Floatspace Stories: 'I took Penelope Cruz on a cruise of the Gold Coast'

By Adam Bub | Posted 14 February, 2021

It’s a typically sun-blessed 28-degree day on the Gold Coast, and Captain Mark Tee is getting ready to take guests up to the super-exclusive Sovereign Islands. They’ll be having a stickybeak at some of the most expensive real estate in Australia, including a $45 million trophy mansion with sweeping views of Broadwater and South Stradbroke Island.

Luckily for us, you don’t need all those extra 00s in your bank account to enjoy this slice of paradise.

Captain Mark hosts private boating experiences aboard the catamaran Serrano. We asked him to share his Gold Coast insider secrets from life on the water – including the Gold Coast's 'most naturally beautiful spot' where he took Hollywood A-list couple Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem for a picnic.

Ahoy there, Captain Mark. What’s your first memory of being on the water?

I did my apprenticeship in the UK, and I was involved with racing boats. So from when I was about 16, that’s when you leave school in the UK, I got a great job as a marine engineer and did my apprenticeship from there, and jumped into fast racing boats off the south coast of the UK - boats that exceed 75 miles an hour [120km an hour].

When did you move to Australia and why?

I moved around 12 to 13 years ago. Just purely because of the natural environment, the Pacific Ocean, to do what I’m doing. It’s probably the nicest ocean in the world, in my opinion.

So what's being a captain really like, day to day?

When you’re a captain, you’re a captain firstly, then you’re an engineer, you’re a medic, you’re a fire chief, you’re a cook, you’re a chef, you’re a lifesaver, you’re all these things rolled into one. To be a captain on the water, you probably need to take about five times the amount of hours than a commercial pilot.

Depending on the season, for whale watching season it’s obviously full time work. But most of our work is focused on a "30-hour weekend" if that makes sense - it’s the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You’ll probably do at least 10 charters.

What's the best part of your job?

It’s the people that I meet, to be honest. I’ve made many friends from it – you’ve always got a story. And generally when you’ve got people in that environment and they’re there to enjoy themselves you’ve got them at their best – they’re always happy. And being able to show them – it’s such a simple operation that we do, but it just regenerates people.

Tell us your most memorable moment from working on the Gold Coast.

Locally, they were filming Pirates of the Caribbean, and I did a private charter for Penelope Cruz and her husband Javier Bardem. And, with all the paparazzi and stuff, I took them on a full-day charter up to a place called Jumpinpin (under North Stradbroke Island), which is probably the most naturally beautiful spot around here.

They got away from the paparazzi. They had their small children with them, and their bodyguard, and I just took them to this idyllic lagoon. They had a picnic on the beach, they were just doing normal family stuff. They had such a great time, just to be away from all the commotion and just be real people. That was pretty memorable, to be honest.

Another local charter really sticks in my mind and I’ve made good friends from that. This is on a bleaker note, but it’s a happy memory for us as a business, but I’ve skippered a lady who only had a very short time to live, bless her, and she had the most amazing day. That day was very important to her and her friends, and all her photos were her last send-off. It’s quite touching that you’re part of people’s lives like that – it’s not all about hens’ parties and bucks’ parties. People do it for many different reasons.

What's your favourite Gold Coast spot to take people to?

On the shorter trips it would be Wave Break Island. You can always get a very calm spot. And it also allows us beach access – you can drive the boat out onto the beach, which is really quite novel. Not a lot of boats can do that.

On that 45-minute journey we go past the Palazzo Versace hotel, we go past one of the film locations for Aquaman where they made a mini fishing village, we go past Seaworld, and we actually go past the points where they built half a pirate ship for Pirates of the Caribbean on the southern end of The Spit. So there’s lots of things to see and do on the way.

What do guests usually do on Wave Break Island?

We have beach crickets, picnics, a few drinks of course, a big 15-person swim net that can be floated off the stair of the vessel, paddleboards, all those beach activities really.

There’s great snorkelling – plenty of marine life including different species of sharks. The dolphins are always around, and turtles. We’ve got a local pair of osprey eagles – great fishermen, they are! We’ve got a local dugong, he lives up where all the weeds are up past Wave Break Island.

So, you’ve led power boat races back in the UK. Do you miss the fast lane or do you prefer a slower pace?

I’ve got a fast boat just for private use, and then I take the slow boats for customers!

What else do you get up to in your spare time?

I’m a bit of adventurer! I ride motorcycles out into the mountains and big long-distance riding. I still enjoy the marine environment – I still have a jetski, for all my sins. I’ve got campervans, motorbikes and jetskis – I’m sort of an adventure seeker, myself.

Cheers to that. If you were a drink, what would you be?

I’m not a big drinker – I just like a nice cold beer, but if it had to be a spirit it’d be Jack Daniels. I like the whole image of it. It’s strong in character - that’s what I like.

Thanks for chatting with Floatspace, Captain Mark.

If you'd like to book Serrano for your next Gold Coast private boating experience, click here for Serrano's Floatspace listing.