If it hadn't been for the brand-loyal rendezvous, we wouldn't have seen Mrs Watson's Bay at Lizard Island, dived in her underwater clam gardens and wrestled with the giant black marlin on No. 10 Ribbon Reef. Nor would we have ventured from the Gold Coast to Grafton by sea for the annual Jacaranda Festival or cruised on the windjammer James Craig off Broken Bay in pirate costume, as whales breached and we all turned a shade of green.
The ticket to these experiences is a Riviera boat. The boat builder doesn't have a mortgage on these kinds of on-water soirees, shindigs and cruises in company, but its rendezvous held around the country are certainly engaging, entertaining and well attended. They are also representative of the experiential marketing that leading boat brands are employing to keep custom these days.
After a hiatus following the global financial crisis, boating events for the big brands are making a comeback. Riviera has its national program of rendezvous, including a Christmas event on Pittwater last weekend, while rival brand Maritimo hosts its musters, and imported craft like Sea Ray stage parties called Aquapaloozas.
On the sailing front, there's the annual Beneteau Cup, Hanse Regatta, Seawind sailing events, multihull regattas and so on.
Indeed, we wouldn't be writing this weekend's boating column from the onboard dinette had it not been for the Bling on Christmas event held by the Riviera retailers R Marine in Sydney last weekend.
About 20 Riviera boats from the harbour and Pittwater converged on Coasters Retreat for a weekend of boules, beaujolais and, later on the red carpet at the Royal Motor Yacht Club, grown-up dress-ups, bubbles and bling.
After exiting receivership this year, Riviera is on the rebound, decorating the bows with tinsel and baubles to celebrate the new boating season. Christmas parties are being held from Perth to Pittwater and north to Jumpinpin.
While we joined in the festivities at Coasters Retreat, R Marine Perth hosted a Christmas Raft Up in front of Perth City on the eastern side of the Narrows Bridge and R Marine Mandurah staged Cocktails on the Coast at its namesake dealership.
"The Riviera philosophy is all about bringing family and friends together and creating the ultimate boating experience, and what a fantastic way to commemorate the year that was, with a host of parties across the nation celebrating Riviera style," said Stephen Milne, director of brand and communications.
Not to be outdone, rival brand Maritimo has increased social events in the last few years with cruises in company to Jervis Bay, musters on both east and west coasts and a Gold Coast getaway.
Marketing manager Greg Haines said the musters bring owners together to share common experiences and good times.
"We have other initiatives planned, from workshops and formation sessions to invitations to participate in design forums. We greatly value the feedback we receive from our customers. Their experiences of living on board and using the vessels help us create better products," he said.
On the sailing front, last month's annual Beneteau Cup on Sydney Harbour drew a fleet of 46 yachts from Port Stephens, Brisbane Waters, Pittwater and Cronulla, and one crew made the journey from South Australia. More than 400 sailors took to the harbour.
The Beneteau Cup is awarded to owners who "not only personify the brand, but extend themselves to really make a mark", says French yacht importer Vicsail.
Back on Pittwater, about 20 Seawind sailing cats assembled for the annual regatta the other week, but there are events that can take you farther afield. About 15 multihulls and their crews enjoyed a week of casual sailing during the Multihull Solutions Whitsundays Regatta in September. The organisers have now joined forces with Mariner Boating to offer overseas events next year.
The Caribbean Canter Yacht Rally from February 28 to March 10 involves a cruise through the Leeward Islands between Antigua and St Martin, while the Sail Tahiti Yacht Rally, from April 13 to 24, teams luxury on a Catana 41 or 47 catamaran with adventure. See multihullsolutions.com.au/events/2014-multihull-rallies.
Meanwhile, back on our boat, Santa arrives with presents, much to the delight of our young kids.