From Dreams To Milestones

From one milestone to the next, a 12-month voyage to the Whitsundays was an experience that photographer Danny Dekker and his partner, Anne Neville, will cherish forever.

Together they faced the highs and lows of cruising the deep blue sea; from the extremities of nature and a potentially fatal illness to exploring the wonders of the world and watching their son, Daniel, take his first steps.

When they arrived at Hamilton Island following four months of cruising north along the east coast of Australia from Sydney, Danny Dekker’s dream had become a reality.

“Hamilton Island is the reason I come to the Whitsundays,” he said. “I love the village atmosphere.”

They spent four months cruising around the Whitsunday islands, using Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach as a base for berthing.

November 11, Remembrance Day, was a turning point for the family as Daniel took his first steps, which meant the dream had come to an end.

“I told Anne that, as soon as Daniel walks, we would head home,” said Danny.

Anne and Danny encourage other boating enthusiasts to follow their dreams and experience the thrill of cruising.

Danny said the best tip he could give other boaties was to check the weather reports daily and check the engine room hourly to avoid disaster.

For Anne, the toughest part of the journey was loneliness. As a first-time mother, she treasured having access to the Internet so she could keep in touch with her family and friends.

Danny met Anne at a Melbourne photography exhibition in 2003.  Danny was a jet-setting wedding photographer living between his studios in San Francisco and Sydney. When Anne fell pregnant, Danny sold his San Francisco studio and moved to Coogee Beach in Sydney.

When their little boy Daniel was born, they decided to go boating. They found their ‘dream’ boat, a Riviera 39 called Serenity. They left Sydney and traveled to Broken Bay at 10 knots so Daniel and Anne could get their sea legs.

“The most important item we took on board was a laptop with wireless internet,” said Danny. “Every day I got weather updates and kept in touch with business associates. For Anne, it was a great tool to stay in touch with family and friends.”

Danny and Anne worked a system to make sure they had their own car available as well as the boat. As they arrived at each port, Danny would go ashore and catch the train back to the previous port and drive the car to where they were moored so they could explore each town by road along the way.

“That way we could take time to visit places we could not reach on the boat,” said Danny.

Danny anticipated that their greatest challenge would be crossing the notorious Wide Bay bar into the Great Sandy Straits behind Fraser Island, north of Brisbane.

“I was scared as hell to approach the Wide Bay Bar as we arrived two hours after high tide but, to my surprise, the bar was dead calm. I thought then that the biggest challenge of the whole trip was behind us.”

But a greater one was soon to come.

While anchored at Middle Percy Island, south of Mackay, Anne became sick.

“She started to complain about a pain in her chest,” said Danny. “So, at 5.30 in the morning, we up anchored and headed off for Mackay.”
It took them more than four hours to get to Mackay in conditions Danny describes as being “like a washing machine”.

 “I had chest pains and had trouble breathing,” said Anne. “I would have died if I didn’t get to a hospital.”

Anne spent a week in hospital.

Finally, they left Mackay and quickly reached the southern Whitsunday Islands. anchoring at Shaw Island.

“We went ashore and had a little fire on the beach and cooked up marshmallows,” said Danny. “Sitting on the beach enjoying a wine while the most beautiful sunset fell upon the day – we had made it to the Whitsundays.”

They would spend nearly six months in the region before Daniel took those first steps, ushering in a new phase of their lives.

The boat: 2000 model Riviera 39
Distance traveled: 2,000 nautical miles
Fuel consumed:  6,430 litres



Click to enlarge image: Serenity, a Riviera 39, at Kingfisher Resort.

Serenity, a Riviera 39, at Kingfisher Resort.

At the christening of Serenity – Daniel and mum, Anne Neville.

At the christening of Serenity – Daniel and mum, Anne Neville.

Danny Dekker and son Daniel.

Danny Dekker and son Daniel.

Sailfish caught off the reef.

Sailfish caught off the reef.

Party at Whitehaven Beach.

Party at Whitehaven Beach.

Daniel soaking it up.

Daniel soaking it up.

At Tin Can Bay.

At Tin Can Bay.