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Iron Joy: First Class Fishing

Iron Joy: First Class Fishing

Roughly 100kms offthecoast of North Queensland’s Gladstone, lies one of Australia’s true boating gems. Comprising the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef from Hixon Cay to Ribbon Reefs, Swaine Reefs is a relatively unrevealed fishing mecca. Well known to conservationists as an Important Bird Area (IBA), this southernmost pocket of the reefs is also home to some of Australia’s best tropical fish, from giant trevally to nannygai, and you are sure to reel in some of the biggest and best fish you have ever seen.

Since the early 90s, Rob and Anita Benn have been chartering tours around the Gladstone region and from the mid 2000s, began exploring this Coral Sea delight on the illustrious Iron Joy. Boasting 24 meters of fine craftsmanship, Iron Joy was originally built in 2002 by local builder John Hodge of Coomera. It was designed by Rick James to be a gulf trawler, but after four short seasons, Rob and Anita purchased the vessel and completed a stunning refurbishment to bring to you the charter vessel that it is today.

A third generation charter operator, Rob prides himself on providing a first-class experience for each and every participant. From your initial enquiry, to stepping onboard — be it the first, second or tenth time, to heading home with a freezer full of fresh haul, you will endure nothing short of five-star service at every turn. “We endeavour to provide a safe, professional service. Our Masters are highly experienced operators who don’t cut corners and understand the importance of keeping our vessel well maintained, and have a respect for the areas in which we operate and its inhabitants.”

From go to woah, your charter experience upon Iron Joy is just that – an absolute joy. The highly trained skipper, chef and deckhands ensure that your biggest concern for the trip is how you are going to get through all the tremendous fish you bring in each day. A scrumptious meal is provided from breakfast, lunch all through dinner, as well as a daily turndown service to keep even the fussiest fisherman happy. Immaculate interior and exterior finishing will see you sailing the open seas in style, while a humble and friendly atmosphere allow you to completely relax from sun-up till sun-down and well into the night. With 6 x 16ft centre console dinghies equipped with radio communication, you are free to roam the reefs to go fishing, diving, snorkelling and swimming. Did I mention the fishing?

For the past five years, local fisherman and avid Boat Gold Coast Magazine reader, Ray, has been indulging in the gloriousness of the Iron Joy Swaine Reefs charter once or twice a year. Along with his mate, John, and a collective group of roughly 16 other fishermen, these boating fanatics cannot get enough of the quality tours that the Iron Joy crew uphold. An ongoing yearly catch-up for the majority of the fishing crew, this eclectic group ranges in age from late teens to a distinguished 80-something; yet they all have one important thing in common — they just love fishing!

As the boat rarely comes to shore, if at all, during the seven-day trip, it is imperative that those who partake have a genuine interest in fishing the open waters. A typical day sees the boys rise as the sun cracks the horizon with a cup of tea and a pow-wow about where and what they intend to fish for the day. A delectably satisfying breakfast is served at 7am sharp, after which the dinghies are dropped, and the adventures begin. At noon, everyone returns to the mother vessel and another round of gratifying tucker is laid out to fill the bellies before they set out again for the afternoon.

Searching for coral trout, red throat emperor, and more, it is also not uncommon to encounter many other forms of sea life, from whales and dolphins to sea snakes and a plethora of exquisite bird breeds that inhabit the region. Meandering back at 5pm, it is time to crack a coldie, and do the daily weigh-ins. This also being the time that separates the men from the boys, the ribbing and gloating commences, as they revel in excitement of each person’s haul. However, all jokes aside, what they catch they keep, and at the end of the trip, the fish are combined and distributed equally among the group. They come as a group, fish as a group, contend as a group, and feast as a group. Even with 18 members, Ray says, he almost always comes home with enough fish, freshly scaled, gutted and snap frozen, to feed himself and his wife for up to a year!

Dinner is served and the stories of the day are shared around the table as the stars begin to light up the evening sky, providing an inviting glow across the water to continue fishing into the night. While the gung-hoe will fish until they fall asleep standing, others take the time to relax in the evening, reading, entertaining and reconnecting with old friends. This is, after all, a holiday atmosphere to be enjoyed and savoured at each moment. Slowly, they retire to their deluxe four-berth en-suite cabins, collapsing into a deep slumber, lulled by the natural seascape that surrounds them; only to wake up and do it all again tomorrow – the perfect holiday!

Asked if the wives ever join them on these tours, Anita replies, “While it is still largely male dominated, we are getting more and more women coming on board. The vessel layout was designed to cater for mixed trips with a couple of double bunks amongst the cabins.” While the wives will most likely not join anytime soon, Ray insists that is simply because they just do not like fishing enough. That being said, both Anita and Ray agree that these trips are fantastic for father-son bonding. Anita has watched many a son join their dads, only to eventually take their own son aboard as the love of fishing is passed down through generations of family.

At roughly $3000 door to door, depending on the size of your group, these tours are exceptionally priced with absolutely everything included, except your tackle and alcohol. Although Ray disclosed with genuine praise and grace, that as a regular returnee to the vessel, they are often looked after by the skipper as a humble gesture of gratitude and acknowledgement of their loyalty to the RBHolding Charter company. There are other charters that run within the region, but none, according to Ray and John that offer the same quality of service that they receive time and time again from Iron Joy. “It’s first class – the boat, the crew, the food. They provide mateship, a very high standard of safety. It’s just fantastic. It’s always our number one choice.”


By Lowen Taylor





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