Night Rescue

New sailors Jackie and Jerome Hoitinck are sailing the world aboard Lonna, a newly-built hybrid sailing cat. While sailing at night near Brazil, they witnessed a fishing boat capsize. As Johnny-on-the-Spot, they had to make a MAYDAY distress call, but no one responded. Jackie tells their story.

I was sleeping in the cabin when I heard Jerome yelling: “Jackie, come now! A boat has capsized!”
I was immediately up, and upon reaching the cockpit, I heard voices shouting. It felt like we were in a very bad movie – and we were the main characters. I felt an immense weight of responsibility.
Jerome juggled with the genoa, deck lights and engines while keeping me informed. Adrenaline was surging. I walked to the lifelines and shouted into the darkness “Yeaaaah?! Where are you?!” hoping to hear them so we could locate them. The night was pitch black and we couldn’t see a thing. Luckily, the weather was good so we could hear them okay.
Jerome used the VHF for the second time.
This is…etc.”
No response. We were on our own.
Jerome informed me that, earlier, the now-capsized fishing boat had come very close. They probably thought we were another fishing boat. Jerome had given way to them a couple of times so they could pass Lonna safely, but they kept coming until they saw us clearly and veered away after noticing their mistake.
Jerome waved and we continued our course, but as the fishing boat turned away, it happened. We think the boat was heavy with fish, wet fishing gear and crew. The front of the boat was high, but the sides were low, especially this heavily-loaded. The boat turned too sharply, and a wave did the rest, maybe in combination with a shifting load. The fishing boat capsized before Jerome’s eyes!
The fishing boat’s crew was panicking. Because Jerome had to lower the sails first, they probably thought we were leaving them behind. My role was to find them. I used a torch, but the batteries were old, so it wasn’t much help. Instead, we turned on Lonna’s cockpit floodlights.
After a while we saw floating debris everywhere and soon the capsized boat loomed out of the darkness with people on the upturned hull. That was a big relief – at least we’d found them.
Jerome reversed Lonna to get closer, but with all the debris in the water, we had to be careful. Fishing nets, wood, and all sorts of other floating and semi-submerged rubbish could easily foul the props, but more importantly, we didn’t know whether or not there was a person in the water.
One of the men jumped in and swam towards Lonna. I grabbed his hand, and a soaking wet guy came on board. I patted him on the shoulder encouragingly.
I asked him how many people were aboard – in Spanish because we don’t know any Portuguese. He understood. There were three crew, one of whom couldn’t swim. For a moment I misunderstood, thinking he meant one was missing, especially since he was peering under Lonna.
To rescue the non-swimmer, we used our life sling, which is attached to the stern. The man we’d just saved swam it back to the capsized boat and the guy who could not swim grabbed the sling, took a deep breath, and jumped into the sea. He was not using the sling correctly, but he made it. The third person came the same way.

It was surreal. Soaking wet and shivering, there they were. I grabbed a pile of towels and gave them around. Jerome gave the VHF to the person who was acting like the ‘captain’, and he immediately began talking to one of his colleagues. We know this because another fishing boat would later pick them up. At least he got response, unlike us!
One of the guys was not doing so well, so I took him inside with another towel and a very thick blanket around his shoulders. We gave them each a glass of water while the captain kept chatting on the VHF.
The first plan was to take them to their home port, 27nm from our location. It was a little daunting in the pitch dark (moonlight after midnight only) – and where would we go from there? Luckily, after more VHF chatter the captain came up with a different plan. Another fishing boat would pick them up. We were sort of relieved.
In the dark we saw a tiny light coming towards us. The fishing boat made contact by using his lights to send signals and we replied using the spreader lights. Two of ‘our’ fishermen were at the front of Lonna waving; the third was still below but doing much better by now. Jerome took two fenders out of a locker, but they were not needed. The fishing boat came up to our stern with its lights on and they threw a life buoy ring on a rope to transfer the men between the boats.
Before they left, each of them thanked us. This was a very special moment with heartfelt hugs – quite different to those we normally get. We couldn’t speak each other’s languages, but those moments said it all.
I asked if I could take a photo of them, and they happily agreed. After that, they jumped one after the other into the sea, grabbing the life ring so the men on the other boat could haul them in.
Off they went, hoping to return to the place where it all happened, probably to see what they could salvage. We felt for them.
We waved, and with a “Ciao,” it was over.
We talked about this a lot afterwards.
What did we learn? First and foremost, to be better prepared for situations like this.
We thought we were safe with all our equipment, but I now know everything is relative – bad things can happen no matter how well prepared you are. The language was a big barrier. We are not native English speakers, but we do know the VHF ‘language,’ so we assumed that other people would know it too. How wrong we were! Perhaps it would be prudent to prepare some sentences in the local language to use in case of emergency?
We realised that rescuing someone at sea is not easy, especially at night. The capsize happened next to our boat, but it still took us around 15 minutes to get the boat’s crew safely on board. We also wonder how many fishermen are not as lucky as this crew were in having a sailing catamaran next to them when they capsized. We don’t want to know that answer.

Captain's Inn

Kevin Johnson and his new partner Sarah run the Christchurch-based electrical appliance testing business Mega Test. As part of the business, Kevin tests and certifies shore leads and electrical systems for boaties, issuing them with a Test Tag, which is required by many marinas before vessels can connect to shore power.  Story by John Eichelsheim.

A year or so ago the couple bought a Bayliner 2556 through Vining Marine in Picton. Replacing the boat’s dated and tired interior became a project they thoroughly enjoyed and their association with Vining led Kevin and Sarah to take on a role brokering boats for the company in Christchurch part time, working out of Lyttelton’s Te Ana Marina.
In May this year, while also wearing Vining Marine T-shirts, they opened their first Test Tag electrical testing pop-up at the marina. This event saw several shore leads issued with Test Tags, but also drew considerable interest from marina users, who gathered around to chat and socialise.
“It was good fun,” they both said, which got them thinking. “What if we also offer coffee?” Maybe the pop-ups can grow into something quite social and communal? “And what if we tie that in with sponsorship? A good cause. What about Coastguard?”
After talking with local Lyttelton-based Coastguard, Vanessa and team were keen, so Kevin and Sarah were soon offering coffees at their Test Tag/Vining Marine pop-up events, donating the proceeds to Coastguard.

The coffees were a great success and one thing quickly led to another. Kevin spotted a vintage trailer boat for sale, part of a deceased estate, and hit upon the idea of turning it into a mobile office and billboard for their businesses. He showed Sarah a picture of the boat, an early 1960s Carl Augustin design, pitching his idea of an office boat. “Dammit!” she said, “I was hoping you wouldn’t see that!” But with their recent experience refurbishing the Bayliner, they were keen on another project, so they bought the boat and set about planning the work.
But before they could really begin, tragedy struck. In July, one of Sarah’s 30-year-old twin sons took his own life.
“It was and still is incredibly difficult,” recalls Sarah, “It totally shook up our world.”
But rather than dwell on their loss, Sarah decided to use the example of her son’s death to advocate for better support for people suffering mental health problems in New Zealand.
“There is so much more we can do to save lives,” says Sarah.

Renovating the old boat became a welcome distraction and motivation for the couple to move on.
“Working on the boat and coming up with all these ideas put smiles back on our faces,” said Sarah.
Kevin and Sarah had decided to convert the old boat into a mobile office housed permanently on a trailer – somewhere boat ‘Captains’ could enjoy coffee and a yarn (proceeds to Coastguard), which explains the new name: Captain’s Inn.
With the old cabin removed, the boat was relocated to Kevin’s lock-up for fitout. The boat had already been stripped of paint in preparation for an earlier refit that was never completed, and Kevin subsequently removed a small amount of rot before the main work of interior fit out and painting began.

At their monthly pop ups, Kevin and Sarah, had had discussions with Vanessa at Coastguard, who expressed an interest in using the mobile facility for Coastguard’s own fundraising promotions. She was the one who suggested fitting a BBQ for sausage sizzles, an idea Kevin and Sarah enthusiastically adopted. Vining Marine could also see potential in borrowing Captain’s Inn for their own purposes. It seemed the couple was onto a winner.
Kevin’s lock-up used to be his father Doug’s, now deceased, and contained a lot of his father’s old stuff. Doug, a coachbuilder, once had a business building caravans, so for Kevin, refurbishing Captain’s Inn brought back many happy memories of working beside his father. Many of Captain’s Inn’s fittings and features are items Kevin’s dad had collected over the years.

Because Captain’s Inn was never going to see the water again, there was no need for an engine, which Kevin sold. Neither was marine plywood required for the new cabin – ordinary plywood would do. And paint rather than a layer of fibreglass would suffice for the hull.
The boat was painted all over with top-quality exterior paint, which should provide years of protection. The striking signwriting is by the couple’s good friend and the interior design was a collaboration between Kevin and Sarah. The surfboard bar leaner and TV were Kevin’s own ideas, designed and built from scratch, which is why the names ‘Johnson Surfboards’ and ‘Johnson Televisions’ brings so many laughs. Then came the chiller, with an old Johnson outboard motor cowl as its lid. How many more things can Kevin get his name Johnson onto?

“I love building stuff and finishing things off,” says Kevin, whose skills came in very handy with this project, “but it was quite a learning curve nonetheless, with lots of watching videos on YouTube!”
‘Launch’ day brought smiles to the faces of everyone who attended, but most especially to Sarah and Kevin. The project had served as a way forward during a dark period in the family’s life. Captain’s Inn is a success on many levels – the pair have done a fine job with restoring and repurposing a derelict old vessel, navigating a difficult personal journey along the way, and creating a charming, quirky and extremely versatile mobile, office, billboard and promotional vehicle for their own use and the enjoyment of others. Captain’s Inn is one of a kind.

When not fundraising for Coastguard, Captain’s Inn can be found once a month parked beside the water at Te Ana Marina, where Kevin and Sarah welcome a stream of ‘Captains’ for coffee. While they’re there, they can also have their shore leads tested or discuss their brokerage needs.

