January 1999; Pittwater, Sydney: When I checked on how to pronounce ‘Buizen’, the advice was to remember it starts like ‘beautiful’. That made it easy, and the adjective is totally appropriate for these Australian-made luxury pilothouse yachts.
We all visualise it from time to time. Cruising the Australian coast, the Barrier Reef or even around the world in a superb yacht that’s both fast and stable. The comforts of home are along for the ride with a spacious interior, exquisite woodwork, a fully-equipped kitchen, a couple of bathrooms, and private cabins for ourselves and our guests.
Unlike most yachts though, ours has a saloon with large windows that dazzle all aboard with a never-ending parade of spectacular views across limitless seascapes, tropical islands, exotic ports or the entrancing shoreline of a secluded bay. Being on the same level as the cockpit, our saloon allows guests to relax inside whilst still being able to watch us in the cockpit, and we can all chat easily as the yacht cruises along.
However, there’s plenty of room around the big wheel if everyone wants to be out in the open. As a counter-point, we can use the inside helm when it’s too hot or cold or rainy, or when we’d simply prefer to be close by our friends as they lounge around on the leather-upholstered settees in the saloon. Everyone feels more relaxed knowing we can cruise just as efficiently under power as sail, especially if the wind or the sea gets up, although there’s nothing quite like the exhilaration of spanking along with a good breeze filling the sails and with the whole boat alive and responsive.
And all of this would be just perfect aboard one of the Buizens presented here. In fact, there’s a 48 cruising the world right now that is already carrying trophies for taking out events in the Med and across the Atlantic.
There’s a couple of other international connotations for these boats, but the wonderful fact is that they are totally designed and built in Australia. From a largely self-contained facility in the northern Sydney suburb of Terrey Hills, Eddy and Frits Buizen produce a limited number of craftsman-built yachts that Eddy commissioned Queensland-based naval architect Paul Stanyon to design.
One international connotation is that the Buizen family originally came from Holland where Eddy started his years of training and apprenticeship when only 12. Migrating to Australia in 1953, Eddy set up a carpentry and joinery business that flourished and subsequently (around the late ‘70s) attracted attention from Bill Barry-Cotter who was then building Mariner power cruisers out of Narrabeen on Sydney’s northern beaches. (Bill, of course, went on to remarkable success with Mariner, Riviera and Maritimo luxury cruisers).
Bill asked Eddy to produce interior cabinetry for his Mariners and started a sequence of events that saw Eddy concentrating on producing high-quality timber interiors for several local builders including Cavalier and Northshore Yachts. Along the way younger brother Frits had joined the company, by now named Boat Interiors Pty Ltd, and the firm grew to some 28 staff that produced up to 200 boat interiors in one year.
The involvement with yachts led Eddy to believe there was a market opportunity for a carefully-built pilothouse cruiser, so he asked Joe Adams to design a fast cruising hull. That became the successful ‘Zeston’ yacht which Eddy made in two versions at 36 and 40 feet through the early to mid ‘80s. In 1988, some corporate changes saw the company re-named as Mastercraft Marine Pty Ltd, and the totally new ‘Buizen 48’ pilothouse cruising yacht was launched.
Paul Stanyon’s design for the new 48 was Eddy’s vision of the best possible cruising yacht with responsive performance under sail and power, superior seaworthiness, splendid accommodations, and flawless construction and rigging. A 40 foot version of the design followed later.
The second of the international connotations I mentioned came into play through a continuance of the ‘European-style’ pilothouse layout that had been apparent with the earlier ‘Zeston’ cruisers. For easy on-board living and entertainment, as well as provision of an efficient inside helm position to make cruising in adverse conditions more comfortable, the pilothouse approach has many benefits. It is just so convenient to have the main saloon at the same level as the cockpit, rather than down an often steep companionway as is the case with most sailing yachts.
Aboard both the Buizen 40 and 48, the saloon is more akin to the main cabin of a luxury power cruiser with large windows that give wide-screen 360 degree views both whilst cruising and when moored. Despite the added height of this style, clever design and a most beautiful curve and rake to the saloon’s forward windows give the pilothouse a low-profile sleekness that in no way impairs the flowing lines of the yacht’s overall profile.
Whilst the big wheel in the cockpit will always be the main helm used most of the time, the fully-equipped inside steering position offers an alternative with a great deal of flexibility and convenience. Holding a steady course on a cold night or in rain can be much more comfortable when sipping a mug of coffee in a warm and dry cabin. Also, when idling along under sail or power, the skipper might well prefer to share the company of guests who are relaxing on the settees in the saloon or dining at the table.
