Peter and Margaret Sheppard
So, Peter as the elder statesman in Australia of Nordhavn boating, tell us a little something about your cruising to date and where you have been so far?
We have been up and down the east coast of Australia starting in 2007 and have circumnavigated Tasmania, as well as, circumnavigating Australia from east to west from Tasmania which is a rather unconventional route (i.e. clockwise). Skie was shipped by Dockwise from Brisbane to Mexico and we travelled to Alaska and back again before crossing the Pacific via the islands finally arriving back home in McKay, Far north Queensland.
Wow that’s amazing, so how many nautical miles have you logged?
So why did you choose a Nordhavn?
Interesting question. Being a stick and rag man I wanted to go to sea with a boat that Margaret would accept and find comfortable. She is not a boater and we were in our early 60’s (when for some, things should be more comfortable). My first choice was a Buizen 48 pilothouse Sailboat but Margaret wasn’t happy about the fact that it tipped a little.
Decision made after meeting a Buizen owner one day who had travelled the world, and revealing my dilemma, he said that I should buy a Nordhavn. He went to his car, pulled out a Passagemaker, tore out the Nordhavn brokerage ad and sent me home with it. Three days of intensive research on the web, I placed an order for a N55, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Hang on Peter, what is a ‘Stick and Rag Man’?
Someone that goes to sea on sail boats. They have a vertical stick with a rag hanging off it. Stick and rag men always denigrate us power guys as being “stink boat men”.
What have been some of your cruising highlights to date?
- B/C / Alaska
- Kimberley – north west Australia.
- Tasmania – south west coast
- Crossing the Pacific, particularly from the Marquesas French Polynesia to Oz.
- Med mooring for fuel off a concrete shipping wharf open to the sea in Nuka Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia. Aft lines snapping and boat surging out to sea with me holding onto the fuel line in right hand and left hand in the aft control box driving her back to the concrete wharf. No serious damage apart from a bent swimstep staple. Wonderful learning experience.
- Matsuuyker Island south west Tasmania in 50kts
- Hiding in a cyclone shelter in the Kimberley where the guide said “Don’t go there”, current was up to 8 kts on the nose.
- Surrounded by whales whilst drifting in Western Australia with the motor off.
- Catching sail fish crossing the Pacific.
- Seeing a close Greek friend of mine drowning Mahi Mahi in olive oil whilst cooking all the way from Fiji to Oz.
- Cleaning up the crap washed on the beach at Spain Bay, Port Davey, Tasmania
- Eating chocolate clams in La Paz Mexico.
- Going into Fords Terror in Alaska where the ‘Yanks’ proclaim to “Keep away from it!”
- Telling the Bio security guy in McKay that confiscated all our French restaurant cooked food we had left over, that we had pissed on it!
- Houtman Abrolhos. Most southern coral reef in the world and the scene of the worst ever mutiny at sea in the 17th century.
- Ningaloo Reef, mid-Western Australian coast. Closest barrier reef to any landmass.
- Sea turning into land in a few short hours at Montgomery Reef in the Kimberley – north west Oz.
Do you travel with an animal/s on board?
Short local trips with our miniature dachshund, Clementine. Great sea dog due to very low centre of gravity.
Clementine proving that a low centre of gravity has its advantages.
In your past life what did you and Margaret do?
Still doing the same for 53 years, retailer of women’s shoes (Peter Sheppard Footwear Pty Ltd.)
There is some suggestion that you have a few loves in your life, what are they?
I love anything that involves creative expression. Painting, designing special gardens at our country property in rural Victoria (Australia), singing at my special quirky, private men’s club, long lunches with close mates drinking the finest booze. Working in the garden in our new English property in Oxfordshire, England and finally, playing with our 7 (soon to be 8) grandchildren is certainly hard to beat!
Above one of Peter’s artworks in watercolour!
Peter hands on during the design stage.
Wow, one of Peter’s and Margaret’s many gardens.
Peter if there is one thing Margaret does that irritates you while underway what would that be?
Making the bed, washing my pyjamas, even before I get out of bed! Spending more fuel on running the generator than the main to fire up the washing machine and dryer. But the main one is asking whether the Stanley’s (stabilisers) are activated 5 seconds from leaving the dock.
And it’s only fair I ask Margaret the same question, so Margaret, if there was one thing Peter does that irritates you what would that be?
Not quick enough to activate the stabilisers.
Onto irritating things, have you ever run out of something while at sea that has caused problems?
Finding that the anchor winch fuse blew because it was too light and all of the spares were even lighter. Hauling the pick by hand with the useless tool provided meant a serious new build had to take place. This I might add was on my maiden anchor. In the Kimberley we ran out of olive oil, and Marguerita mix. Damn!
Would you describe yourselves as more hunters or more gathers?
Definitely hunters, well me anyway! I need to have a project to fulfil always, and become quite morose without one. Spending every night being rocked off to sleep thinking about the business, and having removed this from my priorities these days, I have to have a project to grapple with in my silly little mind. Amazing how the subconscious comes up with some definition and direction to take when you awake.
Why did you name your vessel MV Skie?
Margaret’s idea. Acronym for “Spending the Kids Inheritance Early”
What other names did you consider?
I didn’t want to push my luck with any of Margaret’s early input on anything during my selfish indulgence in buying my dream boat. Happy wife, happy life, or if Mumma aint happy, aint nobody happy.
