Australia's most exclusive Yacht Club with a membership of just ONE !
(don't spoil it by joining!)

Strict dress codes apply:

Life-jacket and tie for gentlemen and inflatable bikinis for ladies.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Holiday Accommodation Batemans Bay

It's amazing how quickly the search engines pick up new blog entries. Why not spread the word about "Riverbend Cottage" this way? So if you've just now GOOGLEd for 'Holiday Accommodation Batemans Bay", please read on:

There is a marvellous amount of nothing to do at Riverbend on the beautiful Clyde River. Eating well, sleeping soundly and moving about in beautiful surroundings is a therapy for which many return year after year.

Escape the stresses and excesses of urban life! Come to "Riverbend" and rediscover what you've always known - that simple pleasures are the best.

Some places have waterviews, others are close to the water. Riverbend Cottage has absolute deepwater river frontage along its whole seven acres. You are so close to the water's edge that for environmental reasons we had to build the modern bathroom a few metres away from the cottage (very romantic on a starlit night!)

For more of this 'infomercial', click here.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Villa Mamana

Steve Gates, with whom Joe is still in contact and whom he describes as "a nice man, doing what I wish I could do", arrived on Telekivava'u in November 2003 and was the island's longest-serving caretaker, staying there for three to four years. Afterwards he lived for some more years in Vava'u which he has left only recently by boat. He called in at Telekivava'u again and is now somewhere in Melanesia. In 2007, a couple, Claudia & Roland Pizarro, were the island caretakers; Roland Schwara followed in 2008.

From the log of the yacht Sloupmouche, dated 21 November 2004:"Visited Telekivava'u, a private resort island. We met Steve, an American on a trimaran, who sailed from Hawaii to be the manager/caretaker of this resort just bought by a friend there. This small luxurious resort was built 7-8 yrs ago by a German married to a Tongan wife. Spent time and money to build something fancy to accommodate 4 persons, never got any paying guests as the logistics are quite difficult, the nearest airport being 45 miles away with only a small lagoon-type boat to ferry the guests! It can be quite rough and the seas may be too big for a trip to the resort so the guests would be stuck on the airport island instead! The German, with the excuse that he wanted his kids to go at school in Nukualofa, the capital, sold the resort to that American who fell for the dream of owning an island resort in beautiful Tonga. It's been over a year now and he slowly realises that the project is costing him a lot of money and not being that wealthy, he may decide soon to either get partners in his private island or to sell out. Needless to say that he didn't get any paying guest so far either!"

From the logbook of the yacht HARMONICA which anchored off Telekivava'u in October 2005: "The clearest water we found was probably off the "resort island" of Telekivavau. The term Resort Island could be misleading since the last guest checked out nearly 6 months earlier. A caretaker lives there on his own and takes care of the lovely building and keeps the grass lawn cut. He (Steve from Hawaii) seemed glad to have company for the 2 days we spent anchored inside his reef and twice he joined us for supper on board Harmonica, and we joined him for sunset drinks on the north beach where we could watch the large flying foxes (fruit bats) desperately flapping from one island to the next, and the frigate birds harassing boobies for food."

I've just received this email from Joe (Jörg) in Berlin:

Hi Peter,
I lost Horst's email address - horstberger??@??. Do you have it? Do you know if he sometimes checks it?
Regards from a very chilly Berlin,
Joe & Lola (formerly residents of Telekivava'u Island, Ha'apai)
Hotel Pension Senta
Bundesallee 137, 12161 Berlin
Telefon: +49 (0)30 - 850 73 73
Fax: +49 (0)30 - 852 11 66

I first heard about Joe when I visited Tonga in 2006 and quite by chance met Horst Berger who had stayed at Joe's property, Villa Mamana, on tiny Telekivava'u Island for several months.

Joe had come to Tonga in 1994 following a royal visit to Germany by the late King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV. during which the king had invited German citizens to come and live and invest in his tiny kingdom. Joe, a pilot, had been looking for the right place to start his seaplane business in an island country with many islands and sandy beaches with shallow lagoons. He thought the Maldives were too Islamic, the Bahamas too screwed up, Fiji too Indian, but Tonga just right: very authentic, relatively untouched, with nice people and beautiful weather, and foreign investment officially welcomed.

