Portrait of a Cruiser – Dave and Pattie Bowden

Dave and Pattie Bowden spent 13 years exploring SE Asia as well as Australian waters in their catamaran “This Way Up”. Their articles on getting back to Australia from SE Asia and useful routes have proved very popular with noonsite users over the years. They are now living ashore cruising more locally with friends and family.

Published 6 years ago, updated 5 years ago

Names of Owners: Dave and Pattie Bowden

Nationality: Australian

Boat Name: This Way Up

Boat Type/Model and Size: Grainger 430 Catamaran

Your Home Port: Port Stephens, NSW, Australia

Blog/website/facebook pages: Nil – too busy

How did you start cruising?

All through our working and family life we dreamed of owning a cruising yacht and sailing up and down the East Australian coast.  We had owned a small trailer sailer when our family was young and we had chartered in the Virgin Islands way back in 1972.  The trailer sailer’s length was less than the beam of This Way Up (our current boat) still we slept 6 aboard on weekend trips round Port Stephens.  It was very easy to manage and we had lots of great fun.  So when the last of our children were in the workforce we started looking for a suitable yacht for longer distance cruising.

That was 20 years ago. Like so much in life we wished we knew then what we know now.  This applies to design, build, practical issues and how to stay out of trouble.  I feel we could market ourselves as a reasonable source of knowledge and ideas for younger inexperienced people wishing to head out on the adventure of their lives.

Describe what sort of cruisers you are?

Coastal and International living aboard for 13 years, but now we are land-based doing shorter trips.  We generally have friends and family join us, sometimes for as long as 3 months.

What type of cruising are you doing currently?

A 5 month interrupted cruise north to the Whitsunday Islands, taking friends and families for week-long holidays.

What were the key reasons you selected your current boat?

For sailing up and down the East Australian coast, we imagined a 45 mono was about right but we met a couple who had just sold their catamaran after 10 years sailing round the world.  Their advice was to go early before the body starts to give problems and a catamaran was a very suitable vessel.  In the late 1990s there were few catamarans around and they still had a lingering bad reputation.  Still after much reading, looking at catamarans and talking with experienced sailors we decided to go ahead and buy a catamaran.

After many weekends driving up and down the Australian coast we settled on this Tony Grainger designed 430 cruising catamaran in 1999. We like our catamaran for its stability, volume, redundancy (e.g. engines, construction, headroom), its functional layout (galley down) and proven cruising capability for long distance.

What other boats have you owned?

Wooden 21 ft gaff rigged day sailer, 16 ft Hobie cat, 20 ft shoal draft trailer yacht.

What changes have you made to your current boat?

Minor internal modifications, remedying a few external construction areas (e.g. replacing boarding ladder, some deck panels), adding radar, inner stays for redundancy, screecher sail, whisker pole, larger solar panels, replacing defective plough anchor with Rocna anchor, engine hour meters, battery amp hour monitor.

Most useful equipment fitted, and reasons for this choice:

Rocna anchor, as previous bigger plough resulted in many uncomfortable dragging experiences. Spending 80% of your time at anchor in all conditions, it is essential to have an excellent anchor. We have never dragged with the Rocna and we sleep well.

Equipment regrets, or things you would do differently:

Equipment items are simple to upgrade (e.g. engines, electronics, sails), but the physical construction quality is more difficult to upgrade, so take great care with this area.  We had many areas where water affected deck penetrations. Avoid cruise laminate sails as they get mould and eventually delaminate.  Have redundant and adequate electrical power generation capabilities, solar, wind, engine.

List the countries you have cruised:

Australia circumnavigation, PNG, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines.

Future cruising plans:

After nearly 20 years we are slowly reducing the time spent on the water and not travelling so far as other commitments are taking priority. We plan to cruise locally in NSW and QLD coastal.

List the oceans/seas you have crossed:

Coral, Arafura, Southern Ocean, Sulu, Java.

Approximate sea miles: 50,000+

Scariest day on the water:

Mast step failure in a remote area off the Western Australian coast.

In 2002 we were sailing down the north west coast of Western Australia as part of a cruise round Australia to commemorate the bicentenary of Matthew Flinder’s voyage in 1802-3.  We were fairly inexperienced and were sharing the trip with friends and a dozen other yachts.  Shortly after leaving the anchorage the annular aluminium mast step split and the foot of the mast jumped forward resting on the deck with rigging going slack.  We dropped sails and secured the mast so it could not move then motored to a protected anchorage a few miles away.

Three other yachts joined us while we surveyed the situation, had a cup of tea and added additional lines. Then we motored to the nearest town, Onslow, which has a population of 800 and a small channel to a wharf.  This channel was part of the cyclone bolthole for the area.  Our radio chatter resulted in local fishermen listening in and provided us with names and phone numbers of two aluminium welders.  On arrival in the channel we found the wharf with, would you believe, a large mobile crane standing there.  Locals provided transport to the town where we found the welders who fortunately had aluminium plate which could be used to make a new solid foot.  Having never removed a mast before (neither me nor the crane operator), we had it off next morning, a new thicker plate constructed to compensate for the loss of mast material because of damage in coming loose and repairs to the deck.

The total job was completed within a week and we were on our way.  Considering the tiny size of the town, its remoteness from infrastructure, the skill of the town welders and help from the locals we cannot say enough about the town of Onslow and how fortunate we were to have our problem there.  We still have that mast step on our catamaran.

Best cruising moment:

A fast 3 day sail in perfect conditions down the Queensland coast.

Apart from trade wind sailing it is difficult to experience continuous steady sailing while coastal passaging.  Either the direction or strength varies.  We had a memorable trip from Townsville to Brisbane in just over 3 days because a stationary high pressure maintained a steady 10-12 kt easterly flow all along the coast.  This provided very low seas and close reaching conditions which catamarans love as they bend the breeze forward and add a bit of strength.  Strong tides exist around Mackay which translate to current up and down the coast. On this trip we caught the tide in just the right direction matching its change to increase our speed.  With easy conditions, good speed and a full moon it became our best passage reaching Moreton Bay in 3 days.

Favourite cruising area and why:

West coast of Phuket in Thailand.

Off shore steady gentle winds in clear water with numerous delightful anchorages in each passing bay.

Favourite anchorage:

Whitehaven beach, Whitsunday Islands, Australia.

Favourite cruising apps: None really

Favourite cruising websites: Australian Bureau Of Meteorology

Favourite cruising books: Lucas Cruising books for QLD and NSW coast.

What advice or message would you want to pass on to anyone new to cruising or thinking about casting off the dock lines?

Do it and go early, assuming you are financially and family free.

If you leave it too late, e.g. after 65, your body may start to show areas of wear.

Why cruise? In a few sentences, what is it that inspires you to keep cruising?

The lifestyle, sense of adventure, independence, community spirit of fellow cruisers, challenge of managing a cruising yacht and visiting new areas, helping newer cruisers with things we have learned and make it simpler, safer and more comfortable.

Any other comments:

Living the life of a cruiser means you have the opportunity to travel reasonably economically, learn to manage many systems found on a yacht, share experiences with like minded people, be adventurous in your later years, follow the sun or weather, have a waterfront home where if you do not like your neighbours or view you can easily change it and bring friends along.

Sailing Round the top of Australia

Sailing Back to the Australian East Coast from SE Asia

Getting Back from SE Asia

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