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Value of Experience on the High Sea

Value of Experience on the High Sea

Author Joseph Conrad once said: “There is nothing more enticing, disenchanting and enslaving than the life at sea.” Literature is full of sentiments trying to capture in words the allure of the deep blue while conveying its danger and unpredictability. The ocean leaves its mark on all those who experience it, and writers are no exception.

When it comes to enduring peril on the high sea, experience is priceless. But securing that experience starts in the harbour, before the sea is confronted.

Rod Twitchin, Director of Rod Twitchin Marine (RTM) at Coomera, says sea experience is vital not just in the selection of crew, but even for refurbishments and repairs. RTM serves in a broad array of fields including vessel surveying work, commercial, recreation, project management, and consultancy, and has just opened a dedicated refit and maintenance division named Rod Twitchin Marine Refit & Maintenance (RTMR). This employs a “crew” with many years of marine experience and plenty of sea miles in both sailing and steaming.

“If the owner needs assistance, the time we have spent at sea gives us the ability to understand what is required when conducting repairs and/or consulting with our clients. We understand the stresses and strains any vessel and its systems will experience out on an angry ocean,” he explains.

It is expertise, Rod says, that his clients swear by, considering the boat business has a people element that is all about rapport-building between vessel owner and business. “Many a time we have sat with our new – or current – clients with a cuppa, and discussed anchorages we have both been, from the Kimberley region and Broome, the Louisiade Archipelago, Solomon Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and the New South Wales and Far North Queensland coasts, and many other places in between,” he states. “It’s this time that confidence is earned and friendships are forged without realising!”

The whole of Rod’s career has revolved around water. He served as an operations manager at a water ski park, before moving north to Hamilton Island, where he became involved with the commercial side of the industry and gaining his first commercial ticket as a professional instructor in the early 90s. He worked for Sunsail when it first entered Australian waters in the Whitsundays. He became the harbour master at the Hamilton Island marine office. He left Hamilton Island aboard the iconic 34-metre luxury motor yacht Dreamtime as engineer/ watchkeeper for eight years, and then went on to skipper various other vessels prior to moving ashore. Rod worked as both project manager and general manager of large marine refit and repair companies prior to starting Rod Twitchin Marine in 2011.

Yet with more than 35 years of experience on the water, Rod still says the most defining was his time out on the South Pacific. “In the 2000s, we went across to New Zealand for the last Americas Cup they had over there,” he recalls. “About 36 hours out, we got caught in the low. Not scary, but you had to have your wits about you. We then went to Fiji and New Caledonia, and from New Caledonia all the way home to Brisbane, we were hammered by the seas. There were three of us pretty much sitting up in the wheelhouse for three days and two nights with the same Jimmy Buffet CD going around and round!”

Rod further points out that proper accreditations do have advantages in the business. “Someone who has never been to sea doesn’t really understand the sea or what the boat’s attitude is. Having accreditations from AMSA as a master and engineer certainly complements my marine surveyor’s accreditation as it really gives an understanding of what’s needed on the high seas.”

RTM’s suite of services includes project management and consultancy, commercial and recreational surveying, pre-purchase and insurance condition reports, valuations, safety inspections, vessel manuals, safety management systems, insurance reporting, and even interior design.

Rod’s expansion at The Boat Works Coomera is a natural progression, which complements RTM and ensures all facets of refit and repair can be covered in-house. The new RTMR team will be diverse, about half a dozen or so in size, and capable of providing boats 20 feet and over with refits, delivered with good old-fashioned service.

An additional investment at Coomera Boat Works will also help. “When the new 300-tonne lift comes in,
we can start working on bigger boats,” Rod says. “If they’re in survey, they can have their annual inspection out of water for commercial purposes. They can also just come out and have refurbishment done, service works, or annual in and out of water works.”

Although having that capability to service big boats will help, Rod will always welcome local boat owners. They have supported him for more than eight years and history has shown many take advantage of his sea experience with open arms. “We welcome a call from our clients any time, even if it’s to ask a question about weather, tides, or issues aboard. We don’t want their weekend ruined over a simple fix. Not only can we help, we want to!”


Interview by Chris Logan



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