Power-On: Ski-boat racers

For me, it started off in single outboard catamarans doing north of 90mph (78 knots-plus), but quickly transformed into a 1980s Magnum 1500 powered by a 1986 90hp Johnson – a move from an open horsepower class to the lowest available competitive race class in the country (we’re talking long course racing here), writes Ryan Archer. Pictures by Rach O'Grady and Chris Sexton.
There are plenty of old ski setups available on the secondhand market for less than $10k, and all would be competitive in their respective classes with a bit of tuning and refinement. A 1500 Magnum with a 90hp is a hard boat to beat in the 90hp Limited Class.
Moving up to 150-200hp, the options grow wider, with Bullets, Sonics, Magnums and Cyclones all proving competitive in the right conditions – and many of these hulls are now north of 30 years old! There’s limited choice available locally for those who want to look at new boats: Nic De Mey Yachts is building Phantoms, with six now either built or contracted to be built, and Fairview Fibreglass has a new Stealth on its way. Beyond that, you need to head offshore to Australia, America or Europe to find new-build ski/race options, of which there are many examples already in New Zealand.

Every racer-to-be has to make the first step of identifying how fast they want to go and in what conditions. They should then set up their existing boat or purchase a boat to suit. Doing 70mph (60 knots) down rivers and on inshore lakes is quite achievable with a well set up 1750 Bullet running a 150hp, but head offshore and you’ll need to not only step up in hull length, but also in horsepower to reliably deliver the same sort of speeds. If you look closely at what’s been successful over the years, your starting point would be a 200hp outboard on a 19ft hull.
This segues nicely into how to run hard in the rough. It’s as much about driver skill as it is setup. Seat time yields experience. Experience in how to read water, and how to trim and throttle a boat through chop and swell. Proper boat setup ensures, not only that the boat holds together, but that you can achieve the highest average speed whilst navigating the chop.
Before going racing, taking the hull to a boatbuilder for a once-over is a smart way to ensure the transom and hull survive the punishment that offshore racing will throw at it. The boat may need repairs and/or strengthening.
Head inshore and a well-maintained 1980s ski-boat will be suitable for most of the conditions you’ll encounter, which is part of the reason why the Bullets, Magnums and Cyclones are still campaigned so successfully today.
We’ll save tips and tricks on rigging raceboats/ski-boats for future columns.

Australian Wooden Boat Festival; Wooden Gems

The seagulls in Hobart are more raucous and the air looks much clearer, concluded Boating NZ’s Australian correspondent Kevin Green, on deck amongst the Parade of Sail on Tasmania’s River Derwent.

Day one of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival was getting off to a grand start as 200 vessels of every size paraded in their finery, some fully dressed, and most with flags flying in the light breeze.

Leading the charge were the 10 tall ships that showed the colonial maritime history, including the giant James Craig, right down to the tiny Duyfken, one of the earliest colonial visitors from Holland, which first charted Western Australia in 1606.

The Parade of Sail showcased a variety of recreational and commercial vessels that sailed across the River Derwent to enter the festival site at Constitution Dock. It was led by the Governor, Her Excellency Honourable Barbara Baker AC, on the motoryacht Egeria, a 1941 huon pine cruiser. She told me, “As a proud Tasmanian, the festival is not just a celebration of our heritage, but also a vital part of our economy,” she said.

Raid sailors Chris and Dale from Canada; Sailors Village. CREDIT: Island Image.

Offshore a day later, the Derwent World Championships saw the river dotted with racing sails and towards the festival end, a special Ketch Review. Each day the air was filled with sound of jet engines as the Roulettes Aerobatic Team buzzed the Tasmanian capital and crowds jostled on the pontoons below.

Later, at the symposium theatre, Duyfken crew member Mirjam Hilgeman explained to a captivated audience how the 20m replica, launched in 2009, is sailed. Distinguished audience members included Australian America’s Cup winning skipper John Bertrand, who asked how such a vessel could sail around the world, given it could hardly go to windward. Other audience members questioned the stability of the little cog-like ship – typical of the interesting conversations at this symposium and several others during the four-day festival.

Hobart is Australia’s most glorious maritime city. Nestled at the top of infamous Storm Bay, midway down the island’s east coast, it is surrounded by sheltered cruising grounds I’ve enjoyed many times over the decades. It is so worth making the challenging voyage over the Tasman Sea for a visit. The surrounding areas especially worth visiting include Mount Wellington, overlooking the city, and the most famous of all its attractions, the internationally renowned avant garde Mona Gallery.

Sailors Village. CREDIT: Island Image.


On the quays amid the many gleaming historical vessels were newer ones, to remind the thousands of visitors that a vibrant wooden boat building industry exists in Tasmania. Among the internationals was a former New Zealand-based yacht that was originally built in England, Te Rapunga. Aboard the Te Rapunga boatbuilder Ken Studley told me how she was rebuilt by Denman Marine, after finding remains of the original hull rotting in New Zealand. With only the ballast and some bronze fixtures remaining, she was restored over three years and launched in 2020. Some of Denman’s staff did most of their apprenticeship on this boat. Their order books are fairly full, young apprentice Lockey told me.

With the name Tui of Opua, the immaculate Vertue 26 owned and built in 1994 by Bruce and Thelma Morely, belies the couple’s Kiwi connections. They built it on the east coast of Australia in 1994 out of Honduras mahogany and use a spruce mast. These hardy liveaboards have been cruising the Australian east coast for the last 25 years and are regular attendees at the Hobart Festival. They are friends of mine, so it was good to escape the hot sun and go below for a cuppa and yarn. “It took us about a month of sailing to get here, after we left Newcastle,” said Bruce. Thelma goes ashore at the festival to demonstrate her articulate rope work and the couple plan to overwinter in Tasmania before sailing back across Bass Strait next summer.

America’s Cup history was also on display in the form of the elegant Gretel II, Australia’s 1970 challenger for the auld mug. The 12m class was designed by one the country’s leading architects, Alan Payne, and built by William Barnett in Tasmania. Gretel II also challenged in the 1977 Cup. Made of Oregon pine, the carvel-laid sloop shone immaculately in the Tassie sun as a new generation of sailors viewed her sleek topsides and vast Lewmar coffee grinders.

The racing fleet of 24-foot one-designs.


A harsh colonial invasion ensured few relics survive from Tasmania’s indigenous population, apart from middens that are seen in some of the remoter places I’ve come ashore, such as Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour in the unpopulated southwest. However, their words – Tawe Nunnugah – have been remembered in the naming of the small-boat Raid cruise that meets at Recherche Bay biennially.

It’s a Palawa tribe phrase for ‘voyaging by canoe’, which is similar to the European word ‘raid’, as in ‘inspired by raiding parties’. Glamorised by the Vikings, who were skilled at sail and oar; using shallow-draft vessels to explore far inland. Similarly, the Tasmania Raid invites small boat sailors to coastal hop north for 10 days. This is done within sheltered waters inside Bruny Island before the more open-water grand finale of Storm Bay, the Derwent River and Hobart, where raiders are advised to behave better than the Vikings on their arrival at Constitution Dock.

Some will have rowed and raced hard in traditional boats known as St Ayles skiffs. Double-ended dories, built for sail and oar originally used in the far north of Scotland on Fair Isle, these were replicated by Australian designer Iain Oughtred to become the popular St Ayles skiffs. The simple design caught the imagination of many groups worldwide, who often gather to build one from a kit before participating in rowing events. This year’s RAID had more than 30 boats in total.

Sitting in a restored 100-year-old cod boat are Jack Witte, Cody Horgan, Nathan O’Neil, Sarah Hodgman, Michael Vaughan.
A display of local woods.


The festival is an important forum for the wooden boat building industry, and this was reflected across the symposiums held in the theatre on the quay. ‘The Future of Boatbuilding Wood’ symposium was a particular highlight, which discussed the plight of the industry in sourcing timber for new builds. Sourcing the specialist woods on the island has been increasingly more difficult as environmental concerns limit supply.

Huon pine is unique to Tasmania and is slow growing, with some specimens thousands of years old. Huon pines are some of the oldest living organisms on Earth, with one stand of them found in 1955 to be in excess of 10,500 years old! This slow growth creates a dense yet light, resinated timber that has been ideal for boatbuilding throughout the last century. Other speciality timbers used in boatbuilding include King Billy, celery top and swamp gum. Apart from the maritime use, other timbers found here such as black heart sassafras, myrtle and blackwood are used by instrument makers and the furniture industry. As an example, a tabletop of one of these sold for A$6,000 at the festival this year.

Tasmania pioneered Australia’s fledgling environmental movement and continues on this path, but clearly there are challenges, including sustainable fish farming and the timber industry. Yet boatbuilding requires about only one percent of the timber resource and is a vital part of the economy and culture in this most beautiful isle. However, Denman company boss and president of the Tasmanian Speciality Timber Alliance (TSTA), Andrew Denman, argues that the state’s boat building industry is under threat: “It is a combination of deliberate market distortion and resource mismanagement by Sustainable Timber Tasmania, and a failure of Government policy implementation,” he told the Hobart Mercury newspaper.

TSTA figures estimate that speciality timber log volumes have decreased by 89% since 2011. Given that the industry contributes roughly A$20-30 million to the local economy and employs 200 people directly, there is a clear need for sustainable resources to facilitate it. This was a fact Tasmanian Minister for Resources, Felix Ellis, acknowledged during a video address to the audience at the Future of Boatbuilding Wood symposium I attended.

Another senior mainland boatbuilder, Tim Philips from Sorrento Wooden Boats, told us he’d been unable to source Tasmanian timber, such as huon pine, for about 20 years; using mostly African timber instead. Co-festival founder, author and sailor Ian Johnston spoke passionately about the future for the local industry, while tall ship captain Sarah Parry explained how her vessel Windward Bound was built using wood in a more economical fashion, employing the strip plank/epoxy method in swamp gum.

Tall ships and wooden boats of every kind outside the Port of Hobart.


A former surgeon and a Boeing 747 airline pilot are two of the eight students graduating from the Wooden Boat School at Franklin in the Huon Valley, Tasmania. The students come from all parts of Australia and have completed a one-year, hands-on course in boat building. They have built six new vessels and restored two. “The Wooden Boat School is one of Tasmania’s best-kept secrets,” said Peter Schulz, a former airline pilot who sailed his own yacht from Sydney to join the course. “I know of nothing like it elsewhere in Australia.”

Dr Michael Vaughan gave up his practice as a surgeon to pursue his love of wooden boats. “It is such a privilege to be able to build boats using the best boat-building timbers in the world, such as huon pine, which are only available here in Tasmania,” he said.

