Country kids and crayfishers: the lives of Perth's luxury boat owners
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Country kids and crayfishers: the lives of Perth's luxury boat owners

A group of luxury motor yacht owners who all possess the esteemed Riviera boat fell short of beating their previous year’s world record of the longest raft-up on Friday.

They cemented their status last year with 48 boats lined up in one formation. This year, there was an expectation of 50-55, but only 43 were in formation in Matilda Bay.

Family members and friends joined the 43 boat owners to celebrate in this Swan River raft-up event.

Family members and friends joined the 43 boat owners to celebrate in this Swan River raft-up event. Credit:Riviera Marine

Still, it was a spectacle; and some invited WAtoday into their lives, explaining how they went from being working-class children to skylarking off Rottnest Island.

Greg and Jennifer Ferguson

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Greg and Jennifer Ferguson didn’t have it easy. Hailing from Beverley and Esperance originally, they were both born poor.

“We were country kids. We worked through Greg’s persistence in developing our business that eventually paid off and we put it into this boat we could enjoy,” Mrs Ferguson said.

The couple, who have two teenage boys, are the principals of Explorex Caravans, which builds caravans for mining.

Mr Ferguson said they had never expected 20-30 years ago that they would get to a point where they could afford a Riviera. Their current model, a 50-foot long Flycruiser, cost them $2 million.

The Riviera series starts at an entry point of just under a million for 39-foot boats and soars up to $5.5 million for 72-footers.

“We bought our first Riviera boat in 2000. It’s a sense of a community. For us, boating’s fantastic, it’s our release, it’s our weekends, we treat this as our holiday home,” Mrs Ferguson said.

The Fergusons said they work long hours and barely have time to "breathe". To them, their boat represents a chance for family adventure.

Greg and Jennifer Ferguson said the boat allows them to gather as a family and sail around WA.

Greg and Jennifer Ferguson said the boat allows them to gather as a family and sail around WA. Credit:Dakshayani Shankar

“We’ve had these conversations on getting holiday homes. I don’t want one, as you go to the same place every time. With a boat you go to a different place, different destination with your kids,” Mr Ferguson said.

The boat is also less troublesome than a holiday home; Mrs Ferguson said she didn't want to have to mow the lawn and worry about maintenance as soon as she arrived.

“We clean up as we leave the boat but a boat, like a house, requires a clean-up every two weeks, especially the exterior sitting out on the water, and a big annual one. The interior furnishings are easy,” Mr Ferguson said.

They have travelled 400 hours on the boat so far, from Geraldton to Dunsborough. The ease of docking close to land has made it much more comfortable for them to travel to areas like Margaret River.

The Fergusons said they also use the boat frequently to gain easier access to other Perth destinations than they might have in a car.

“We’ll come down, spend days or night, go to Claremont, go to the city, you can park at the bottom of the Claremont and you’re in Claremont Central,” Ms Ferguson said.

“When we first bought [the Riviera], we thought ‘far out, these guys are going to be so pretentious.’ But a lot of them are business owners and have worked hard to get something, I was quite surprised. There’s not this snobbery,” Mrs Ferguson said.

The Fergusons are planning a trip to the Montobello Islands when Greg turns 50 in 2021.

Basil Lenzo

Basil Lenzo, a legal practitioner, believes the practice of hard work instilled from his father allowed him to get here.

Basil Lenzo, a legal practitioner, believes the practice of hard work instilled from his father allowed him to get here. Credit:Dakshayani Shankar

The child of late-1950s Sicilian immigrants, 55-year-old Basil Lenzo could never have imagined he would own half a $3 million luxury motor yacht with his cousin, given his family’s background.

His father was a cray fisherman who initially worked at Brickworks.

His father and his cousin's father saved their money and bought an orchard in the Perth Hills.

"They were there for a while. At that time, my uncle had gone into crayfishing. Eventually, it came down to deciding between the orchard and the crayfishing business,” Mr Lenzo said.

Basil and his cousin, Basil (as well) both came from a crayfishing background.

Basil and his cousin, Basil (as well) both came from a crayfishing background. Credit:Dakshayani Shankar

The family sold off the orchards and plunged straight into their other business. For Basil, this remains a bone of contention as he believes the orchard, a prime “28 acres of land” could have been subdivided.

With everyone lending a hand in the family business, Mr Lenzo, a legal practitioner, said he'd essentially grown up in the sea.

“We would go down to Fremantle’s fishing harbour. I remember, I would see all these boats then and say to myself, ‘One day, I’m going to own that boat’. Even now, my cousin, also named Basil, is a full-time crayfisherman,” he said.

Mr Lenzo bought his first Riviera around 16 years ago. Since then, he decided to upgrade to his current boat, noting that the upgrade expenses came down to a posher, more comfortable interior.

The interiors, often more luxurious with each model, represent the increase in prices from just under a  million.

The interiors, often more luxurious with each model, represent the increase in prices from just under a million. Credit:Dakshayani Shankar

While Mr Lenzo owns his own legal firm, his wife, Georgiana, originally from Penang, Malaysia runs a commercial laundry business with depots across Belmont, Bunbury, Kalgoorlie and Margaret River.

Like the Fergusons, both work long hours and the boat is a haven of recreation when they get the time to enjoy it.

“This boat doesn’t go out much. Maybe 20 times a year, up the river. Between August, September, we barely do much. Come to the summer season, we’ll head off to Exmouth for diving and fishing but you have to work hard to enjoy these things,” Mr Lenzo said.

“Hopefully, as we grow a little older, we’ll have a little more time to enjoy this.

“It’s like skiing, you know, boating. We love skiing, especially at Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s like being on a ski slope, you’re looking down the slope, there’s trees and the whole world disappears.”

Over 43 luxury motor yacht owners and their families congregated on boats to try and break their previous world record of 48 boats rafted up.

Over 43 luxury motor yacht owners and their families congregated on boats to try and break their previous world record of 48 boats rafted up. Credit:Dakshayani Shankar

Mr Lenzo said the couple cleans their boat every six weeks. He hopes to still be boating in his 80s.

“My father just retired at 81 years of age from crayfishing. I hope that I’ll still be boating at 85. And as for the boat’s future, I’m unsure if my cousin will take it fully on with her two daughters.But as long as I can handle it, I’ll be with it.”

Mr Lenzo also said the stereotype of “old money” children with luxury motor yachts has changed.

“Look, my cousin and I both worked, my father didn’t cut a cheque for me at 25 to get this," he said.

“Nowadays, a lot of people who come into this are working professionals with kids grown-up or young. It’s a natural progression.”

Floats bobbed near the yachts, as black swans swam past hurriedly.

Floats bobbed near the yachts, as black swans swam past hurriedly. Credit:Dakshayani Shankar

Dakshayani is a reporter for WAtoday.

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