ONE FAMILY'S BOATING JOURNEY - Kitset water solution

I’m writing this article during the 2022 April school holidays while anchored at Great Barrier Island, our newly favourite sailing homeaway-from-home. .

Yesterday, the weather turned from beautiful late summer sun and warmth to high winds and rain. The plans we’d made for heading ashore for long walks and extensive swimming have turned into lying back and feeling the motions of SV Sauvage as she swings around her anchor, interspersed with the occasional swim and some fishing. We’ve left the frenetic pace of life behind. We’re chilled. Sometimes, life knows exactly what we need; after a busy quarter at work, it is a pleasure to simply rest and recover from life!

Looking back, I am aware that for a while I’ve been planning for events like this: extended time out on the boat, alone, without reliance on land-based utilities, instead living ‘off-thegrid’ with our own power and water generation. This notion of self-reliance is more than liberating, it is freeing, as sailing the world becomes more-and-more achievable.

Under the sink in the galley the three water filters are installed. These two cleanse the sea water as its taken via the galley through-hole.

In November, when we were preparing for our long summer sail along the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, we carefully considered what we needed to be self-sufficient so we could have extended time at sea. SV Sauvage has a deep draft which makes it difficult to pop into just any old marina or traverse a high lying bar to get into a wharf.

It became quickly obvious that the ability to create our own fresh, drinkable water was deeply desirable.

Thus, our analysis of watermakers began. There are many watermakers on the market. I found one from New Zealand and many imported from Europe, but prices appeared to start at about the $10K mark – way outside my budget. So, the search continued, re-visiting and re-searching. Finally, I found a watermaker produced by an Australian company. Built from commodity components rather than a purpose built solution – certainly a trade-off – it’s sadly not an ideal single frame installation with sea water coming in one side and freshwater coming out the other. But at a price point of NZ $4,500, I thought it was a very viable starting point!

Unpacked from the box, the kitset is a galley table fully of bits...

I contacted the owner and his story reflected mine in that a couple of years before he had been cruising up the east coast of Australia and found his limitation to travel was fresh water. On his return he researched the market and found that, while the function of a watermaker is very simple and the various functions are simple and logical, the price of the solution is prohibitive. After some more research he concluded he could build his own for less than half the price of others by using offthe-shelf parts.

My first goal was to get the Aussie watermaker ordered and on its way to New Zealand. I tried to outsmart the design of the watermaker and reduce how much I spent by omitting the inverter that came with it. Duh! I ended up adding complexity and had to get an inverter to finish the job.

Ten days later, my watermaker kitset arrived. Rubbing my hands in glee and anticipation, I opened the box and thought, “Crikey, what have I done?” No going back now. At first sight it was a little scary. There were quite a few bits and pieces. Some clearly had a function, such as the reverse osmosis tube and filter; others not so obvious, like the garden hose timer which I learned later was used to backwash freshwater through the system once a week.

My frustrating, and demoralising, installation of the head at Christmas proved why it is important to check all the parts are in the box and I was very pleased to find that this kitset came with everything I needed.

Making progress

Not known for my patience nor an ability to follow detailed instructions and knowing my wife would have stern words for me if I didn’t, I decided patiently following the instructions would be a good idea. Happily, after a couple of hours, I had the machine built on the saloon table. Whew!

Then I faced my next challenge. I had anticipated where I would house the watermaker on SV Sauvage, but after assembly, I found that the reverse osmosis tube was much bigger than I’d envisaged – 120cm on paper seems very much larger in reality!

And so, my ‘solutionising’ began. In the end the reverse osmosis portion was housed in a cupboard in the second cabin. Yes, we lost some cabin storage space, but having fresh drinking water trumps almost all else. The high-pressure pump went in beside the main freshwater pressure pump and the three prefilters were installed in the galley, along with the low-pressure water pump.

Perhaps I might be a man of little faith, but for now, I want to be able to directly test the fresh water. So, I left that pipe rolled up in the cupboard where I can easily roll it out, drink some water to make sure it’s all good before extended it farther to fill the tank. Later, once my confidence has been filled, I will run the hose to a tap in the galley where I can test the water before gracefully directing it to the tanks afterwards.

During the Easter/school holiday voyage the weather was poor for our passage between Barrier and Kawau.

Three hours after starting the job and, having installed the components, I turned the low pressure pump on for the first time. To my amazement, no leaks! Water ran from start to finish. Perhaps I had been too anxious, but I was quietly pleased.

After a few minutes of monitoring, just to be sure all’s well, I started the high-pressure pump. A word of caution: when starting the high-pressure pump, be very careful to have the reverse osmosis tube taps fully open. If you have them set to pressure (water filtering) settings, you will rip the guts out of your reverse osmosis filter – a replacement membrane is $600.

I did it right! The tap was fully-open, and the high-speed water went to the waste pipe as it ought. Heart palpitations, but I’d got it right.

Now I needed direct the seawater through the reverse osmosis tube rather than the waste pipe. As I turned the tap just a small turn (well below the guidance pressure for good water), water started to come out of the good water pipe. I tested it. YUCK! It was just basically saltwater still.

Chris wrote this story sitting on SV Sauvage looking out at Kawau Island, where he took the odd break.

So, I continued to add additional pressure via the reverse osmosis tap – up to the recommended pressure for fresh water – and I tested the water again… This time, FRESH WATER WAS FLOWING!

As we travelled the Hauraki Gulf and the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula over summer, we regularly ran the watermaker. It was clean and easy every time. The worry about water levels on a boat with three kids aboard is gone!

I ran my watermaker for about an hour every two or three days. That generated about 60 litres of freshwater an hour and gave us more water than we knew what to do with during our cruise, which would be true for any watermaker installation. However, for me a $10-15K solution was not feasible at the time, so this kitset was exactly what I needed.

My advice is to check the market, but certainly, give the team at a yell and have a chat with them when considering your watermaking journey. BNZ


Blair Tuke still remembers the first time he saw his name etched on the inside of a beer bottle cap.

A brewing company puts sports trivia questions on its bottle caps and, in this instance, asked which athletes won New Zealand’s 100th Olympic medal.

That honour fell to Peter Burling and Tuke with their silver in the 49er at the 2012 London Games, a result which announced their arrival to the wider New Zealand public. It’s fair to say, 10 years on, they are the answers to an abundance of trivia questions.

In Olympic class sailing alone, they accumulated six world 49er titles together, three Olympic medals and countless other continental, World Cup and national titles. They were also named World Sailors of the Year – Burling also picked up the gong in 2017 – and were the most dominant combination in modern Olympic sailing.

We might never see anything like that sort of pre-eminence again, and certainly won’t see it from Burling and Tuke in a 49er again in the near future.

On song at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

The pair announced recently they had re-signed with Team New Zealand for the next America’s Cup. The timing of that Cup defence, together with their ongoing commitments with the New Zealand SailGP Team (they’re sailors and joint CEOs) and their environmental charity Live Ocean, makes it impossible for them to chase a fourth medal at the 2024 Paris Olympics. They haven’t officially retired from 49er sailing, saying “never say never”, but the chances are exiguous.

“Those things mean we really have our hands full again and we just didn’t feel we could give the Olympics the time and energy they deserve or require,” Tuke told the Yachting New Zealand podcast, Broad Reach Radio. “It was a pretty tough decision when it’s been such a big part of your life, but we have some awesome memories to reflect on and you never know where it will go in the future. We’re definitely keeping our options open but we’re firmly in place with Team New Zealand and SailGP over the next couple of years.”


There was a time when Burling and Tuke didn’t always have so many balls to juggle.

Burling was 17 and fresh from competing in the men’s 470 at the 2008 Beijing Olympics when he emailed the 19-year-old Tuke asking him if he was interested in teaming up in a 49er.

The contents of that email exchange now sit on display at the Maritime Museum, illustrating the significance of their partnership.

They were on the water within two weeks of Burling returning from Beijing and went through what Burling describes as a “feeling out period”.

“When we first started talking, it was about whether we could get good enough to have a crack at the Olympics and win an Olympic medal for the country,” he explains.

They were relatively content with their results in the first couple of years, with gear failure seriously hampering their efforts at their first world championships together in 2009. They finished 26th that year and backed that up with 17th following year in the Bahamas.

Flag bearers leading the New Zealand team into the Olympic stadium during the opening ceremony at Rio.

