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Welcome to Steadfast Sail

Steadfast Bow.
Experience the joys of sailing on board the good ship Steadfast! Built on the lines of the Jolie Brise, the famous French pilot cutter from 1913, Steadfast offers guests a delightful experience of sailing in comfort and style.

Our day cruises and coastal passages will open a whole new world of experience that will awaken the hidden sailor in you. Steadfast is also available for private or corporate charter, and offers an educational experience to students of all ages.

Step onto Steadfast’s wide and spacious timber decks, and step back in time for an unforgettable experience of the age of sail. Tarred standing rigging, block and tackle running rigging, varnished hatches and skylights, belaying pins and cavil bars: all these handcrafted details serve a necessary and practical purpose, yet possess an elegance that is naturally pleasing to the eye.

With the wind as our engine, we’ll set a course for the remote bays and islands of the outer Marlborough Sounds, where we’ll have the world to ourselves. Time to relax and simply enjoy the present moment.

Steadfast is 58 feet on deck and displaces 40 tonnes. She has been built of Western Australian hardwoods using traditional methods, and is licensed to carry up to 34 day passengers. Sleeping accommodation is for up to 11 passengers.

Where We Are
Steadfast is based in French Pass, and operates throughout the whole of Tasman Bay and the Marlborough Sounds. Sailing from French Pass, we conduct day sails and extended cruises for individuals and groups of all ages, throughout the year.

Steadfast in Admiralty Bay.
The wharf in French Pass is the point of departure for anyone going to D’Urville Island, New Zealand’s fifth largest island, just off the coast which with the mainland forms the channel known as Te Aumiti, or French Pass. French Pass and D’Urville Island are both named after the French explorer Jules Dumont d’Urville, who first sailed through the pass in his ship Astrolabe in 1827, narrowly avoiding shipwreck in the process. The pass is subject to extreme tidal flows, with attendant whirlpools, eddies and overfalls. Current Basin and Admiralty Bay lie on either side of the pass, and it is in these generally smooth waters that we conduct our day sails. Coastal passages will invariably appeal to the more adventurous, with greater and longer exposure to the elements. After a long day on the water, a quiet night at anchor is all the more satisfying.

Situated midway by sea between Picton and Nelson, French Pass enjoys the best of both worlds: the sheltered conditions of the Marlborough Sounds, and the more consistent winds of Tasman Bay. French Pass is also wonderfully remote. It enjoys a sunny, northerly aspect, with a sea horizon punctuated by islands and rocks. Being remote, it is sparsely populated on land and at sea, which means we usually have the whole place to ourselves.

Delicious Meals
All of the cruises on board Steadfast are catered from the ship’s galley with freshly picked produce from our own organic garden and freshly baked bread. It is our principal aim to share with you our own love of sailing and the sea, and our great pleasure to serve you.

Laurence Etheredge and Grace Libassi grew up in northern California, left the states in the early 80’s and lived in central Europe, UK, and the Middle East for five years, before settling down for twenty years in Western Australia, where they helped establish Zarephath Wines, a boutique vineyard and winery. During this time, Laurence also laid the keel for Steadfast, a project that was to consume eight years of work before launching in February 2006.

New Zealand presented itself as a great place for operating Steadfast, and Grace made the first move, taking up a position as campground manager for the DOC campground in French Pass, a very beautiful and remote location in the outer Marlborough Sounds. Laurence was meanwhile kept busy getting Steadfast ready for sea, and finally made his departure from WA in December 2006, sailing with a volunteer crew to Melbourne, Hobart, and then across the Tasman to Picton. Laurence continues his love affair with the sea as skipper on Steadfast, while Grace contributes her considerable talents and lively spirit in the galley and on the foredeck.

