About Grahame Bear





The following is an article which was published in the Middle Harbour Yacht Club magazine “Compass Rose” November 2012. I feel it tells part of my story.


I was volunteering the weekend of the World Access Games when by chance I met James Gardiner, owner of “Xanthia” an X-Yacht (XC45) he had been preparing for over a year for a circumnavigation of the Australian “Mainland” as he puts it! Later after discussions over a superb dinner at Orso Restaurant, James had hired me to assist him with the safe delivery of his yacht between Sydney and Cairns.

About me..

I was so fortunate, growing up on Rose Bay, at the age of eight my father decided to build a Heron sailing dinghy to introduce me to the sport and race from Woollahra SC. Instantly sailing became a passion and through high school I sailed 5 days per week being able to replace cricket as my sport of choice. Sailing on the ocean commenced in 1975 and since then I have done countless ocean races, cruises and deliveries. More recently, I decided to make this my profession as my love of the sea merges with the need for sustenance.

About James..

James tells me he grew up on Port Phillip Bay and sailed skiffs until the age of 18 when he went to agricultural college and became a farmer eventually running 50,000 acres of grazing country at Cobar – a long way from the sea.  Over the last couple of years since selling the farm and moving to the coast, James became involved with the Batemans Bay YC and has been elected rear commodore. So the sea has become within his grasp and the fulfilment of a long standing bucket list item has come to fruition. All those years on the farm meant there was a lack of experience on the ocean, general seamanship and navigation and so the request for me to assist came about.

We left on April 29th with two others.  Louise had previous experience on charter yachts in the Mediterranean, Nathan a 30 year old American traveller however had no sailing experience but had enrolled with Sunsail at Hamilton Is to do the competent crew course commencing May 7th. He asked me if I thought I could get him there in time and I confidently assured him it was a definite maybe.  So Nathan climbed aboard.  Having had the opportunity to start sailing as an eight year old, and forever thankful for the joy the sport has given me, I make it a priority to offer this opportunity to others whenever possible. So for that reason I am prepared to take on the responsibility of a beginner on a passage of this magnitude. After a couple of days of mild “mal de mer”, Nathan started to adapt to life on the ocean and two months later along with James has just  pulled into Darwin Harbour. In this time I have seen him literally “learn the ropes”. He has become a competent sailor, helmsman and navigator (albeit lacking experience!) and loving every minute of it.

So we did get to Hammo by the appointed date, two days early in fact. Leaving Sydney on the end of a low, we had a very nice 25knt SE to push us up the coast fast enough to get us to the border and into the trades which held in 24/7 all the way to Cairns, 6 ½ days to Hammo where we said goodbye to Nathan and Louise (both returning to the boat in Cairns) and 2 days more (just James and myself)to Cairns then 3 hours back to Sydney for me as my job was done.

In my letter of confirmation to James I stated that “My role will be to use my experience to help you safely deliver the yacht but respect the fact that you as owner have the ultimate say in any decision.” In stating this, I needed to trust that James was paying me for my experience, knowledge and tuition and that if the proverbial …. hit the fan, the owner/skipper rights would default to my expertise. To this end we had no conflict whatsoever and it has been nothing but smooth sailing.    

Several weeks later after James and the crew had “day sailed” to Cooktown, I received a call asking if I could meet them at Horn Is to help them get across the Arafua Sea to Gove. I was delighted to receive the call and begun organising flights etc. James later changed the meeting point to Weipa having heard that customs officials on Horn were likely to confiscate all their fresh food despite them not having left Aussie waters, so Weipa it was. A light to average easterly on a flat sea saw us arrive into Gove harbour 49hours later, again a very pleasant uneventful voyage.

Although together James and Nathan most probably would have done the crossing without a problem, I consider myself to be similar to an insurance policy. Something paid for in case of the unexpected and considering the value of the yacht let alone potential risk to two lives, my fee is well worthwhile.

Issues, a few, but with my experience all able to be sorted. The most significant being failure of both charging systems (motor and generator) one evening resulting in no house battery power (sorted next morning). A great thing to happen as it gave the real time opportunity to pull out the paper charts and teach them to plot a course and navigate “the old way” Other little niggles such as up the mast to reattach lazy jacks, down into the stern lazarette to tighten the lock nut on the hydraulic ram which was about to let go etc. Overall a very well prepared yacht and a joy to sail. I look forward to the next call from James or maybe you??

Fair Winds & GREAT  Sailing

Grahame Bear