Every now and then I write about a boat that strikes us. They represent a spectrum of styles (the classic plastic Mary Powell; the rocket boat Relapse; the traditional teak Kalalau; bamboo schooner Coracle) but all have a common thread: they probably aren’t the boats you’ll see promoted at a boat show or glossy mag, and they’re all solid cruising boats.
Our experience with Nalukai goes back to late 2012, when we met each other the way many families afloat do: boats who know you’ll be in the same area start telling each boat about the other, knowing how much kid boats value like company. It was still several months and a dose of serendipity to see the 50’ catamaran when Totem arrived in the lagoon of Budi Budi, Papua New Guinea, after a few days passage from the Louisiades. We quickly hit it off with the gregarious Aussie family aboard; they’re the kind of active, energy-giving cruisers that are a blast to hang out with.
We eventually shared dozens of anchorages and countless memories over thousands of miles from Budi Budi to the Myanmar border: dancing and drumming local style in PNG, diving the pristine reefs of Raja Ampat, spearfishing in Indonesia, hiking waterfalls in Malaysia, and sharing evenings in a cockpit with a ritual watch for the green flash with sundowner in hand.
My point here isn’t to wax on reminiscing about a truly special family, although they’re all that; it’s to share a little about my boat crush on the catamaran they called home for more than three years. It feels a little like cheating, but when I think back on the cool boats we’ve hung out with over the years, the one I’ve most daydreamed about throwing Totem over for (shhh!) is Nalukai. And yes, I guess that means I swing both ways, but it really doesn’t make sense to me why so many people dogmatically divide into the camps of pro or con catamarans. Every boat should be evaluated on individual merit.
What makes Nalukai the kind of boat which inspires that kind of longing for me? It’s a mix of qualities: foremost, Nalukai is a go-anywhere boat. This family’s cruising plans involved a loop from Australia through Southeast Asia, then east through Melanesian islands of the Western Pacific before sailing home again to Oz. But Nalukai also did a “wrong way” circumnavigation via some great Capes with her first owner, and was later used for cruising in the challenging Bass Strait between southern Australia and Tasmania. But go-anywhere also means the unpainted aluminum hulls made some teasingly refer to her as the battleship of the fleet. Well, the longer we’re out cruising…the more I appreciate the advice of our mentor, Jim Jessie, who told us “you want a boat that will take more than you can.” You know what? Through the right lens, that aluminum looks pretty sexy compared to glossy gelcoat. Rough quays in developing countries? Dugout canoes rafted up alongside? No problem.
More conventionally appealing is Nalukai’s big cockpit. How many times have we enjoyed an afternoon or a sunset (not to mention gatherings for New Years Eve fireworks and Christmas dinner) there?
A side benefit to the big cockpit is that it has a big hard cover, topped with solar panels.
It’s something like 1250 watts worth- they were going to squeeze in one more, but decided they didn’t need it (we happily bought the spare they ordered; that one panel supplies the majority of our solar power).
Even with five people and a fair bit of stuff drawing from the batteries, power was basically never an issue for them, even running the high-output watermaker. When you’re in the middle of “nowhere,” which is where they spent most of their time cruising, that’s pretty gold.
I didn’t do any sailing on Nalukai, but Jamie did, and he attests an easy boat to sail shorthanded. Unsurprisingly, the prior circumnavigation was by a singlehander. But the fact that Jeremy and Iona have three active daughters tells their version story: when you have little ones on board, usually, one rides herd on the kids and the other is actually taking care of sailing the boat. It’s a necessity.
Ask our kids what they liked about Nalukai, and they’ll tell you it’s the room. Partly room in the kids’ cabins (all four cabins have double beds), for the string of playdates or sleepovers. Partly it’s the room on the bow, where we’d kick back in the shade of the awning on a breezy afternoon. But what the kids really loved is the space to swim under the boat. Nalukai has higher clearance than many cats. To me, that’s a huge asset because it means less banging on the bridgedeck on passages. But the kids? It means the boat has another whole room to play in, swimming around under the boat. We spent many days like this, especially in the hot hot climate near the equator. With a net strong between the hulls, they could hang out in the relatively cool water and shade, and go on playing comfortably.
We farewelled the awesome Nalukai family when they left Malaysia for the long road back to the Pacific in mid-2014. They’ve settled back into landlife, going full swing in the other direction on a sheep farm in South Australia. Meanwhile, the boat’s for sale in Queensland. That’s a little painful, both because I selfishly wish they were still out across an anchorage from us (they’re doing great back on Oz…just, miss them!) and also because a boat like Nalukai should be out there, cruising. If you think that should be you, or just curious about the details, their brokerage listing is online.