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Pantaenius Australia - Comes in twos

by John Curnow on 1 Feb 2016
Happier times for Fluer d’Epice as she explores the tropics. Event Media
Now normally it’s threes, but when you have been tapped on the shoulder, as it were, twice in 12 months, you could be thinking there is another just around the corner. So it’s lucky for one Pantaenius client, that the third was actually a speedy, efficient and caring insurer. One who made you as comfortable as possible and through their myriad of connections, got on to solving the issues before they became even bigger ones.

Jim Harris and his catamaran(s), Fleur d'Epice, have been very active mariners indeed. Like a lot of multihullers, they’re more inclined to be out doing it and less likely to be at home. Now like all grand adventures the ones that were about to unfold had humble beginnings and a liberal serve of the collective power that a group of friends can muster.

Certainly for Harris and co there had been many highs, but as he says, “I was about to face the worst boating moment I have ever experienced in my life. It all started with a group of friends sitting round the table on my deck at home on Hope Island (on Australia’s Gold Coast). We were looking at some photos out of the paper from Thailand and reading about the annual King’s Cup Regatta held at Phuket Island. Well, after a few beers and wines we hatched a plan to take my yacht, a Lagoon 410 bluewater catamaran, up there to race in the cruising class.”

“Out came the charts and the adventure planning was under way. We had six months to get there, and a lot of things to do if we were going to pull this off. Three months later, Fleur d'Epice, went out through the Southport Seaway and pointed north, with six very happy sailors heading off on the adventure of a lifetime”, said Harris.

Now what an adventure they had. Lady Musgrave Island, the Percy Islands, Mackay, Hamilton Island, Townsville, thence on to Darwin, which was their stepping off port for departing Australia. Along the way there was abundant on shore exploring and driving race boats in the Australian Superboat Series to enjoy. Yes, when Harris feels the need for speed, he really does sate it entirely!

Like any long delivery, many crew are needed and so too for Harris, with people enjoying parts of the journey, as they leap-frogged their way up and then over the top of Australia. The boat got left for a spell in Darwin before the next band of gleeful family and friends arrived to head into Indonesia. Harris even allowed himself to reflect that ‘every thing was going to plan and our reconnoitring was bang on’.

The Joys.

Kupang, the most southern Customs clearance point into Indonesia, was the first port of call. Then it was a sail to Rote, which is a well-known surfing locale as there were a couple of keen surfers aboard. A visit to Lombok ensued, stopping at many islands in the area along the way. A short sail over to Bali followed and the boat was again left for a short while crew returned home. Later on, and after replenishment, they set sail for Bantam, the most northern customs clearance in Indonesia and then sailed around Singapore and up the Straits of Malacca to the magical island of Langkawi.

Once more the boat would have a spell on her own before the owner returned to take her on to the prize, Thailand’s famous King’s Cup Regatta. “The crew for this leg was my wife Carlene, and a friend of mine John, with his girlfriend Olli. What a great time was had by all! We spent a week sailing up to Thailand, stopping at many islands along the way. The island people treated us so well, everywhere we went.”

“A week racing in the King’s Cup was just amazing. It was everything we had hoped for. We left on the following Monday heading back to Langkawi, leaving the boat there once more, and flying home for Christmas. The crew and I had been invited to take part in the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club regatta, so two weeks later we arrived back in Langkawi to do it. What an amazing week with racing all day and social events every night! We got a second and a third in the regatta. We also picked up the award for best and fairest which we loved”, said a delighted Harris.

So the return voyage was to begin. Bantam was once more the target destination, but with only two crew on board from there, Harris did the prudent thing and hired a Skipper out of Bantam to help them complete the 1300nm leg down to Bali. Fleur d'Epice would again have to cool her heels for a few weeks, but her reward before making for Darwin would be a full detail, new anti-foul and the latest chart system and cards that Harris had brought with him from Australia.

Round One.