“It has been great to get back to normal after Covid disrupted student arrivals from interstate in the previous two years,” said Cody Horgan, chief instructor at the school. “This year’s cohort has been an extraordinary mix of ages and backgrounds and shows the enthusiasm out there for keeping alive boat-building skills.”

Mr Horgan is a former student at the Wooden Boat School who went on to work interstate, including being responsible for maintenance of the vessels at the National Maritime Museum, Sydney.

“The school is keeping alive, and building on, Tasmania’s wooden-boat-building heritage,” said Mr Horgan.

There have been surprises for some of the students during the year. Sarah Hodgman gave up nursing at a Canberra hospital to try her hand at boat building. Much to her surprise, she discovered her skills in fine woodwork by turning out exquisite pieces, including an ornate sea chest with wooden hinges. Jack Witte, a master craftsman and restorer of heritage buildings, faced challenges: “I have been working with wood since I was 14 years old, but the lack of straight lines in boats has challenged me,” he said.

The final new-build out of the school for the year belongs to Keith Gimbert from northern Queensland. He and his wife Sharon moved to Franklin, Tasmania for three months so Keith could work on the build of his huon pine Whitehall dinghy alongside students. “There is nowhere quite like here,” he said. “The access to the woods like huon pine, and the people with skills is unparalleled.”

The Parade makes its way in light winds. CREDIT: Kolahai Photography.
Aboriginal craftsman Sheldon Thomas has made more than 1,000 indigenous canoes and teaches the traditional technique to schools and prisons. CREDIT: AWBF.


The February 2023 event in Hobart welcomed a recordbreaking number of interstate boats and throngs of crowds, estimated to be 90,000, during four sunshine-filled days. In total 354 vessels registered, with 38% from interstate. “It has been a fantastic weekend of celebrations, with our boating community from near and far,” said AWBF General Manager Paul Stephanus.

The festival hosted a huge variety of floating vessels, static displays of smaller ones, shipwright demonstrations and stalls of various marine goods, as well as food. Entertainment offered included sea shanty singing and various theatricals. Other Festival highlights included 10 local and interstate Tall Ships which departed Sullivan’s Cove daily with joyriders who experienced the vitality of the past age of working sail. And it will all happen again in 2025 (7–10 February). BNZ

Fitting a diesel heater; Warming welcome

Fitting a safe, efficient diesel heater to your vessel makes winter boating much more enjoyable – and doing so is not beyond the DIY installer.

When winter starts to really bite, many boaties dramatically reduce their boating time. Even on those occasional days when there are clear skies, single-digit temperatures put most people off getting out on the water. Which is a pity, because there are stunning days to be had for folk hardy enough to dress appropriately and head out into the wild blue yonder.

Except it is not always necessary to be immune to the cold or add layers until you look like the Michelin Man. At home we would turn on the heater or fire up the wood-burner or gas fire, and soon enough we’d be toasty warm. Why can’t we do the same on our boat?

Well, it turns out we can, with some careful planning and the right product to install.

1. Plenty of space to fit the unit in here
2. I made a bracket to hold the heater mounting plate.

Unless you have a large launch with a genset, a domestictype electric fan heater is seldom the best option. It turns out that converting electricity directly into heat is not very efficient, and a standard 2000-watt mains-powered heater would be drawing somewhere around 180 amps off a 12-volt system. Very few house batteries could sustain this sort of current draw for more than a few minutes. And an energy-efficient heat pump is simply too big and complex to fit on most boats.

So, a fuel-powered heater is what is needed, and the most convenient options for fuel sources are LPG or diesel. Stand-alone gas heaters are readily available for the domestic market, and they’re cheap, but are not recommended for use in an enclosed boat cabin. Carbon monoxide is the main risk, although this can be mitigated by plumbing in a system with adequate ventilation. However, the fire hazard from highly combustible fuel is another reason to avoid gas-fired heaters.

Which leaves diesel-powered heaters – and the number of available options has surged in recent years. Diesel has the advantage of not being very volatile, so the risk of fire is low. Most launches and yachts already have a diesel tank for the main engine, although the recommended installation option for most units is to run the heater off a small auxiliary fuel tank, making them equally suitable for petrol-fuelled vessels.

After experiencing a couple of heated boats, I decided to install a suitable unit as part of my boat rebuild. There are several options, depending on the space available and your budget. If you have a larger boa, and also want to incorporate on-demand hot water, then the Hurricane Hydronic heating system (available from So-Pac Marine in Auckland) is the way to go. These provide both water heating and multiple outlets of ducted warm air. Their price and size, however, means they are probably suited to larger boats with multiple cabins.

3. A good spot for the exhaust - rear facing and high above the waterline.
4. The exhaust fitting installed, with heat- tolerant silicone sealant.

Another option popular in Europe is a space heater, looking a bit like a small wood-burner stove. Sig Marine, also distributed locally by So-Pac, make a neat little stainless-steel unit which can operate in a naturally ducted mode. This requires no power to run once it is ignited and is also very quiet, making it popular with cruising yachts and liveaboards. These heaters require open space around the unit so are ideal for fitting into the saloon of a larger vessel.

But by far the most popular option is a compact diesel air heater. These feature a fully enclosed combustion chamber that can be hidden away, the warm air ducted to where it is required. A popular option is to place an outlet blowing air onto the windscreen, to clear away fogging on cold mornings. The combustion gases from the diesel in these units is fully vented outside the boat. There is therefore no possibility of toxic gases or any smelly fumes getting into the cabin.

I decided to go with the compact air heater option, since I could locate the heater body inside one of the hulls of my aluminium catamaran. There is a huge range of brands and models available, from cheap Chinese versions through to German-made marine-grade options designed specifically for a boat. You get what you pay for – the cheap versions will have non-stainless fittings and cheap plastic parts, will likely be noisy when operating, and will probably only last a year or two. These have also been implicated in carbon monoxide poisonings – you will need to be extra-cautious that the exhaust system has no leaks.

On the other hand, the well-engineered European models will provide decades of troublefree use, operate safely, and run almost silently when properly installed.

Regardless of brand, these heaters all operate in a very similar manner, and their installation is pretty much the same.

Firstly, I needed to find a suitable location for the heater body, but I had masses of space inside the forward sections of the hulls. Most boats have a compartment somewhere that can be used, such as under a gunwale where the extra heat will not cause any issues. The body of the unit is surprisingly small, so it does not require a lot of room, although some airflow around the unit is recommended.

A metal plate forms the basis of the mounting. I found a suitable location forward inside my port-side hull, above the waterline and with space for the air intake and exhaust hoses to come up from the bottom of the plate. The unit needs to be installed approximately level, although this is not critical.

5. And the stainless clamshell to keep rain and spray out.
6. The unit installed – just need some clamps and ties for the cable and hoses.

The next important consideration was the location of the hull fitting for the exhaust. The exhaust must be vented outside, ideally lower than the combustion module so any condensation can drip out. It also needs to be high enough that there is no chance of any water ingress and located in a heattolerant location to handle very hot exhaust gasses. The kit comes with corrugated stainless tubing for the exhaust, and a length of softer flexible hose for the intake. The whole exhaust gets pretty hot, so the flue should be as short as possible and shouldn’t touch any part of the boat between the combustion unit and exiting the hull. In addition, to avoid any possibility of carbon monoxide escaping into the hull, the exhaust tube should be a single piece without any joins.

I found a spot where I could mount the exhaust vent so it faced the stern of the boat, then fitted a stainless steel clamshell cover over it to prevent any rain or spray getting in. The unit needs a diesel fuel source and the kit includes a 10-litre plastic fuel tank, plus suitable fuel pipe. Moulded indents in the tank allow coach screws to be used to attach it to a bulkhead – I planned to install it onto a piece of marine plywood close to a deck hatch where I can easily top up the fuel.

And the very last item is the control box. The cheaper models have a simple on/off and fan speed control. The better kits have full thermostatic control so you can set the desired internal temperature – the system will automatically adjust its output as required. Some kits also include a remote control. My unit came with a colour digital LCD display, and for ease of installation I will simply mount this against the cabin side above the main unit.

So, having worked out where to fit everything, I began the actual installation. Securing the main unit in the port hull required fabricating a sturdy bracket to attach to one of the internal stringers. Then the unit was bolted to this, and the hoses were connected. The air inlet was connected to the supplied filter and placed in the hull void to suck air from there. The exhaust tube was carefully bent and routed to connect to the stainless-steel hull fitting, which was sealed to the hull with high-temperature silicone sealant.

The fuel tank was installed on the piece of marine ply and the in-line filter and fuel pump fitted to the hose between the fuel tank and the combustion unit using the supplied fuel hose and jubilee clamps. The fuel pump comes in a rubber shock absorbing mount, which I mounted against another piece of marine ply. This should further isolate the pump from the hull, helping to minimise vibration.

Almost done. I ran the control cables under the deck and up to the side of the cabin. I will mount it permanently later. I am still finishing the interior layout, which also means I’m not yet ready to mount the vent outlets. I will also be installing a carbon monoxide alarm on board, just to be extra sure.

7. The fuel tank is mounted with screws through the indentations
8. The stainless exhaust. Note I did not fit the muffler to prevent the risk of exhaust gas escaping.

After connecting the 12V supply up to the power cable, it was time to test everything. I put some clean diesel into the tank and powered up the unit. Since this was a new installation, I needed to prime the pump first, and the instructions were not particularly clear! Fortunately YouTube has numerous helpful videos, so I soon worked out what was required.

After that the operation of the unit is easy enough – the “on” button is pressed for a few seconds to get the unit to start, and a longer press on the same button turns it off. Up and down arrows change the output level, and the controller displays the current status of the unit and cabin’s internal air temperature.

When the unit is turned on, the glowplug must heat the diesel for a few seconds before it will ignite. At first the unit blew only cold air but within five minutes there was toasty warm air coming out the vent. There are various settings available, including manual mode where you control the output, thermostat mode. where it slows down the output when the target temperature is reached, and timer mode, when it runs for a specified period and then automatically shuts off.

The whole job took about five hours, but nearly half of that was spent fashioning and welding a mounting bracket to hold the main unit. Apart from the cost of the kit, I purchased a stainless steel through-hull fitting for the exhaust, a stainless clamshell cover, and a longer piece of exhaust pipe. And the only other gotcha is that when you turn off the unit the fan remains on for about five minutes as the combustion chamber cools down.

