haunted by the green

mon­ster, and I felt great aboard Sa­hana, both in busy Syd­ney Har­bour and when we cruised from Palm Beach, in Pittwa­ter, to Cowan Creek for wa­ter­sports fun.

Cowan Creek, just a few hours from Syd­ney at 10 knots, looked and felt like New Eng­land in Septem­ber, with wa­ter warm enough for a re­fresh­ing swim and a hand­ful of sandy beaches plus rocky trails amid a shore­line of green fo­liage and va­ca­tion homes.

“Out­side of Christ­mas and Easter,” Busk says, “it’s not a lot of traf­fic here. You can get a bay to your­self.” An­other great spot, he says, is Mid­dle Har­bour. “It’s re­ally pretty,” Busk says. “You sit in Su­gar­loaf Bay, and it’s like rain­for­est. You have no idea you’re near a city.”

I be­lieve it. And I’d be darn cu­ri­ous to stay on char­ter an ex­tra few days, just to see what­ever lies be­yond the next har­bor, too.

The iconic Syd­ney Opera House juts into the har­bor, stand­ing apart from the city’s down­town with shops, restau­rants and sea­planes all ac­ces­si­ble by char­ter yacht.

coun­ter­clock­wise from be­low: Sa­hana with the fa­mous Syd­ney Opera House and Har­bour Bridge; the yacht’s re­done in­te­rior with din­ing aft; the up­perdeck bar and loung­ing area (with sun­pads far aft).

The Pier One Ho­tel in Syd­ney is part of Mar­riott’s Au­to­graph Col­lec­tion. It’s a ren­o­vated ferry ter­mi­nal with in­dus­trial chic style. As the only ho­tel with a dock in Syd­ney, it’s a trendy spot for char­ter pick­ups.

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