On Water: Captain Simon Farmer
On Water: Captain Simon Farmer
Simon Farmer has captained superyachts for royal families and musicians through an illustrious career at sea, but his favourite journey was the first time he sailed around the coast of Northern Australia, from Fremantle to Sydney, on a 87-ft private yacht. What made it so special was that he had spent 18 months helping build the yacht from scratch for shipbuilding company owner, John Rothwell. Simon, who was then running his own marine maintenance company, was commissioned to project-manage the build of Loenen—named after its owner’s birthplace in Holland—so that it could be sailed to Sydney in time for the 2000 Summer Olympics. By the time the project was finished Simon knew every inch of the boat—from the layout to the fuel systems. It was only a matter of time before the build also marked the start of his career as a captain.
LIFE ON WATER
Growing up on the sunny shores of Western Australia, Simon spent a good part of his childhood sailing with his father, along the Swan River, and down the coast. When he was about to turn 18, his father introduced him to the sailing master of a racing yacht that was searching for crew for the 1981 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
“When I was accepted, I was still 17, and you are meant to be 18 to race. But luckily, I turned 18 the day after the race started,” laughs Simon.
That momentous journey from Sydney to Hobart, and the return journey to Perth got Simon hooked on the ocean and yachts. Although he majored in Agricultural Science, he decided to embark on a boating career. He started work for the yacht builders Austal and Oceanfast, owned by John Rothwell. “I was involved with three or four builds—the biggest one being the 230ft superyacht Aussie Rules for golfing legend Greg Norman,” he recalls with obvious pride.
Simon would shuttle boats around the marinas for their owners, but it wasn’t until he built the yacht for John Rothwell and sailed it to Sydney that he saw a life for himself on the ocean. The easy-going Australian who was a skilled sailor, was soon sought after by the Tunku Mahkota of Johor—who is now the Sultan—the Sultan of Kelantan, and Australian VIPs to captain their yachts. Simon also sailed extensively with talented boat builder and mentor Peter Milner, who was his crewmate for the 1981 Sydney to Hobart race.
EXPLORING THE WORLD
Simon spent the next three decades criss-crossing the globe. He lived in New Zealand, the United States, France and Italy. He also came ashore twice in Asia—once to manage Sutera Harbour in Malaysia in 2008 and ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove Singapore in 2011. However, he admits that he struggled being behind a desk. “I need to be hands on and busy fixing things,” says Simon. “The most enjoyable part of marine life for me is when the boat is in the shipyard and I am problem solving, looking at drawings, and trying to figure stuff out.” It was the same joy he felt when he was out and about on the water and exploring new places.
The places that Simon has been able to explore whilst captaining superyachts have been numerous—from the coast of Sicily, to the waters of British Colombia, to the islands of Asia.
But Simon counts Italy as his personal favourite: “The Amalfi coast is beautiful—from Positano to Capri—as is cruising around the volcanic island of Ischia near Sorrento. I’ve spent a lot of time there that I should know to speak Italian by now, but I’m not very good,” he laughs.
Since December 2019, Simon has captained the superyacht MY Annabella, which is now moored in ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove. They have been enjoying rediscovering some gems in Asian waters.
As idyllic as life on the ocean sounds, captaining a yacht also comes with its challenges. When Simon needed to collect MY Annabella for its Singaporean owner from Sanlorenzo in Italy, it was supposed to ship to Singapore, but COVID-19 regulations meant that the closest port they could get to was Phuket. They arrived in August and had to remain there for the next eight months.
When the owner could finally join them, Simon was able to take him on a tour of Phang Nga Bay and Ko Phi Phi. Before long, the borders opened up and they could cruise home to Singapore. “We’ve since done a couple of trips to Bintan and two trips to Redang Island in Malaysia, which was sensational,” says Simon.
Simon is busy plotting new destinations for MY Annabella. “Raja Ampat and Komodo are certainly on the itinerary,” he says. “My brother-in-law, who captains an 80-ft motor yacht, has lived in Indonesia for 28 years, so I pick his brains on where to go.”
Simon has now made Australia his base and when he’s not behind the helm of MY Annabella, he is at home in the port city of Albany. The sailor has finally come full circle, although an adventure is never too far away.