Now I can look forward to plenty of warm boating through the winter. BNZ 

A lucky escape

Christian and I have a new birthday: February 11, 2023. On that day we nearly drowned, only surviving thanks to tons of luck.

We hadn’t been on a risky adventure, just out with a local friend to take underwater pictures of a reef pass on the southern side of Matuku (Lau group, eastern Fiji) for a report to get government funding for a no-fishing ‘tabu’ zone there. Our friend and boatman Maikeli, the headman of the village of Makadru, wasn’t so lucky – his body was found two days later.

On this fateful morning we were reluctant to go. The weather was overcast and we both had a cold, but we didn’t want to disappoint Maikeli – and we were eager to help protect the environment of our favourite island in the Lau group.

So we went down south to the Daku passage in his 24ft open boat. Approaching the pass we saw that the swell outside was much higher than expected. We would never have taken our dinghy out in such conditions, but we thought Maikeli, who had spent all of his 58 years on Matuku, knew how to judge the situation.

The pass is short and upon exiting it on the ocean side, it became clear that the current wasn’t going in as we had thought, but was going out already because of the high swell! Additionally, a current set us sideways, towards the breaking surf.

Suddenly a gigantic wave built up ahead of the boat—a five-metre vertical wall. Maikeli gave it full throttle, trying to climb the wave, but we had no chance. The boat flipped over backwards and crashed down on us, together with tons and tons of frothing Pacific.

Nobody who hasn’t been swallowed by such surf can imagine the panic of being whirled around, the thundering noise, incredibly loud, with foaming turquoise everywhere, impossible to tell up from down, no more air, coming up coughing, struggling… Then the next wave breaking. The same struggle again. And yet another one, until we were back in shallower water on the reef.

Somehow, the capsized boat had righted itself; the anchor must have fallen out and anchored it on the reef. Christian managed to climb up on it, shouting and waving for us to come, but Maikeli and I were grabbed by the current and swept out of the pass again, towards the Pacific and almost certain death.

A typical Fijian long boat like the one the writers were aboard.

Looking back at Christian, I thought I was getting my last glimpse of him. It seemed so surreal – what a senseless way to die. This couldn’t be the end. My only chance was to swim sideways out of the four-knot current. Maikeli was drifting next to me, holding onto the boat’s fuel tank—that was the last time I saw him.

I swam for my life towards the edge of the reef passage, reached the breaking surf and got rolled and tossed across the reef again. I managed to struggle to the boat and Christian pulled me in, but we were still not safe. The the semi-submerged boat was anchored in a precarious position: close enough to the drop-off into the pass that the ripping current was trying to suck us out to sea and close enough to the outer edge of the barrier reef to have occasional waves breaking over us – only the boat’s bow was sticking out.

We were holding on to a line for dear life and I could feel broken ribs in my right side moving and grinding against each other, my right arm was swollen and almost useless. Christian was standing most of the time, looking for Maikeli and shouting, but there was no sign of him. We had to wait another hour until a boat passing by in the lagoon spotted us.

There is a hospital in Matuku, but they only have a few beds and a small pharmacy and no means to diagnose injuries. The nurse told me he could feel two broken ribs moving and wrapped me up tightly. As I could breathe and was not spitting blood, we assumed my lungs were okay, so we decided not to insist on evacuation by helicopter. The boat must have hit me in that very first wave after the somersault – I could dimly remember a dull, thumping sound. Christian must have jumped sideways to escape the wreck, or maybe he just got lucky, only suffering coral cuts and bruises.

Matuku Island with the reef passage circled in red, and a closer view below.

We waited out some rough weather caused by cyclone Gabrielle far to the southeast of Fiji and then sailed with light southerly winds to Suva a week later – we had underestimated the sea state and I suffered horribly for 20 hours on our heavily rolling Pitufa.

When we arrived in Suva we decided not take our chances with the public hospital, but went to a private medical centre instead. It turns out the doctors who work at the big Colonial War Memorial Hospital during day tend to private patients at the centre in the evening! The facilities are modern and the staff friendly and professional.

After two days of x-rays and CT scans we were told that my injuries were much more serious than the initial (rudimentary) diagnosis had suggested: five broken ribs, a moderate pneumothorax (meaning a rib had punctured the lung and air had escaped into the space between lung and ribs, compressing the lung) and a partial tear in my right triceps tendon.

The general surgeon, Dr. Delasau, couldn’t believe the images. “Looking at the scans I would schedule you for immediate surgery, but looking at you walking and talking like you do, I just say, keep doing what you’ve been doing!” Listening to our narrative of the incident, the way I could only gasp for shallow breaths, he concluded that the right side of my lung may well have been completely collapsed at that point and had since healed itself – to the still alarming condition we now saw on the CT scan! Had we known on Matuku how critical my condition was, we had not have hesitated and insisted on air evacuation.

Waiting for a CT scan at the Oceania Hospital.
Dr Etuwata and the rudimentary medical equipment he has at his disposal.

That was a week ago. We are still sad, shocked and in pain. The loss of our friend Maikeli, the headman of Makadru, was a serious blow to the island community, who lost a generous, caring man who worked tirelessly for the island. We feel strongly that something positive should come out of the accident.

We discussed overfishing and sustainable ways of fishing with the headmen and chiefs of Matuku during our last visit – they still have areas with wonderful coral and healthy fish populations, but the signs of overfishing are already there. We convinced them that protecting early means securing the future of their subsistence fishing and were happy to see planned tabu areas going through all seven villages like wildfire. At the risk of sounding theatrical, Maikeli basically died for the idea of sustainable fishing for the future of the island – he wanted a night-time ban on spearfishing in a permanent tabu area and a smaller core zone with no spear-fishing at all. We would therefore like to organise funding to help them with a “Maikeli Tamani Tabu zone for the future of Matuku”. It’s not much money probably, just to buy some buoys to mark it, a ceremony to start it off so people will know about it and respect it, and fuel to do occasional patrols with a longboat around the island to ensure the night-time tabu is observed.

We experienced how dreadful it feels to have serious injuries and no way to diagnose them without medical equipment. Talking to the islanders, we found many who had suffered fractures that went untreated and/or were diagnosed too late when they eventually made it to Suva. We are just now raising funds and trying to organise an x-ray machine for the hospital to help the doctor with diagnoses. This would serve not only Matuku, but also the neighbouring islands of Totoya and Moala. Dr. Etuwate was thrilled about our idea and has approached his superiors about it. BNZ

• If you would like to help us organise these projects for Matuku

• If you would like to support the funding, if you have contacts with companies of medical equipment

• If you know doctors/medical centres upgrading their equipment who might want to donate a used x-ray machine...

Please get in touch.


Birgit Hackl and Christian Feldbauer set out in 2011 from the Mediterranean and sailed via the Atlantic and Caribbean to the South Pacific where they have spent the last 8 years. More info and pics on

An x-ray of Birgit’s chest showing fluid in the lung and broken ribs
Taping her damaged elbow.


We are cautious, careful people and have never felt in serious danger during 12 years of cruising, from the Med via the Atlantic, and right around the Pacific. We check tide-tables and weather before we go out in the dinghy and look at charts and satellite pictures to know where reefs and dangers are.

Whenever we go out in the dinghy, perhaps to go snorkelling, the main worry is an engine failure (even though our Tohatsu is very reliable).

So we take along:

• Oars

• A bottle of water in case of a long row

• Shoes (should we need to, we want to be able to drag the dinghy off the shallows without risking cut feet)

• An anchor on a long line tied to the boat (so we can anchor the dinghy if swept over shallow areas)

When we take the dinghy out in remote areas we add to the abovementioned equipment:

• A VHF (sometimes also an EPIRB) in a dry-bag

•A torch (in a dry-bag)

•And we turn on Pitufa’s anchor lights and AIS in case she goes walk-about while we’re away

Our mistake on the day of the accident was that we trusted Maikeli’s local knowledge and did not double-check ourselves. We will certainly not do that again.

The equipment we usually take along in our dinghy would not have been of any use after the accident, as everything got swept out of the capsized boat by the surf. Life-vests would not have helped either – already the first wave ripped away the masks and fins we were wearing and even opened the zipper of my shorty wetsuit. Life-jackets would have been torn off as well.

The additional buoyancy of the shorties certainly helped me swimming with broken ribs, but Christian was wearing his weight-belt and thinks it may be the reason why he was not swept into the pass again – he had more grip on the reef than Maikeli and I. That does NOT mean we’d recommend weight-belts against drowning, though.

Having an international health insurance is a very reassuring in an emergency – we would not recommend cruising without one.


Kayak onboard!

An inflatable kayak has opened up a whole new world of exploration and fun for this year-round cruising couple Birgit Hakl and Christian Feldbauer.

Cruising in Fiji this year we anchored in the beautiful Bay of Islands on Vanua Balavu in the Lau Group, surrounded by picturesque mushroom-shaped limestone islands.

On the day after we arrived we woke to a perfectly calm morning with the fantastic landscape mirrored on glassy calm seas. We took Pitufa on a scenic tour through the bizarrely-shaped maze, anchored in a tiny bay, went snorkelling on a nearby reef and flew our drone. We posted pictures of that perfect day on our blog and got raving comments of people wishing they were with us in that amazing setting.

What they didn’t know was that a stiff southeasterly started blowing the very next day and kept whistling for almost two weeks. The churned-up water was too murky for fun snorkelling and the drone got grounded by the gusty wind for safety reasons. We’d usually enjoy some shore activities in cool weather, but the limestone islands are too spiky to climb up and there are no paths through the dense vegetation. There’s always a long to-do list of boat projects for windy and rainy days, so we dived into maintenance. But after a few days without getting out we were suffering a bad case of cabin fever. Just then a Kiwi family paddled by in their kayak and we realised what an important gadget we were missing on Pitufa!

Back in the land of internet we immediately ordered a kayak. Ella our Advanced Elements kayak arrived soon after and, so far, we haven’t found a single disadvantage to having her as a new crew member. It’s pure joy to move about in nature, propelled by our own muscle power and feeling the sun, wind and spray on our faces while paddling to a sandy beach or pristine reef!