Pete & Sal O’Brien with Margaret & Peter Sheppard at Dawes Glacier, Endicott Arm.
What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened to you while at sea?
Well it wasn’t funny at the time, but crossing the notorious Bass Strait heading for Adelaide our engine room check revealed we had 600 gal of fresh water up to the oil pan. This water came from an unnecessary strainer installed on the inward line to one of the Tecma toilets exploding, and sending the fresh water pump into overdrive expelling the contents of the tank to the bilges. The bilge pumps were clogged with all the sawdust and bits of wood, so we started a congo line of buckets our to the cockpit via the lazarette. One of my crew became very vocal about my lack of concern about an emergency until I showed him that the fresh water tank was now empty. We all fell about laughing, albeit more of a hangman’s laugh.
What’s the biggest mistake you have ever made on the water?
Anchoring off a restaurant on the Hawkesbury (Cottage Point), and rushing because of being late for a booking, relied on the chain counter for the right scope. Damn thing had jumped from the default setting from metres to feet, and my entree of garlic prawns was interrupted as I saw SKIE float past the restaurant heading towards Bobbin Head. I can’t believe how surreptitiously I ambled through the restaurant to the dinghy, but boy did that Yammy show some revs when underway.
“You promised there would be no carbon tax Ms Julia Gillard” (former Australian Prime Minister).
Tell us a little something about MV Skie?
Brilliant boat in most respects. Not one issue outside of normal boating shit that happens. Plenty of room, easily handled shorthanded. Tough as nails and really hard going. I’m in love with her John Deere main and in the stateroom, the best sleep we have ever had in any home we have lived in. This is mainly due to the soft motion, and a top mattress with a sheepskin underlay and a silk filled doona blanket (comforter).
However I hate the battery sapping domestic refrigerator/freezer. It is a joke and sounds like a tractor engine at 0300 in the morning churning valuable amps. Fixed this by freezing three containers of sea water during the day, and popping them in the fridge overnight allowing me to switch the sucker off. Temp is still around 40 F in the morning.
Skie ready to take off on her next adventure.
What lesson do you believe every boater should learn through reading rather than experience?
Read everything that has ever been printed, and be open to every problem or mistake revealed by others as an object lesson. I have more knowledge of the sea from reading than ever experienced first-hand. I’m always searching for info of anecdotal reports of problems others have had and that I can learn from. I often do a drill procedure in my mind before I nod off to sleep, i.e. how would I react if something came up, and would often reference a book on the subject before nodding off.
Are you scared of spiders?
Not at all, just scared of beating a fire on board if it ever happened, and what my wife will say when I have an important interstate commitment that coincides with when her mother visiting. Also I’m scared of people on watch that will not wake me up if they are confused about something. If someone pulls me out of bed for something trivial, I sleep much better after that instead of having one foot still on the floor throughout the night.
What’s your favourite photo ever taken while at sea and why?
In front of Dawes Glacier, Alaska on the fore deck with Margaret and friends with the Glacier constantly calving in the background. Second would be pulling on board a sailfish between Tonga and Fiji. Another one is my good friend Iain Couper off the SW coast of Tasmania with his Italian ski cap on, and in the background a large rock that was the mirror image exactly. Both were substantially large.
Skie in Alaska in front of calving glacier.
What would you never leave behind (besides each other) when heading out to sea?
Best booze and the best food. I am very fond on many wines, and enjoyed the Napa Valley reds when in the US, but an Amon Ra, or Filsell Shiraz are hard to beat (both Australian wines). I’m also partial to a Tasmanian whisky, but must only be tippled when double tied to a dock.
Margaret, tell us something about yourself or if you prefer Peter, that nobody knows?
Peter orders me out of his sight when it is time to fire up and depart. It is his no talk zone, and he will not even answer me if I suggest a cup of coffee in this period. I have a good nose for smells, and he is always asking me whether I can smell anything. I will never ever go into the engine room and yet spend so much time adjacent in the utility room doing the laundry. Also I annoy him every morning when I claim that I have had the best nights sleep ever, and he sarcastically asks to explain why it was better than the night before, or one two weeks ago.
Now there is some rumour that you are thinking of getting a larger Nordhavn. Is there any truth to this?
Definitely was going to happen, but talked out of it by Milt and Judy Baker when they were on board for a trip around Tassie. They were spot on in retrospect I feel and they’re sound argument was about the added responsibility taking away the simple pleasures. Also having professional staff as you would need to, meant an invasion of privacy.
Talking of rumours, there is another one doing the rounds suggesting that you two are planning to cross the Pacific Ocean again, care to comment?
Absolutely not! Most boring thing I have ever done. Particularly Mexico to FP. Glad I did it, but not a highlight in my life.
And finally, where to next?
Pilots licence and learning to fly a plane. I have been told I will be a single man if I do this, but think it may be just worth it!
….looking good from here.
Keep SKIE close to home where I can ride my bike to see her from home, train my youngest son to take her to sea, head up north for the winter, and down to Tasmania to my favourite spot in the world – Port Davey/Bathurst Harbour on the SW corner.
Thank you very much for your time, will be watching this year’s progress closely. Good luck with your travels!
MV Skies’ blog site can be found at: http://skie1.talkspot.com/
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