By Kyle Barnes

by Holly Dukeson

Island Dreaming

When it comes to larger single propellor boats, you wouldn’t see me lining up at the clubhouse to drive one. However, the close quarters handling capabilities of the Island Gypsy 50 WB (wide-body) has me rethinking my position.

My single screw allergy was formed as a young commercial fisherman deckhand being thrust into the manhood of becoming a skipper. The old skippers at the Houhora Wharf, such as my father, a daredevil fisherman of the 1970s, would be able to shoehorn a 28-foot fully laden fishing vessel sideways into the six-knot tide between two other boats, without the use of springers and thrusters, just horsepower and guesswork. One minute we would be hard charging at the concrete monolith wharf and the next hear the blood curdling yell, “tie her off”, and you didn’t miss. 

No wonder I was terrified when it came my first turn to park my father’s boat, which resulted in 10 mates with fenders, mattresses and anything else that was handy to fend me off in an easy park, straight into the tide on the side of a clear wharf. The rest is history as I have mastered all the technologies and engine configurations and have come full circle to appreciate the simplicity of a single prop vessel with a couple of tricks up her sleeve. Ken Larkins, the new owner and host aboard our ride, told me what he liked about the engineering of the vessel. “If you have two engines, 90 per cent of the time if one is going to stop, so is the other and generally because you have dirty fuel or water in the tank. Simplicity is the best. These days, good modern engines, especially our local Cummins serviced units, just don’t tend to breakdown.”

Owner of Island Gypsy and the brainchild architect of the brand, Brett Flanagan, says that during his years working as a boat broker there was a lot of compromise. “Nobody could seem to get exactly what they wanted, such as a good practicable boat for exploring the islands to the north. You need the functionality to live in the islands around the Gold Coast which mean lots of road bridges and this vessel can get most anywhere at three-quarter tide.”


Island Gypsy Yachts traces its roots back to over 130 years, when Halvorsen Boats were launched in Norway in 1887 by Halvor Andersen. His son, Lars joined the family business and a few years later relocated to Sydney with his family. There the Halvorsen name became synonymous with quality and style in the boat building industry. Lars died in 1936, and the business passed to his eldest son, Harold, who continued to design pleasure, commercial and military vessels. He was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 2000 in recognition of his contribution to the war effort. 

During the 1970s, Harold’s son Harvey became the new designer for the business, and in 1975 he started a venture between his family business and marine heavyweight Joseph Kong. The new project was to design, build and market a brand-new range of pleasure boats all over the world. Harvey started with a new 30-foot design, and while designing the vessel he began to brainstorm names for the brand. He wanted to sell a lifestyle, so began gaining inspiration from thoughts of cruising the Great Barrier Reef, and other exotic lands. He didn’t want to use the Halvorsen name in case the range was ever sold, and seemingly out of nowhere came up with the name “Island Gypsy”. However, years later he found out that in 1948 the family business had actually built a large boat for the tourist market with the name “Island Gypsy”, to be used on the reef. At the time he was just nine, so the name had clearly stayed with him subconsciously. 


We were manoeuvring in the Hope Harbour Marina into an occupied double berth, no more than 20 metres from a boat ramp heaving with water traffic and using her oversized 24-volt forward and aft thrusters we made short work of the tight quarters. When going astern she was well assisted with direction by the rudder and once perpendicular to our dock things became a breeze. Short jabs on the thrusters held our position while the docking speed was controlled by the main engine and midships helm. Absolute brilliant simplicity. I wish I had that to lean on back in the day in Houhora.


Walking aboard this spaceship conjures up emotions that the original architect behind the name must have had in mind. She is fully open from the step-aboard portofino stern (where the gunwale line sweeps down pass the flat transom onto the integral boarding platform), forward to the double leather-seated helm station – the juxtaposing state being buttoned up and ready for action when things get a little loud outside. But for now, it felt as if we were wandering around the islands with the large galley window pinned up to the ceiling of the cockpit, the double saloon doors tucked away and the helm door and hatches fully ajar. 


The cockpit is not only decked out with upscale seating both sides, but also has a couple of fixed bar stools so as you can keep an eye on the culinary creatives in the galley. And underneath this generous space is a lazarette easily capable of swinging half a dozen cats – it is less than full head-height but it makes up for that in girth and volume. 


The saloon is lofty, which is particularly puzzling when part of the design of the vessels is to get under bridges around the Gold Coast islands, yet this is no cramped longboat. I didn’t have my trusty tape measure with me, but I like to think of space and volume in terms of lifestyle not litres, and I am pretty sure the ceiling would have been a tick over the seven-foot mark. The aft portside galley has a place for everything and everything in its place, little has been missed. Something which does grind my gears in a lot of galleys is the way the sinks have removable covers to increase bench space, but what do you do with the covers when you need the sink? Again, the innovation genie leaps out of the bottle and provides slots in the back of the sinks to place the covers so they don’t wind up on the floor, or worse, on your toe. 