“That was probably one of the lows of our 49er career because we thought we were a little bit hard done by in the first worlds,” Burling says. “We had learned a lot since then and, at that stage, there was quite a harsh funding crossover – getting in the top 16 – so to miss that by one place was pretty tough.

“That was probably one of the big reasons we managed to get second at the next worlds [in 2011] because it really made us go back and take a good, hard look at ourselves. Did we want to dig a bit deeper and give it everything we had and try to make a big step forward?”

The answer was an emphatic ‘yes’.

It’s widely acknowledged Burling and Tuke are pretty laidback customers but it’s less well known how meticulous they are when it comes to planning and details.

As long-time coach Hamish Willcox says: “There’s an incredible intensity about Pete and Blair that only a very few people are aware of. They go so hard and so fast at so many things at the same time.

“I remember our first meeting [when they asked me to coach them] and they were incredibly clear about what they wanted. I was impressed from the start.”

Others were less impressed in the early days.

Nathan Handley, who went on to coach Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie to Olympic gold and silver medals in the women’s 470, was Burling and Tuke’s first coach and said they were “hopeless” when it came to campaign planning.

Tuke chuckles when reminded of a meeting they had with Handley and long-time campaign advisor David Slyfield after the 2010 world championships.

“Sly was considering whether to work with us and I think this other guy [from High Performance Sport New Zealand] advised Sly not to because we were these hopeless guys,” he explains. “I think Pete turned up with a pen and I had a piece of paper so between us we had something to write some notes but something in that meeting caught Sly’s attention and he gave us another chance.

Burling and Tuke’s exceptional teamwork was the key to victory at Rio, as elsewhere.

“There were definitely stages when we were still maturing and didn’t have the processes in place. That took some good people to come around us and help funnel that energy. But we were always really ambitious and striving to be better people and better sailors, so that was always there.”

They also formed a training relationship with the Australian 49er squad, including Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen who at that time set the standard in the 49er, and made significant improvements to the point Burling and Tuke were second behind the Aussies at both the 2011 and 2012 world championships.

They transferred that form into the London Olympics, again finishing second behind Outteridge and Jensen but well ahead of third, and then set about figuring out how to go one better four years later at the Rio Olympics.

“That whole 2012 campaign was about learning as quickly as we could and, if you look back at the beginning of that campaign, we were miles off where we needed to get to at the end,” Burling says. “It really was a scramble.

“After that it was a good opportunity to take stock over what we had actually done over the last period but also plan how we wanted to go about really dominating that next cycle. That was really our goal, to go out in those first couple of events and put our best foot forward early and just keep improving.”

No one really knew just how dominant they would become.

Racing in challenging conditions in Tokyo.


Burling and Tuke won the first of their six world titles in Marseille in 2013 and won every event in that four-year cycle except a shortened pre-Olympic regatta in Rio, when they were third. They had often wrapped up a title well before the medal race and at one event in Rio in 2014 still won despite missing the entire first day of racing due to the fact they had been attending the World Sailor of the Year Awards in Spain.

“We were kind of in cruisy mode when we got there, thinking we’d probably miss two days and do the last two days, but while rigging the boat it became apparent we could make the second day and started scrambling a bit more,” Tuke remembers. “We went out there and managed to sail a pretty good regatta and took it out after carrying 52 points [on our scorecard for the races we missed]. That was classic and something we will certainly remember for a while.”

It probably added to the building aura surrounding the pair. They aren’t sure if other crews were intimidated by them, but Willcox is, comparing their standing with that of Sir Ben Ainslie who dominated Laser and Finn sailing for so long in the 1990s and 2000s and remains the most successful sailor in Olympic history with five medals, including four gold.

It meant Burling and Tuke went to the Rio Olympics with everyone, including the New Zealand public, expecting them to win. That pressure was amplified when they were named joint captains of the New Zealand Olympic team and led the Kiwi athletes into the opening ceremony.

“That was an amazing experience,” Tuke says. “Both of us would probably say it was one of the proudest moments of our lives to lead the New Zealand team into the Maracana Stadium.

“That was five or six days before we raced so, if anything, that probably helped us. We had that big buzz of dealing with all of that and then we could concentrate on the job at hand. There was pressure, and the people who have carried the flag haven’t necessarily had the best record, but I think we just used that as the kickstart for us to get into our work. It was a moment we will treasure forever.”

So was winning Olympic gold. The result was never really in doubt, and they went on to win by 43 points – the largest winning margin in Olympic history since the present scoring system was introduced in the late 1960s. They wrapped up gold with two races to spare and even afforded themselves time to watch a little of Aleh and Powrie’s medal race immediately before their own – which they duly won anyway.

“I think both of us really enjoy that challenge of performing when it really matters,” Burling says. “I think we both tend to perform a little bit better when we have to.

“One of the really enjoyable things was all that planning came together and we probably sailed one of our best ever events. It was such an amazing event for us.”

The boys exhibiting perfect form in the 470 at Enoshima, 2021


Hamish Willcox didn’t think Burling and Tuke would be back for another crack at the Olympics, so set about following his ambition of sailing around the world with his wife.

He had to amend those plans when Burling and Tuke outlined their intentions to him during their own journey around the globe in the 2017/18 Volvo Ocean Race. The lure of trying to win a third Olympic medal was too hard to ignore, despite their growing list of commitments.

They were seventh at their first international regatta in Palma and third a couple of weeks later in Genoa before winning both the European championships in Weymouth and Olympic test event in Enoshima. Victories at both the 2019 (Auckland) and 2020 (Geelong) world championships saw them named in the New Zealand team to compete at the Tokyo Olympics. And then Covid hit.

“It definitely made for a pretty interesting 2021,” Burling says in his understated way. “We had been pretty happy with where we were at, coming off the back of two world championship wins, and were pretty excited to get in and race at the Olympic Games so we could then focus on the America’s Cup 100 percent after that.

“Like with everyone in the world, Covid flipped everything on its head.”

It meant they had to pack their 49er away for the best part of nine months and almost restart again at the conclusion of the America’s Cup.

Normally they would race regularly to regain their sharpness, but few regattas were being held, meaning they relied heavily on the strong New Zealand 49er squad to push them in training.

The pair won Silver at the London Olympics in 2012.

“By the time we went to Tokyo, I think we would say we felt ready,” Tuke says. “We had given it a huge push.”

They scrapped for every point at a hot and tricky venue in Enoshima and went into the double points medal race with a slim lead over the British combination of Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell.

They “nailed the start” and won the right-hand side of the course. The only problem is the left paid, but they were still in gold medal position until the final few metres of the race when Fletcher and Bithell got their bow in front of the Germans to win the race and, ultimately, the gold on countback.

It would be natural to reflect on all the moments earlier in the regatta when one point here or there could have made a difference but neither look back on that result as the one that got away.

“I don’t think so,” Tuke says. “We got ourselves into a chance of winning in the medal race and it just wasn’t quite to be. I think we are still incredibly proud. It’s an Olympic medal and we’ve loved the journey the whole way.”

It’s hoped it’s not the end of their Olympic journey and they’re still young, being in their early 30s.

There are plenty of examples of ‘older’ sailors competing at the highest level, including Argentina’s Santiago Lange who won gold in 2016 in the Nacra 17 when 56, and five-time Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt was 47 when he competed in the ILCA 7 (Laser) at last year’s Tokyo Olympics.

But few have quite as many commitments as Burling and Tuke and they will have plenty of options over the next few years.

It’s inevitable they will continue to create history, which also means they will carry on being answers to numerous quiz questions. BNZ

Ewincher Reader's Choice Favourite Anchorage

Boating NZ readers were asked to share their favourite anchorages with us, accompanied by a photo if possible, and explain why they liked it so much.

From the dozens of entries received, we’ve drawn one at random to receive an Ewincher 2 electric winch handle valued at $3,900.00

The winning entry is from Mark Lesniak, who chose Coralie Bay, Great Mercury Island, as his favourite anchorage. Mark’s favourite heads up our pictorial feature, supported by some of the other entries and their reasons for submitting their choices.

Congratulations Mark – your Ewincher has already been presented to you (Boat World). We hope you enjoy it.





Lovely sheltered bay and you can see the anchor sitting in the sand in 6 metres of water.



One of the most beautiful places in NZ – white sand crystal- clear water.



A (mostly) one-boat bay with awesome views up the hill. Idyllic



Love the remoteness and the crayfish.



