Thursday, August 18, 2022


Harsh, unrelenting winter weather has continued bar an interlude last weekend when we had a few days of relatively fine, but still chilly weather. At least this gave all the keen fishos a chance t get out on the water.

Rapport has lain forlornly in her marina berth until we pulled her onto the hard stand early last week for her annual out of water check. We had noticed Rapport wasn’t pulling her full rpm – only reaching about 2,550 when she usually reaches about 2,800. In one sense this doesn’t matter as we normally only cruise at around 1,600-1,800 rpm. However if a diesel engine doesn’t reach her designated WOT rpm it’s a sign of problems such as dirty hull and/or running gear, turbo issues or cooling issues in the case of an overheating engine. We weren’t running hot indicating that a fouled hull was the problem. Sure enough when we pulled Rapport out the hull was quite fouled, the props had a bit of growth and the shafts also had some growth and small mussels growing. Anti foul was last applied Feb ‘21 so we guess this is not surprising. New anti foul was applied plus Propspeed on the props and shafts. Also removed some fishing line tightly wrapped around both shafts near the props. This had to be burned off. Some paint imperfections in the cockpit also rectified.

Rapport was booked to be re-launched Thursday morning 18/8, however on the preceding Tuesday it was apparent we were in for a real blow so we delayed this a few days. Sure enough on Thursday there was a NE wind in the high 20 knots, gusting 40 with heavy rain. I’m glad we postponed.

Now all we need is some good boating weather or even half reasonable would be OK.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022


 How right were NIWA late last year when they forecast the 2021/22 North Island summer would be dominated by easterlies with more gales, thunderstorms and wet weather than normally expected. We’ve lain at home in bed during quite a few nights in the last few weeks listening to wind and rain thankful to be ashore. There’s certainly been some nice sunny days, but on the water we’ve rarely had the settled predominantly south-west conditions we normally expect, the exceptions being a settled period in January before Cyclone Cody arrived and some nice periods in April. In fact we can rarely remember a period of such sustained south to north-easterlies occasionally tipping over into north-westerlies.

This significantly changes summer cruising dynamics, firstly because the east coast becomes exposed rather than sheltered and secondly because we’re all mainly used to anchoring for settled south-westerly conditions rather than for strong easterlies.

Of course this has also opened some opportunities for cruising the normally exposed west coasts of Great Barrier Island, Kawau Island and Coromandel Peninsula, but you do have to get there and back safely and easterlies often bring large ocean swells and larger than usual wind-generated waves.

We last got out for 6 nights in mid-May anchoring around Onetangi including very pleasant Piemelon Bay on the east side of Onetangi when the wind went south-east.

Fortunately it’s nearly always possible to safely return home from the inner Hauraki Gulf islands, nearly all of which provide some secure anchorages during easterlies. Some of our favorites during E to NE winds are Rakino Island’s West Bay, Waiheke Island’s Putiki Bay, Ponui Island’s Shark Bay and Rotoroa Island’s South-west Bay.

Anyway our Winter solstice is now only about three weeks away on 21 June and from there our dark mornings and evenings will very gradually lengthen out. Roll on settled SW conditions.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022


This is an edited version of an article I’ve written for Pacific PowerBoat magazine.

The public in general and the boating community in particular were stunned by the tragic loss of five fishermen from the vessel Enchanter which capsized off Northland’s east coast on the night of 20 March.

At this early stage many details are still not clear, but they will surely emerge as investigations are carried out by the Transport Accident Investigation Committee, Maritime NZ, Police and possibly WorkSafe. However some information is available from media reports, particularly from NZ Herald and Stuff.

Enchanter is one of three rugged vessels operated by Enchanter Fishing Charters, established by skipper Lance Goodhew in 1995 and who according to their website are “the Three Kings specialists”. She is a twin diesel engine powered 17 metre vessel designed by Erwin Hagg for deep sea fishing and constructed from glassed over double diagonal kauri with a displacement of about 30 tonne. She was on a five day fishing charter out of Mangonui to the Three Kings Islands, a group of 13 small islands located about 30nm NW of Cape Reinga in an area where the South Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea. Despite their remoteness and reputation for strong currents and rapidly changing conditions the Kings are regularly visited by fishermen and divers taking advantage of an abundance of fish life from snapper to marlin. Overnight anchoring options are limited and regular visitors say that even a good night can be uncomfortable.

