Darling Harbour is in full swing: live music ripples across the water; people hustle in and out of harbourside dining spots. But we are tucking into a platter of fresh seafood from Nick's Seafood Restaurant – on a private table floating just off the Darling Harbour Marina.
I am road-testing (sea-testing?) a noob in the sharing economy: Flotespace. On paper this start-up, founded by Hugh Treseder, sounds like the Airbnb of boats, but it is more than that. You can hire boats on Airbnb, and other sites, but you may arrive to find yourself out on a swing mooring (buoys secured loosely in the water) in the dark. With Flotespace you will be moored to a marina, you will meet the owner and you will have the full support of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, with whom Flotespace works closely.
My abode for the evening is the Akira, a petite but well-appointed luxury motorboat that is a study in tailored timber. The boat has two double cabins, a galley, toilet and shower, plus plenty of room to hang out above deck with a dining table and lounges decked out with blue-striped cushions. Most importantly I have a fridge stocked with beer as I am playing host to some old school friends, and pretending that I own a boat (none of them believe it for a second). But having access to a boat for the night does bring with it some pleasant surprises.
We feel part of the Darling Harbour buzz but also removed from it – it's like driving your home down to the harbour to soak in the view in comfort and avoid the crowds.
My friends filter down as the sun sets and over a few beers, we spend the evening with one foot in the present and one in the past. When hunger takes over and the beers run low, we are forced to contemplate heading out into the crowds to find some sustenance.
But the maritime gods are with us and we see three crisply suited waiters heading down to the marina bearing silver platters. Sadly they are not for us – they are for a super yacht that sweeps into the berth next to us, collects the platters and departs. We watch the wait staff return to Nick's Seafood Restaurant, and a quick phone search reveals the Darling Harbour diner has a special "Seafood & Marina Menu" available for delivery. We order a fish platter, riesling and some beers and before long the silver platters are back, and this time they're ours. Best. Room service. Ever.
After dinner my friends depart, and I climb into my cabin and drift off to sleep with the city sounds and lapping waters of the harbour for company.
In the morning Akira's owner Robert Greenhalgh arrives to claim back his boat. He says Flotespace "offers a unique opportunity for a boat owner to capitalise on their investment in a similar way to Airbnb". Greenhalgh also runs a charter business, My Sydney Charter, and the awareness of overnight stays on Akira helps that initiative, too.
Not being very nautical I was dubious about the benefits of a night afloat but I'm a convert; it was a unique stay and a chance to see Sydney Harbour differently.
And as Greenhalgh heads off under the Darling Harbour bridge I am a little sad to be a landlubber once again.
Costs vary from boat to boat, but you can pick up a night on the water for about the same as a hotel room. You can even hire the boats for the day (with a skipper) and take a day tour or enjoy a secluded harbourside picnic. See flotespace.com
Paul Chai was a guest of Flotespace