Perfect spot for a fish and to walk the dog on the beach. Just bliss.




Peaceful, historical and with gorgeous views from every angle, including across the bay to Young Nick’s Head at the southern end of the bay. In this photo, you can see the Endeavour replica coming into the bay during the Tuia 250 voyage celebration in 2019.



Namotu Island is by far our favourite anchorage because the water is crystal-clear, there is a perfect right-hand surf break on the eastern side of the island and another equally perfect left-hand surf break on the western side, both of which you can paddle to from where our boat is anchored. The air temp is a balmy 27°, with a sea temperature to match. The boat is often surrounded by tropical fish, and the odd turtle swings by to say Hi, too. We’ve even watched whales from this spot



This quintessential Kiwi boat shed looks like so many dotting the coast but unlike most of those rusty relics, this one is loved and still in the family that first built it. Generations of kids have learned to sail and boat from its slipway and endless summer evenings have been spent sitting just inside the door with drink in hand, sucking up the peace that can only be found at the end of a day on the water. Ahhh... true bliss!



It’s so peaceful and I woke up to whales around the boat the other morning.



Our yacht Strongbow in Loch Scavaig, Skye.



A great 2.5-hour walk around an island with loads of archeological, historical and natural history.



One of those places that is still a treat because the weather has to be just right to stay overnight, even though it’s only an hour from Gulf Harbour. It has everything: there’s the scenery with a 10/10 beach, clear water, native bush down to the sand with nearly all the native birds, no baches, swimming, good snorkelling, plenty of shore walks and somewhere to get an ice cream. At about 3 or 4pm, the day-trippers all leave, and you have the bay to yourself. AND it’s perfectly orientated for sunset beers.


A great spot in an ex-cyclone, as in 1978-ish. Also, the first place I saw kaka flying above the forest.


Surely the best place to moor up for a week as an Aucklander (in my opinion) is Wattle Bay with its blowhole, the serenity, soft sand and lovely clear water that’s safe to swim in no matter what the tide is doing. Plus, you can day-trip to the historic lighthouse or check out an old cottage where a local legend wrote a book about the Manukau Heads.



Such a magical place where boaties and anglers come together. The stillness and ambience of this anchorage is unmatched.




A popping little cockle

With the sudden reappearance of a little clinker runabout last seen working around Picton Harbour nearly 30 years ago, older locals can be forgiven for thinking they’ve been through a time-warp.

Tuangi – Māori for ‘cockle’ – is a lapstrake-constructed 16-foot dinghy launched in Picton in 1978. The lapjointed planks look a bit like the ridges on cockle shells – hence the name.

She was designed and constructed by Bill Orchard – a prominent boatbuilder in the area – and her recent reappearance is thanks to Bill’s son Grant – who kept the little dinghy. She is not only painted in the same, original colours, but is also being used in much the same way as she was all those years ago.


“Dad was passionate about the Queen Charlotte Sound – as I am – and was driven by a desire to showcase the region, to let visitors experience the majesty and beauty of the area firsthand, and it’s best viewed from the water.

“He built numerous launches over his lifetime – recreational and commercial – and Tuangi was at the lower end of that spectrum. She was designed as a ‘bareboat charter’ vessel. Punters would rent her ($5/hour) for short cruises around the inner Sound.

The little popper is now in survey and can carry five passengers along with the skipper.

“The design became known as a ‘Sounds Popper’ – based on the sound of her single-cylinder, 8hp Yanmar engine – ‘pop, pop, pop’ – which gave her a top speed about 5 knots. Even inexperienced boaties could have a safe, fun cruise. In fact, all the kids in our family learned to operate boats in the long-suffering Tuangi.”

Used periodically over the decades (and stored in a shed), the vessel didn’t require any major remedial work. “Fortunately, Dad used the clench-nail/glue technique for her lapstrake construction, rather than the more common riveting system of the period. The advantage of clench-nailing is that the seams don’t dry out during the winter months, when she’s out of the water.”

A major part of bringing Tuangi back to life was the new coat of paint and adding more modern technology such as LED lighting and an electric bilge pump. She’s also enjoying an upgraded engine – an 11hp twin-cylinder Kubota. It’s a little smoother than its predecessor, but the distinctive ‘pop, pop, pop’ is more subdued.

Nearly 50 years old and still going strong.  

Today the little popper is back plying the charter market – though not as a self-drive. Legislation has changed and Grant’s restoration of the boat included fitting equipment to get her through survey to carry five passengers, with himself as skipper.

A typical cruise lasts 1.5 hours and covers the inner Sound. “Like dad, I like giving visitors a bit of background about the region – its history, the fauna and flora, the industry. I particularly like showing them the waterfront shed where Tuangi was built and the beach where she was launched.”


Grant hopes his ‘reactivation’ of Tuangi cruises will coincide with the easing of restrictions in a Covid world that’s crippled the New Zealand tourism sector over the last two years.

The ‘pop, pop, pop’ is more subdued, but the little vessel is as arresting a sight as ever.

“I suspect I will need someone to help with running the Tuangi cruises. I already skipper my 11m charter fishing/ cruising charter boat (Katabatic) based in Picton, and things get really busy at the beginning of summer. I can’t operate both boats so, ideally, I’d like to find someone to skipper the Tuangi and offer them a share in the business. It’s perhaps a way for someone to kick-start a low-stress career on the water.”

If you see a little orange-and-white lapstrake dinghy tootling around Picton and you’re convinced you may have seen her before – many, many years ago – don’t blame your aging mind or that you’ve had one beer too many.

It’s just the Tuangi – a throwback from the past, continuing Bill Orchard’s inspiring vision via his son. BNZ

Grant prepares gourmet meals, embellishing the dining experience with information about the products and method of preparation.


Grant Orchard is an unusual skipper in that he is also a professional chef.

In fact, a signature feature of his Katabatic charters is that he not only gives guests a running commentary about the history and ecology of the Sounds, but also prepares the kai moana caught on the trip. As always, he demonstrates how he likes to prepare the food – whether its cod, oysters, mussels, paua or crayfish – whatever.

Just as a Covid-restricted world persuaded him to reactivate the Tuangi cruises, so he has launched a pop-up cooking experience in Picton. A small group of guests (14) attend a full gourmet event – a five-course meal at which he explains the dishes being prepared, with the appropriate wines in attendance.

“I launched the pop-up restaurant concept out at Waterfall Bay in the Queen Charlotte Sound – and everyone seemed to enjoy it thoroughly. Guests were ferried to the venue from the Picton waterfront (on Katabatic). Limiting the size of the group to 14 keeps it intimate and it’s easier for me to interact with them in terms of the food preparation. I guess it’s a slightly different spin on a conventional dinner out.”

The pop-up events will be held monthly on a Friday night – at the Gusto Café in Picton’s High Street. They are scheduled for the cooler, winter months (May – September) when the fishing charter business is quieter.

“A feature of the meals is that all produce is local – whether it’s seafood or beef/lamb/pork/chicken/venison. Each month the focus shifts to a different protein – and there are matching wines for that protein.

“I like to think the concept gives guests a richer dining experience and an opportunity to experience the local fare from the region.”

Dynamic trim

After a Covid-induced hiatus of three years Advance Trident Limited (ATL) welcomed Zipwake’s Patric Nilsson to New Zealand for the Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show.

Based in Gothenburg, Sweden, Zipwake manufactures an array of versatile, automatic interceptor-type dynamic trim control systems suitable for a wide range of planing and semi-planing vessels up to 50ft long.

Zipwake introduced its Series S fully retracting Dynamic Trim Control System at METS in 2015, which is where Blair Geldard secured the New Zealand agency for ATL. Sweden is where interceptor trim systems were first developed and Swedish manufacturers like Zipwake continue to lead the field.

Nilsson is responsible for Zipwake’s sales and business development throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Advance Trident Ltd is among Zipwake’s top 10 distributors globally.

Since the introduction of Series S in 2015, Zipwake has developed a range of models and accessories to suit almost any vessel between 20 and 50 feet. Over 1,000,000 Dynamic Control Systems have been sold around the globe. Zipwake is marketed in over 60 countries worldwide.

Zipwake Dynamic Trim Control system features fully retracting inteceptors and a Smart Ride controller.