Enchanter is certified and skipper Lance Goodhew is qualified and highly experienced, reportedly having spent 250 days each year at sea for the last 20 years. He with one deck hand and ten clients were already aboard Encounter at the Three Kings when a weather warning was issued by MetService on the morning of Saturday 19 March. Due to the reputation of the vessel and her skipper those aboard had every reason to feel safe although one client, Mark Sanders, did mention reservations about the weather to his family prior to departure.

After some great fishing Enchanter headed back to the mainland on Sunday to complete her charter on schedule. Having owned, managed and skippered a 12 metre Oliver Royale charter vessel in the Hauraki Gulf myself some 15 years ago I can say there is some pressure to stick to the charter timetable because clients generally want to get home on time, a new charter awaits for which the vessel needs to be prepared, refueled and provisioned and there is often some maintenance to do.

Presumably the most challenging part of this trip would have been across the open waters between the Kings and the mainland, but Enchanter reached the mainland safely in early evening - Mark Sanders phoning his wife around 1800hrs with no concerns expressed. As Enchanter powered her way south towards overnight shelter she would have had the NE wind and breaking seas on her exposed port beam or port quarter. The tragedy unfolded when Enchanter activated her two emergency beacons south of North Cape at about 2000hrs. It is believed the incident happened too quickly for any radio contact to take place.

Maritime NZ initiated a full response including Whangarei’s Northland Helicopter Rescue, Auckland’s Westpac Rescue Helicopter, a RNZAF P3 Orion aircraft, the RNZN vessel Taupo and Houhara Coastguard. Two charter vessels over nighting at the Kings, Florence Nightingale and Katrina also left for the search area. Apparently some other local vessels also responded. After refueling in Kaitaia the Northland helicopter arrived on scene about 2340hrs. By the time five survivors were located and rescued in two groups near Murimotu Island, south of North Cape they had been in the water for about 4 hours. Apparently they had been located from lights visible in the water as they desperately clung on to a large pice of floating wreckage. The daring pilot with 30 years experience, Lance Donelly, reports there was a fierce storm in progress and that this was “the most extreme, most challenging rescue I’ve ever done”.

The remaining five were unable to be found and their bodies recovered later.

Clues to Enchanter’s fate come from a survivor who had been in the cockpit at the time of the incident later reporting “nobody was to blame. It was a freak wave that came out of nowhere” and from Lance’s mother who reports her son told her they were hit by a gigantic wave over nine metres high. The wave’s force ripped off Enchanter’s flying bridge and capsized her.

Metservice estimates the wind would have been averaging 35 knots with 2.5 metre waves at the time of the tragedy and if correct this hardly seems conditions that would cause many problems for a well found 17 metre vessel such as Enchanter, let alone rip her flying bridge off and capsize her. However Metservice’s assessment of conditions appears at odds with those reported by the helicopter pilot (fierce storm in progress) and by Florence Nightingale’s skipper who reports “absolutely horrendous” conditions with 55 knot winds. With such a wind out of the NE with a long fetch it is likely the waves would have been well in excess of 2.5 metres, quite possibly with average waves in the vicinity of four metres or more. However this is my opinion, not known fact.

Nevertheless Mangonui Harbour Warden Steve Smith says “the Enchanter had been in similar conditions many times before with no issue ....... it has to be a freak accident.”

So the question is – is it feasible for a wave around a frightening size of nine metres to occur?

The answer is absolutely yes.

As wave trains roll across the oceans, the peak of one wave eventually synchronises with the peak of another, and the resulting wave can be much larger than either of the two waves that coincided.