Lombok was the first stop and then on to the Gillis, which are a group of delightful, low-lying islands just on the top of the main island. This is where the fun stopped. Harris explained, “We were motoring up the shipping channel to the south of Bali. Coming up on our Starboard side was Nusa Lembongan, with its well-known shipwreck reef. We gave the reef a two mile girth, as we thought the new mapping upgrade, Pinpoint Platinum, that we had installed was 2.13 miles out - that's a lot!”

“We hit the reef, though I thought we had hit a boat, as it was a moonless night and a lot of the time the fisherman up there don't have any lights on their boats. It was Shipwreck Reef that we were meant to be two miles away from! We tried to back the boat off, but with the tide going out we were in a lot of trouble. The boat was well stuck. The waves that now got up to three metres, were picking her up and smashing her back down on to the reef”, said Harris.

“We had no choice but to abandon ship. My first priority was to get everybody off as safely as I could. We had let off all of our flares, called Mayday on both the VHF and HF radios, but there was to be no help from anybody. We could see people on the beach, but they made no attempt to come and get or help us. Later we would find out that some of them had been killed trying to help another boat.”

“We lowered the tender into the water and everybody got ready to jump in. The problem was the tender would land on the reef for a second then one of those waves would throw it up in the air. One of the crew was a good swimmer and surfer, so he jumped over the side and into the tender, franticly pulling the starter cord on the motor. It fired, thank goodness, and timing the lift of the wave we all jumped in. We had to ride into shore on the back of a big wave, for in front there was very little water.”

Doh! Doh! Doh!

Harris and crew were not in the clear yet, “We finally cleared the reef and came into the lagoon and I breathed a sigh of relief, but it was short lived. There were calls of sharpened sticks poking out of the water between the waves, with one of them punching the tender and the for’ard section deflated very quickly! Everybody commenced bailing out with everything, including hands. We made it to the beach - very wet, but OK.”

It was now 11pm and they got some accommodation on the beach, as Harris ‘watched my baby getting smashed apart on the reef’. By morning the boat had made its way into the lagoon. The damage was unbelievable with the mast waving in the breeze, as the starboard hull had let go and the stay was loose. Harris had been calm enough to put the anchor and 30m of chain out before they stepped off, so that helped, but with the daylight came the big question for them.

“What do we do? We are in a remote place, with no clothes, but at least the satellite phone worked. We rang our families, told them what had happened and that we were fine. The next call was to my insurance broker, Rebecca from Insure Queensland. Ten minutes later she rang back and said that Adam Brown from Pantaenius Insurance will be calling shortly. Adam actually rang right away. The first words out of his mouth were ‘is everybody OK and is anybody hurt? What do you need?’ His voice was a great thing to hear. We filled him in on the happenings and said to relax, he’d be back in touch within the hour.”

Cavalry Arrives.

“He rang back within 30 minutes and said that help was on its way. We have an Assessor who lives on an Island just off Bali. It will take him two hours to get to you and pretty much to the minute a boat pulls into the lagoon and a man steps off, puts out his hand, and said relax people were here to help. His name was Rob Sterling and watching his crew of Indonesian workers was amazing. They got the mast down, found a shed to store all the parts, dived down and retrieved all sorts of parts that had come away from the yacht.”

“With tears in my eyes I tried to help Rod, and he simply said, ‘Mate, we can do it’. He turned to one of his crew and had me taken ashore. My heart was broken. I’d destroyed my boat. The thing that had brought me so much joy over the last six months was lying there so broken. I simply cannot describe the feeling. All the time, this wonderful crew of people from Pantaenius had wrapped us up and taken such good care of everything.”

On returning to Australia, Harris went to see Rebecca to fill out the forms and the very next day Adam Brown rang him to say the claim was being processed and he would ring me as soon as he got an answer. Within days both Adam and Rebecca got back to him. Claim approved - go and look for a replacement yacht.