“Since we first introduced Zipwake we have perfected the system,” says Nilsson. “It’s now so reliable that for every 10,000 systems sold, warranty claims make up just 0.04%.”

Boating NZ caught up with Nilsson and Advance Trident’s Blair Geldard on the ATL stand where Nilsson spent the weekend talking to show-goers about Zipwake Dynamic Trim Control Systems.

Zipwake is a fully automatic and active system that uses a built-in GPS, 3D gyro and a 3D accelerometer. It dynamically eliminates boat roll and pitch, and automatically minimises wave resistance. Manufactured in Sweden, Zipwake systems are simple to install and easy to operate using Zipwake’s Smart Ride Controller. Affordable and easily expandable, they support integration with external devices via NMEA 2000 networks. “Although they can be operated in manual mode, the beauty of a Zipwake system is that it is fully automatic,” explains Geldard. “Zipwake takes the guesswork out of trimming a boat, its fastacting interceptors instantly dealing to any trim problems.”

Nilsson agreed that the system’s operational simplicity is one of its main strengths, but also highlighted the performance benefits: “A Zipwake system significantly enhances performance, fuel economy, comfort and safety when accelerating, turning or running in a seaway.”

Judging by the number of boats at the show fitted with Zipwake Dynamic Trim Control Systems, New Zealand boat builders have been quick to see the benefits. BNZ

More fish in the sea

Why aren’t we doing more to breed and release native fish? A simple question with complicated answers. Alex Stone looks at some of the issues surrounding marine species re-introductions.

Hapuku were once commonly taken recreationally and commercially in the Hauraki Gulf.

Our daughter Zoë is a field research ecologist. She’s currently doing post-doctoral work, monitoring the fortunes of native birds reintroduced to mainland islands.

New Zealand ecologists are considered world-leaders in this type of terrestrial re-introductions. So why can’t we do something similar to help restore our inshore marine habitat? In the Hauraki Gulf, for instance, and other coastal habitats, once keystone species are fast disappearing. Like hapuka and kōura crayfish.

For the last 30 years the total commercial fishing allowable catch for hapuka, unchanged since the early 1990s, has not been caught. Whether this is a result of fishers priority-targeting other species, hapuka proving too elusive to catch, or because hapuka populations have crashed is unknown, says Professor of Marine Science at the University of Auckland, Andrew Jeffs, but the last is the most likely – “We still have no real data on hapuka population dynamics.”

Hapuka were once a dominant inshore reef predator in the Hauraki Gulf. But they are now locally-extinct in the inner Hauraki Gulf, and don’t appear to be returning – even in protected circumstances. In 40 years of diving at Cape RodneyOkakari Point Marine Reserve (Goat Island) near Leigh, Andrew has never seen one.

So why don’t we work to re-locate them to reserve areas?

“The answer is simple,” Nick Shears, another UoA marine science researcher, responds: “It’s because we eat them!” But then he quickly gets serious – “There’s also way more to it than that.”

There are initiatives afoot to breed native fresh- and saltwater species, based mostly on their potential for aquaculture. We’re doing it because we want to keep on eating them!

Things are a little different with shellfish. As Andrew says, “Groups like Revive Our Gulf, The Nature Conservancy and iwi are restoring shellfish because they want the restoration of ecosystem services and the mauri they represent. They are like the early planting NGOs – like Native Forest Action Council – who sold the idea of replanting native forests widely in the community so that it is now seen as the norm.”

So how can aquaculture initiatives help conservation of endangered marine and freshwater species? What are the risks and possible pitfalls? How could this become a good news story?

It’s emblematic perhaps of New Zealand’s freshwater species conservation that the only fish officially protected is already extinct: the upokororo grayling. Last seen in the late 1920s, the species went into terminal decline after the introduction of trout in the 1870s.

And kōkopu, whose juveniles make up four-fifths of the whitebait run, and that other at-risk native species, tuna longfin eels, are harvested commercially and marketed as Kiwi delicacies. We wouldn’t think of shooting and selling whio/blue duck, say, but it’s okay to exploit these other freshwater-habitat native species!

When I wondered aloud to fish scientists why reintroductions are so much an accepted and regular part of terrestrial conservation, but unheard-of in water, Bruce Hartill of NIWA set me straight: “The terrestrial situation is far, far easier than the marine environment when it comes to conservation. Terrestrial animals mostly raise their offspring, but fish mostly broadcast their eggs, so there is very limited connection between adults and offspring. The ‘parents’ are just adults sharing gametes [eggs and sperm] in a body of water.

A small hapuku caught recently near Rakino Island.

“So it’s a completely different situation, with almost no parallels. Enhancement of sessile [organisms fixed in place] shellfish is much easier, though.”

NIWA has an experimental hatchery in Bream Bay, Northland, breeding kingfish and hapuka for aquaculture. But to release them into reserves? “They may not stay,” says Andrew Jeffs. “We know so little about them. There is no academic literature on this subject.”

But in the 50 years that the Goat Island Marine Reserve has been operating, no hapuka have been released there.

And the issue is wider than what a single experiment like that could reveal.

Andrew Jeffs again: “Hapuka are another example of the unfortunate fisheries management regime that is operated in New Zealand. We should just stop fishing them and let the populations recover – they are a key predatory species in coastal areas that we have fished out and are continuing to do so.

A nest of packhorse crayfish at Waiheke Island.

“It is different where we have destroyed populations and they are not recovering on their own, then there is an argument for restoration intervention – such as in the case of green-lipped mussels.”

Postive initiatives include projects to restore green-lipped mussel beds in the Firth of Thames area, supported by the University of Auckland, and the NGOs Revive Our Gulf and The Nature Conservancy. Andrew says the mussel beds become critically-important habitat for juvenile fish, especially bottom-feeding species.

This re-stocking is to help the Hauraki Gulf recover from the massive harvesting of mussels, beginning in the early 1900s.

While there have been scattered episodes of fish reintroductions in New Zealand, Andrew says there is currently “no systematic, scientific data-driven programme” to do this more widely.

However, it costs far more to artificially grow fish and then release them than it does to simply allow their natural populations to recover. For instance, only modest costs are associated with signage and buoys at marine reserves. But still, there’s the problem of hapuka not returning to Goat Island.

Whitebait is made up of the young of five native migratory galaxiid species returning from the sea.

NIWA scientist Richard O’Driscoll: “I would have reservations/doubts that this [reintroduction] would be successful for hapuka. The question you would need to ask is what is causing the ‘extinction’ of hapuka inshore. Your assumption is that this is due to lack of juveniles ‘recruiting’ into these areas. To be successful, re-introduced juveniles would then need to: remain in the area of re-introduction; survive until they grow through to maturity and reproduce, so their progeny return to the inshore area.

“Given the likelihood of fish movement, and dispersal of eggs, larvae and juveniles [juvenile hapuka are pelagic], I doubt that these criteria would be met.

“I’d suggest that best method to re-establish hapuka inshore would be for there to be a large increase in abundance of existing ‘wild’ natural populations. This would require management intervention [such as reduction in recreational and commercial fishing effort].”

NIWA’s Bruce Hartill: “The main prerequisite for rebuilding inshore hapuku/bass populations would be to constrain commercial and recreational catches to a level that would allow fish to form a critical spawning density. But what, exactly, is that level? Right now, we simply don’t know.”

Farmed kingfish held in tanks in Northland.

From Darren Parsons, another NIWA scientist: “The advantages that terrestrial restoration has is that the area being restored won’t also be open to the trees being harvested immediately after planting, and the trees that are planted are capable of reproducing, leading to self-seeding in the localised area after planting. Both of these things are less likely for marine restoration, for different reasons.”

He goes on to volunteer “three critical issues in this debate”: EXPLOITATION: Hapuku do pop up in inshore areas as it is. But, they are pretty vulnerable to capture and fishing is fairly pervasive, so I would guess that individuals that do pop up at the end of their depth range (inshore waters) would likely get removed relatively quickly.

RECRUITMENT: The life cycle of marine species often involves a highly dispersive initial phase, so restoring a population at a specific location may not contribute to recruitment at that same location. It depends on currents and could be dependent on specific habitat relationships that support different life stages [juvenile nursery habitats]. So unfortunately, it’s [generally] more complex than for trees on land.

REBUILDING a fish population to a higher biomass overall is likely to generate more offspring and more of those new offspring are likely to settle on the fringe of their distribution. That, combined with some level of marine protection, may allow those new recruits to remain in those areas.