More fitness for boaters
As year-round cruisers, we don’t do enough for our fitness. On passage, bursts of activity (some quick winching when reefing) are followed by long phases of inactivity, just holding on in bad weather and lazing around in calm seas. Everything on board is located within reach or at least within a few metres, so there aren’t many steps to count (even if we wore a watch with a step-counting app).

Circulatory training is vital for both health and well-being, but it’s hard to find regular opportunities for that. Some ambitious sailors can be seen doing yoga on deck in the morning, while even sportier ones go jogging ashore, and of course there are occasional work-out bursts for kite-surfers when a stiff breeze is blowing. But most of us don’t move enough, apart from going snorkelling (where you hardly ever manage to work up a sweat) or taking an occasional hike.

The kayak has changed that: now we get regular exercise taking it to shore or just paddling around the anchorage for fun. Of course, a SUP is also light, can be carried when necessary, and is great to paddle on a glassy-calm lagoon. But the advantage kayaks have over these wobbly devices is their sturdiness. While SUPs are only fun in calm conditions, kayaks can safely be taken out for a ride even when it’s choppy out there, so no excuse for slouching on the couch in rougher weather!

A kayak for safety and as back-up
As they have hardly any draft, kayaks can take you over shallows that dinghies cannot navigate. If it gets too shallow even for the kayak, you can always just pick it up and carry it for a stretch before paddling on. Schlepping a dinghy would be cumbersome, but a lightweight kayak poses no problem at all on such occasions.

Trying to land a dinghy in rough conditions on a rocky coast is a risky business and leaving the dink anchored out in possibly breaking waves leaves an uneasy feeling while lingering ashore. It’s much safer to take the kayak in such conditions, as we can simply carry it out of the danger zone and leave it in a safe place while we are gone.

Kayaks are also great in areas with a large tidal range. Have you ever left your dinghy tied to a tree at high tide and returned to find it high and dry? After dragging the heavy RIB over rocks and slippery mud towards the receding sea a few times, we have learned to look at the tide-table before heading ashore, but you can’t always time your shore visits according to the tide. Even with good planning, we must sometimes anchor either far out at low tide (and have to swim to the dink at high tide) or carry the dinghy back to sea later. A lightweight kayak can much more easily be carried to shore or back out to sea at low tide.

It’s also reassuring that we’d have some alternative means of transport in case some misfortune should happen to the dinghy (not, touch wood!). If the dinghy has to stay on deck for a few days to let the glue on a repair fully cure, we can still venture out with the kayak. If the dinghy gets blown away, we could at least go out and search for it. In the worst-possible scenario of a lost dinghy, the kayak would be a vital means to go ashore and get some shopping done.

Environmental considerations
Apart from some gentle splashing and an occasional curse when it won’t stay on course, a kayak glides along soundlessly. It’s a wonderfully serene way to explore a remote shoreline and we get to see much more wildlife than we would from our dinghy with its noisy outboard engine. Powered by MP (muscle power) instead of HP (horsepower), a kayak is an emission-free, pollution-free alternative to petrol or diesel power. Sailing to a destination and then kayaking when we get there allows us to be perfect eco-tourists, with a zero carbon footprint. In times of high fuel prices, using the dinghy less often also means that we are going easy on the cruising kitty by paddling instead of motoring.

Instead of buying two kayaks for the two of us, we decided to get a two-seater, and yes, manoeuvring the little boat to an agreed-upon destination can sometimes lead to arguments about tactics, techniques, and navigational options, but we have always made it there and – more importantly – back home again by working together. We can therefore recommend paddling a double kayak as one way for couples to improve communication and cooperation!

We opted for an inflatable version, because Pitufa’s decks are cluttered enough without another gadget tied to the railing. Our two-person Advanced Elements kayak weighs only 16kg and – once deflated – fits into a carrier bag easily stored below deck on passages.

D'Urville Days

“We need a few days away!” I said to Tom. After 10 successive days of rain and gloom, a high moved in, the sun came out and cool southerlies brought snow to the ranges around Tasman Bay. We headed out of The Cut from Nelson’s Haven, aboard our Craddock 36 Zest on Thursday May 11, 2023. Story by Vicky Jackson.

The summer cruise is the long one, a month away for many, or in our case last summer, three months away aboard Zest – a circumnavigation of the North Island. But from our home base in Nelson, short cruises are also very possible. Late autumn and winter cruising can be rewarding, made even better when you have a heater onboard! And the anchorages are not crowded.

Our favourite local cruising area is north to D’Urville Island Rangitoto ki te Tonga. There are no extensive sandy beaches as in the Abel Tasman National Park, but neither are there water-taxis and trampers, nor very many boats.

As we motored down Nelson Harbour, the panoramic view was of snow – a lot of snow – covering the mountain tops on the west coast and even on the Bryant Ranges up behind Richmond. It was cool, perhaps cold, with the white snow and blue sky providing a picturesque backdrop over the Boulder Bank and across Tasman Bay. A light southwest wind gave us a broad reach as we motor-sailed north.

Greville Harbour, halfway up the west coast of D’Urville Island, has an inner and outer part. We hoped that we could anchor in one of the outer bays, to the southeast, so long as the northerly swell was not going to give us a rolly night. We were fine – it was a gentle, almost soporific swell, Zest was like a baby being rocked in a crib.

The inner part, into Mill Arm, provides more bays and two club moorings but a boat must negotiate the narrow pass through the stony bank, with its fast-flowing tidal current. There are two markers, but it pays to read the text in the New Zealand Cruising Guide Central Area, as one cannot approach the gap and markers square-on. Our evening was quiet, near three homesteads in Owhai Bay, with steep swards of green behind us.

The heater went on in the early evening in preparation for the drop in temperature. But we turn it off at night. The next morning required a quick exit from the sleeping bags to don four merino layers; the saloon was a cool 9°C.

By 0930 we were heading out of Greville Harbour. The course northeast passes majestic cliffs, soaring almost vertically from the water. We looked ahead, almost due north and saw something else: a conical island appearing as a knuckle above the horizon, almost melting into the blue-grey of the sea. Though it looked like an island, we questioned our knowledge of New Zealand geography; the only feature in that position was a high mountain, Taranaki. The peak is 2,518m high and we could see its top from 90 nautical miles away.

Like Hardy himself, Port Hardy’s place names pay homage to Lord Nelson: Nile Head, Nelson’s Monument, Victory Island, Trafalgar Point. There are rocky headlands, islands and islets, with a rip just offshore from Nile Head powered by the mixing tides. The South Arm of Port Hardy is an inlet that cuts 3.3km into hills at the top of D’Urville. There are a few farms and maybe four houses, but much of the area is native bush with thick foliage, spreading up from the water’s edge.

To the west and east there are small bays giving a choice of anchorages. The last bay on the west side, Philante, is our favourite. It is very sheltered, with three mooring buoys, for Tasman Bay Cruising Club (TBCC), Pelorus/Waikawa/Mana (PWM) Clubs and 40°S Club.

Swinging to the blue TBCC mooring, we were on our own, except for a small inflatable on the PWM mooring. The bay oozed peace and calm, which was reinforced by the joyous bird song ringing out from the bush. We always find this a magical place.

For those who know it, this bay is one boats frequently return to. We have got to know Chris and Sarah, although we only ever meet them once a year – Sunstone and now Zest meet up with Flying Fox on the 25th or 26th of December. Well, we have done so for more than five years.

The launch that returned to its dinghy, was also one we had met in this same bay over Christmas in 2020, Southern Cross, from Mana. Her crew love fishing and the day had been productive. We were generously offered two snapper – two lovely meals for us. They were after crays the next day.

And then a blue steel yacht motored slowly in and set her anchor in the more northern corner of Philante. It did not take long to identify Taranui with Brian and Hilary on board. We had not seen them here before, but we had shared anchorages in Vava’u, Tonga, in Northland, and closer to home in Torrent Bay, Abel Tasman National Park. The next day, Sunday, we caught up over coffee and freshly-cooked muffins, sharing tales of offshore cruising and tramping.

With just a week’s cruise, we stayed on the west coast. However, the eastern side of D’Urville Island provides some sheltered anchorages, especially in winds from the westerly quarter. Catherine Cove to the southeast is a good spot to finish or begin a transit of French Pass/Te Aumiti.

This piece of water has a reputation and must be respected. It is not a place to be with strong winds. In light to moderate conditions, working the tide and carefully checking the situation, the narrow gap can be navigated by a boat with a strong and reliable engine. There is one proviso: the stated times for high and low tide and the direction of flow are ‘created’ by humans. In real life, tidal flows, heights, and streams are influenced and changed by pressure, rainfall, and winds even 50 miles away. It often pays to be a little early and stand off to watch and see the flow yourself.

There is also shelter from southwest to northwest winds in Whareatea Bay and between the Rangitoto Islands. Here the fishing is particularly good. While French Pass has a reputation, we are also very cautious when using Stephens Passage, passing between Cape Stephens and Saddle Rocks in the far north. The water flows strongly in this gut and we have often encountered very confused seas with white water, even in benign conditions. The reward is spectacular scenery, rocky islands, some with arches – notably The Sisters – and craggy headlands.

Our third west coast anchorage is another favourite and one we have used frequently. It is only 52km from Nelson. Opotiki is at the northwest corner of the larger Manuhakapakapa Bay. It is very pretty, in a different way from Port Hardy. The steep, pastured hillsides are grazing land for sheep and cattle with just one house at the head of the bay surrounded by conifers just above the pebble beach. The anchorage is easy with plenty of space, but there can be a downside. We have experienced very strong down-drafts, usually when the wind is fresh from the northwest, storming down the hillsides and even creating williwaws at times that spiral over the bay. This makes for a less than relaxing time at anchor; but we have proved that the muddy bottom is very secure. At other times, as on this occasion, the bay is calm and settled and we are often the only vessel.

Opotiki does provide more opportunities for cruisers to stretch their legs. I took a beach walk on the first afternoon over the many coloured pebbles, some of them flat enough to skim over the water. The next day I took a more challenging walk up the steep hillside and ridges to the west. At the top big views open up to the anchorage, down the steep cliffs to the west with bright blue water in the shallows, across Tasman Bay to Separation Point, and along the coast south to Pepin Island.

