Cruising the Abrolhos Islands Onboard a Riviera 6000 Sport Yacht
Wikipedia’s introduction to the Houtman Abrolhos makes for intriguing reading. It describes the 122-island chain as the southernmost coral reef in the Indian Ocean. Situated 80km west of Geraldton in Western Australia, the archipelago is one of the world’s most important seabird breeding sites and its coral reefs home to the state’s largest single-species fishery, the western rock lobster fishery. Yet these sharp jutting reefs have laid many a ship to rest. The most notorious shipwreck is the Batavia in 1629 and the ensuing mutiny and massacre noted in maritime history as its most gruesome. All in all, the archipelago requires years of exploration, so say Perth residents Paula and Adam.
The couple visited the Abrolhos for the first time in April 2022 on their new Riviera 6000 Sport Yacht Platinum Edition, Argyle. “My first impression was that the area with its turquoise water is beautiful, but the islands themselves have a desolate sort of feeling — there are no sand dunes, no elevation at all and they’re fairly barren, like pieces of reef sticking up out of the water,” says Paula. Most of the island chain is deserted while some have only a small seasonal population of fishermen.
The couple took possession of Argyle in November 2021. Like many on the Riviera journey, this is their third in quick succession, having moved from a Riviera 40 Flybridge to a 47 Flybridge to the 6000SY. “We’ve definitely had a case of foot disease,” says Paula with a laugh. “My husband said to me: a new house or a new boat? And of course, I chose the boat. It’s stunning, like a floating six-star hotel. It’s our life, our adventure and how we create memories. It was a no-brainer.”
Like most Western Australian boaters, the family travels from Perth to Rottnest Island for overnighters or long weekends. With the 6000SY though they’re more confident to go further. The two-week excursion to the Abrolhos has been their longest and most remote adventure. They decided to split the trip into two, with Paula and family friends for the first week, and the second week dedicated to a boys’ fishing trip.
“Adam left Fremantle port with our friend and fellow Riviera owner Greg, and Adam, a skipper we engaged for the trip. They took about 10 hours while I drove up the next day with our daughter and friends to meet them at Geraldton,” says Paula. According to husband Adam, the trip was a breeze: “Apart from a minor issue with a windscreen wiper the Riviera performed magnificently, together with the Seakeeper gyro stabiliser and the Volvo Interceptor System the boat handled the conditions with ease.” Adam collected Paula and the crew from Geraldton’s marina, they loaded up with provisions and headed west.
This being their first trip to the islands, Paula and Adam spent a lot of time learning about anchorages. “The Abrolhos are one of those places where you plan to go but have to be very flexible. One time we spent half a day moving the boat around looking for a better anchorage only to end up at the same spot. We were looking very carefully at the charts, and it’s one of the reasons we’ll continue to take a skipper for at least a couple of years while we learn the area and build our confidence to navigate it. It’s pretty treacherous, so remote and so shallow. My husband did a lot of research before the trip and he did most of the skippering himself, but the other Adam was there for support and peace of mind.”
The name Abrolhos is a contraction of the Portuguese expression to open your eyes (to protect yourself). As a noun, it refers to a thorn and Portuguese sailors used the word to refer to offshore reefs. It’s a warning to bear in mind, and not just for reefs.
“My daughter is eight years old and a water baby, so she and her seven-year-old cousin were jumping off the back deck, in and out all day…but then one day there, we saw a big Tiger shark in the anchorage. After that we were reluctant to get in. We’re keen snorkelers so we need to learn for next time where it’s safe. Luckily, it wasn’t too hot, because it was definitely a concern. I’m a big believer that you have a better chance of winning the lottery than to see a shark, but at the Abrolhos…it’s wild.
“We also fished, hoping for the elusive bluebone fish, a beautiful white eating fish,” she continues. “Adam had a lot to do with the cockpit and barbecue set-up and we just lived out there and lived off the sea, eating crayfish, fish, shellfish. Our friend Greg was handy in the kitchen and he prepared some amazing meals, sashimi bluebone and crayfish with beautiful wasabi soy dips…we called him our gourmet kitchen private chef, but my daughter called him the kitchen slave!” she laughs. “Everything was just fantastic; we definitely weren’t slumming it. The 6000SY is luxurious. There are no hotels on the islands, no accommodation, nowhere to stay apart from a boat. So here we were on a floating six-star hotel in one of the most remote archipelagos in the world. We had all the mod cons; we even had Foxtel so we could watch the football. We didn’t go without – not a thing – and there was plenty of room on the boat for us all. I think one of the best features I appreciated was the gyro stabiliser. We ran it 24/7 so we were always stable at anchor.
“I think for first timers we did pretty well. Our provisioning was spot on; if anything, we had too much so that fridge and freezer space in the 6000SY was a godsend. We’d planned everything down to a tee and apart from marine plants getting caught in the AC and water maker intakes we had absolutely no problems with the boat. I know this made Adam very happy and proud that we have a Riviera. I don’t think we’d do anything differently next time — except I would have liked to have been out there for longer. It’s such a massive archipelago, really, it’s years and years’ worth of fodder for discovery and explorations. And that’s what we’re looking forward to.”