A taste of history

If the appeal and character of a motor yacht lie in its history, then the 35-metre yacht Caviar is a rare treat, effuses Mark Beretta. What’s more, you can experience her great sea yarn for yourself.

30 March 2023


Classics stand the test of time. In fact, it could be argued that as the years go by, they just get better. It’s the story, the history, which gives a boat real character and makes it unique – and makes you feel special.

Sydney-based 35-metre motor yacht, Caviar is just such a yacht, and she has as intriguing a back story as you’ll ever find. Skippers appreciate the history of their vessel and Caviar’s captain, Patrick Bourke, revels in sharing the colourful background of his much-loved, classic 200-tonne superyacht.

Built in 1955 in England by J Samuel White shipbuilders in East Cowes, Caviar’s classic timber hull and superstructure are as timeless and as solid as a Bass Strait southerly. Originally designed as a minesweeper, she actually began work in the British Navy as HMS Wintringham, decked out with bronze and brass fittings to avoid using anything that would attract the magnetic floating mines.

In the early 1960s, she was brought to Australia along with her sister ship, where she was renamed HMAS Seal and put to work for the Australian Navy. (Her sister ship became HMAS Porpoise.)


The duo entered service as navy dive tenders, working with the Australian fleet for over 20 years, carrying out repairs.

After years of service, she ended up as a hulk north of Sydney before being bought by a group of marine engineers who had her towed back to Sydney, starting work on the ambitious project of bringing her up to scratch as a modern motor yacht.

Out of the water, new engines were fitted and the deck structure was rebuilt to create a stunning two-storey coastal cruiser.

Once back in the water, Caviar was sailed to New Zealand for the 27th America’s Cup in 1988 before returning to Sydney in 2000 to play a role as an Olympic VIP boat during the games.

After that, the boat ran aground and was salvaged, and again went to dry dock where more work was carried out. She was repowered, and another level was added to give her a flybridge, but tough financial times hit the then-owners and the yacht sat in Sydney City Marina for years.

Finally, she was bought by new owners and renamed again – she has been renamed many times throughout her life. Then, three years ago, the current owners came along. They had a vision of grandeur for this great survivor of the seas.

Plans were drawn up, contractors appointed, and it was back into dry dock once more – AU$1 million dollars later, Caviar was shining and new, looking the finest she ever had. But this colourful story was far from over.

While docked in Sydney, Caviar was struck by lightning. It was skipper Bourke’s first night on board, so things really started with a bang! The strike did extensive – and expensive – damage.

Fortunately, insurance came to the rescue and, another AU$1.1 million later, Caviar was once again in her best shape ever, ready for a brand-new life as a top-end charter vessel.

Caviar has spent the winter up north on charter in the Whitsundays, and one of her greatest assets is her ability to go to sea. She was built for it. Over a lifetime on the water, Bourke has traversed the coast many times in big boats but in nothing like Caviar.

He says she’s not the fastest, cruising at about 9 knots, but the hull sits so smoothly in the water. There’s not the “crash, crash” that many big hulls experience in swells; instead, Caviar is soft in the water, carving like a hot knife through butter. “She’s smooth and amazing,” Bourke enthuses. “She’s built like a bullet!”

Caviar’s charter bookings are rolling in, and guests have been extending and rebooking – always the best indicator of how good the package of boat, crew and overall experience is. She’ll return to Sydney for what’s expected to be a busy summer on the harbour. Further, as more people get to know this queen of the sea, Bourke is looking forward to busy times ahead.

All this talk of performance at sea might paint the picture that Caviar is a rugged, tough-swell-smasher for those who want to cross the vast oceans of the world, but that’s not the whole story. Caviar has been built to be luxurious – really luxurious.

For starters, every cabin has its own ensuite, complete with shower, and it’s at full head height, so you don’t have to do that awkward duck-down. Even in much bigger charter boats on Sydney Harbour, that’s very hard to find. It opens Caviar up to extended family groups, or groups of friends, for weekend charters.

Caviar also has Offshore Survey, meaning Bourke can take guests up to 30 miles offshore, opening up the option of cruising our stunning coastline, and that’s an experience that not many people get.

It breaks the barriers of being confined to Sydney Harbour for those who would like to experience more of the east coast. Imagine setting off and finding the weather outside Sydney Heads is perfect for a cruise up or down the coast, and then actually having the ability to turn left or right for a unique experience. That’s an alluring option, and really sets Caviar apart.

Depending on requirements, Caviar generally has a crew of six. There’s also a 7.8-metre Zodiac with a hardtop as a tender to allow trips off the boat for fishing, snorkelling or just quiet time away.

Equally important is the food, and Caviar’s chef, Synthia comes from Sydney’s famous Rockpool restaurant – the 24-year-old has attained a Michelin star and, according to Bourke, her food is next level.

The skipper has a preferred philosophy on board of inclusiveness, where guests and crew are comfortable together; Bourke doesn’t dress up in epaulettes. It’s friendly, casual and relaxed – you can feel at home on Caviar while still enjoying an extraordinary experience.

And, Bourke is currently working on another project that’s something a little different for a superyacht but still very much in line with Caviar’s rich history – the yacht will soon be doing tours for schools.

These excursions around the harbour will aim to build a connection with this beautiful old naval vessel, exploring the history and wonders of Sydney Harbour. From the outset, Caviar has been designed to give a different experience, to take guests places they haven’t been before, and that’s the skipper’s speciality.

Caviar is a superyacht to be savoured. To be on board is to immerse yourself in the history of classic boatbuilding.

She’s a yacht for which you want to have the privilege of going below to view the enormous timber hull and superstructure, appreciating its beauty and brilliance. She really is something special.



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