I was breathing hard at the top, taking in the beauty when I noticed a closer sight – a New Zealand falcon/karearea, showing his bright-yellow legs, with talons gripping the rock he was balanced on. We eyed each other intently. His yellow eye-liner was bright, matching the yellow on his legs and the inside of his black, sharp, hooked beak.

I stood still and watched. Then I dropped down and prepared my camera. I slowly moved forward, crawling over the grass, eye to eye with the falcon – a special few minutes spent close to nature. The falcon spied some food, or so I imagined, and flew off, but I felt happy from the exercise and the encounter. I made my way slowly down the steep hillside towards the anchorage, glad that I had strapped my arthritic knee.

Our return to Nelson was cool, into a light headwind. Just about all the snow had melted, although we had felt the nights had been pretty cold. Back in our berth, we tidied up. Zest would rest in the marina for a few weeks before we decided on another local destination for the next ‘Few Days Away’.

Along for the ride

There’s more to a Haines Hunter boat than meets the eye. Boating NZ took a comprehensive tour of the Haines Hunter plant to see how the boats are made.

A few years ago, long-time Haines Hunter tagline “The secret is in the ride” was changed to “The ride just gets better”, which perfectly reflects the direction the company is taking with its iconic Haines Hunter range of Kiwi-designed-and-built fibreglass trailer boats.

Continuous innovation
Haines Hunter boats are hand-built at the company’s Ellerslie, Auckland plant. This facility rose like a phoenix on an adjacent site after a fire destroyed the old factory in 2010.

Haines Hunter had to start again from scratch, which was tough, they recall, but also the perfect opportunity to introduce modern technology, develope new models, and improve the company’s offerings.

Haines Hunter has invested heavily in improving its product range so that today’s models benefit from a policy of continuous innovation and a strong commitment to quality first, reflected at every stage of the manufacturing journey.

Like many boatbuilders, Haines Hunter reckons the sea doesn’t change, so it sticks with its well-proven hull designs. But that doesn’t mean nothing about the boats has changed or that nothing is new.

On the contrary, the Haines Hunter range has undergone continuous development and improvement, from new construction methods and materials, to updated styling, upholstery, and components. Its design team uses computer aided design tools (CAD) alongside more traditional design techniques, including lofting and full-size mock-ups; some components are CNC cut, while other aspects of a boat’s build require skilled hand-crafting.

All Haines Hunter boats are moulded in hand-laid E-glass using high-quality gelcoats, chop-strand and woven rovings, with top-quality, low emissions (LSE) resins.

Closed moulding
Haines Hunter strives for excellence at every phase of manufacturing, from using the best gelcoats and resins, to meticulously hand-rolling laminates to squeeze out excess resin. Consistency from hull to hull is the aim.

Depending on the model, foam cores are used in the decks and hardtops. On some models, and for some components, pre-cut kits from Gurit are resin-infused using vacuum bags. Currently, most vacuum bagging uses plastic bags, but the factory is experimenting with new re-useable silicon bags, along with special fabrics interwoven with flow mediums for even better resin infusion.

“Closed moulding is the future,” says Kendall, and while it’s presently only used on some models, he says the technique will gradually be implemented across the whole Haines Hunter range.

So too with other innovations Haines has introduced, like its glass-foam-glass composite floors. More than a simple moulded liner dropped into the hull, these floors are tied into the hull’s stringer system and deck.

Stronger and lighter than traditional plywood floors or fibreglass cockpit liners, the composite floors also add hull rigidity and space. In addition, high-density structural foam is used instead of wood for bulkheads and frames – the 635 model uses Thermalite for its stringers and boasts a high-tech vacuum-infused carbon composite hardtop.

The upshot, says Haines, is that Haines Hunter boats are stronger and lighter, with thinner but stronger hull laminates that are consistent for each boat and across the whole range. They reckon their hulls are among the strongest on the market.

One man, one boat
To ensure a consistent focus on high quality, after the pre-assembly and bonding phases, every boat becomes the responsibility of a single team member who stays with that boat throughout the assembly process, explains Haines Hunter.

By having one person ‘own’ each boat, the company engenders a sense of pride in workmanship and encourages individual accountability.

“But it’s still a team effort, with staff working together for a common goal – to produce the best boats we can,” our guide said. The company’s philosophy is to control as much of the manufacturing process as possible to ensure they can deliver boats from the factory that are top quality, fully-equipped and ready to go.

To that end, Haines Hunter undertakes most aspects of building a boat in-house. The upholstery team has its own floor above the factory and there’s a dedicated woodworking shop where a skilled carpenter crafts all the wooden components and trim for each boat, such as the teak doors in an SP725’s hardtop, which take a considerable amount of careful work.

Jobs for Kiwis
The stainless-steel fabrication – railings, canopies, rocket launchers, rod holders etc. – is outsourced to a New Zealand company with a decades-long association with Haines Hunter. Where possible, other components such as fairleads and bow rollers are also manufactured in New Zealand rather than sourced offshore. The New Zealand-made marine freezers fitted to Haines Hunter’s premium models can chill down to -20°C, performance that’s hardly matched in the sector.

“We’re all about jobs for New Zealanders,” says Haines Hunter, which is a great supporter of the Marine Industry Association’s apprentice training scheme through its MAST Academy (Marine and Specialised Technologies) – “The best training programme in New Zealand!”

Haines Hunter has employed a stream of boatbuilding apprentices, many of them straight from school, and with the company’s policy of team members learning every aspect of the boat manufacturing process, staff retention is excellent.

Ready to go
Haines Hunter maintains it’s the attention-to-detail that sets its boats apart and it credits its team for taking that philosophy onboard. “Producing a Haines Hunter requires teamwork, and we’re extremely proud of our team,” they told Boating NZ. The company employs around 30 full-time staff – in the factory, its retail arm Haines Hunter HQ, and in administration.

Before leaving the plant, every Haines Hunter boat goes through a rigorous quality control inspection so that every one ships out with a high level of kit at a realistic price – ready to go boating.

Haines Hunter boats – proudly made in New Zealand.

Playing foul?

There’s been a lot happening in the biosecurity space in New Zealand recently, with many Kiwi boaters feeling like they are on the frontline, writes John Eichelsheim.

New, tougher legislation around biofouling has impacted boat owners and operators of marinas and hardstands alike. (See Guidelines.) The latter are obliged to ensure their facilities meet environmental standards, while among some boat owners there is a perception that hardstand capacity is reducing just when the new regulations have boosted demand for hull cleaning.

Biofouling legislation has put increasing pressure on boat owners to ensure their hulls are clean before travelling from place to place. Many regions/regional councils, such as Northland and the Marlborough Sounds, now have strict biofouling standards for boats entering their waters.

The tricky thing is that there is not one national set of biofouling rules for boaties to follow, with each region taking its own approach – and many marinas have even stricter standards. That means boat owners must note the biofouling regulations for their region, or the one they are travelling to, as well as the marina they intend to use.

Increasing emphasis on clean bottoms has put pressure on boat owners to comply, which in turn has boosted demand for haul-out and hardstand facilities, just when advocacy groups such as the Auckland Yacht & Boating Association (AYBA) are protesting the recent closure of several such facilities, including Auckland’s The Landing in Okahu Bay, Little Shoal Bay and Pier 21.

AYBA asserts there is now too little haul-out and hardstand capacity, particularly in Auckland, for recreational vessels to meet their obligations under New Zealand’s biosecurity regulations. They, and many other concerned Auckland boaters, question the wisdom of proposed apartment developments on sites such as Bayswater Marina, for instance, which could potentially offer hardstand areas in future.

So, is Auckland’s boating community lacking hardstand and haul-out options? Well, not really, according to New Zealand Marina Operators Association, which represents commercial haul-out, dry stand and marina facilities around New Zealand.

Representatives from Auckland boatyards and haulout facilities, all members of NZMOA, told Boating that, despite 6000m2 having been lost with the Pier 21 and The Landing closures, there has in fact been a fourfold increase in hardstand capacity.

In recent years boatyards and marinas in Auckland have invested heavily in infrastructure, including hardstand and haul-out facilities, they said, to the tune of around half a billion dollars. Investment is ongoing. Rather than a net loss, there has in fact been a net gain in hardstand area of around 25,000m2, a good proportion of it now undercover.

The same is true of haul-out facilities. While Auckland lost a travel lift at Pier 21, Half Moon Bay Marina now has two, Orams Marine three, and Tamaki Marine Park has two new haul-out trailers for vessels up to 30m. Gulf Harbour Marina has also invested in new equipment and processes, as has Westhaven Marina, making their businesses more efficient and increasing their overall capacity.

In addition to such large commercial operations, there are private slipways and club operated facilities throughout the Auckland region. Boat club members can make use of club facilities where available, usually for a very reasonable fees – another good reason to join and support your local boat club.

“Very few cities in the world have the sort of marine facilities Auckland offers – facilities that are front and centre in a major city. Provided every boat owner in the region doesn’t try and slip their boats all at once in the weeks before Christmas, there’s ample capacity to service the whole fleet,” said one NZMOA member.

All this investment by NZMOA has been undertaken in response to growing demand for marine services, but also in part to meet ever more stringent Health and Safety and environmental demands from central and local government.

We asked Chris Galbraith, Chair at the New Zealand Marina Operators Association, for his comments:

“The industry has achieved a huge amount over the last 10 years or so to meet the increasing demand for haul-out space. This demand is due to biosecurity requirements, but also growth of the fleet, in particular the trend towards bigger boats and multihulls.

“While there is a baseline of capacity required to serve the fleet, more capacity is not the only solution. Spreading demand across the year is also one part of the solution. New technology, like biofouling coatings that are coming on the market, and even methods of keeping marina infrastructure cleaner so it doesn’t reinfect boats, also have a lot of potential.

“We have seen huge investment in the creation of new capacity. This includes the Half Moon Bay expansion, investment at Gulf Harbour Marina’s Boatyard, the improved Floating Dock at Westhaven, the new Tamaki Marine Park which is great for powerboats, and major investment at Orams Marine, which lifts 850-1000 recreational boats a year.

“In the regions, we’ve seen new facilities at Marsden Cove and Vessel Works in Tauranga, a major investment in Bay of Islands Marina’s Boatyard and new facilities being built in Whakatane, Whanganui and Nelson that will particularly assist the commercial fleet.”

