Bundy artist learns to sail, set to travel world on boat
ADVENTURE is something many of us have been missing this year but not for one Bundaberg artist, who has quite literally seas-ed the day and bought herself a house boat.
Vanessa Allegra has always been a free spirit, keen to step out of her comfort zone and go on an adventure, no matter how crazy the journey seems.
And now after buying her own boat, the Bundaberg oil painter is soaking up all the information she can with the intention to set sail across the world, once COVID-19 restrictions ease.
It was a dream that came to fruition after she first crossed paths with a sailor who inspired it, six years ago.
"I was on a flight sitting next to this tall handsome American and he told me about how he bought this old yacht with his dad, fixed it up and they sailed across the world in it together," Ms Allegra said.
"I'd never really thought about the idea of living on one, sailing around islands and diving off your own boat before and that was just so cool to me."
Inviting her to join his crew, Ms Allegra begrudgingly declined due to prior commitments and the pair parted ways to continue on their travels, but the thought never left her mind.
She began searching online and looking at boats for sale, but had no luck in her quest, before a particularly special opportunity came up.
Hoping to create her own floating art studio, the boat had to have a large table to rest her easel and white interiors, but more importantly plenty of natural light.
"Through my boat research - and by the way, Yacht Hub is the place to go, I found a lot of boats were really dark inside or were a bit too compact for me to have the space to paint," Ms Allegra said.
"I don't know why this boat is so lovely and light, but I appreciate it so much and the makers are fantastic."
Named Desperados, the boat needed a lot of TLC, which was particularly daunting for someone with no experience in sailing or boat maintenance, but the artist couldn't deny how she felt and it was love at first sight.
Built by Sydney sailors who quickly made a name for themselves in the boating world, the Swanson brothers brought Desperados to life in the 1960s, around the era that fibreglass hulls came into style.
Winning every major Australian race during their time, many of boats the siblings crafted were designed for ocean racing.
Desperados, originally named Gillawa (an Aboriginal word meaning fast), was built for A.J Wildman, who first sailed the boat in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
It went on to win many awards, with the original trophy plaques still showcased on Ms Allegra's new boat.
Religiously studying the content inside the books Ms Allegra inherited from the previous owner, it has certainly been a learning curve for the Bundaberg local, but she is loving every moment of it.
"Knots were just the beginning - I've been learning all the different terminology for parts of the boat and I had to teach myself how to row out to the boat without getting caught in the drift … but at least I'm getting muscles out of it," Ms Allegra said.
"It's not like a house where it's solid and you can call a tradie if something goes wrong - you're pretty much on your own on a boat and you have to be able to pull everything a part for easy access and fix things on the go."
Fortunately Ms Allegra has made a bunch of friends along the way, receiving help from the 'next door neighbours' and tight-knit boating community.
"Men are kind of expected to be interested in and know about this stuff, but we as women are not necessarily encouraged to learn about these things," she said.
"My mum tried her best for me but she wasn't taught these things either so it's been really amazing to learn from my two neighbours who even came over to make sure everything was sorted in case of flooding … it's scary at first but it's so worth it.
"Word travels really fast on the water and they call me 'Newbie', which I don't mind because it's kind of cute and I am a newbie that barely knows what she's doing, but they really look out for me."
Despite her modesty, the boat rookie managed to successfully label her engine to differentiate the parts, learnt to reel her winch in and out and even rewired her own bilge - an achievement that Ms Allegra jokes gives her the qualifications to become a sparky.
Boiling peppermint tea on her gas cooker, the kitchen has its own sink, a portable fridge and ample counter top space.
With plenty of storage compartments, the boat also has two water tanks, a spacious main bed, a spare bed at the opposite end and plenty of seating options in the lounge and dining area.
Having experienced life off the grid over the years, the artist said limited electricity was almost a state of normal, but the boat also features in-built speakers and two solar panels.
Plus it has the luxury of an enclosed toilet.
"We call it the 'strip to sit' because you can't go in with clothes on as it's so small, but I love this boat - it has all the creature comforts except a shower which I'm investigating a solution for at the moment," Ms Allegra said.
"It's really made me realise how much space I actually need … I go to a house now and think it's too much and hate that it's cemented in place.
"Views are constantly changing on the boat because it's always spinning, dolphins actually swim past you, the lights shine in and you can see the stars at night - the pay off of being out here on the water is way too high."
After a temporary hiatus due to COVID-19, Ms Allegra will commence lessons with the local sailing club and plans to sail across the world.