by Jeni Bone
Casting a dignified shadow over the marina at its superyacht berth at Southport Yacht Club, Flamingo Bay is 36m and 56 years of history and adventure, with the solid construction and spirit to delivery another 50+ years of service.
According to her Skipper and owner, Capt David Tomlinson, who has lived aboard Flaming Bay Research for the past nine years, 'she is as stable as land' but much more exciting.
Built by Belliard Creighton for the Belgian government in 1956, the product of two years planning and designing and two years construction to the highest specifications, she is '56 years young', says David.
'She was originally built for coastal patrols and rescues on the treacherous North Sea. They didn’t scrimp with any of the construction. Most ice-breaker steel is 8mm thick, ours is 12mm.'
For over 29 years, her reputation has been for exploring our planet’s more isolated zones in extraordinary style, comfort and safety. Fully air conditioned, she boasts diesel/electric power, water maker, plenty of electricity, diving compressor, crane and helipad facilities on board.
And now Flamingo Bay is for sale by expressions of interest.
Bought some 12 years ago, David began modernizing her to become one of Australia’s finest charter explorers. She is a mixture of old world charm and modern technology, big, tough, stable and a stand out where ever she goes.
'She has the original Flemish features, timber panelling, teak decks, beautiful finishes and attention to detail, with all the modern features. I have added AC electricity throughout, generators, high-tech navigational equipment, water systems, air-conditioning and TVs and entertainment systems.'
FLAMINGO BAY day lounge
Run by two massive diesel electric engines, known as a ‘Siamese gearbox’, and a single shaft, she is power personified, but rarely uses both engines. In fact, as David reveals, when there's a technical issue with the engines, he is more likely to consult Queensland Rail than the local marine engineer!
The perfect mother-ship, dive platform, scientific platform, research, training, resupply, surfing safaris, exploration, eco charters, TV and Film productions or your own maritime office, the editing suite also doubles as a surveying room for geographical projects. There are laundry facilities, commercial galley/kitchen plus cool room and freezers. She is in Australian USL survey 2B for 12 passengers and 8 crew totally 20 all up, cruising at 9-10 knots and a sprint of 13 knots.
'We hold 35,000 Litres of fuel, which can take us 5,000 miles without slowing down,' says David. We also carry 18,00 Litres of water and can produce 6,000 per day with two desalinators.'
According to Ian Swan Director at Swan Super Lines, his company will manage the world tender system which will be completed 31st July. 'This will go through our associates in Europe and Asia as well as direct to Australia market,' he explains.
FLAMINGO BAY head on
The reasons for buying an ice breaker of this calibre are many and varied. One thing for certain, she is unique. 'There was only one ever constructed. She is as tough as they come and capable of exploring the world in safety and comfort. She’s one of the classiest little ships you will ever find, in full USL 2B survey for 12 passengers and up to eight crew, a total of 20 all up.'
Flamingo Bay has 11 cabins, with 20 berths total. Each cabin has its own air conditioning system, bedside reading lamps, externally sullied fresh air, intercom, and remote controlled TV- an audio /video network circulates the ship. There are four showers and two heads.
These days, she has been run as a research and exploration vessel, also popular with tourists as a whale watching boat, and in demand for her striking stature, taking a starring role in Sea Patrol, creating the wake in Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader and looming impressively in other film and TV productions.
She operated as the sea platform for NOAA’S leatherback turtle satellite tagging program, in the Solomon Islands. Helicopter support vessel/ home for filming coastline from Darwin to Broome from 500ft via helicopter. In 2005 because of her abilities to maintain slow consistent speeds in rough seas she was contracted to assist in the survey of Nautilus’s Deep Water mining site outside of Rabaul. She acted as the support resupply ship for Willis Island, numerous reef trips, filmed numerous whales plus visited a myriad of dive sites.
Captain David at the helm, retaining all of the charm while kitted up with the best of modern day technology.
Her Captain’s story is even more fascinating, a journey that has taken him criss-crossing the planet from his birthplace of Canada, to Queensland’s Gold Coast today, working on research, documentary filming, shipwreck exploration, salvage, coral reef regeneration and even a close call while diving in the waters around submerged volcanos in the Solomon Islands. He and his partner were left behind and ended up swimming 30kms to the nearest land through shark-infested water, earning them a segment on the series 'I Shouldn’t Be Alive'.
David has lovingly restored and refitted Flamingo Bay, without destroying the exquisite 1950s timber work and refined elegance of each of its common rooms, quarters and helm. In fact, he has over-equipped her with the latest navigational technology and systems for self-sufficiency, ensuring she’s up to the unlimited usage her new owner may have in mind.
'Of course I will miss her,' he admits, 'But I am ready for the next challenge, which I have located and need to sell the boat to embrace these new horizons.'
All enquiries should be directed to Ian Swan, Tel: (07) 5538 1857 or 0416 110 466 email: ian (at) swansuperlines.com
More at www.swansuperlines.com