Commercial marinas and haul-out facilities must meet strict regulations about the capture and proper disposal of biofouling, paint, antifoul material and dust. Facilities such as Half Moon Bay Marina and Tamaki Marine Park follow strict work protocols and undergo regular water quality testing to ensure they comply.

And these regulations apply everywhere with local authorities around the country working with smaller facilities and boating clubs to help them implement better environmental and biosecurity protocols.

“The challenges we are facing in New Zealand are global challenges, and as an industry, we are very good at and finding ways to innovate and solve problems.

“Marinas and boatyards serve as an environmental gateway. It is their job to make sure the impact of vessels, whether through biofouling, maintenance, or waste discharge, is minimised. New Zealand has been particularly innovative in this area.

Good haul-outs and boatyards capture and treat all byproducts of the maintenance process to prevent toxins and chemicals from entering waterways,” Galbraith wrote.

The days of beaching the boat to scrape it clean or apply antifoul are long gone – such an environmentally damaging practice is now illegal, and rightly so. But of course, commercial marina, hardstand and haul-out facilities are businesses for which proper compliance with environmental and biosecurity regulations comes at a cost, part of which is necessarily passed on to customers. While this may upset some members of the boating fraternity, for most, paying the price to meet their environmental and biosecurity obligations is just another aspect of boat ownership.


Regarding Caulerpa, Biosecurity New Zealand explain the main point regarding this invasive seaweed is to check anchors, chains and fishing gear in case there’s weed on board. If you see any seaweed on your equipment, chuck it straight back in the area it came from. That way, you don’t have to be an expert at identifying Caulerpa and you’ll avoid taking it to a new location.

There are also anchoring restrictions in place. This is still an evolving situation, and the rules are changing, so Biosecurity NZ suggest you check up on before you head off: If you are visiting Aotea Great Barrier or Ahuahu Great Mercury Island please make sure you know the locations where Caulerpa has been found and that you are clear on the rules before you go.

Exotic Caulerpa was also found in Northland in May this year.

Levels of fouling

Biosecurity NZ has classified six levels of hull biofouling ranging from zero to five. called the LoF scale. Categories are based on the amount of biofouling you can see on a vessel’s submerged surfaces. It is a straightforward method for consistent scoring of vessel biofouling that can be related to biosecurity risk.

Boaters and biofouling: GUIDELINES

Biosecurity New Zealand is targeting two pathways that marine pests can travel on, which various regions around New Zealand support each in their own way.

Until the arrival of exotic seaweed Caulerpa, the main concern was marine pests like Mediterranean fanworm and Undaria that travel on biofouling. With the arrival of Caulerpa, there is now also a focus on stopping the spread of this invasive seaweed which travels as small fragments on equipment like anchors and fishing gear.

Biosecurity New Zealand supplied Boating NZ with the flowing guidelines for boaters:

• If you are cruising anywhere in the country, also make sure you have noted the biofouling rules for the region. These are published on the council websites and are listed on

• The strictest rules are in place in Auckland, which requires you to maintain a clean hull (Level of Fouling 2 or less) at all times. In Northland and Bay of Plenty, you need to meet this standard any time your vessel is moving. If in a region where rules aren’t in place, it’s still a great idea to have a clean boat free of biofouling. You’ll get more fuel efficiency and performance too. Note that some regions also have rules prohibiting transporting specific marine pests.

• Many marinas, including those in Northland, the Coromandel and Marlborough Sounds, ask you to take a little extra care as they observe the ‘6 or 1’ rule. This means either an antifoul within the previous six months, or a lift-and-wash within one month of leaving an area infected with marine pests. We recommend you check in with the marina operator before you arrive, to make sure you have everything you need. Receipts, photos and videos from your latest clean is handy evidence to prove that no pests are onboard.

• Always check council rules before you clean in the water. Many marinas also prohibit in-water cleaning for environmental and safety reasons. If you are cleaning in-water, only use a soft cloth. Never cause damage to the paint. Do it before you leave your mooring or berth so that you don’t carry marine pests with you. Tidal grids are convenient for some jobs but they are not suitable for hull cleaning or antifouling because antifoul doesn’t have time to cure between tidal cycles, and also because scraping releases contaminants, including heavy metals and pests, into the water. Best practice is an approved haulout facility instead where waste is captured and treated to protect our environment.

Remote beauty

The Chatham Islands are remote, rugged and raw – there’s few other ways to describe them. Tom Fraser recounts a week spent at this remarkable location.

Yes, the ‘Chats’ are isolated but with regular flights from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch on a comfortable Air Chathams aircraft, access has become easier in recent years. And, its popularity as a tourist destination for Kiwis has increased significantly since the COVID pandemic temporarily ended international travel. Earlier this year, my 15-year-old son Angus and I had the opportunity to visit Dylan and Kane Shaw, extended family living and working on the main island, and what we saw and experienced left us wanting more trips in the future.

Despite all the background reading and internet sleuthing, there was still some trepidation as we checked in bags, rods and freediving equipment one February morning at Christchurch Airport. I really did feel we were venturing into the unknown. While passengers can individually check in 23kg of luggage, the excess gear that most divers or anglers require could hit you harder in the pocket – in our case by well over $300.

As we boarded the aircraft I noticed that Angus and I both had the same allocated seat and I made a mental note to mention this to the flight attendant. However, as soon as we stepped onboard she said simply, “Welcome aboard, sit wherever you like.” Welcome to the Chats…

Our ATR72 aircraft tracked north from Christchurch for a short while before turning right and flying 800km east for a little over two hours. The first half hour offered spectacular views of Banks Peninsula and provided a great perspective of its size and location relative to the Canterbury Plains. Later, you could look out the window to the Pacific Ocean 5000-plus metres below and just make out fishing boats working the waters, a reminder of the productivity of these fishing grounds to the east of the mainland.

The first thing we observed as we descended towards the island (known as Rēkohu in Moriori and Wharekauri in Maori) was how big and flat it appeared, something that became even more obvious as we explored it over the next few days. It is in fact an archipelago of about 10 islands, but the main island, with Pitt Island, are the only ones inhabited or accessible. The many volcanic cones you see dotted across the island are evidence of how the archipelago was created millions of years ago.

Angus and I played tourists for the first couple of days before my wife’s cousin Dylan – a fishing boat skipper – was free to help us experience some ‘real’ Chatham Islands’ experiences. This included spending a huge amount of time fishing, diving and simply exploring some of the islands’ many special spots.

Around Rēkohu we caught cod aplenty using softbaits, jigs and fresh bait, including paua and crayfish. But, to be honest, the fish aren’t fussy – people have caught cod with muesli bar wrappers on hooks. Moki too, were often caught, unable to resist crayfish bait cast their way.

We fished from sandy beaches, off the rocks, from a boat, as well as off the concrete x-blocks that make up the new seawall of the redeveloped port at Waitangi. Just five years old, the new port was a mammoth undertaking and involved reclamation of 9,500m2 of land, construction of new commercial and fishing wharves, and a 180m-long seawall/breakwater.

One of Dylan’s mates’ has a farm along the south coast and we were fortunate to be able to cross his land to fish off the rocks and explore the rugged seascape and spectacular rock pools at low tide. Here, large paua and kina could be collected while wearing jandals and shorts.

We knew there were kingfish around but were unable to connect with any, and this was in part due to some rough weather we experienced. Huge, surging swells rolled in from the west for several days, followed by a cold, wet southerly, so the water remained murky for some time. Interestingly, fishermen say the number of kingies observed and caught over recent years has increased significantly and they’re now being caught in some very unusual and unexpected places around the islands. Climate change? Who knows?

A popular way to get onto the water to fish is to utilise one of the island’s charter boats – your accommodation provider will have a list of potential options. It goes without saying that the internet, too, offers plenty of information even before you leave the mainland.

We watched crews catch crays and fish, move pots and expertly navigate the challenging conditions. It was the final week before the month-long closure of the cray fishery, so fishers around the island were busy hauling pots from the water. Once on land, the pots get some TLC in preparation for the new season.

We also had the opportunity to experience some ‘traditional’ Chatham Island fishing. Handlines are the preferred method and these consist of a long rope, any weight available (in our case an old dive weight) and several large hooks baited with cod branching off the rope. It’s not hāpuku (groper) fishing as we know it on the mainland. In fact, the setup couldn’t be further from what we’re used to.

Once the boat was positioned over the mark the ropes were dropped over the side. Within seconds of reaching the bottom, you’d feel a solid couple of tugs to signal your hook-up. Then, it was simply a case of hauling the rope back onto the deck! We caught fish up to 20kg using this method – and in 20m of water! Largely unheard of back home. And because it’s shallow, any unwanted hāpuku can be safely and easily returned to the briny.

It goes without saying that seafood is a staple for islanders. Dylan’s partner Andy is a chef and she prepared a seafood feast that was the most memorable meal of my life. The appetiser of crayfish and paua spring rolls was followed by a main course that included cod, hāpuka, whitebait, crayfish salad and moki.
I don’t think I’ll ever eat a meal like it again.

The diving is quite exceptional when conditions allow. Angus and I are learning the art of freediving and I doubt there are any other places better to gain experience, confidence and knowledge. The water is often gin-clear and crayfish, kina and paua are abundant. Schools of moki, cod and other species swim close to investigate and, on one occasion, we had kingies swim around us. Unfortunately, we’d had some bad luck and had damaged our speargun a couple of days earlier. Despite our best efforts, we hadn’t been able to repair it or find replacement parts.

That illustrates a point to remember if you do visit the island – take plenty of spare gear, whether it’s sinkers, lures or line – pack what you can. And, if you don’t need it while you’re there, leave it with a local. If you’re considering a trip and hope to fish, pack a solid, versatile rod that’s capable of casting off the rocks, or from a sandy beach. Our softbait rods were limited in what they could do, but our larger, more powerful rods got plenty of use.

After one spectacular and memorable dive we sat on the beach soaking up the sun, sipping a beer and yarning away. Dylan set up the BBQ and we enjoyed fresh pipis, paua and cod caught just minutes earlier. Seriously, life doesn’t get much better.