Teleki'vavau, second from left, from the air

Joe and Lola at Villa MamanaHowever, with the Government delaying the issuing of an operating license for his seaplane. he and his by now Tongan wife Lola decided to wait and in the meantime started to build in 1997, as a support business to their original plans, Villa Mamana on Telekivava'u where he secured three leases of "tax apis" of 20 years each. It took him two years to get his first lease - with almost no bribes paid!

He had picked Telekivava'u "... because of its natural lagoon, which made it suitable for landing a seaplane (about one metre water depth at low tide). The distance from Nuku'alofa was also good (too far by boat, not too far for a seaplane with regards to fuel - one return trip on one filling). It is also one of the most beautiful islands in Tonga. It has not only coconut trees and bushes, but still has a substantial amount of big, old leaf trees. Turtles lay their eggs on the island, and it also has a huge bird population whereas on other islands birds have a hard time due to humans, cats, rats & pigs. Untouched diving and fishing grounds; people from neighbouring islands still use outrigger canoes. Picture-perfect island in the truest sense of our romantic ideas of the South Seas."

For the next four years he created, single-handedly with just the occasional help from some local fishermen, this most exquisite resort. The villa was finished in 2000, the other two houses a bit later, although, as Joe admits, "any building in a tropical environment is never finished as once the last nail is in, the first one needs replacing."

It must've been a labour of love because the logistics and the costs to transport material and build on this tiny and remote island must have been quite daunting. He bought the furniture and the marble and tiles and fittings for the bathrooms from Indonesia, the timber and roofing from the USA, and the rest in New Zealand and Tonga. Finally, he was able to welcome his first $500-a-day paying guests as well as Astrid and Martin, two non-paying "Weltenbummler", from whom he hoped to receive some much-needed publicity.

As Joe writes today: "Of course, I knew about some of the challenges before we started, and also knew that I would run into a million more down the road, but difficult things are not accomplished by the doubtful. So I figured I would deal with the problems as they come along, and not let the fear of the unknown problems spoil my dream. I also knew that I would need a lot of luck for things to go my way, as you always need to be successful (and lucky I was on many occasions). I was also single and young - why not try to start what you always dreamed of then? I would not attempt anything like that today with my family to look after, but at the time it made sense to me."

Villa Mamana

But, as he now recalls, "a lot of things also changed in Tonga which put the brakes on the whole tourism sector: Royal Tongan Airlines was about to go under, tour operators left Tonga, the Chinese came, etc etc. Marketing was not so much a concern as was transportation. Flight schedules to Pangai changed weekly, as did those of flights into Tonga, which scared the tour operators away. Overnight accommodation in Pangai and Nuku'alofa had become a disaster, and prices went up, especially petrol for our boats. I should have had a partner or two from the start, but, on the other hand, all partnerships of this sort that I have witnessed ended up either in tears or in court, or both. I would not mind living on an island again, but doing business in a banana monarchy is a different story. I would rather live a simple and quiet life on an island off my savings than trying to to be the binding link between this world and the one in the islands. Besides the hassle with corruption at every corner, you end up having to explain to the natives what your guests expect (cleanliness, punctuality, dependability), and to your guests you have to explain that their expectations of the South Seas have little to do with reality (e.g. bugs, boredom if there is no bungy-jumping, no topless girls, no low-fat milk, no cable television). And that on a daily basis. Backpackers are the worst! Their expectations are often the highest. They usually first try to get the €10 dorm bed for €5 because in Thailand it only costs pennies; then they explain to you how to solve the country's problems; they don't eat the banana because it does not have a label with a list of ingredients; they all need internet access; they waste energy and water; they are generally more interested in discussing the last stop on the backpacker trail around the globe than in this country and its people; and in the end they ruin your business with comments on the internet because someone ate their can of spaghetti."

Eventually, in 2002, with few guests and with their two children needing schooling, Joe and Lola decided to sell Villa Mamana for US$495,000 "before the thing would slip out of our hands", and moved to the main island Tongatapu, where there was little else to do but grow some vanilla and look after some cows and papaya plants.


