Yuma & Us

Frederieke & David

Frederieke has always dreamed of sailing the world on her own boat. It is likely that this is a genetic disposition, as she had relatives and ancestors in the shipping and shipbuilding industry in the Netherlands. Even though she does tend to get seasick, she has always loved the sea and the ocean. To the extent that she pursued a research career in marine biology in Canada and Australia, with field work being her favourite component of the job. At some point, however, Frederieke decided that sailing around the world was now or never.

Frederieke in her element

Frederieke in her element

David in his element

David doing what David does best

David, on the other hand, had not dreamed about sailing, let alone around the world. Capsizing his friend Stephen’s dinghy on Lake Burley Griffin (Canberra) as a kid had been fun but beyond that, sailing boats hadn’t featured too much in his life or his dreams. That said, he has always thought that sailing boats were beautiful things and, when he lived on Canada’s west coast, he considered buying one of the many beautiful wooden ketches that inhabited that area to live aboard. Those considerations, however, hadn’t really stretched to any actual sailing. David was sold on the sailing idea though many years later by Frederieke’s persistence and by the first evening of his first bluewater sailing race. The long ocean swell, the gathering honey light, the steely blue seas and the dark squalls off in the distance somehow flicked a switch in him. Magical.

Our Sailing Experience

Risky Business. For a number of years, we crewed on an Adams 13 racing yacht, “Risky Business”, learning the basics of keel boat sailing from sailors and cruisers extraordinaire Phyllis and Daryl Hawthorne in Cairns.

Havoc. Then in 2009, feeling like we should get started on making our own mistakes, we bought “Havoc” a Swarbrick S80. A cheap and cheerful but fun and fast boat, she was designed for racing and had a bare interior fit out to match that activity. Racing had served us well enough for learning but wasn’t what we were interested in and so we cruised the Great Barrier Reef out of Cairns, and dived from “Havoc” for 4 years before deciding that we enjoyed this enough to go for a real cruising yacht.

Kleine Vis. In 2014, we bought “Kleine Vis” a 1986 Tartan 37. “Kleine Vis” was a complete joy to sail and a beautiful boat. Every year when we hauled her out, salty old sea dog looking blokes would wander by and discreetly admire her lines before saying, ‘That looks like an S&S design, beautiful’. It was and she was. For 8 years we sailed her along nearly the full length of Australia’s east coast, from Sydney to Princess Charlotte Bay and offshore to the Coral Sea islands.

Had we intended to keep sailing primarily in Australia’s north and the Coral Sea we might well have kept “Kleine Vis” but bigger plans were taking shape and so we started thinking about what we wanted from a long-term cruising yacht. A wish list began to form: cutter or sloop rig with inner staysail, insulated aluminium hull, shallow draft, lifting centreboard, beachable, large cockpit locker, technical room with access to cockpit, external storage, sugar scoop, two cabins, wet area at the companionway, u-shaped galley, forward facing chart table at the companionway, spacious main cabin, sail locker, ample stowage and tankage.

The Search for ‘The Perfect Boat’

Ovni. The wish list and layouts drawn up the search began. Very quickly it became clear that the wish list was just that and that we wouldn’t find our perfect boat but just as quickly we narrowed down the search to a few models that ticked the most important boxes and matched our budget. Foremost amongst these were the Ovnis, and in particular the Ovni 365, Ovni 385, and Ovni 395s. Deciding on an Ovni was the easy first step; Ovnis are not easy to find and one with our most important attributes was even harder to find. Over a period of three years we found just five boats that ticked the boxes and were in a price range we could afford. We came close to buying one of these a few times but weren’t successful; we either got cold feet about the process or we were beaten in the bidding. Frustrating.

Ovni 365. In August 2022 we were visiting Frederieke’s family in the Netherlands and had lined up inspections of two boats that were almost perfect. And then first Frederieke and then David got COVID. Two weeks later, when we were both negative, both boats had been sold. Sigh. But then, a few days before we flew back to Australia, an Ovni 365 came up for sale in the UK. It was not quite as well set up as some of the other boats we’d looked at but it was newer and in much better condition. This seemed like a good compromise. But we couldn’t change our tickets and couldn’t get to see the boat.

So began the process of buying a yacht, sight unseen, from the other side of the world. Eeeek!

Yuma. Ultimately, this was actually not too hard a thing to do but throughout the process we were gripped by this gnawing feeling of uncertainty. We had never even seen a 365, was it right for us? Even if it was, was it in good enough condition, set up the way we wanted it, and so on. Eek!

What made the process easy and relieved at least some of the uncertainty were the people we were dealing with. The brokers, North Sea Maritime, were superb. They had ordered the build of the boat and had imported it to the UK for the original owners, so they knew it well. They were incredibly helpful and honest. The surveyor produced the best survey report for a yacht we had ever seen and took the time to talk through every detail of it with us. He even gave us a report on the owners! (they passed with flying colours). And finally, the owners, Jane and Robin, spent hours with us on zoom calls showing us every nook and cranny and explaining how they had set her up. What could have been a harrowing experience was a great one.

Step by step the buying process got done and then, there we were in October 2022, the owners of a boat we’d never seen, in a country off on the other side of the world that we’d never visited.

Oh dear. what had we done!

Whence the name ‘Yuma’

What is in a name?

When we bought Yuma she already had a name, ‘Grey Wanderer’.  This was apt enough for an unpainted aluminium boat crewed by a pair of not-so-young ones.  Aptness notwithstanding, we wanted a different name and for a couple of reasons.  First, the Lord of the Rings reference was not really our thing.  Second, long boat names, particularly double barrelled boat names, are a pain.  Something short and easily understood in multiple languages just makes life simpler, “Yankee, Uniform, Mike, Alpha” is far easier to say and understand over the radio than “Golf, Romeo, Echo, Yankee, Whiskey, Alpha, November, Delta, Echo, Romeo, Echo, Romeo”.  Likewise the actual names themselves.  Finally, we wanted something from the place we call home.

So why Yuma?  Yuma is a word from Yidiny, the language of the Yidinji people, the traditional owners of the region where we live in the far north east of Australia.  It means ‘a present’ or ‘a promise’.  This seemed appropriate as our boats have always felt to us like gifts of good fortune and so full of promise. Furthermore, it is a reminder to us of where home is and where we are headed.

By happy coincidence the word yuma also appears in Ngunnawal, the language of the traditional owners of the area where David grew up in south eastern Australia.  In Ngunnawal it is a greeting, “hello”.  That isn’t inappropriate for a travelling boat either.

Of course, in the Western tradition renaming a boat is not something that should be lightly undertaken.  There are ceremonies that need to be performed and libations that must be offered to the various Gods who rule the seas and the winds, and who keep the register and care for those that travel upon the waves.  These ceremonies were performed and these libations were duly offered.