It is the aim and purpose of Steadfast Traditional Sail to offer our guests an enjoyable and educational hands-on experience of sailing a traditional sailing ship. Steadfast is a delight to sail, and her detail beautiful in every respect. We hope to complement these assets with a spirit of service that will make our guests feel relaxed and comfortable, while enjoying the ever changing scenery of the lovely Marlborough Sounds.

Private Charter

Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING–absolutely nothing–half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” So says Ratty in Kenneth Graham’s immortal classic, Wind in the Willows, and there is something inside of us that says “yes!” to this simple truth. Happily, we are moderately constrained, and attend to the serious side of sailing with great respect for the power of the elements. But you can see how this spirit of playfulness may give rise to a congenial atmosphere on board ship, and that’s the way we like it.

Private charter offers our guests the freedom to help determine the itinerary and guide the pace of their cruise. It’s also easier to really relax and let it all hang out when you are among friends and family. A private cruise on Steadfast is a great way to entertain visitors or members of your club. There’s plenty of room for the whole gang, whether for family holidays, reunions, birthdays, Christmas parties, club outings, or just a quiet weekend away from the hustle and bustle of life in the city.

Steadfast’s accommodation plan is based on the layout of the pilot cutters after which she is modeled: a very roomy main saloon with table, settees, and comfortable pilot berths; a large galley forward of the mast; a fo’c’s’le with two or three berths; and the heads right forward. The skipper and crew are housed aft with the chartroom and engine compartment. Headroom and general proportions are generous throughout.

Sleeping arrangements are in single berths as follows: four pilot berths in the main saloon, two single berths in the fo’c’s’le (plus one narrow or child’s berth); plus four optional slide-out settee berths in the main saloon, for a possible total of 11 passenger berths. Steadfast offers practical accommodation for families with children, extended families, or two families holidaying together. Some people like to do serious all day sailing, while others may prefer a more relaxed pace. With private charter, you can help plan the itinerary to suit your own style of holiday.

On deck, there is ample space for spreading out, with views in every direction, wide timber decks, and comfortable seating on the cabin tops. A siesta in the net under the bowsprit, or a view from the cross trees might be just the thing to remind you of just how good life can be! Shore trips in the dinghy and diving off the rail are naturally all part of the fun.
The wholesome and tasty meals and snacks prepared in Steadfast’s galley are legendary.


With her traditional rigging and spacious decks, Steadfast is an excellent resource for engaging young people of all ages in a direct educational experience. There are two programs currently being offered to school groups:

Voyage of Discovery
Our Voyage of Discovery program is conducted in partnership with Richard De Hamel of New Zealand Marine Studies Centre. This program is being offered from either Nelson or Picton, or as part of a school camp experience at Mistletoe Bay Eco Village in Queen Charlotte Sound. Richard brings his considerable knowledge and experience in marine biology to great effect (as well as being a pirate!), with a program that involves up to 28 children rotating through 7 activity stations on board Steadfast at sea.

Activities include old-time navigation methods like heaving the lead line, trailing a ship’s log, steering and dead-reckoning navigation, as well as a bottom trawl (for finding out what’s down there) and a plankton net and microscope (for getting a close up view of the little critters). We have been running these trips since March 2011 with great reviews. Bookings can be made ether through Steadfast Traditional Sail or Richard at [email protected].

Adventure Sailing
This program is offered to young people of all ages who want to deepen their understanding of themselves and of the world around us. It takes place against a background of managing a small sailing ship in all its aspects: setting and handling sail, navigation, safety, group cooperation and shipboard discipline, meal preparation, shipboard maintenance, quiet contemplation, elective reading, and remote shore visits. It is designed to be fun and instructive, while gently challenging the individual to examine both one’s self and the world.

Steadfast has been built on the lines of the early 20th century French pilot cutters, which kept station at sea in all weather, awaiting incoming ships in need of a pilot to enter port. She is safe and seaworthy, and is ideal for conducting interactive educational activities.

Programs can be tailored to suit your particular educational or training requirements. A special pricing structure is available for school groups.