Even when at the main wheel in the cockpit, it’s great to be able to easily see and talk with family or guests in the saloon, rather than wonder who’s doing what below whilst shouting down a companionway. Typical of innovations throughout the two Buizens, the saloon door has a fold-down top that enables the bottom half to be closed for partial protection against adverse elements for those inside, whilst still enabling relaxed communication with others in the cockpit.
The big wheel is a focal point of the cockpit, and it’s surrounded by a most efficient arrangement of (powered) winches and controls, and with plenty of seats and storage. Rather a favourite spot is the teak seating mounted either side on the solid stainless frame of the aft safety rails. From these seats you get a sensational view along the full length of the boat, and they are perfect for ‘non working’ guests to be close to the skipper and all the action whilst not being in the way at all.
The side decks are nice and wide, with a good non-slip surface moulded in the ‘glass (laid teak is optional). Quite high safety rails run the length of the yachts and the whole approach is for easy handling by a couple or even solo. As you’d expect, an electric winch takes all the effort out of anchoring at your next port of call, and a full complement of electronic navigation aids is provided as part of the high standard of factory fit-out, subject to individual owner input and requirements.
The masthead rig has a genoa on a furling headstay, and both the 40 and 48 I had the pleasure of sailing aboard had been optionally fitted with another clver Australian invention - Joe Brookes’ ‘furlboom’ system. This enables the skipper to raise, stow or furl the mainsail with the touch of a button on the helm binnacle. A clever electric-hydraulic system manipulates the mainsail which is neatly stowed within the boom when down or partly furled. In-mast furling is also available.
The Aussie-made theme is further augmented with sails from Hood in Sydney, and spars from Yachtspars in Queensland.
The two lengths of the Buizen share the same hull except for scale, with a medium displacement design that performs well across a wide range of wind and sea conditions. By no means a race boat, but certainly a fast cruiser, the hull form is easily driven for good speed under sail. The yachts can also perform well under power with cruising ranges at around 8 knots of 1,000 nautical miles for the 48 and 500 nm for the 40.
Accommodations are similar for the two Buizens, although obviously there’s more space aboard the 48 and that allows an extra guest cabin so that seven can comfortably sleep overnight. Interior cabinetry and craftsmanship are most delightful, with carefully selected teak timbers that are beautifully finished and fitted. The main saloon has a dining table and settee to port, with a nifty extendible table on the 48 that features a folding hide-away centre-section.
The inside helm position is forward to starboard in front of another lounge running down the starboard side. On the 40, the front cushion of that side lounge lifts and swivels in a most ingenious arrangement to form the inside helm seat, whilst the 48 has a dedicated seat for inside-helming. Two large overhead hatches provide additional light and very welcome through-flow ventilation to make the saloons a most pleasant combination of luxury, comfort and practicality.
The galley is forward and down to port with plenty of work space and all the facilities of an upmarket apartment. The owner’s stateroom is right forward and has several alternatives in layout. On the 40, as well as a double berth and plenty of storage spots, the stateroom has a most useful ‘office’ area aft and to starboard where matters that couldn’t be escaped over a long weekend or extended cruise can be attended to with privacy and efficiency. Either of two ensuite layouts can be provided instead of the office.
On the 48, the stateroom has an island double with an ensuite to port. Both yachts have the main bathroom to starboard, just across and slightly forward of the galley. The extra guest cabin on the 48 is forward of that bathroom and can sleep two in upper and lower berths. Both Buizens then have two guest cabins down and aft of the main saloon, with a double on one side and a single on the other, so the 40 can easily accommodate five overnight.
Pricing (in 1999) for the 40 ranged from around $445,000 with the boat I was aboard adding various options to take it to $465,000. The 48 came to $716,000 with options and a very luxurious level of fit-out. The 48 was proving the most popular at the time.
I was privileged to be shown over the two Buizens by Eddy himself, as well as by Bill Rowell who provides the main sales outlet for the yachts from his office at the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club on Sydney’s sparkling Pittwater. When considering any boat, let alone yachts of the calibre as these, it’s always just as important to assess the people behind the boat as much as the craft itself. You won’t find anywhere two more “gentlemen of the sea” than Eddy and Bill. Quietly professional and competent, their pride and enthusiasm for the Buizens comes across very clearly, and the careful attention to detail shown in every aspect of the yachts reflects their attitude and approach to life - and to building beautiful boats.