Cruising in Company – Bavaria 45 ‘Curlew Escape’
During the recent Hamilton Island Race Week, the Ensign Team were fortunate to catch up with a number of Bavaria owners and skippers. One of which, Greg Luck, who is the owner of a Bavaria 45 Cruiser ‘Curlew Escape’, has written an electronic cruising guide, ‘Cruising the Queensland Coast’. As part of a new feature column for our Dock Lines blog page, ‘Cruising in Company’ Greg has kindly shared with us some of his sailing backstory and his top 3 cruising areas.
For more information on Greg’s electronic cruising guide ‘Cruising the Queensland Coast’ click here.
I ordered Curlew Escape, a Bavaria Cruiser 45 from the factory in 2009 during the GFC, the last time the world was coming to an end. I had looked at yachts and liked the Bavarias. The brand new Bruce Farr/BMW DesignWorks model was about to be launched. I initially had a pencil sketch and then some graphic renders later. She looked fantastic so I ordered her with the holiday package and some improvements recommended by the yacht broker.
While waiting for her to be built and shipped, I started doing WAGs at RQYS. I wasn’t a very good crew member, being completely green, and usually only got one invite from each yacht. Still, I got some experience. I also got some sailing books and the RYA course books. I got a call from the broker the day she was going to Manly. I managed to arrive right behind her as the semi-trailer was pulling into RQYS. She was huge and looked great. It was very exciting.
After she had been put together and some electronics added, the broker and I took her over to the berth. The following week I got a half-day induction from him, which was very useful. We took her on an overnight passage to the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show. I ended up getting wet and cold but it was the start of my passage-making. For the next year, I took her out in Moreton Bay in good weather, occasionally getting a storm come through. I realised I needed an autopilot, so added a Raymarine one and upgraded my chart plotter to Raymarine too.
I have now been up and down the coast about 14 times and have done 8 Hamilton Island Race Weeks. The yacht is competitive and I have some wins and places for individual days in my division. With the cruising divisions, it is the Performance Handicap System, so you are really competing with yourself. Getting a win tells you you had a very good sail.
I quit my day job a few years ago and spent the time getting my RYA Yachtmaster Offshore and then commercial qualifications. The yacht was set up in survey for commercial operation right from the beginning. The difference now is I do most of the charters. Curlew Escape’s home port is Manly, Queensland which is where we do the day charters from. When cruising for an entire season with my wife Maria in 2020, I noticed how old the cruising guides were getting, with the exception of 100 Magic Miles which is regularly updated. So I decided to write a new guide that would be accessible to both beginners and seasoned cruisers. I am an IT guy, so I naturally went with an eBook, with its linking capabilities and integrated it with Navionics and C-Map.
Our Bavaria 45 Cruiser has done a lot of nautical miles but still looks like an almost new yacht. I like to keep her well-maintained. With her high freeboard and high stability index and solid construction, we always feel safe onboard, even in extreme conditions.
Favourite Cruising Areas
We like the string of cays and reefs from Lady Elliot, Lady Musgrave, Fitzroy Reef, to Heron Island. You need reef weather, but when you are there it really is living the dream. We spent a week at Lady Elliott Island in 2021 supporting a film shoot. The water there is crystal clear, and the coral is very healthy and colourful. We saw turtles and manta rays and lots of fish. The island welcomes yacht visitors, so having lunch and a drink at the bar overlooking the lagoon is the icing on the cake. Two public moorings were installed in 2020 very close in on the sheltered northwestern side of the island. As a result, yachts doing the reefs regularly now stop in.
While we find the bare boaters in the Whitsunday Islands raucous and a bit hazardous to be around in an anchorage, the southern (and the western) Whitsunday Islands do not have this issue. We like the passage south from Hamilton Island to Mackay. In August 2022, we did just that, stopping at Shaw, Thomas, Goldsmith and Brampton Islands, in lovely dry winter weather of 22-23 degrees. Maria likes to paint watercolours, many of which we have in the book. A typical pattern for us is an easy two-hour sail, followed by some relaxing at the anchorage with Maria doing a watercolour, then the next day we go to shore in the dinghy and explore. Heaven.
The passage from Gloucester Island or Bowen to Townsville is two very long day sails with an overnight stop at Cape Upstart. You need the right weather. Many people are happy to stop at the Whitsundays, particularly if they have already come up from Sydney or Melbourne. But if you have the time, the coast from Townsville to Cairns is really nice. We like quirky Magnetic Island with its excellent Maggie Bay marina and Horseshoe Bay anchorage and Orpheus Island, with its views of stunning Hinchinbrook Island, its giant clam garden, marine research station and just the sense of being in Far North Queensland.