Silver Lining.

“I did find a Leopard 42 catamaran that was in very good condition and the poor guy selling it was dying of cancer. I told him my story and I could see the ocean in his eyes. He had an offer higher than what I had put forward, but he said he wanted me to have it. He wanted his baby to ‘go to someone that would use her and show her new parts of the world’, which were his words, explained Harris.

“As he only had a short time to live, Errol asked if I could raise the money in a hurry, so he could settle his affairs. I loved the boat, so I rang Adam Brown and told him the story. He came back to me and said that Pantaenius would pay the claim in instalments, as the money was coming from Australia and overseas. True to his word, the claim came in four instalments and was paid in full within a month. This was such a good outcome, for I could pay for the new yacht before Errol passed away.”

Batter Up. Second Innings.

More than enough for any mariner you might think. Well, not in the case of Jim Harris, who had got his life back to normal and was enjoying his new cat slipping along nicely in a 15-knot breeze on the Gold Coast’s Broadwater. An ‘almighty bang’ heralded the for’ard beam letting go on the Starboard side, which meant the forestay went and then the rig came down, crashing across the deck and ‘punching a hole in the bridge deck you could climb through!’ It took over two hours to get the rig and sails, now dragging along in the water, down and tied to the side of the boat

“With a heavy heart I knew I had to ring Rebecca and Adam Brown. It was like a nightmare. They had already been so amazing in the past. What do you say? Once again the first thing Adam said is ‘everybody ok?’ His concern was so caring, it seamed to make you feel better in a bad situation. I mean I felt so bad. Two boats badly damaged in under a year. I was angry that the welds had let go on the spar and that I had to call on Adam and Pantaenius to help again.”

Brown actually pointed out that they were lucky, for it could have happened in the middle of the ocean and imagine if there had been somebody up front in the trampoline at the time. Harris concurred, saying “My young grandchildren love to sit up there when we have family sailing days and weekends away. We only had a day out the week before and all four of my grand children had been sitting up there!”

A review of the welds showed that there was very little penetration in three other welds. It could have let go at anytime. In true style, it was less than a week for the Assessor to appraise and grant approval to proceed with repairs to the boat. Harris stated, “Once again the whole process was very smooth. Adam and the crew from Pantaenius were unbelievable from ringing and checking how you were going, to where the repairer was up to, and that I was happy with the process and outcome.”

Take Away.

Learning is crucial in this life, especially the hard stuff. So here then is Harris’ very sage advice indeed.
1. Don’t trust any new electric/electronic systems, until you have well and truly tested them in daylight. Also, make sure there is a lot of data supporting the new system.
2. Never trust the navigation systems in Indonesian waters. The old ones are bad, but the new systems are over two miles out.
3. The first episode cost me my boat and broke my heart. Always make sure your insurance company has a great track record. Talk to people that they have insured.
4. Always check and then double-check everything!

Accordingly, Harris is without doubt the best man to sum it all up, commenting, “We are planning another overseas trip; sailing to Fiji, the Cook Islands, then down to New Zealand, back across to Sydney and once more up the coast of Australia to home. I've said it all before - I'm not leaving Australian waters without Pantaenius. Their caring and cover is second to none. Thank you so much. I’ll be forever grateful and in your debt!”

So it did not come in twos in the end. In fact it came in spades – care, concern, responsibility, efficacy, efficiency and funding. All of which made for not only a super outcome, but also a great story and terrific brand ambassador. As usual, there was a price to pay in terms of heartache and disruption, but thankfully in these cases, no human loss to conquer. Ultimately, there were even wins if you look at it closely and in a certain light. Prompt and knowledgeable responses could well be the top of that pile.

Cover with the crew that know boats, is both sensible and prudent. Go to or call +61 2 9936 1670 today and see why everything from superyachts to global cruisers choose the marine originated, all-risk policy that only Pantaenius can provide you with.

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