Townsville North Queensland is well known for its beautiful beaches, island and outback experiences and of course, it’s reputation as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
So when a locally owned and operated sailing tours and charter business by the name of Big Mama Sailing is nominated finalist in the 2017 Townsville North Queensland Excellence in Tourism and Events Awards, the entire yachting and tourism industry has good reason to pop the bubbly in exuberant celebration.
Afterall, Big Mama Sailing tours and charters help hundreds of people fulfill their lifelong dream of experiencing the majestic appeal of the greatest natural wonder of the world.
Imagine for just a minute, if you owned and operated the vessel that makes this childhood dream a reality, it’s no wonder that hundreds and thousands of people have fallen in love with Big Mama all over again.
Who is Big Mama Sailing
Big Mama is a beautiful 18 metre sailing ketch rigged yacht owned by Stu and Lisa, their son Fletcher and cute little dog Coco. This seafaring family operate their tour and charter business from Magnetic Island and live aboard the Big Mama.
Stu has been sailing since he was eight years old. He has worked in the marine commercial industry firstly as a mate and snorkel guide, then skippering and engineering on vessels for 35 years.
Lisa has been sailing for 22 years. She worked in the commercial marine industry since she first met Stu living in Townsville and working for Coral Sea Cruises.
Both Stu and Lisa have completed their Master V and Marine Engineer Driver commercial tickets and have skippered vessels within Australian waters prior to owning and operating Big Mama Sailing.
But it was on their return from a Southeast Asia cruise in 2004, as they were expecting their son Fletcher to be born, that the dream of operating their own live-aboard commercial yacht had come to mind.
Fletcher has since grown up on yachts all of his life and has become a very competent crew member on Big Mama.
At the time Stu and Lisa were living on another yacht Clair de Lune, which was a Halvorsen Freya 47 vessel, which they sold eventually to buy Big Mama in 2012.
Passion for Sailing and Love of Great Barrier Reef
Stu and Lisa’s passion for sailing and love of the world heritage listed waters around the Great Barrier Reef is clearly displayed as they greet their guests. They are an enthusiastic, fun couple with a genuine warmth for people that is projected in their smiles as they invite each cherished guest on their home on the water.
The Big Mama offers a unique and memorable sailing experience for up to 12 guests during the full day trips and up to 4-5 guests on an overnight trip.
Plenty of information, photos and videos of Big Mama can be viewed on the Big Mama Sailing website and facebook pages, and to get a good sense of other guest experience, reviews are available on Trip Advisor.
Lisa said, “We love sailing Magnetic Island and are happy to pick up or drop off from the Breakwater Marina at Townsville and sail from Townsville City for guests wanting private charters and larger group bookings”.
The family and Big Mama began their commercial sailing business from Mission Beach, 200 kilometres North of Townsville in 2012.
At the beginning of 2017, the couple moved Big Mama Sailing to Magnetic Island off Townsville to enjoy the 300 plus days of sunshine each year.
The yacht is versatile and the family is happy to reposition Big Mama along the North Queensland Coast to suit private sailing adventures, including Mission Beach, Airlie Beach, Cairns and Port Douglas.
History of the vessel
Big Mama was built between 1989 and 1995 to replace a yacht of the same name and size, but of a different design. She was built at Wyalla Gardens on the Bloomfield River just north of the Daintree National Park.
The cabin and hull are steel. High tensile steel has been used below the waterline. The naval architect was Joe Adams. The “Scheel” keel was designed by Henry Scheel. The master yacht builder was Olgut Upite who is originally from Latvia. The tradesmen and shipwrights included Oly’s three sons, Robert, Nick and Chris. Carpenters Ken and Mark Zippel also worked on the Big Mama as did Geoff Freestone who completed the hull fairing.
The Big Mama was originally designed to accommodate 3-5 crew and up to 12 guests. She was operated within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park by partners Haskell, Gloor and Haskell from 1995 until 2012 when Stu and Lisa bought the vessel.
Safety is highest priority
To ensure the guests on Big Mama have a memorable and safe sailing experience, Big Mama Sailing has a break during summer months from mid-January through to the Easter holidays when North Queensland usually experiences less favourable weather conditions.
As safety is the highest priority for Big Mama Sailing, the summer break gives the family time to carry out critical maintenance and surveying requirements as well as spend time with their own family.
Sailing the hazardous and beautiful waters of the Great Barrier Reef requires experience to ensure everyone returns back to port safety.
Stu and Lisa have been sailing the North Queensland region most of their lives. “We know we can show you much beauty above and below the ocean surface”, Lisa said.
Communication is key to customer satisfaction
“Every charter group is different and not all yachts suit all guests. Rather than sell you a charter only to learn later that it was not a good fit for you, the Big Mama Sailing website aims to give interested customers the information needed to make a good decision to choose a Big Mama Sailing experience before we get started”, Lisa said.
With a dedicated objective of customer satisfaction, Big Mama Sailing seeks to engage the right charter to ensure the vessel, crew and destination suit the interests and capacities of their guests.
Big Mama is a family-friendly vessel that attracts groups, couples and solo travellers from all over the world and of all ages.
Whether guests are a novice or expert sailors, swimmers or snorkelers, adults, teens or children, Big Mama Sailing caters to all interests and skill levels within the limitations of safety, preferred itinerary, weather and sense of the ocean.
Winning is icing on the cake
As a proud finalist in the 2017 Townsville North Queensland Excellence in Tourism and Events Awards, Stu and Lisa will be attending the industry diner being held on the 3rd November 2017 at Peppers Blue on Blue Resort on Magnetic Island.
The North Queensland locals are quietly confident that they have a great tourism product in a great location to take out the highly regarded tourism and events award for Townsville North Queensland.
But the greatest reward of all for Stu, Lisa, Fletcher and Coco is for more guests to contact Big Mama Sailing and book any of the awesome trips to the Great Barrier Reef, Magnetic Island, Sunset cruises and even the shorter day cruises around the islands in the Coral Sea.
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