Paul Dekker inspects tanks of giant kōkopu

Last word in this hapuka go-round is from Andrew Forsythe, the Aquaculture manager at NIWA:

“Our objective is to develop these species for commercial farming in New Zealand. We are not engaged in any attempts to augment wild stocks through the release of captive bred fish.”

But still, why hasn’t anyone just tried placing hapuka in the water at Goat Island?

There is an initiative underway to look at returning kōura to the northern shore of Waiheke Island. This is building on research initially commissioned by the Friends of the Hauraki Gulf, as part of its campaign to establish a new marine reserve there.

In 2013, the University of Auckland Underwater Club surveyed 18 sites of what looked like perfect habitat. They found no kōura. In June 2021, the club started replicating this search – and widening it to more sites, co-ordinated by Craig Thorburn, a life-long diver, and now designer of aquariums for a worldwide clientele.

A large adult kōkopu.

Craig sees this as an “incredible opportunity” to make a controlled study of the effects of the rāhui placed around Waiheke by Ngāti Paoa in 2021. This rāhui, he says, makes Waiheke now effectively “the biggest cray reserve in New Zealand.” But he quickly adds, “It [the rāhui] needs to be for much longer than two years” – especially since larvae spend possibly two years offshore.

Echoing the other scientists’ comments about hapuka, Craig says, “Recruitment is the critical issue. And that may not happen successfully if the cray population remains below a critical mass. If spawning biomass is gone, it [the recovery of the population] needs more than just time.”

Trouble is, we don’t know what that critical mass is. In Craig’s view, this project is a “head start, to learn more about their life-cycle.”

He does point to various successful re-introductions of crayfish in South Australia, where “some quite good home territories for crayfish have been established in dedicated sanctuaries.”

In their initial dives, the divers under Craig’s instructions found tiny numbers of kōura. Intriguingly, there are more of the packhorse species.

And true to his irrepressible form, Craig really does have the last word on marine species re-introductions: “The best thing to do is start.” BNZ

Grow your own floating garden

The days when sailors had to survive on a diet of salted pork and ship’s biscuits while scurvy loosened their teeth are long gone, but many cruisers still miss fresh greens during passages or while swinging at anchor in remote places.

The fresh stack in the fridge soon runs out leaving only frozen provisions (if they have a freezer) or mushy, canned vegetables. On Pitufa we enjoy trips to remote places, often staying for some time. We don’t want to miss out on fresh vitamins while onboard, so we simply carry our own little green oasis and use it to spice up almost every meal.

Visitors to Pitufa are often astounded and rather skeptical when they spot the wild miniature jungle underneath the yacht’s dodger. Most think plants are a hassle to keep on board and are bound to make a mess during passages. To be fair, our first attempts at a garden onboard ended in plenty of wilted leaves and we unintentionally murdered more than one green passenger. But we learned from our mistakes and soon expanding our plantation to increase its production.

A garden guarantees a nutritionally-enhanced diet, especially for long-term cruisers, but it also makes sense to take a few pots on a weekend or holiday cruise – a sprig of herbs turns a boat-made meal into a gourmet treat.

Pitufa’s garden thrives behind the dodger.


If you’re only out for a few weeks, it doesn’t make sense to start from scratch with seeds. It’s faster and simpler to buy pots with fully-grown herbs like basil, oregano, coriander or mint and then transfer them into shipshape containers. Not much effort is involved, and even small amounts of herbs add a lot of flavour to a dish.

Spring onions are also easy: plants sold in bundles with the roots still attached may look dead lying in the fridge at the supermarket, but put them into water for a few hours, then stick them in some soil, and most will retain enough energy to keep growing.

As we live all-year round on our sailing yacht, we also grow hardy species we can harvest for a long time. We have a vine-growing variety of spinach that is very undemanding, grows all year around and the young leaves are delicious in salads and sandwiches. The same goes for arugula (rocket), a spicy salad green that keeps going for many months if you only harvest the outer leaves.

We were skeptical about pak choy [bok choy] seeds, thinking that such large plants wouldn’t be happy in our little containers, but tried them anyway. We found that pak choy grows incredibly fast, so we harvested the outer leaves and cut off the whole plant once it started flowering, thinking that this was the end of it. Fortunately, I didn’t get round to tossing away the remains and after a few days we got a pleasant surprise: young leaves were sprouting again from the root and between the cut-off stems.

Once we had bell-peppers [capsicum] in a lunch salad and simply stuck some seeds into an empty pot. Three months later we harvested the first red peppers and the plant kept on going for over a year, constantly flowering again and producing new fruit. The same goes for chilli plants, which seriously spice up our curries. We have seen tomatoes on other boats, but they are sensitive and take a long time until they yield fruit, so we don’t bother with them.

Chilli peppers can be grown from seed.


Most plants thrive best in a sunny spot, safe from rain and especially salt spray. Finding the right site for a garden on a boat isn’t always easy, as the green passengers shouldn’t get in the way of lines, winches and other moving equipment. It is important to choose a corner where they can remain when underway.

As gardening beginners, we kept the pots in the cockpit at anchor and stored them below deck on passages, but in rough conditions they toppled over. Many plants also died from lack of sunlight. Moving pots once the weather turns nasty also doesn’t work, because you’re generally too busy reefing to rescue them in time.

On Pitufa no lines are led underneath the dodger, so that’s the perfect spot – dry with plenty of light. On some catamarans and decksaloon monohulls, the bay windows at the front of the saloon are ideal; on other boats, a corner of the cockpit can be secured.


Most regular flowerpots come with a hole on the bottom, so excess water can drain off. Unfortunately, a saucer full of muddy water’s an accident waiting to happen on a pitching, rolling yacht, so we opted for closed containers instead. We prefer using square containers as they snuggle best into the dedicated corner of the cockpit, but any small bucket will do – use whatever fits best into your chosen location.

We have placed the pots on non-skid mats to keep them from sliding or toppling over when the boat is heeling. Additionally, we secure them with a tight bungee cord all around the garden, so the plants can’t simply take off during a squall. A high wooden/ plastic/metal barrier would work, as long as it doesn’t get in the way during manoeuvres. Our garden has survived rough, splashy upwind passages with quite extreme heeling angles.

Fresh herbs and other greens liven up any meal.


Be careful with watermaker water, because even small amounts of salt residue each day will collect in the earth causing the plants to start dying. Heavily chlorinated water is also bad for your green friends. Their first choice of beverage is collected rainwater. With closed containers there’s a risk of drowning the roots, so better to water less, but every day. In small pots, the soil soon gets low in nutrients, leaves turn pale and their growth rate slows, so we add fertiliser to the water. Another disadvantage of small containers is that they soon end up packed full of roots, so replanting once (or twice) a year helps long-term growing success.


Many cruisers refrain from growing anything onboard because they fear plants will attract insects. We’ve had some ant invasions over time, but so have friends without gardens. As a precaution, we put ant traps behind the pots to discourage potential colonists.

Even the cleanest garden won’t make it through quarantine inspections when clearing into island nations in the Pacific, so enjoy a last big salad, wok, or spring roll feast before you move on to a new cruising destination! Having your garden confiscated and destroyed by customs officials won’t just hurt your feelings, but also your wallet. BNZ

Sprouts are easy to grow.



Some sprouts require elaborate equipment, which might appeal to cruisers with lots of space and a soft spot for fancy gadgets, but we have specialised in lentils and mung beans – they grow quickly, produce astounding amounts of biomass and thrive in a simple plastic box.

• Pour beans/lentils into a plastic container, so the bottom is covered

• Fill the container with water and let the beans soak overnight

• Drain the water, wash the grains thoroughly and put a lid on the container (to keep insects out and humidity in)

• Let them sprout for two to five days, harvesting part of the crop every day. Rinse the sprouts twice a day; the remaining humidity is enough to keep them growing.

Superyachts to return

New Zealand’s air and sea borders will open from August 1, allowing tourists to again enjoy one of the world’s great natural playgrounds.

The move has delighted New Zealand’s superyacht industry. New Zealand has spent the past two years expanding superyacht offerings across its marine destinations, including additional inner city berthage in the heart of Auckland’s CBD and enhanced refit facilities.

