Please select your home edition
Wildwind 2016 728x90

Bison Ranchers head for Indonesia’s Pirate Waters

by Jim Farrell/Sail-World Cruising on 21 Apr 2006
Bison bull . .
Running a bison ranch in Alberta Canada does not, on the face of it, seem a likely preparation for undertaking a world circumnavigation, especially not via the pretty scary North West Passage.

But that’s what Jim Farrell reported for the Edmonton Journal last week, when he caught up with the ‘quixotic’ cruiser as he left Darwin, Australia on the home stretch of the round world cruise. The boat is now headed for Indonesian waters - where the reports of piracy are high every year – waters they must pass on the way to Palau Island and Japan, their next ports of call.

Read Jim’s account:

Its bottom freshly painted, a boat captained by a 67-year-old retired Alberta bison rancher is on the home stretch of a quixotic round-the-world cruise via the Northwest Passage.

The 11-metre-long, 3.3-metre-wide Idlewild would have impressed few weekend yachtsmen as it chugged out of the northern Australian port of Darwin last week. Its workaday lines and blocky wheelhouse lack the style and panache of yachting's stylish 'gin palaces.'

(Photo, left:Ben Gray, centre, and sons Brad, left, and Kevin stand in front of their 57-foot boat which has just received a fresh coat of anti-fouling paint, courtesy of Canadian ex-pat George LaSette who runs a small boatyard in Darwin, Australia.)

People more accustomed to recreational boats might have wondered why Ben Gray and sons Brad and Kevin seemed only to idle their engine as they headed northeast into the waters of Indonesia on their way to the Micronesian island of Palau.

'This is cruising speed,' Gray explained to a Journal reporter earlier as they headed out for a day of fishing. That trip landed three small sharks and one tiny mullet. The sharks were thrown back. The mullet became bait.

The distances and the difficulties encountered by the $500,000 purpose-built Idlewild would stagger any weekend boater.

To date, the boat's 55-horsepower diesel has pushed it 46,000 kilometres, mostly at a leisurely but economical 12 km/h.


The voyage began last May 24 when Idlewild left dockside beneath the Dunvegan Bridge in Peace River country. The Grays sailed and portaged their way to the Arctic Ocean, establishing a 'furthest west' point in the Bering Strait.

It turned east to battle the ice of the Northwest Passage, escaping into the Atlantic thanks in large part to a Canadian icebreaker that pushed it off a huge ice floe and into clear water.

Idlewild made it to Greenland in early October and refilled its 3,800-litre fuel tank before motoring south to Capetown, South Africa, and east across 9,000 kilometres of open sea to Australia.

'What are you guys doing here?' Canadian expatriate George LaSette called out to Gray as Idlewild docked in Darwin on March 28 after a relaxing cruise up the west coast of Australia. LaSette had spotted the large Canadian flag waving from Idlewild's bow and a smaller Alberta flag at its stern.


LaSette was a lucky find. A native of the Queen Charlotte Islands, he has lived in Australia for the past 38 years and now owns a small Darwin boatyard.

Gray told LaSette he was concerned about the vegetation and coral that covered Idlewild's bottom, slowing it down and burning up precious fuel. LaSette offered to hoist the boat out of the water and have a worker blast the gunk off with a high-pressure washer.

When much of Idlewild's anti-fouling paint came off in the wash, LaSette offered to have his workers apply a fresh coat. That happened Monday, during a brief, six-hour lull in the monsoon rains that lash the northern Australian coast at this time of year.

LaSette charged nothing for his services.

'I just want to help out this great adventure,' he said.

Australian waters weren't so kind. Monsoon season is also cyclone season. Two weeks ago, 300 km/h winds levelled houses and orchards on the northeast coast of Australia.!Click_Here!same to write to Sail-World’s Cruising Editor about this article