Commercial fishing is the island’s lifeblood and Waitangi – the main town – is where most of the fishing vessels are based, either anchored in the bay or resting on trailers on the shore beside one of the island’s several fish factories. The port can be a great spot to sit and watch the world go by; Angus and I often sat and watched the fishing boats come and go and talked with their crews as their catch was unloaded. They were always happy to chat, and talked of tides, moons, feet and fathoms, reefs and shoals. Fishers we met were incredibly hardworking and passionate about their job and also about the fishery. Owenga, about 20 minutes’ scenic drive from Waitangi, is also a base for fishing boats. Again, some rest on their moorings in the bay while others sit on trailers on the beach.

The village of Kaingaroa, at the northeast tip of the island, felt like the end of the earth. It’s a long, dusty drive from Waitangi and homes there cling to any shelter out of the wind. One of the island’s two primary schools is there (teenagers generally attend secondary school in New Zealand) and it’s also the location of the ‘world famous’ Kai Kono Café/Takeaway. There are some accommodation options in Kaingaroa and its renowned for providing access to some superb fishing. A number of commercial fishing boats are based there, some anchored in the bay and others on trailers on the beach.

All this travelling the dusty rods had proven thirsty work, so we popped in to the Social Club, purchased some beers and sat on the nearby wharf. The clarity of the water from our vantage point was astonishing and we could clearly see paua, cod, moki, and wrasse gently moving around the piles. Kaingaroa is a fantastic location and we loved it.

The equally long drive out to Waitangi West takes you past the small community of Port Hutt, the spot where Māori first landed in 1835 (hundreds of years after the incumbent Moriori people). You can’t miss the wreck of the former minesweeper/fishing vessel Thomas Currell in the bay. Port Hutt became a busy whaling, trading and fishing station and, in 1874, American scientists observed the Transit of Venus there.

A bit further on from Port Hutt is the Maunganui Stone Cottage, a 30-minute walk from the road, and one of the most popular spots for visitors to venture. It was built in 1866 by German Moravian missionaries who first arrived on the island in the early 1840s. The incredible cultural and geological history of the island is abundantly clear at every turn as you explore the Chats.

We didn’t get out for a pig hunt, but evidence of the introduced animals is widespread. The damage they’ve done to farmland and conservation areas is quite remarkable and hunting is not only an important tool to control numbers, but also a popular social activity for many residents.

Neither did we get to nearby Pitt Island; the small Cessna flying the 25-minute hop was undergoing maintenance and the swell at that time was too formidable to try by boat. Did we feel cheated? Not at all. There were plenty of adventures and activities to do on the ‘mainland’. A day-trip to Pitt costs over $400 per person.

The reality is the Chathams can be difficult to explore; rental cars are expensive (at least $200 per day), there are very few roads and most of the land (and beaches/coast) is privately owned and closely guarded. Unless you know exactly who to contact, access can be challenging. You can’t simply arrive on the island with a pack, tent and gas cooker and expect to hitch around and camp on any beach or bare land. There are no camping grounds, backpacker lodges or the like, full stop.

Nonetheless, there are accommodation options; we stayed in the Traveller’s Rest, an historic house owned by the Chatham Islands Hotel (which owns and offers a selection of accommodation options). With its own kitchen and lounge, this provided us greater independence. The $350 tariff per night (roughly similar across the board) included breakfast in the hotel, an easy three-minute walk down the hill. We also enjoyed dinner in the hotel several times – first-class food at similar prices to a restaurant meal back home in Canterbury.

Almost every visitor we met or saw during our stay was on an organised tour; each day they’d board a tour bus and visit locations such as the Maunganui Stone Cottage, basalt columns, Cape Munning seal colony and Kopinga Marae as part of a set itinerary. I think it’s fair to say that residents have diverse and often strong feelings about the increased numbers of tourists over recent years and their impact on the economy and fishery. Fortunately, our family connections meant we were treated somewhat differently and provided with opportunities many visitors wouldn’t get.

Our highlights were the simple things that didn’t cost a cent: a walk along the windswept beach at Maunganui or the breath-taking panorama of Petre Bay from Te Whenuhau Hill. The new museum in Waitangi is worth a visit; on a wet day teenage Angus was happy to spend several hours investigating artefacts and displays detailing the incredibly rich history of the islands and their people.

Another feature was pulling off the road for a walk along the beaches of Te Whanga Lagoon, an expanse of water a bit smaller than Canterbury’s Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere. It was here that Dylan showed us how to look closely and carefully and differentiate the pebbles, shells and other flotsam from the small ancient, fossilised sharks’ teeth scattered there.

The Chathams are not a place to visit if you want to sip oat-milk cappuccinos every morning or perouse boutique shops for mementos to take home. But, if you’re prepared to get outside, be adventurous, walk and explore, then it’s definitely worthwhile visiting. My strongest suggestion is to be prepared to expect the unexpected and ‘go with the flow’.

Our week on the island flew by and the early morning drive to the airport to catch our departing flight was quiet. I think Angus and I were both reflecting on a remarkable week we knew would provide stories and memories for years to come. We both felt incredibly grateful for the chance to visit and for the opportunities we were offered.

The residents of the Chats are proud, resilient, resourceful and passionate guardians of their unique landscape and waters. If you get the opportunity to visit their island, by all means take it, but remember to be grateful and gracious.

The Fox goes free

“No rest for the aged,” the venerable 100-year-old sailing ketch Fox II must be thinking. If boats ponder, which I reckon they most certainly do. “But still,” it must be adding, “it ain’t half bad," writes Alex Stone.

I’d agree with her there. As would the skipper of Fox II, Roy Borrelli. A New Yorker of Italian heritage, he left the smoke and trauma of the Twin Towers attack, for somewhere, “much quieter, much more peaceful. I’d even settle for boring in fact.”

He achieved the first two in Akaroa, on the Banks Peninsula. But boring – never. For he and Fox II are about the busiest boat-and-bloke combination in the bay, constantly taking visitors out on tours to experience Akaroa’s splendid bay, its two marine reserves, and to see the friendly Hector’s dolphins. This last element guaranteed.

Roy grew up sailing Lasers on Long Island Sound, but in the USA had found himself diverted into land-based business as a research analyst for telecom companies. Now he runs Fox II Sailing Tours for seven months of the year, and travels internationally and takes classes (adult learning – whatever takes his fancy) for the rest of the time.

His clientele aboard Fox II? “First up – specials for locals.” Before the Covid-times, 70% of his visitor were international tourists. Now it’s mainly Kiwis re-discovering our own country, though overseas customers are picking up again.

“People who give a little more thought about the way we want to do things. Eco-conscious.

“The big tour boats use as much fuel in a day as Fox II uses in a month.”

He’s happy in Akaroa, which by the way is five degrees warmer than Christchurch year round. “We missed the over-development thing,” says Roy, “– apart from our brief brush with too many cruise ships in the harbour.” (Ships over 40m LOA are now excluded from Akaroa Harbour, on the locals’ say-so.)

“Akaroa has maintained a lot of its charm.” What was a busy wee fishing port in the 1970s, with 15 commercial boats before the regulation of the industry, now has only three locally-operating. The two local marine reserves have helped immensely to maintain biodiversity in the bay. John Wright and his boat Murph sell fresh fish from the dock – just like in the old days.

Roy is a great cook and extra-ordinarily generous. We know. The grilled local salmon and salads, and the steady-hot-and-strong showers he offered us while we were anchored as cruising yachties in the bay, well they were most welcome.

Fox II (first name Iris Eileen), now a gaffed-rigged ketch, was designed by Charles Gouk, who supervised the build by the owner, George Elley in Auckland in 1922. He used ‘only the best kauri’ with pōhutukawa knees and all copper fastenings. Cabin linings were rewarewa. She was originally a cutter with a nine-foot bowsprit and a steel centreboard, and employed as a sailing Hauraki Gulf cargo boat.

When Iris Eileen was sold to the Fox Fishing Company, they installed a steam engine, removed the mast, and built a wheelhouse. And renamed her Fox II. Because none of the locals could pronounce the name of the fishing company boss, one Arthur Policandriotis, he gained the nickname ‘Arthur the Fox.’ Perhaps for other reasons too. Anyway, his fishing boats all took the name Fox.

Fox II’s unique schtick was to use the engine to also steam the crayfish on the way back to Auckland from Port Charles, signalling the hot-cooked cargo by blowing black smoke rings from the funnel.
A boat this old’s gotta have had many adventures. One was sinking after being rammed in the Rangitoto Channel in the mid-1920s.

A Kelvin K3 diesel soon replaced the steam engine, and Fox II kept working as a fishing boat until the 1970s when she was sold to Jack Lidgard, then on to Dave Skyrme. Ian Forsythe bought her then, and stepped the masts for the ketch rig, added a new wheelhouse and cabin, refastened the hull, and got her sailing again.

For a while she was the yacht for Sir Peter Blake and his family, based in Auckland.

In 1995 Fox II was bought by Grant and Rachel Robinson of Coastline Adventure Ltd, who re-fitted her, and had her surveyed to NZ Maritime Safety Authority standards, certified to carry 30 passengers.  Since then, Fox II has carried thousands of people around the waters of Banks Peninsula, operating for a while out of Lyttleton. With her low centre of gravity and modest gaff rig Fox II is especially capable in strong winds.

Some local words about Fox II. Michael de Hamel, editor of The Akaroa Mail, had a lyrical piece about sailing her:

“There’s something very relaxing about being out on the Harbour on an old boat. There’s a quiet slip-splashing, a whisper in the rigging, varnished wood and a whiff of the sea on the wind.

“Seemingly effortlessly, and in no rush, the world drifts away as the boat gathers way. Sails up, and there’s a smoothing of motion as the passing air counters the rhythm of lift from the waves.

“Newer boats are faster, make more splash, and more razzamatazz. Engines roar and the boat surges forward. Even at idle there’s a burbling bubble from the engine exhausts, and the smell of burnt fuel spikes the air. A sailboat surges as the wind catches it, heeling over, and spray splashes the deck.”

Michael also observes, “The hull was designed to be slow, in the days when boats were not expected to be fast. It is still fairly slow. The sailing rig has changed a bit over the years, but the principle remains. Putter around, sail when it suits. The engine is so quiet that you may need to be in the wheelhouse looking at the gauges to check it is running.”

A final question from Lesley and I for Roy and Fox II: “What do you want to do when you’re retired?”

Roy answers for them both. “We’re doing it right now.”