There’s now a new 820-tonne travel lift in the central city, adding to existing 1,500-tonne and 600-tonne slipways and a 181m dry dock. Central Auckland boasts 75 superyacht berths with 40 berths for yachts between 25 and 40m LOA, and 30 berths capable of accommodating yachts between 40 and 100m. For the largest yachts – those over 100m – Auckland has five berths.

Elsewhere, Bay of Islands Marina now offers casual berthage to visiting cruising yachts and a new 120m superyacht berth. There’s also an expanded superyacht refit facility in Whangarei and a newly enlarged Vessel Works haul-out yard in Tauranga, Bay of Plenty.

Visiting foreign-flagged yachts benefit from a superyachtfriendly framework that includes newly completed refit facilities, a 24-month Temporary Import Entry (TIE), and GSTexempt refit services and supplies

The reopening of New Zealand completes the traditional South Pacific loop for yachts, with most favouring a journey through the islands of the South Pacific and on to New Zealand, where they can refit, bunker, provision, explore and charter. Many yachts use New Zealand as a base over several seasons, before resuming their onward journeys.


Through 2020 and 2021, the New Zealand superyacht industry turned inward to come back stronger with a more refined offering once the country reopened. Auckland’s expanded superyacht refit facilities now offer a refit experience unrivalled anywhere in the region for its proximity to the central city, travel lift and haul-out facilities, range of on-site marine trades, sustainable water treatment plant, hardstands and on-site work spaces, both in-water and on land. Additional refit facilities to the country’s north and south provide extra capacity.

Visiting superyachts will find safe and secure berths designed specifically for them, plus thousands of bays and islets to explore in the north and mountains and ancient fiords in the south.

In 2023, the world’s most-southerly superyacht regatta, the NZ Millennium Cup, will return. Taking place in the Bay of Islands, it’s a four-day celebration of camaraderie and fierce competition, set to a backdrop of daily dolphin vanguards and relaxed hospitality in one of the world’s great natural playgrounds. BNZ

Saving the Success

A new Heritage Trust has been established to purchase the historic scow Success and restore her as near as possible to original condition as an auxiliary schooner-rigged deck scow.

It is envisaged she will offer heritage experience excursions for 80 to 100 passengers, including tourism, weddings, youth training and special events.

Success (launched as Alwin G in 1925) is one of the last small coastal trading vessels operating from river and sea ports, which she did up until World War Two. The only other original scow still operating today is the beautifully-restored Jane Gifford which operates on the Mahurangi River at Warkworth North of Auckland.

Approximately 130 scows of similar construction once plied New Zealand waters, mostly as ‘trucks of the sea’. Success is one of only three left.

Success,seen here at Auckland,

Scows were built to navigate narrow tidal rivers, estuaries and creeks beside which the country’s early communities settled. Scows were flat-bottomed, to enable them to sit upright when high and dry, making it easy to load and unload freight and stock. The first scow was built in 1873 at Whangateau and the last at Auckland in 1925.

The New Zealand scows were modified, superior versions of American Great Lakes scow-schooners and initially found favour north of Auckland. As time went on and the practical ability of these vessels was realised, they started finding their way around the country, becoming particularly common around Nelson Bays, and later, river ports such as Kaiapoi and Hokitika.

Most of these little vessels were hard used and, if not wrecked, were turned into barges, unceremoniously broken up, or just dragged up onto beaches and left to rot.

Of the three original scows that remain, only the Jane Gifford is fully restored and in survey, the Alma is in private ownership and under restoration as a houseboat, leaving Success as the only other surviving scow suitable for restoration – she has been well-maintained during her working life and substantially reconstructed over the last 30 years.

On Nelson slipway in 2016, was well- maintained during her long working life.


Success was built as Alwin G in 1925 by Davey Darroch at Stanley Bay Auckland for Alan and Winifred Glass. She traded to places like Ngunguru, Parengarenga, and later Whitianga, carting glass sand, firewood, fertiliser, building materials and other general cargoes.

Alwin G had several owners within the Glass family up until 1930 and then was co-owned from 1930 through to 1937.

Renamed Success in February 1937, she was then owned by the Alwin Shipping Company who on-sold her to Jack Hall and Company in 1950.

Sold to Barney Daniels in 1963, Success moved to Wellington to operate as a refuse barge collecting mainly from overseas ships and dumping in Cook Strait. Later the refuse was taken to Evans Bay to be incinerated.

Purchased by Peter Yealands in 1982, Success went to Picton where she was extensively refitted and used for barging pursuits initially, then in the green shell mussel industry. Sold on to Rob Pooley in 1990, Success continued in the mussel industry. Further extensive refits were carried out during this period.

Success was retired and sold to a private owner in 2008 and moved to a Nelson dockyard, where she remains. Success’ 1930s dimensions: 66 x 18.7 x 4.1 feet (20.12 x 5.70 x 1.25 metres).


The only New Zealand scow to have been successfully restored is the Jane Gifford which is very close in size to Success. She was brought back from the brink and has become a huge tourist attraction. Jane Gifford will be used as the template for the restoration of Success (Alwin G).

The other scow currently operating is the Ted Ashby. She is, however, not an original working scow but a replica that operates out of the National Maritime Museum at Auckland. BNZ

Success under sail.


The trust’s goal is to purchase and restore Success to promote the heritage legacy of the New Zealand scows and to represent the scows that served the Nelson region.

The idea for purchasing the Success goes back to the early to mid-2000s but the idea was dropped when Success was subsequently sold to a North Island owner. Success came to light once again in 2015 and it was determined restoring her was a feasible project. The North Island owner also offered a set of engines and various fittings from a sister scow that had sadly disintegrated.

A preliminary survey inspection has confirmed the vessel is extremely sound, there is an offer from a sister group, the Jane Gifford Restoration Trust, to help guide the restoration project, and a conservation plan for Success has also been drafted.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT THE ALWIN G HERITAGE TRUST: Bruce Etwell, 0274944080, P.O Box 3834, Richmond 7020; or Darren Ball, 0210771255, 55 Feldwick Drive, Kaiapoi 7630. of-nz-maritime-heritage-scow

Of whales and men

The Arctic Circle, at 66 degrees 34 minutes north, was well astern and the compass card, becoming unreliable at these latitudes, danced around Magnetic North.

Meeting the last of Norway's whale hunters at home

Even eyesight wasn’t too dependable. Here, in the ‘leads’ – a winding waterway through islands and fjords on Norway’s northern coast, snow-peaked granite mountains floated metres above the horizon and passing ferries seemed to float on air.

This, I learned later, was Fata Morgana, an optical illusion caused by refraction through the cold band of air at sea level and named after the Arthurian sorceress, Morgan le Fay, who is said to have used it to lure sailors to their deaths.

A week or so out of the Shetland Islands, we were bound for Bodo through some of the most scenic waterways in the world, aiming to clear Norwegian customs and then press on north to Spitzbergen.

Dressed in heavy Line-7 PVC smocks, woollen balaclavas and boots, we picked our way up the fjord to Bodo through a fleet of pleasure boats peopled by women in bikinis and T-shirted men wearing shorts. We’d arrived on the first warm day of summer.

Ragnvald ‘Sea Rover’ Dahl.

But customs clearance was elusive. The customs and immigration officials were based at the airport and not keen on coming into town so, after perhaps a week of futile phone calls, we headed 58nm northwest to Svolvaer, the main town of the breathtakingly beautiful Lofoten Islands.

All night we reached briskly across Vestfjorden, though a fairytale landscape of snow-draped mountains. The sun stayed up all night to illuminate the shoreline and splashes of seawater stung any exposed skin as Elkouba charged onwards.

Winters here are long and dark and the mountains plummet straight into the sea, leaving little room for coastal farming or industry.

In the morning we motored into Svolvaer and tied up to the municipal wharf in the middle of town. Colourful gingerbread houses trailed chimney smoke and, entranced, we walked the back streets.

Then I spotted a flock of crows nests, mounted on wooden masts behind a handful of weatherboard houses.

“Whalers,” I said, “let’s go and have a look”.

Down a narrow walkway between two houses we came onto a wooden wharf with three doughty wooden whalers tied to it. A man stood behind the harpoon gun mounted on the fo’csle of the nearest one, a small boy held in his arms. There was a loud report from the gun and Saah pushed the shutter on her camera.

The man turned around warily. “Greenpeace?” he sighed, and rolled his eyes.

“No,” I replied, “we just like boats and were admiring yours.” “Ahhh,” he responded, “come aboard, come board.”