The UK’s National Oceanography Centre determined that about one wave in 23 is twice the average height, one wave in 1,175 is three times the average and one wave in 300,000 is four times the average. Of course such waves are not only large but generate tremendous energy. Fortunately the largest of these monster waves are rarely encountered because they appear quite suddenly in a small area, possibly something like 50 to 100 metres long and lasting only a short time before dissipating.

Most marine tragedies result from a series of events and in this case they appear to be severe weather conditions, an unexpected large wave, darkness, heavy rain and spray causing poor visibility and remoteness from rescue resources.

Friday, February 04, 2022


How quickly time flies as I see it's over 2 months since our last post detailing how we’d selected an ADC deck crane and Seafarer 3.4m RHIB. Meantime we've had nearly 3 weeks of cruising around the Waiheke / Ponui area since Christmas, selecting here due to the ease with which our kids and grandkids could join with us. Weather was mostly fine and sunny, though as seems common now the wind was up a bit. We caught plenty of fish and had a great time. Now we continue with the saga of  our new RHIB.

Bring on the power

My friend Frank and I put Honda, Mercury, Suzuki, and Yamaha on our list of 15hp 4-stroke outboard power options. Over the years I’ve been a “Yamaha man”, but have also owned Honda and Suzuki while Frank has a lot of experience with Mercury and Suzuki, so we’re happy that any of these engines will meet our needs and turn our focus to points of difference. While some dealers were very helpful we’re frustrated getting good information from others.

Question: “can we have a catalog showing all the features and specifications?”

Answer: “naa mate all that stuff is on the web these days”, or in one case “naa mate but there’s another dealer just up the road and he might have that stuff”.

Fact 1 – all of the manufacturers print expensive, comprehensive glossy brochures and spend a fortune on advertising.

Fact 2 – they may be horrified to learn some of their dealers don’t have brochures available for serious buyers and in most cases make no effort to inform us about product features.

Fact 3 – yes most of the information is on the web, but have you tried printing it? And yes if I’m going to spend around $5,000 on a product I want a nice glossy brochure.

We finally get our brochures and start an analysis.

Dealer prices offered to us range from $4,895 for the Suzuki to $5,339 for the Honda, but we’re buying on features not price. Several dealers cite supply issues, but in reality all options are available if not immediately.

We build our spread sheet noting that each brand has some unique features, but become increasingly impressed with Suzuki:

-It’s several kilograms lighter than all other options and we feel this weight saving is significant aft of the RHIB’s transom where it counts (Suzuki advertise as being “lightest in class”).

-We prefer electronic fuel injection (EFI). Some dealers say this is a disadvantage citing reliability, but EFI was first introduced in 1987 (by Mercury) and in our view that’s long enough to be well proven.

-It has a unique Lean Burn Control System offering increased fuel economy (Suzuki claim an incredible 45 per cent).

-We like the non-start fresh water flushing system (which Yamaha also has).

With Suzuki also offering the lowest price we decide for this option.

Choosing our accessories

Chandlers supply storage covers and engine covers in various sizes and these are essential for protection against harmful ultra violet rays and the elements.

Seafarer fitted a set of Beachmaster pneumatic wheels plus two stainless steel rod holders. We also add a universal tiller extension.

Frank used his Quicksilver for expeditions and carried all his equipment aboard. Our Seafarer will primarily be used as a tender, so we’ll only carry basic equipment of buoyancy vests, anchor, chain and warp, length of line for towing or other emergencies, orange safety square, bailer, sponge, telescopic boathook marked for depths, knife, inflation pump, basic first aid kit and spare kill switch. Secondarily we’ll use it for exploration or fishing expeditions when we’ll carry additional safety and other gear as appropriate, for example hand-held vhf, mini binoculars, air horn, water and snacks. We’ll also carry aboard Rapport a spare propeller (of a different pitch) with nut and split pin, sea water pump impeller, water pump kit, spark plugs and puncture repair kit.

