Paul Thoreau said "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation".
I didn't want to join those masses. I was over 50, a time when men reflect on where they are and where they thought they were going to be. I had enjoyed a reasonably successful business life, culminating as general manager of a very small part of a very large company. I was divorced and had no real ties. I had bought and then sold a Beneteau 390 after realising that it sucked up money faster than a vacuum cleaner and I had dated a few women who had the same attributes.
What I needed was adventure, excitement and a feeling that I was not on a predetermined path to aged care. My epiphany came after my employers sent me to Japan to collect an award for excellence. Sitting on the beach outside my home in Cairns looking at a million stars on a tropical night, I realised that the company division I was responsible for contributed two per cent of the company's total Australian revenues which, in turn, was one per cent of the company's world turnover. Two per cent of one per cent. Of all those stars in the sky, mine wasn't there! I resigned and travelled looking to change my life so that it had some meaning. I wanted to live on a boat and travel. I wanted to experience a life that didn't include targets, budgets and worrying about staff, systems, marketing, or CRM outcomes. I didn't want to ever wear a suit or be late for a "meeting" again. My travels took me to Tahiti, where I found an ex-charter Beneteau 411 for sale at a reasonable price. I paid a deposit in August 2008, balance by November. Then the American economy collapsed, which caused the Australian dollar to devalue from 98c to 68c and the boat was not nearly so attractive. Every cloud has a silver lining, although it's not always immediately obvious. Having forfeited my deposit to a very happy yacht broker, I set off down the east coast of Australia by motorcycle to look at every production yacht between 38 and 42 feet and hopefully purchase a bargain.
Where were the bargains?
I must say that despite the downturn in the economy most yacht brokers managed to successfully not show me anything of interest even though they had boats on their books. Many did not know what stock they had until I showed them from internet research, or the boat they just remembered they had listed was in a town that I had passed through the day before. Finally I arrived at Pittwater. It had been raining hard, I was soaked and my mood reflected the heavy grey sky above. However, the broker was affable and offered me tea, always a good start, before bundling me in their launch to show me their stock. We saw Hunters, Catalinas, Beneteaus and a Bavaria 42. The broker offered to show me a Bavaria 44 but it was priced about 40 per cent more than I could afford. "Let's just look at it anyway," he offered. I refused. It would be like sitting in a Ferrari while trying to buy a Commodore. I looked at dozens of boats from many other brokers that weekend. The rain did not ease and I was getting more frustrated as time passed. Surely with all the boats in Sydney Harbour there must be one that suits? Finally I called the original broker to make an offer on the Bavaria 42. I thought it was tatty, but if the price was right I could fix it. They had sold it the evening before! What!! "Come and look at the 44." "No." "Well we have a Hunter you may like." I travelled to Pittwater again and climbed into their launch to view the Hunter. "I have to stop by the Bavaria 44 to check the bilges." " I'll wait in the launch."
" It's raining, so you may as well climb aboard."
Fell for it
I had been a salesman for large ticket items all my career and I could see what was happening. Still I fell for it! "Do you like the boat?" What was there not to like? Like a lot of things I am attracted to, she was beautiful, but expensive. "Make an offer." "I can't afford it." "Make an offer anyway." I made an offer. "That's not an offer, that's an insult." We returned to his offices and I climbed on my bike to ride back to my hotel. Getting fuel I heard my mobile phone and answered to hear an incredulous broker tell me that the offer was successful, could I sort out the paperwork and give a deposit? Within 30 minutes contracts were signed and Dreamagic was mine.
One year on
That was just over a year ago. Since then, with the help of friends, I have sailed her back to Cairns, entering her in the Brisbane-to-Gladstone on the way. There have been some changes to make her more cruising friendly. She has an HF radio, which at $3500 second-hand is, I am told, very good. I can now speak to the space shuttle if I want. I couldn't speak to the start boat which I could see and I can't speak to Brisbane Coast Guard, but New Zealand answered, which was nice of them. I also have an eight-man liferaft which takes two people and a hernia to lift. The label says to store in a cool dry place. In September I took Dreamagic to Papua New Guinea as part of the Louisiades Rally and I am pleased to say that she accounted for herself beautifully. I now live aboard in Cairns, compete in WAGS each Wednesday and sail around the Coral Sea with anyone who is willing to contribute. I suppose all boats are a compromise. As a coastal cruiser, liveaboard, occasional racer, occasional bluewater boat she is everything I want. For me, and a number of similar aged friends, sailing the WAGS on Wednesdays has become a focus to an otherwise mundane week and of course there is always the Louisiades in September!
Water tank 360L
Fuel tank 210L
Engine Volvo D2-55
Cruising Alan Littlefield
Alan has retired from the rat race and now lives on Dreamagic in Cairns. You can find out more about his adventures at