After coming out to Australia in 1968 and seeing the wonderful waterways first hand, it seemed only reasonable to get a boat. We started with a runabout and progressed to a small cabin cruiser before being taken for a sail on a friend’s Herreschoff H28 ketch. Our eyes were opened – sailing was for us.
We bought a marvellous old timber double-ender, Jasnar, the survivor of two Sydney-Hobart races, and set about learning to sail. Becoming avid readers on ocean voyaging, we soon came upon and hugely enjoyed the evocative writings of Eric and Susan Hiscock, with whom we were honoured to become friends many years later. They made sailing across oceans to new and strange countries sound quite a “sensible” thing to do if well planned, yet not inconsistent with the challenging nature of the adventure.
So, we began to plan our dream boat and after drafting our desired specifications we chose a new design from our friend Peter Joubert of Melbourne University. Peter is a Professor of Engineering with special expertise in hydrodynamics, a very experienced yachtsman and a designer of superb, strong, racing and cruising yachts. This new design was the “Cape Barren Goose” class. Peter names all his designs after Australian birds, animals and fish.
In early 1975 the late Geoff Baker, of Fibreglass Yachts in Mona Vale, began laying up the incredibly strong fibreglass hull and deck of the yacht we christened “Cera”. She was launched in June, and for the next 18 months of very hard work we completed the fit-out of the interior, rig and sails. (At the time, Norma was a qualified sailmaker.) Cera is 37 feet (11.5 metres) in overall length and displaces over 10 tonnes. She has a centre cockpit with private cabin aft, reached below-decks from the saloon via the galley to port or heads to starboard. She has a fin and skeg-hung rudder and is rigged as a sloop, but can also carry an inner staysail. She has self-steering gear powered by the wind and a back-up electric autopilot, so steers herself almost all the time.
In May 1977 we raced her to Noumea with a full crew and brought her back to Sydney two-handed. This was the start of a four-year period of learning and acclimatisation in preparation for the dream voyage we had spent so long planning.
These pages describe our eight years of voyaging, from September 1981 to September 1989. The writings are based on our log, letters and articles, which were all prepared at the time of, or soon after, the events described. The account is therefore not written with the benefit of hindsight, but simply records how we saw things at the time, warts and all.
We took literally thousands of photographs. As was usual for the time, they are practically all colour transparencies. One day we will convert them to digital, and get to work illustrating the pages that follow.
As of 2009 we still have Cera, and will probably keep her for the rest of our active lives. We still sail regularly, and for what was probably our last blue-water offshore voyage we took her to New Caledonia and Vanuatu in 2003.
The voyaging was a highlight of our lives. We hope you enjoy the story.