The Villa Mamana is situated on deserted Telekivava'u Island in the South Seas last kingdom, the Kingdom of Tonga, 37 nautical miles south of Pangai with its regional airport. This almost untouched part of Polynesia offers all the lonely island cliche could suggest: crystal clear waters, rich marine life, lush tropical vegetation, an authentic culture, and absolute peace of mind. The Villa (built in 1999)is right at the white beach and the shallow lagoon which surrounds the island. 3000 sq/ft of villa hold 2 1/2 bedrooms with ensuite marble bathrooms, the great room, two huge decks (which become part of the great room with the french doors opened), and a porch. All facing west to ensure beautiful sunsets over the warm South Pacific Ocean. High ceilings, wooden floors, teak furniture, and the light reflecting from the lagoon give the colonial style building its special charm. Amenities include: TV, VCD, Stereo, Satellite Phone, Fans, Washer, Workshop, Fishing Gear, etc Further down the beach you will find the kitchen house of 700 sq/ft(fully equipped)with a studio, and a smaller house (500sq/ft)which is ideal as caretaker quarter. Included in sale are also a 40ft motor yacht, a 27ft gamefishing power boat, a runabout, and utilities like: Two diesel gensets. Two inverters Two battery banks Solar pannels Desalination system Watertank and much more.

A couple of Americans from Hawai'i, Kendall Struxness (who died in April 2011 of colon cancer) and another one, Matt Muirhead, bought Villa Mamana. They continued to advertise the resort via their website which has since gone 'off the air'.

From Villa Mamana's original website

Roland SchwaraThis travel blog, written (in German) in April 2008 by Sandra and Thomas, two Swiss visitors to Ha'apai, mentions Loli (or Lolani, Roland Schwara) , a German who'd come out to Tonga in the mid-1990s, operated a diving school in Ha'apai and was then employed as caretaker at US$3,000 a month by Villa Mamana's new American owners who visited no more than two or three times a year for just a few days. Loli was making his once-a-month three-hour round-trip to Pangai, the administrative centre of Ha'apai, which, at 30 knots, cost 100 litres/hour of fuel, or US$600. At $1,500 a night, he only had three paying guests at Villa Mamana in the last 1-1/2 years and perhaps felt a bit lonely because he invited our Swiss travellers to stay on the island for a month for free and even offered them a few months' paid work as relieving caretakers!

According to a passing yachtie's blog dated 24 July 2010, "Telekivava'u used to have a one guest house resort on it but the people have left and everything is boarded up, but we managed to tap into one of the water tanks and catch up on washing again. The front of the guest house looked lovely with all our washing strung between the coconut trees out front. There were green bananas and papayas, beans growing along the ground but nothing ripe yet."

And now Joe and Lola have returned to Germany and operate a 'Hotel-Pension' in the centre of Berlin! What I like to know is how somebody who's lived for over a decade in the South Seas can put up with the cold and crammed lifestyle in Germany? As he writes, "We all had the best time of our lives on the island, and will always miss it - unless we find another island and build a 'Villa Mamana Lite' just for us."

Joe tells me he still owns a 5% share in Villa Mamana but 5% of nothing isn't much because, unless the place is constantly maintained, that's exactly what will be left of Joe's dream: NOTHING!

Which leaves him to ruminate, "Seeing or hearing about the decline of the buildings on MY island is never a pleasure. I/we rather keep the place in our memories as it once was." When asked if he would ever write about his fascinating life on Telekivava'u, Joe admits that "... I have been thinking of writing a book about our time on the island, but so far have not been able to. Life goes on and a lot of stories simply fade from your memory, which makes the task even more difficult. And right now, I simply don't have the time. I should go and see Horst one day to help me refresh my memory a little."

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Vada a bordo, cazzo!"

An Australian company,, is selling T-shirts quoting the now famous tirade against the "coward captain" of the Costa Concordia.

The shirts carry the phrase "Vada a bordo, cazzo!" - which translates to "Get back on board, d...!" - from the audio recording of a heated exchange between harbour master Gregorio de Falco and captain Francesco Schettino.

De Falco was ordering the captain to return to his ship - and has now gained hero status for his tirade.

