Keen Sailor Makes Waves

10 Jan, 2012 04:00 AM
FRANKSTON South retiree Russell Ellis has just completed the journey of a lifetime, travelling 6000 kilometres from Fiji to Somerville on a catamaran he built himself.
Mr Ellis, 68, completed the 11-metre boat Our Trim over eight years and he and Fijian friend Ilisoni (Doc) Qaraniqio sailed it across the Coral Sea, arriving home just in time for Christmas.
The pair left Suva on October 26 and endured gale-force winds and high seas during their travels, including waves up to 10 metres off the coast of Byron Bay.
"It was exhilarating. You hope you put enough fibreglass in the right spots and there are no cracks but she is solid. I am proud and rapt - she sailed well," Mr Ellis said.
They were joined by dolphins, porpoises and seals during the adventure and one night when Mr Qaraniqio felt the boat was gliding on top of the water he suspected that they were being helped along by whales.
Memorable moments included venturing over the horizon and seeing Australia and sailing under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Mr Ellis said.
Mr Ellis, who joined the Rosebud Sea Scouts as a boy and learned to sail, said the sea had always captivated him. "I've always been intrigued by the sea and the early explorers. They knew nothing - it is very easy today for us with a GPS."
Mr Ellis started building the vessel when he was posted to Fiji by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and, after returning to Australia, made regular trips back to Fiji to finish the vessel.
He named the boat after the ship's cat that accompanied explorer Matthew Flinders on his travels. "I have a particular interest in the navigational skills of Matthew Flinders," he said.
Mr Ellis' children Scott and Zoe set up Google and Facebook tracking so family and friends could share the journey with their father.
Although the catamaran includes two cabins with queen-sized beds, Mr Ellis said it felt quite small towards the end of the trip and he was happy to be home. "After living on it for three months it shrunk a little bit."
The keen sailor said he was relieved that the vessel was finally in Australia and would make a few minor improvements so that he could enjoy it with his family and friends while sailing Port Phillip Bay and Western Port.