Sharon Peaty has been on the water her entire life, thanks in part to her father, John Peaty, who has, as he says, “always been a boatie.” She started out sailing as a kid and then moved up to dayboats as an adult, most recently a Sea Ray bowrider. When Sharon was ready to transition into a larger vessel to push her cruising boundaries in the waters off Sydney, Australia, she consulted her father for advice.
The 42-year-old IT business owner takes after her father in that respect. He has owned a number of boats throughout his life, continually trading up over time. “I think the old saying is you need a foot of boat for every year of your life,” he says with a chuckle. That has been true in his life, at least. He started out with a 26-foot Caporn Cruiser before moving up to a 35-foot Bertram. Afterward, he owned two 46-foot Australian Crestas, one of which he had custom built, before finally moving up once again to a Palm Beach 65 Flybridge.
“I built the Palm Beach,” John says. “I spent quite a bit of time with the people in the factory in Malaysia, traveling back and forth from Sydney. It’s a very custom boat.” The 65 cemented John’s loyalty to the builder, so when he saw a Palm Beach 32 come up for sale while helping Sharon search for her next boat, he knew it would be the ideal vessel.
“They’re very rare boats. Most people that have them just love them and rarely sell them,” John says. “This was an opportunity, so I jumped at it.”
The 32 rose to fame after a photograph emerged in 2005 of one jumping over huge swells at high speed during a storm in Sydney with founder and CEO of Palm Beach, Mark Richards, at the helm. While every other boat in the region was taking shelter in port, Richards had no choice but to race through the steep seas at full throttle to get to the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show. (And yes, he made it on time.)
For John, the decision to help put his daughter in this model was based on that seaworthy performance. Parents always want their children in the safest boat possible, but that holds especially true in Australia, where conditions are infamously dicey. A “calm” day Down Under may be a small craft advisory day on the other side of the globe. While Sharon won’t be racing through life-threatening storms, she can be sure that the 32, which rides on a warped-plane hull with a considerable amount of flare and deadrise for efficiency and stability, will keep her safe through most conditions she encounters.
Beach Baby is hull number five of the 32, which was the third model from the company. (It followed the 38 and the 50.) Before Sharon and John purchased the boat, which was built in 2005, it had belonged to another Palm Beach owner who was using it as an interim vessel while waiting for the delivery of a new 52. When John found the boat through a brokerage in Queensland, he bought it sight unseen. He then got on the phone with Richards, with whom he had developed a relationship while building his 65.
“Dad loves a good project,” Sharon says. He was eager to manage all of the upgrades the 15-year-old boat needed, and Richards was excited to help, even offering John and Sharon the opportunity to put it back through the Palm Beach factory on Sydney’s northern peninsula. There, they stripped and replaced all the old bilge fittings, added new bilge and water pumps, painted the bilge and reconditioned the bowthrusters. They also installed a new 315-hp Yanmar 6LPA diesel. This is identical to the original engine, but they were fortunate to find a new one in stock from Yanmar with immediate availability. In addition, the engine room and underfloor were stripped out, sanded and flow-coated.
“We ended up with pretty much a new boat,” John says. “We’re really pleased with the outcome.”
One of the most important modifications for Sharon, as a female owner/operator, was the addition of a lockable door in the companionway that leads to the V-berth. It allows her to secure the boat for added safety and privacy. The door is actually on a different hinge than the one Palm Beach usually uses in this space, allowing it to swing and lock off either the companionway or the head, all while looking extremely tasteful.
Palm Beach prides itself on building highly individual boats. While they may look similar from the outside, each has a unique interior, all the way down to the fit and finish. That’s one reason John had so much fun contributing to this project. “With boats, you never stop learning,” he says of his time spent in the Palm Beach factory with the 32. “Somebody’s always got a different idea. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s always great to be able to test your ideas with people who have experience.”
Sharon took delivery of the boat just before Christmas, but local Covid-19 lockdowns prevented her from cruising it for more than a couple days. Since New South Wales has reopened, however, she has enjoyed taking the boat on short cruises through neighboring estuaries and bays, always operating it herself with an extra set of hands on board. “I’ve had her out in Bate Bay at about 24 knots,” says Sharon. “She handles a swell really well, even when I got buzzed by a huge boat and the waves were enormous.”
So far, she has enjoyed taking Beach Baby to some of the local beaches, including Cronulla Beach, and mooring for the day, though she likes having the option to spend a couple nights aboard. Her long-term cruising plans include taking the boat to visit the Palm Beach factory.
In Sydney you don’t have to cruise very far offshore to end up in an entirely different world. The entire coast is littered with cruising bays for small and large boats alike. “You can be very remote, but in reality, just on the other side of the hill is Sydney,” says John.
Sharon plans on taking full advantage of the natural landscape around her by exploring all the nearby coves and estuaries, but she doesn’t even need to leave the dock to enjoy spending time aboard Beach Baby. The marina is only a couple of miles from her office, and she loves to escape to the boat in the afternoons for a break from the corporate world. Says Sharon, “I have become a very lucky girl.”
This article was originally published in the July 2021 issue.