Ancasta Ker 40+ 660x82Helm Events 660x82Mackay Boats

Related Articles

MoY Classic Yacht Regatta - Dates for 35th edition revealed
The Museum of Yachting at IYRS is pleased to reveal to the community the 35th Annual Classic Yacht Regatta. The Museum of Yachting at IYRS is pleased to reveal to the community the 35th Annual Classic Yacht Regatta, August 29th- 31st. Registration is now open for the MoY Classic Yacht Regatta, part of the North American Circuit of the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge which also includes the Nantucket Opera Cup Regatta (Nantucket, MA) and the Corinthian Classic Yacht Regatta (Marblehead, MA).
Posted on 15 Aug 2014
Sailor Jeanne Socrates, world's oldest non-stop female circumnavigator
70-year-old Jeanne Socrates arrives Victoria, Canada, as the oldest woman to sail solo non-stop around the world After many days of frustrating drifting, 70-year-old British sailor Jeanne Socrates has made it home to Victoria in triumph, becoming the oldest woman to single-handedly sail non-stop around the world without outside assistance.
Posted on 9 Jul 2013
UK Sailmakers gives Yassine a new mast for 150nm Laser sail record
Yassine Darkaoui wants to sail a 150nm course from Phuket - and has a new mast, thanks to UK Sailmakers In December we ran a story about how a young Moroccan sailor was in Thailand training to sail a 150nm course in a tiny Laser to break the world record. His problem was, his mast was broken and he couldn't afford a new one. Now, thanks to our Asia Editor Guy Nowell and UK Sailmakers Hong Kong representative, Barry Hayes, who read the story, things are looking up for Yassine Darkaoui.
Posted on 17 Jan 2013
Southernmost sailing voyages - who really has the record?
Andrew Troup corrects the records on the most southerly voyages by sailing boats. Recently a Ukrainian/Russian sailing boat, the 98ft steel-hulled Scorpius reached 77 degrees south and claimed a world record. This was greeted by a storm of protest from our readers, one of whom pointed out that in 1965 a tiny Moth was sailed at (but not to) 77.5 degrees. There were other claims too. Andrew Troup here corrects the records...
Posted on 14 Apr 2012
And the most southerly-sailing boat ever is...
Last week we said Ukrainian yacht Scorpius set a new world record in sailing furthest south - 77deg but we were wrong! Last week in Sail-World we told how Ukrainian-Russian crew aboard 30m sailing yacht Scorpius had claimed a new world record in sailing farther south into Antarctica than any other boat had gone, reaching 77 degrees. But we were wrong - well, in a way; because in 1965, Lt. Commander Steve Cockley, based in Mc Murdo Sound, had sailed a Moth, an 11ft (3.4m) dinghy, at 77.5 degrees S.
Posted on 1 Apr 2012
Laura Dekker completes solo circumnavigation at 16 years and 123 days
21 Jan: Solo sailor Laura Dekker has arrived Sint Maarten completing her solo circumnavigation at 16 years and 123 days This week (Saturday 21st January) Laura Dekker, 16-year-old Dutch/New Zealander solo sailor, quietly sailed between islands in pleasant seas into the Dutch island of Sint Maarten in the Caribbean, completing a solo odyssey around the world in a year and a day. There were merely dozens, not thousands, of people at the wharf to greet her.
Posted on 22 Jan 2012
Steve White - solo round the world the 'wrong way'
Steve White is to sail solo, round the world, non-stop and unassisted the 'wrong way', AND break the current record. Dee Caffari has done it, now Steve White is setting out to do it too. He's going to sail solo, round the world, non-stop and unassisted, AND the 'wrong way', AND break the current record.
Posted on 11 Sep 2010
Dee Caffari finishes Aviva Challenge
Dee Caffari, onboard Aviva, crossed the official finish line on 18 May 2006 at 17:55 pm Dee Caffari, onboard Aviva, crossed the official finish line on 18 May 2006 at 17:55 pm
Posted on 19 May 2006
All aboard for Med-Red 2006
The Med-Red Rally is about to set sail. The Med-Red Rally is about to set sail. Sailors from 13 nations are gathering in Yacht Marina Marmaris, Turkey, before setting off on the Rally.
Posted on 14 Mar 2006
Atlantic,Pacific, now Indian Ocean on a Sailboard
French adventurer, Raphaela LeGouvello, will attempt the Indian Ocean crossing on a sailboard, solo and non assisted. It's not a joke! It's ACTUALLY happening. French adventurer, Skipper Raphaela LeGouvello, will attempt the Indian Ocean crossing on a sailboard, solo and non-assisted, departing from Exmouth on 5 April 2006.
Posted on 8 Mar 2006