A volley of horns resounding across the Whangārei Harbour yesterday morning signalled the farewell of one of the largest sailing catamarans in the world.
Douce France, measuring 42m, had been on the hard at Oceania Marine at Port Nikau for six weeks, undergoing five-yearly maintenance. It was heading to Ōpua to clear Customs before setting off for Bali and then on to the Seychelles for a charter.
Wharf manager Blair Smeal said the luxury vessel was last here two years ago and it was tradition when leaving port for surrounding vessels to sound their horns in send-off.
One of the most famous sailing yachts in the world, Douce France is secretly known as "the gentle giant". Both a luxury as well as a true performance yacht, she typically operates as a charter vessel in the South Pacific. She has six cabins with ensuites, offering accommodation for 12 guests, plus eight crew. Features include a unique 250-bottle wine cellar, with a selection of the world's most famous wines on board.
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She left behind at Port Nikau the 59m, $45m Senses, formerly owned by a Google co-founder, and 58m motor yacht Odyssey, owned by New Zealand's richest man Graeme Hart, which arrived on Tuesday for a repeat visit with plans to be hauled out at Heron Ship Repair. Also still residing at Port Nikau is the world's largest aluminium yacht, the 81m Sea Eagle II, due to depart soon.