A small whale is butchered onboard.

And so we embarked on a tour of Kromhout, a typical Lofoten minke whale chaser. Every summer kvalskipper (whaling skipper) Ernest Dahl took her up to the edge of the Arctic pack ice to harpoon minke whales which are processed on board for the local market.

Built of 50mm-thick Baltic pine fastened to beefy oak frames with big galvanised boat nails, Kromhout had gangways from the wheelhouse to the harpoon guns forward and aft.

“The minke are so slow… if you miss with the forward gun, you can walk to the wheelhouse, spin the boat around, and try with the aft gun,” he said.

About 575 whales were taken in 2021 and skipper Dahl, in a 53-year career starting at 12 years old, says he has personally killed 3,500.

“This gun,” he patted the purposeful grey harpoon gun, “was invented by Svend Foy, a Norwegian. We use 50mm harpoons for minke whale or 90mm for fin and sei whales – bigger species.” The harpoon head is designed to explode inside the whale and kill it immediately, but if it doesn’t, the whale is despatched with rifle shots to the head. It is then winched on board for processing. The blubber is rendered down to make oil and the meat is consumed locally in Tromso, or exported to Japan.

Belowdecks the accommodation is warm and homely and a big GM diesel is bolted into an engine room that is as spotless as a hotel dining room. “We steam to the ice every year to chase whales,” he explained, “so we need lots of horsepower.”

Lofoten Kvalskipper Ernest Dahl.

He settles into the wooden chair at the wheel, like someone pulling on a favourite overcoat.

“And where are you from?” he asks. “We came by yacht – from New Zealand,” I say.

“Aahh, New Zealand,” he made a fist of his right hand and thumped his chest with it. “David Lange – strong man.”

And later he added, “You like my father; ‘Sea Rover’ Dahl.” His father, Ragnvald, joined the Norwegian whaling fleet at age 14 and steamed to South Georgia as deck boy in a whale chaser, around the edge of the Antarctic ice pack to refuel at Bluff. Then, with its harvest of dead whales in tow, back to South Georgia and home to Norway.

“Come, come,” and ushered us into the wooden house about 15 paces away over the wharf. Over cake and coffee, we discussed whales and whalemen, life on Lofoten and the long, dark days of local winters when snow falls down to sea level and storm force winds shriek down from the ice pack. He was well-versed in International Whaling Commission (IWC) politics and noted that New Zealand had voted for a ban on whale hunting.

“But you have sheep and little lambs – and you eat them,” he smiled, “what difference is it? We have whales, that’s all.”

“The scientists say that there are this or that number of minke whales – but they don’t come out with us to see. Our whales are like your sheep – my family have hunted whales since Viking times – we don’t kill them all – we need them for the next generations… and to feed the people.”

Eventually, full of strong Norwegian coffee and sweet cake, we walked back to the boat, dropped the lines and motored around to take skipper Dahl’s invitation and raft up to Kromhout.

“Next year the whale hunt is banned – so we will not be going anywhere.”

The harpoon gun was invented by a Norwegian.

He had never been on a yacht before and was intrigued by Elkouba, our 12m steel cutter.

For my part, I was fascinated by Kromhout’s nuggety construction, built to nudge her way through brash ice and make a living from doing hard and dirty work in very rough conditions.

For four days we sat beside the whale chaser in the serene waters of the fjord. I helped skipper Dahl with work on Kromhout and he helped me with Elkouba and at nights we dined with the Dahl family and other whalers.

Otherwise we strolled the docks to look at boats. The pleasure boats were mostly plastic production craft, but the commercial boats – salmon carriers, whale chasers and fishing boats – were mostly strongly-built wooden boats, well-kept and shapely.

Skipper Dahl’s mother, Olga (93) cooked the dark red and lean whale meat or fiskeboller (fish balls) which are the local dietary staples. I wondered about the life this dignified old lady, who always seemed to have a grandchild on her lap, had lived – waiting for her men to return from the sea, Antarctic and Arctic.

Skipper Dahl’s two brothers, Arnold and Oddmund, are also whale hunters; their chasers Svolvaering and the oddly-named Charley are berthed further up the fjord. More grandchildren are in training.

Skipper Dahl and I spent hours poring over charts of Spitzbergen. He had drawn tidy little anchor graphics at the best anchorages, marked the areas of the strongest current flows and little swirls were pencilled in to mark where wind funnels and katabatic gusts were most likely. It was a priceless education in arctic navigation.

“Take them… take them…” he slid the charts across the table, “next year there is no more whale hunting – it has been banned – so these are no use to me anymore.”

Guillemots roosting on an isolated rock stack.

In fact Norway eventually defied the IWC ban and began whaling again, but by then technology had expanded to provide GPS and chart-plotters.

I didn’t like to take the charts – it was like endorsing the downfall of a tradition, of a way of life. But on the other hand, I would think of the whalemen, superb seamen, every time I used them.

Friends in the Shetland Islands had recommended taking duty-free whisky to Norway where tax and duty have made liquor prohibitively expensive. I took a bottle from our stock and slipped it into Kromhout’s wheelhouse before we took our mooring lines aboard and slipped out of the fjord.

The wind was light and we ghosted northwards, boggling at the stunning vistas around us.

Then we noticed the whale chaser leave the fjord and alter course to head our way. With a big bone in her mouth, she forged towards us, then settled back to an idle and held station about a metre astern.

Skipper Dahl stepped out of the wheelhouse and waved the whisky. “Is too much,” he roared. A young boy ran forward and handed over a 30cm square slab of meat.

We slowly pulled away from Kromhout until there was enough space for the little wooden whaleship to wheel away and head for home.

We had no fridge on board but the meat kept for a week or so in the cold steel bilges. Sliced very thinly and fried with onions, it made a nutritious and tasty dinner.

In Tromso, a white van like a Mr Whippy with extras, regularly parked on the wharf with Hvalbuf (whale beef) painted on it. Housewives arrived on a regular basis, bringing bags to carry the family dinner.

And, in a way, I thought, Skipper Dahl was right. We do eat sheep. BNZ

Boy Wells and Florence Part II

In last month’s issue Ian Wells had arrived at the point where his halfbrother Boy Wells of Whitianga was contemplating removing the concrete ballast keel from his 33ft keel yacht Florence and replacing it with lead to stiffen her up. He had retained the ton-and-a-half of lead from the family’s old gaff cutter Alice, broken up in the 1940s, but needed a lot more.

Ian continues, “The opportunity came in the late 50s. A yacht named Iona had been driven ashore and completely wrecked on most inhospitable rocks at the foot of a 60-foot cliff in Mouse Bay, on the western side of Great Mercury Island. Iona broke up and disappeared completely. I understand from his son Renn that Boy was anchored in Mercury Cove, honeymooning with his new bride Kath, when the grounding happened, and that he ferried the crew back to Whitianga.

When Boy decided to look into finding the lead, he did a search with facemask and snorkel over the transom of the dinghy (the Florence crayfishing technique) at the site pinpointed with the help of the genial Pat Mizzen, the island’s resident farmer. At low water he sighted the lead keel. Boy then negotiated with the insurers and for the sum of £5 he became the owner of this underwater treasure. It became the target for the next Christmas cruise…

Boy Wells.

The recovery was to face huge challenges, and this was where Boy’s immense practicality was displayed. How to cut the lead into manageable pieces was not the least of the challenges, and Boy travelled over the peninsula to Prices Foundry at Thames for advice. The foundry made him steel cold-chisel-like wedge implements equipped with handles, known in the art of blacksmithing as ‘sets’. Armed with a ten-pound sledgehammer and some brave volunteers to hold the implements in position, Boy was in business.

The plan was to drag the keel shoreward and cut the lead into manageable chunks as it emerged into shallower water. There was no anchor point for heaving tackle nearby, so Boy ran a long wire rope cable right up the cliff, over the spur, and attached it to a good-sized pohutukawa tree on the shoreline of the next coastal indentation. On the business end of the cable, he had an endless chain, secured to the keel – initially with a wire strop, later a cradle of chains, as the recovery progressed.