Batemans Bay's very own Costa Concordia

Click on image for a BEFORE picture

Portugese maritime history went straight to the bottom of Batemans Bay when yacht Vale De Moura sunk early yesterday morning. The Vale De Moura is the last survivor of a fleet of traditional, sail-powered vessels that worked commercially on and around the west coast of Portugal. Built in 1956, the yacht carried salt to fishing boats in Portugal before it was fitted with a motor and taken to Germany.

For more than a decade, the Vale de Moura was little more than a tourist icon ship-wrecked at The Wharf, Mooloolaba, Queensland, but in early 2005 the now 56-year-old wooden boat, which circumnavigated the globe twice in its heyday, was been given a second chance after a pirate story curtailed its first adventures in Australia.

Customs officials impounded the 72-foot sailing vessel when it sailed into Mooloolaba in 1994 as they didn't believe the Austrian captain who said he sailed it from Europe single-handedly. They thought he had killed all his crew. The Vale de Moura was impounded for three years and was then sold to a Perth businessman who had dreams of restoring it. Years passed while the boat languished at the Mooloolaba Wharf.

That was until John and Krystina Mackintosh from Batemans Bay spotted it while holiday on the Sunshine Coast in 2004. They thought it would be wonderful to restore and so Mr Mackintosh gathered his sailing friends, Tony Sutton, Peter Walsh and Bob Beresford, called the Four Buccaneers, bought it and sailed it to its new home in Batemans Bay. The Vale De Moura had been moored in the Bay since then.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Position Report TEKANI II

"I am flying back to Cairns on Monday for about 10 days before returning to Mooloolaba where T2 is in a marina berth still waiting for repairs to the Paguro genset.

The first and only electrical engineers who have ever seen one of these Italian exotica have convinced me that the original installation of the unit by what can only be described as a rogue installer is the cause of its litany of faults and failures. The exhaust system, as it presently exists, guarantees that a backflow of hot, saltwater-saturated exhaust gas into the engine will corrode and permanentlydamage the piston, cylinder liner, valves and associated parts etc.

Dismantling has confirmed all of the above and I am informed that the engine can be rebuilt and repaired and the exhaust train can be altered to prevent it all happening again.

Not the fault of Geoff Benson, the previous owner who bought the machine from its Australian importers and used an installer recommended by them. Previous contacts with the manufacturers and their distributor do not inspire much confidence that they will accept any responsibility for all this and a warranty claim is unlikely to succeed after all this time, but watch this space."

Friday, February 3, 2012

For sale: Waterfront Property "Riverbend" near Batemans Bay

You have to live somewhere - it may as well be Paradise!

Here's a bit of an advertisement on my own behalf: the sale of our 7-acre-plus property "Riverbend" with almost 400 metres of absolute waterfront near Batemans Bay on the South Coast of New South Wales. For more information go to

It's the sort of property that is usually passed down the family as there are only a few like it on the Clyde River. I have been here for 18 years and for me it's time to move on - regrettably! - as we plan to live for part of the year in Kalimantan (Borneo) in Indonesia which makes it near-impossible to also maintain such a large property this far south.

The price - for those who can afford it - is very realistic as nearby unimproved waterfront blocks just 1500 square metres in size and with as little as 19 metres of waterfront have recently sold for $750,000. By contrast, "Riverbend" consists of eight titles, comprising approx. 29,200 square metres (see map), is on sale for $2 million, lock, stock and barrel. For those who feel a little financially challenged, I can offer very substantial vendor's finance on below-bank finance terms.

If you're interested, contact me by email to


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Position Report TEKANI II

"Greetings all from Mooloolaba where T2 is now moored after an uneventful sail down from Tin Can bay. The Wide Bay Bar behaved itself apart from producing a solitary green sea over the bow in 5 meters just before reaching the deep water.
The 55-mile leg from there to here was completed in yacht salesmens' weather. 15 knots on the beam all the way and we anchored in the Mooloolah river at 9 pm.

Lawries Marina is full with no available berths, so T2 will be in the yacht club marina for the next 3 weeks while the fate of the temperamental Paguro genset is decided.

I will be flying back to Cairns in about a week's time to attend to a few meetings which require my presence, then it will be back to M'aba to continue south. This end of Queensland is a better place to be at this time of the year."