The Suzuki didn't arrive in time for our post Christmas cruise so we use a 6HP Mercury 4-stroke we had spare. This had enough power to plane with one aboard and almost plane with two. Since our return we have the Suzuki installed and look forward to trying it out. The Seafarer RHIB is great - plenty of room and very stable and dry.

Thursday, December 02, 2021


Cruising update

It’s been great to get cruising again and with summer now underway this can only get better. 

It’s now official that La Nina weather conditions are expected this summer, bringing warmer than average sea and air temperatures (the sea temperature off Kawau is already 20.5d). The downside is La Nina also brings NE winds, increased rain and potentially some cyclonic conditions with the probability of increased thunderstorms. These can be problematic due to sudden and sometimes severe wind direction shifts, so anchor with care to allow for this.

We’ve done two week-long cruises recently, one to the Ponui area and one to Mahurangi and Kawau.

Diane landed this monster 72cm snapper in 35 metres SE of Kawau

You can’t always get what you want

We’ve owned our 16 metre Salthouse SportFisher, Rapport, for two years now and after 177 nights aboard find her a capable and comfortable cruiser. But when you buy a pre-owned boat you inevitably make some compromises and a major one for us was not having a large RHIB. We really enjoy exploring areas around our anchorage and ideally wanted a RHIB at least three metres long with a 15hp 4-stroke outboard and able to be lifted aboard using a crane. Rapport came without a crane and with an old Chinese built Takacat inflatable that we rubbished after a few weeks as it had too many pontoon air leaks to be economically repaired. In any case we didn’t like the Takacat’s inflatable floor limiting movement in the RHIB.

It was December and we urgently needed a dinghy that two of us could easily lift onto our foredeck cradle, so bought a new lightweight (33kg) Aquapro SLR 2.6m rigid-hulled inflatable and Honda 2.5hp 4-stroke air cooled outboard. We used the same outboard during our Med cruising years and found it very reliable and easy to start and lift. But for Rapport this was always a temporary solution and so aided by our best friend and long time boating companion, Frank, we started researching deck cranes and larger inflatables.

We knew this was going to be an expensive project and that making improvements to a boat doesn’t necessarily add value. A trusted marine broker’s thoughts were that future potential buyers of Rapport would expect a vessel of this size to carry a substantial RHIB and crane, so adding these would increase her sales appeal and value. We didn’t need too much convincing and reassured by his advice and the prospect of lots more fun ahead decided to proceed.

Finding a suitable crane

It would be possible to lift the new outboard from the RHIB using a simple transom-mounted hand-operated winch, unload the other gear and then pull the empty RHIB onto the foredeck by hand, but we’re getting a bit long in the tooth for that and want to be able to launch and retrieve the whole rig with minimal effort.

The RHIB with its outboard, fuel and gear will weigh about 150kg so we need a 24V DC powered crane with a safe working load of at least that. We find plenty of options for large cranes but few for smaller units.

Motor Yacht Services (MYS) are the New Zealand agent for Brisbane-based Australian Davits and Cranes (ADC) and we find them very helpful having fitted many ADCs with good results. MYS’s owner Dean Ryder checks Rapport and quotes $13,973 plus installation for their 350kg capacity crane mounted on our starboard side with its standpipe passing through our master berth’s wardrobe down to the keel to support the load. Delivery was quoted as 8 weeks ex factory.

Oceanlift cranes are produced on a bespoke basis in Rotorua and we find owner Mark Thomson also provides lots of information. Coincidentally the boat owner next to us in the marina is very happy with his Oceanlift. Mark visits Rapport and quotes $13,711 plus installation for his 200kg capacity crane with 6 weeks delivery.

Both units will suit us however the ADC’s additional capacity will provide an extra safety margin, more future flexibility and enhanced resale value. These factors combined with the fact that MYS install their ADC cranes whereas we need a separate contractor to install the Oceanlift lead us to choose ADC. We expect the installation to take around three days and to cost to around $6-8,000.

Which RHIB will suit us best?

