Written by Scott Alle
04 November 2021
Despite a looming dental appointment and a rare post-COVID traffic snarl, Ray Haddrell is decidedly upbeat. “Bloody fantastic,” he says with a level of enthusiasm that is palpable down the phone.
What he’s referring to is Riviera’s 645 SUV, the brand-new flagship of Riviera’s extremely popular, six-model SUV range of cruising sedans.
Ray and his wife Jenny are fortunate owners of the very first 645 to emerge from the Coomera yard. It’s their seventh Riviera, a stat that must elevate them to something like titular heads of the Riviera owners’ club. What’s more, they’ve logged serious bluewater miles in their boats up and down Australia’s east coast, as well as multiple circumnavigations of Tasmania, so they know their way around a chartplotter.
The transition to the 645 is, in a sense, a culmination of the couple’s 15 years of cruising experiences. The big bluewater yacht is a versatile passport to longer-range offshore cruising.
Extensive three or four stateroom accommodation, superior comfort levels and luxury enhance the attractive indoor/outdoor lifestyle features that make the SUV models so practical and popular. The latest “Rayz Away” is very much geared to Jenny’s desire for all their friends and family to be together, and the SUV layout achieves this.
“We’re travelling further now, for longer periods and often with more than four people aboard,” she says.
“We looked to have more facilities in the galley to use at anchor – induction heating, a two-way convection oven and microwave, and plenty of refrigeration and freezer space.”
Jenny has been closely involved in the process of ensuring the 645 satisfies all the couple’s requirements. Her essentials include a generous ensuite to the master stateroom, which caters for the inevitable extra items on a long stint away from port, and plenty of stowage options throughout the boat.
“I love boating and the quality of life it offers,” she explains. “I’ve done things I never thought possible. I was a bit nervous early on – just leaving Port Phillip Bay used to feel scary – but you learn about the boat and yourself as you go along, developing confidence and capacity.”
By the time the gleaming 21-metre, whitehulled, black hard top sport yacht completes its media responsibilities at the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show in late May, Ray will have hit the supermarket for provisioning ahead of a shakedown cruise to Melbourne and extra finishing touches, ready for an extended summer of cruising.
First stop? Australia’s favourite tropical playground, the Whitsundays. “Once you’re past Sydney, then it’s time for the shorts,” he jokes. “Every couple of years, I go to Hamilton Island.
“Jenny and the family fly up and we enjoy cruising around the islands for a couple of weeks,” he says in a wistful tone, obviously projecting post his dental surgery.
“This year, I’m on the boat, and there will be four of us staying on board.”
He continues, “With the 645, you’ve got the lounge up front in the bow – a whole new part of the boat I haven’t used before. There’s a sun shade you can set up on poles and sit there quite comfortably if there’s a bit of breeze around. They’ve reliably informed me there’s an esky up there somewhere too,” he adds.
Whitehaven Beach is a definite day trip for the Melbourne-based crew of Rayz Away during these regular Whitsunday sojourns, but the balmy, near-deserted tropical waters off Cape Gloucester are also just a couple of hours away.
Sometimes described as the Whitsundays’ best-kept secret, Cape Gloucester has long been on the itinerary for cruising sailors. Overlooked by towering Gloucester Island, the peninsula is home to two low-key resorts, which Ray recommends.
A traditional yachties hangout, Montes Reef Resort is charmingly ramshackle while the friendly Cape Gloucester Eco Resort nearby boasts an extensive outdoor dining area with sweeping views out to Gloucester Island and over the Coral Sea beyond.
The resort manages the boat moorings off the beach, which Ray says are perfect to pull up to for a long, lazy afternoon. A modest fee gains access to the resort facilities, if required, and then it’s an easy run back to Hamilton Island.
“The hardest part of the trip is getting the people off the boat,” he confesses. “Sometimes, we’ve been out fishing and put our catch straight on the barbie; we’ve also done that with scallops down in Tassie.”
The wild, untamed beauty of Tasmania’s coast has seen its popularity soar in recent years and Ray and Jenny have three circumnavigations of the island to their credit in various Rivieras, the most recent a 575 SUV.
However, any time spent in the Southern Ocean must be carefully planned and managed, a principle that was starkly illustrated during a rough passage from Port Davey to South West Cape.
“When we came out of Port Davey, it was horrific,” recalls Ray.
“A 3-metre swell was running with 2 metres of chop on top of it. I was sitting on the floor. When we were in the troughs of the waves, we couldn’t see anything – no land, no horizon, just walls of water. We were doing about 12–14 knots and dolphins were jumping out of the water.
“It was like they were laughing at us.”
But apart from one extra-hefty wave rearranging the contents of the cutlery drawer, there were no problems and the proven integrity of the Riviera hull was reassuring in the testing conditions. For Ray, it highlighted the importance of waiting for the right weather window.
“You always have to keep in mind the weather,” he counsels.
“I’ve been stuck at Lakes Entrance in Victoria for five days; you have to be flexible. It’s not like a sailing yacht where once you’re committed, you’re out there for whatever it brings. We can wait one or two days, and then we’ll go. You have to be patient – if you decide to go early, you can find yourself in some really bad weather.”
But the month-long cruise in company around Tasmania also yielded sublime moments.
Tourist boats can cruise around 5 nautical miles up the magnificent Gordon River into the heart of the world heritage-listed wilderness, but you can get much further up this primeval river if you have a tender.
Ray and Jenny headed around 30 miles upstream, entering gorges and gliding across the water dark with tannins between the banks of rainforest that pour down the slopes. Here, the forest consists of myrtle beech, sassafras, celery-top pine and Huon pines angling out over the river. They made it as far as the Franklin River, where the flow was not much more than a creek.
Dragging their dinghy through the water, they were struck by the quietness and majesty of their surroundings. For Jenny, the boating experience is tied to a deep appreciation of nature and the creatures that ride Rayz Away’s bow wave or effortlessly match their 20-knot cruising speed in the air currents above.
“Boating means you can go further and have different experiences,” she says. “Whether you take a paddleboard, throw a line in for a fish or pick up the binoculars. I love to be on dolphin watch, looking for seals and birdwatching.”
Both Ray and Jenny will be aboard over the coming months to set down another chapter in the logbook of yet another Rayz Away. With more range, space and luxurious appointments than any of their previous charges, the latest of the Haddrell’s numerous Rivieras is destined to fulfil whatever cruising desire or adventure they can imagine.