Steve Smith is the walking definition of a salt of the earth sailor – humble, generous, with a cracking sense of humour. His love of the water has helped him through some rough times. Now the proud new owner of the Beneteau Oceanis 41.1P ‘Freedom’; he’s ready to embark on his next sailing journey and this one is about sharing his passion with others. Steve was hooked on sailing after answering an offer for a free lesson. After a few more courses and lots of social sailing, his then-wife joined in the fun. As Steve says, life was good, the couple was raising three children, running a successful business and loving the sailing life. Then things got tough…
Sailing towards Freedom
Steve’s business suffered some heavy financial losses but sailing turned out to be the perfect stress relief.
“I’d invited about 14 or 15 people onto a yacht which I hired. It was only three days after I’d lost $96,000 on a bad debt. That was a lot of money back then in 1985. Anyway, we went out and had a sail that day and I never thought another thing about losing the money … it was relieving and freeing us of all the problems associated with it.”
A nice new yacht
Steve’s bank balance had taken a big hit but his love of sailing was so strong he and his wife decided to buy a yacht.
“We went and spent $50,000 on a yacht … We had the boat on the water for Australia Day and then we did a renovation on it.
After the renovations, we had ourselves a beautiful 45-foot yacht. We put that into business and I did a lot of chartering around the harbor and continued with the racing.”
Then when their fourth child came along the couple decided to sell the yacht to focus on raising the kids.
Thinking of Dave
Fast forward about twenty years, give or take, and life delivers another one its blows. A good friend of Steve’s passes away but it’s this loss that leads him back to sailing.
“A friend of mine, Dave, passed away and a few years later his brother said, ‘You know, Dave and I had this pact to go around the world on a yacht.’ I said, ‘Yes.’
He said, ‘Well, I’ve bought the yacht.’ I said, ‘What? You’re kidding me!’ He said, ‘We’ve already named the boat.’ I said ‘What’s it called?’ He said, ‘Well, ‘Thinking of Dave’.’”
There was just one catch – ‘Thinking of Dave’ was in Barbados so that’s where they’d be starting off from.
Beneteau in Barbados
“I said, ‘You’re kidding me. What did you buy a boat over there for?’ and he said, ‘Oh, it was cheap.’ I said, ‘How cheap?’ He said, ‘Well, $160 000 for a 50-foot yacht.’ I said, ‘Turn it up. It can’t be. What sort of a rust bucket is it?’”
The rust bucket turned out to be a beautiful 50-foot Beneteau with four cabins. Steve acted as Sail Master and they started the sail around the world via Cuba, Venezuela, through the Panama Canal and The Galapagos Islands.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing and after getting knocked over in 37-knot winds and battling rough weather, Steve ended his leg at the Matisse Islands.
After that adventure, Steve sailed closer to home enjoying Twilight Sailing through SailTime where he met Flagstaff’s Graham Raspass. His love of racing was reignited.
“With 6,000 nautical miles under my belt and being later on in life, it’s certainly gone a long way to invigorating me.”
But it’s the connection to other sailors that Steve really loves.
“Just camaraderie and all that. They’re nice people and now that I’m at a different age I read things a whole lot differently to being in your twenties. The competitive nature and the juices are not there to the same extent. But the other juices are running thick and fast. The cloud over the body and they sink in like beetroot through the fabric and it’s just lovely.”
Dancing with the Wind
Beetroot stains aside, there is definitely still some very healthy competition going on especially with the skipper of ‘Dancing with the Wind’, Kim Bangel.
“I can hardly wait to call starboard on her!” says Steve, “Kim’s a good soul and I’m looking forward to racing again with her on Wednesday nights. She promoted the idea of share boating to me and said it was the best idea that she’s had for a long time. Kim wanted to go and learn how to sail, so she went and bought the boat instead!”
SailTime caters for all levels of sailor with its unique membership as well as providing a boat ownership program and its own sailing school.
“One of the smartest things that Graham does is to educate people about sailing … I understand he’s got about six people in line for me already. Which will just be just like a full boat complement of members…”
SailTime provides a surprisingly affordable and practical approach to sailing without all the hassles, headaches, long-term commitment and expenses that can be associated with traditional ownership.
“Graham’s been the most enjoyable character to work with – nothing’s been too much of a problem and everything that he said would be, has come about to be. I guess that’s enough to be said about him. So far so good but I’ll ring you back on this in six months!”
After hearing Steve’s story, it makes perfect sense that ‘Freedom’ is the name he’s chosen for his new Oceanis 41.1P. Freedom is very much what sailing has given him throughout his life. But the motivating factor for buying Freedom was not owning another yacht, in fact, he’d sworn he’d never buy one again. And it was not just for his own pleasure, he really loves the opportunity to share his passion for sailing.
“I’m looking forward to sharing a vessel with a lot of people who have not got the opportunity to buy a yacht. That sounds a bit crazy to a lot of people, but I really enjoy watching other people grow and enjoy themselves with whatever’s in front of them. I’ve seen that with other people on Kim’s boat. Teaching these youngsters how to go about things and enjoy their sail. It’s good making them aware of things, watching them become more confident. That’s terrific.”
There are also two people in Steve’s crew who mean the world to him and they are a big part of why he bought Freedom.
“Part of the reason I bought this vessel was that Clive, my manager who works for me, has been a very solid man in my life for a long time. He’s a master mariner and no funding to do what he’d like to do, and I have the funding, so he’s going to take over my share of the sailing. We call him ‘Araldite Clive’. Once his hands get around that wheel we can’t get them off it!”
And there’s First Mate Fernando aka Inspector Gadget who’s got his nickname because he is meticulous and keeps everything in such good order. With Fernando on board, Steve knows Freedom is in the best hands.
Why the Oceanis 41.1P
When we asked Steve why he chose the Oceanis 41.1P his answer was quick, “Because it’s quicker than Kim’s boat – Make sure that hits the print, will you?” We’re good to our word Steve!
Apart from being able to beat ‘Dancing With The Wind’ around the cans, Steve chose the Oceanis 41.1P because he loved the layout on deck and felt it was a perfect boat for a bigger crew to sail.
“One of the things that are outstanding is that the center console on this vessel is minimalist. It doesn’t have the bulk of the cruising size yacht table but it’s offset and allows coming and going easily down the port side. And the way it’s set up on the starboard side is where we’re going to have the main winch for the halyard and also for the mainsheet, you see. It’s got the German rig on it at the moment, but I think it’s a little complicated for a crew of people all coming back to two winches. When there are four winches to play with, let them play with them.
That spreads the team out a little bit – doesn’t box them all into one spot. We’re thinking of getting a bow spirit. We’re looking around for a very buxom woman to tie to it. So, we’re going to advertise on seek.com – actually in today’s age, I’m not sure if that’s allowed?”
When Freedom is not out beating everyone else around the cans, Steve plans to use her as a place to just sit and be.
“I’m looking forward to the vessel being at Middle Harbour. I live at Manly, work at Lidcombe and I can just see myself stopping on the way home and having a book to read on the transom. Just the idleness of being away from home and being on the yacht without any care in the world. Pull a beer up and have a sip before I pack up for the night and go home.”
Sounds pretty good to us Steve; we know you’ll make the most of your new-found Freedom.