We continue across to the starboard side of the saloon where I sit down on an uber-comfy dining suite and accompanying table which is nicely highlighted by floor underlighting. This backs onto the helm station which has its own door to the starboard side walkway and is positioned around midships of the vessel. This seating arrangement is one many would think you would find on a bridge of a larger vessel with a bigger price tag but in fact, it was one of the first thing I noticed as I came onboard – with its cream leathered lux-style Jack and Jill helm chair ensemble. But as they say, wait, there is more! The helm seats also share a blue light charging box/storage for all your gear, as well as cupholders – these fabulous stylings could easily be just as at home in a Gold Class cinema. The double leather seats can either wrap you up while seated or can be configured with a flip up bolster cushion to make you comfortable while standing. The gauges and controls at the helm are harnessed in and not overcomplicated or crowded, with the diagnostic gauges being limited to a couple of large “eyes up” multifunction screens which capture all the daisy-chained electronic sensors and cameras. A smaller “eyes down” display has the engine health monitor and there’s oodles of space left on the dash for communications and post market retrofitting which can be an issue on a tight helm panel. 


Forward on the port side is a very wide companionway that looks straight ahead past the day head into the guest quarters. A couple of well-placed bunks which run down both sides and meet up at the bow as an over and under layout could easily accommodate a six-footer. On the starboard side, aft of the guests digs and kind of tucked under the helm, which also makes it midships, is the master’s suite. When I say tucked, there is at least four feet above the pillows and plenty of head-height in the main chamber of the cabin. All tastefully capped off with fabulous underlighting and separate large shower and head. 


With tight timelines and my editor cracking the whip from the other side of the Ditch, I can’t speak for the vessel’s seakeeping abilities outside the Gold Coast Broadwater, we had to take her as she was. We were under quarter fuel tanks with no freshwater and a lightly laden 23 tonnes (dry weight) of vessel standard engine fitment pushed along by a single 550hp Cummins. Here is what I observed with a moderate easterly and pretty much slack water – with this vessel powered by an 800hp SCANIA engine. 

Speed Engine RPMFuel Consumption
5 knots650 (Idle)4 litres per hour 
8 knots900 (Cruise)11 litres per hour 
14 knots1100 (Planing)37 litres per hour 
18.5 knots23,500 (Full noise)138 litres per hour 


The bow deck is wide with plenty of room for more folks to join the party, functional especially at anchor, making the amount of people this boat could host easily tip over the 20-mark. The gunwales both sides run all the way to the cockpit with plenty of room for those among us that have a larger than normal walking gate, it’s certainly not one foot in front of the other. 


Brett has a few ideas in the pipeline. “I am always tweaking and making improvements to the range. For example we have dispensed with the hull and topsides being traditional gelcoat because traditionally after a while gelcoat tends to go powdery and you’re forever maintaining it. So, I decided to use a two-pack paint finish which is more expensive but lasts the distance and is easy to maintain.”

Brett has even been playing with the joinery to produce their own exclusive colour ranges – this vessel in a modern grey oak – with a tiny highlight trim around the outside once again for longevity. “Normally you find other manufacturers wrap the edge of the door all the way to the edges and after a while it tends to fray. So, the edge is there to prevent damage and knocks which starts peeling back the laminate over time.

“The older-style original vessels we used to manufacture still have today up to 16 skin fittings, eight either side which service each drain outlet be it a shower, sink, tap…but they have become high maintenance and expensive to maintain when needing replacement. So once again for the lastingness the vessels are now plumbed like a house with 90 per cent of the drainage tracks made from PVC into one large pipe either side of the hull that flows into the single pipe that drains overboard so no skin fittings to service. An absolutely fantastic idea!” 

In terms of versatility and ongoing development of the brand, Brett has a vessel under construction that makes even better use of the portofino stern which includes a wet bar with an inbuilt barbeque and fridge in the cockpit. This is a new “Yacht Fisher” style design which allows for a magnificent mezzanine deck which leads into the spacious saloon. This makes it a super functional boat and leaves the yacht fisher area for fishing, swimming, diving or what ever you like to use it for without interfering with the guests on the mezzanine level, an absolute kids’ playground. 

There is also another boat which has recently arrived called the 50 XL (Extra Large) where the saloon size is increased over the gunwale port side of the vessel to produce an even roomier saloon and galley. For me, Brett is the true quintessence of an “ideas man”, putting his experience and the experience of his thousands of past brokerage buyers into action, not sitting on his innovation laurels but forever tweaking and improving them. 


Island Gypsy 50 WB offers more than just a boat ride, it is an adventure waiting to happen. It’s design and versatility makes it the perfect choice for anyone looking to make the most of their time on the water. It is the perfect boating choice for a small family, or couple, who like to get away from it all, or people who love to socialise, using its abundant communal areas.



  • Boat Brand: Island Gypsy
  • L.O.A.: 50’ (15m)
  • Beam: 4.65m
  • Draft: 1.4m
  • Fuel Capacity: 3000L
  • Fresh Water Capacity: 1000L
  • Engine Make: 800 HP Scania
  • Fuel Type: Diesel

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