It worked! Boy, a well-practised axeman after years of cutting and splitting puriri fence posts, removed the keel timbers with an axe as it reached shallow water. Then work began on the lead. The team soon got the hang of the cutting technology. The pieces of lead were loaded into the dinghy (kept off the rocks with some difficulty by an anxious oarsman) and ferried out to the anchored Florence. Each evening or morning, depending on the tide, the harvest of huge lumps of lead was unloaded onto the jetty in Mercury Cove. Amazingly, Boy swung that bloody great hammer all day – every day!

Florence had been generously provisioned for the trip, because Boy realised it would be hard work and that everyone would get hungry. But… that tucker ran out on the third day! Young Philip, then nine years old, was relieved of all other duties and designated ‘Principal Hunter and Forager’. He spent each day fishing, gathering crayfish, mussels and paua, mushrooms and anything else he could find. He reports that everyone was fed well, but we can’t confirm that!

Howard Pascoe (second from left) at his yard in Whitianga.

Lady Jocelyn, the regular supply vessel for Whitianga, was unable to keep up with the Christmas holidaymaker rush on the local grocers that season and so was helped out by the Auckland scow Success. It was Success that called into Mercury Cove en route to Whitianga with supplies for the farm, and Success picked up the lead, ferrying it to Whitianga.

And there it was – job done! Together with the contribution from Alice, there was more than enough lead for the Florence job. The only real cost was damage to one dinghy, swept onto the rocks by a rogue roller while being loaded, despite the best efforts of the oarsman.

The next part of the story is the pouring of Florence’s new keel. Howard Pascoe, the Whitianga boatbuilder, made the mould. Boy buried it in the sandhill in front of the farm homestead, ready for the big pour.

Iona’s keel is coming up.

Boy had read Johnny Wray’s account of pouring the keel for Ngataki. He set up a sturdy steel frame carrying 44-gallon drums, plumbed with brass stopcocks. He noted that Wray found that he needed a “very hot” fire. So, the lead pieces were put in the drums and the mother of all fires was lit. Shelterbelt logs, home firewood, the neighbour’s picket fence and whatever else came to hand went into it. The idea was to simply run the molten metal off into the mould.

But it wasn’t that simple… the brass stopcocks melted and the lead ran out and solidified as a thin layer of toxic groundcover! “Great balls of fire!” was one of Boy’s favourite expletives, and it must have rung out loud and clear just then!

The second try, with all-steel plumbing, worked though, and the keel was poured successfully. It was suspended behind the local tow-truck (with its front wheels touching ground almost frequently enough to maintain steering) and taken under cover of darkness to Howard Pascoe’s premises in Whitianga village! And Florence became a ‘new’ boat! BNZ

The keel has been secured with chains.


Of all the components of a keel yacht, its lead is most eminently indestructible, valuable and recyclable. The provenance of most lead is unknowable, but Florence’s lead has a remarkable history. The oldest component is the part that came from the keel of Alice which I described last month as having been built by Robert Logan Sr in 1887 – probably at least a ton and a half.

The second component was the 32cwt of lead from the yacht Iona.

She was wrecked on Great Mercury Island in the early 1950s when owned by Jim Parker of Tauranga. She was a substantial French carvel construction 33ft keel yacht, built in Dunedin for George Currie as Annis in 1904 by Jack M’Lellan to a ‘fast cruiser’ design by Bailey & Lowe.

Annis was raced in Dunedin extensively then sold to Lyttelton in 1922. J. Waddell later bought her, renamed her Iona and shipped her north when he shifted to Auckland in 1927. She was allotted the sail number C10. She became wellknown for winning a challenge race against the crack 26ft mullet boat Celox and her entry in offshore races like the 1936 Balokovic Cup, which she won.

So, Florence’s lead keel has a clear, astonishing and unique provenance.

A hammer and wedge is used to cut away the lead.


Boy lost a brief but fierce battle with a very malignant cancer in 1966 – at the age of just 57. The will bequeathed Florence equally to the three boys, Renn, Philip, and John – the product of the second marriage and at that time still a child.

At the age of just 25, Renn suddenly now had full responsibility for the farm, plus his young family to keep him busy. He had little time for sailing! Philip had left home and travelled overseas to work as a professional diver, and John was just nine years old. So, Florence had little use – or attention – for some years. As John reached maturity the boys talked of what to do about Florence, the upshot being that in 1978 John bought out the elder boys to become her sole owner.

John brought her home to the farm, put her in a temporary shed and went to work on her. He replaced the rotting cabin sides and replaced some of the brass screws securing the hull planking – those on one side were in original condition but some of those on the other had terminal corrosion (they must have been a faulty post-war batch!) He built an interior from a couple of white manuka logs that he acquired and had milled, and he fitted sullage and water tanks in the bilges.

He had created his home!

Boy chopping away at the remains of the timber keelson to expose Iona’s precious lead.

He sailed her northwards toward the sun, settling down in the Bay of Islands and living on board for many months. In time he followed the winter maritime path well worn by so many Kiwi yachties, cruising Florence to the Pacific Islands. She behaved impeccably!

He undertook a major refit in 1991 that included strengthening the top of the mast so that he could rig her as a masthead sloop – as shown in the original sailplan he found. John says that she sails much better than with the three-quarter rig as built. He is currently working on another major hull refit, replacing some strakes and framing timbers. The deck beams, in particular, have suffered with age – curiously the deck was originally fastened with galvanised steel screws!

When the hull is rebuilt to his satisfaction, John plans to give her a protective fibreglass skin and an underwater layer of epoxy copper antifouling. He says that when that is done, she will be set to give another 50 years of pleasure. He is clearly a caring owner and very conscious of heritage values.

What a great outcome!

Doctor’s orders

They were doctor’s orders of the kind Bernie Reid could only agree with. Keep rowing, mate – even if it hurts your ageing knees.

So, Akaroa-based Bernie – a multiple single sculls, even world age-group champion – designed a lovely recreational rowing boat in his mind and built it by eye in his shed from one sheet of 4mm plywood. It has no plans on paper.

It’s got lovely lean lines and sports a finely-crafted pair of long oars deployed on elegant outriggers fashioned from a yacht’s spreaders. Only, this boat – unlike all the racing shells Bernie has propelled in the past – has dispensed with the sliding seat.

Akaroa’s Bernie Reid in action.
Akaroa Boating Club’s first boat shed

Bernie had thus far remained relatively injury-free and fit, but a heart scare had cautioned him and his doctor. The solution: a recreational rowing boat Bernie can launch on his own and row every day, without the additional strain on his knees. The boat weighs in at 24kg and the sweeps are six inches shorter than is normal for a racing scull, in keeping with the little-less-effort approach.

So, every morning at about 9am Bernie strolls down to the historic rowing clubhouse and heads off for a quiet circuit on the water, usually accompanied by a few rare Hector’s dolphins. They are both iconic features of the bay.

Staying behind in the clubhouse are the memories of Bernie’s – and his family’s and friends’ – contribution to rowing in these parts, and much further afield.

Akaroa’s maiden double sculls champions, including Bernie’s father Dave
Bernie Reid competing internationally

Akaroa was for many years one of the most powerful rowing clubs in the country. In 1935, the eight from this remote harbour town became the Canterbury representative crew – the only time the entire Canterbury crew has come from one club. Bernie’s father Dave and his uncle Walter were among this champion crew.

Bernie himself went on to win the single sculls Masters’ World Championship in Italy in 1990 and in Miami in 1991.

Born in Akaroa, Bernie’s day job was house builder, but naturally with his wood-working skills, boats have always been a part of his life too. He built his first single scull, a finely-wrought craft sculpted from tortured plywood, 38 years ago.

Akaroa Boating Club’s third and current club house.

He also built the fast trailer-sailer Rapid Ride and worked on and sold quite a few yachts, including a trimaran that was for many years the fastest in the bay – and in all of Canterbury.

Along the way, Bernie helped restore the Akaroa Rowing Clubhouse in 1988. There’s history aplenty here. Old photos of great rowers, extensive honours boards with reams of gold lettering, a rowing four clinker-built from tōtara slid in among the rafters. Now the grand old building also hosts the Akaroa dinghy sailing club, and many a wedding.

Bernie’s bright red rowing boat is a reminder to all of us to live life to the full. And that rowing, just for fun, can also offer quiet, profound pleasure.

Bernie’s workshop – the neatest I have ever seen – used to be where the Walker family built the local coffins. But in defiance to all that, it’s also now produced the nicest wee recreational rowing boat, with the best back story. BNZ

Bernie rows his bright-red rowboat every day the conditions allow.