We’re looking for a rugged rigid-hulled RHIB about 3 metres in length with room for four adults, able to plane with at least two adults aboard using a 15hp outboard, with generous beam for lateral stability, a snub rather than pointed bow for greater internal space forward, a false flat deck for easier internal movement and to keep contents dry, a high bow to deflect spray, robust pontoons with three separate air compartments, paddles rather than oars and rowlocks, internal lifting points, rubbing strakes, storage for anchor and accessories and handles on the pontoons and bow. We’ll also fit top-of-the-line Beachmaster pneumatic wheels and two rod holders. We have a preference for a powder coated alloy hull (being lighter and easier to repair), but will accept GRP all other things being equal.

We eliminate centre console options as in our view they take up too much room in a 3 metre RHIB and add too much weight, complexity and expense.

I’ve had good experiences with Aquapro and Frank has with Quicksilver, so we make a short list including these plus Southern Pacific and Zodiac. Initially we weren’t aware of AB and Seafarer and later add these to our list. All sellers we speak to are able to provide a complete package including outboard and are willing to negotiate deals.

Frank and I discuss design with Neil at Seafarer

Ruggedness largely relates to selection of pontoon material and the current four mainstream offerings are plasticised polyvinyl chloride (commonly known as pvc or vinyl), blends of pvc with thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), blends of polychloroprene (commonly known as Neoprene) with chlorosulphonated polyethylene (commonly known as Hypalon) and lastly straight TPU.

In each case these materials are used to coat a polyester or polyamide (commonly known as nylon) fabric. Although there’s lots of debate about the pros and cons of each material due to different product qualities and variations in design, manufacture and quality control, the above list represents an ascending order of technical excellence. Manufacture and quality control are vitally important and we’re aware of two successful New Zealand brands that encountered major problems when they switched production to China, eventually reverting to New Zealand manufacture.

Until recently the Neoprene/Hypalon blend was considered the gold standard, but opinion has largely turned towards TPU taking that spot, in fact the US Navy conducted a study of pontoons in 2001 concluding “tubes constructed of TPU exhibit better key physical properties than tubes constructed of Hypalon ... better tensile strength, tearing strength, puncture resistance and abrasion resistance.” It also has superior air retention, chemical (ie fuel) resistance and seams can be welded whereas Hypalon can only be glued.

Despite the above Frank and I have both experienced good results previously with RHIBs having pvc pontoons and their life can be maximised by always using a storage cover and fitting chaps to provide the pontoons with extra ultra violet, abrasion and puncture resistance.

Wed been inclined towards Zodiac, their brand being synonymous with RHIBs, but they only offered us RHIBs built in Indonesia with GRP hulls and pvc pontoons and availability appeared to be an issue. Of the imported brands we’re most impressed by AB, produced in Belgium with an alloy hull and using a Neoprene/Hypalon blend for tubes. However wanting a few custom features added we visit local producer Seafarer Inflatables, based in Dairyflat north of Auckland where we’re immediately impressed by owner Neil Curtling’s enthusiasm and willingness to share his extensive knowledge based on 35 years in the industry. Seafarer use a unique hot air welding process and their product incorporates all of the features we’re looking for and more, such as U-Deck providing a great cosmetic appearance and underfoot feel. They also produce for another well-known brand as well as repairing all types of inflatables and can produce pontoons using either a PVC/TPU blend, Hypalon or TPU. We’re also impressed by their 10 year warranty. After discussions with Neil we decide to go a little larger than 3 metres and buy their SF340R, 3.4 metres long with a generous beam of 1.8 metres. Although we would have been happy with pontoons made from PVC/TPU we decide to go with the top of the line TPU, largely because this is the ultimate in durability and our RHIB is our life boat in a worst case scenario. This costs an additional $755 bringing the price to $6,992. Neil’s attention to detail continues to impress, for example suggesting that he drill the mounting holes for wheels and rod holders in the alloy hull prior to its powder coating to minimise future corrosion.

Look for Part 2 shortly covering outboard and ancillary equipment selection and then Part 3 covering crane installation and RHIB performance.