Mike’s Oyster Story: Owning My First Sailing Yacht With Oyster

At Oyster, we pride ourselves on our relationship with owners - every single member of the Oyster Family is a friend, something which is reflected throughout the business. That’s why our owners’ positive feedback means a lot.

In the case of Oyster 56 owner Mike Kearney, his Oyster story began in April 2016, when he came into  Oyster Yachts Palma as a sailing novice looking to browse vessels for a future purchase. His experience with us saw him significantly bring forward his purchase date after realising: ‘What am I waiting for?’ Mike had such a good time along the way that he has left us a shining Oyster Yachts review. Below, we follow his journey with Oyster Palma directors Mark Durham and Jamie Collins.



The initial meeting

Mike’s Oyster story starts at our brokerage office in Palma de Mallorca where he came to view the Oyster Yachts for sale, having always been a big fan of our craftsmanship. Almost instantly he decided to shorten his planned purchase date, enamoured with the idea of joining the Oyster Family as soon as possible.

Mike explained: “From the first day we walked into the Palma office and Charlie showed us [Oyster 46] Solway Mist with such grace and engaging manner while talking us through the Owner services offered in Palma, we were hooked. Plans for a boat purchase 5+ years hence were revisited over the next few days on vacation in Palma and brought forward. It was then that we knew we would need help in stepping back into sailing at this level and for this size of boat, and in a manner that engaged the family. Mark [Durham], Charlie [Durham, Oyster Crew Coordinator] and Mike [Barnes, Guardianage Captain] ultimately put those fears in perspective.”

Jamie Collins, one of our Oyster Palma brokers and directors, was Mike’s main point of contact throughout the purchasing process, taking him around a range of sailing yachts for sale before he settled on Oyster 56 Sionna. “Mike was actually looking smaller initially - Solway Mist, for example, is a 46. But the timing was very good for buying Sionna: another Oyster owner was looking to sell right at that time.”

“His biggest concerns were how his inexperienced family was going to be able to sail on a boat that big; to sail a 56 and be able to manage it, handle it and everything else.” explained Jamie. “That's where we tried to support as much as we could, to help make his dream become a reality and reassure him that it was all possible.”

Originally Mark met Mike onboard Sionna, the yacht Mike would go on to purchase. At the time, Sionna was named Tara, and was in need of some significant updates.

Mark recalls: “I remember meeting Mike on board Tara, and she was pretty tired at this point. She'd been previously owned by a family who had a number of boats, and this one needed some love. Mike was interested in taking her on, and it was clear from the outset that he was 100% committed to bringing her back to better than shipshape condition.”


The decision process

Although Mike was interested in buying Sionna, she needed a lot of work, something which our Oyster Refit team was ready to advise on with realistic timeframes.

Our frank explanations were much appreciated by Mike, who said in his Oyster Yachts review: “When I settled with Jamie on Tara, Hamish [Burgess Simpson, Oyster Project Manager] stepped in with that gnarly, gritty, ‘spades a spade’ talk to walk me through the work that she needed to bring her back to standard and shine. I knew then what was ahead. This, with Mark who was clearly a doer and not a man to over-promise, plus meeting some of his trades team, gave me the confidence to press the go button.”

Often, there are specific draws that lead our owners to start their Oyster story, such as our best-in-class luxury sailboats or renowned owner events. Although Mike was a fan of every aspect of Oyster, what encouraged him the most was the solid support network we offer.

Jamie explained: “I think it's the support - the family of Oyster owners - that drew him towards Oyster and then encouraged him to buy earlier than he had planned. That support network was what he needed, especially as part of a family who hadn’t owned a boat before.”


The refit

Once a deal was agreed upon the refit could get underway. This was when we introduced Mike to more members of our team, including Mike Barnes and ultra-accomplished skipper Rory Gillard who initially delivered Sionna to Gibraltar pre-purchase and gave her a good polish. Our new owner helped them sail her back to Palma from Gibraltar at the start of 2017, where the team lifted her out of the water for refit work. Here, Mike met Steve [Oyster Service Manager], Kim and Ilse [Oyster Service Coordinators], who were responsible for delivering the logistics of the upgrade over the next two years. Mike was overcome with anticipation for when the boat would be finished, as he explained: “What a feeling… excitement for the future, apprehension on the works and ownership and mostly... could I make our family plan work?”

Generally, owners tend to want to be very involved with the refit, and Mike was no different, as Mark remembers.

“He always wanted to be kept up to date. He and Hamish would have long conversations about things that needed to be done and they grew to become very friendly,” he said. “Mike was very happy with the work that'd been done, so he was very grateful to Hamish. They have a very good relationship, which has continued after the boat left the yard.”


The sail training

Mike and his family were fairly new to sailing, and our team were determined to get them up to scratch in time for when Sionna left the yard. Hamish taught them about the practicalities of the boat, whilst Rory took them out sailing to teach them the ropes.

Mark recalls that the Oyster team enjoyed the sail training just as much as Mike and his family:

“They just hit it off. Mike really liked Rory, and Rory became sort of part of the crew makeup,” he explained.

And Mike appreciated this friendly approach, saying in his Oyster Yachts review: “Rory knocked us into shape and taught us so much. We progressed steadily.”

With sailing you're always learning. Mike’s sailing skills have got better and better, and he has now come on from his first time parking the boat to racing in regattas, with Sionna coming third in Class 3 at the 2018 Oyster Regatta Palma. But we’re always here to continue with the sail training if needed, as we are with all of our owners.


The family dream

A core reason behind Mike starting his Oyster story was to bring his family closer together, yet he was worried how they would react to Sionna. Luckily they absolutely loved her!

Mark recounts the moment they all saw her for the first time: “I remember the weekend that they came down. Our team really went the extra mile and prepared the interior of the boat impeccably. Mike's got two daughters, so they set up the cabins beautifully for the girls, and the boat was parked up on the Oyster dock. Both the girls and Mike’s wife Bettina were completely smitten with the boat. They just fell in love with her, and they had the most wonderful first meeting. It was quite a moment for them as a family, I think.”

And this love affair has continued, as Mike confirmed: “Bettina, my wonderful wife, and the kids are not just converted to life afloat, but love it and look for all opportunities to be aboard and off. They are confident in Sionna, her strength and dependability. She has also brought my wider family together like never before (the Regatta was a family crew).”

“My dream is slowly and carefully becoming a shared one. Bettina, the kids and I have spent 18 wonderful weeks on board over the two seasons we have owned her. We are progressing along the steep learning curve with humility but growing confidence... We look after her, she looks after us. Our horizons are gently stretching with each season.”

He continued: “As such, I wanted to take a moment to pass our heartfelt thank you to Team Oyster Palma and the support gang in the UK for two years of amazing attention, care, guidance and patience with a novice owner, and the highest quality work I could have wished for. I’m so glad I didn’t wait five years to buy, and hope that my Oyster story will show others the benefits of making the right decision sooner than they may have envisaged, like us. It’s been family life changer for the good.”

We are so pleased to have been able to support Mike throughout his purchase and ownership process and look forward to catching up with him and his family at our next owner event.

Want to hear more from the Kearneys? Keep up with their adventures on Sionna’s YouTube Channel.