Where did you grow up and when did yachting first come into your life?
I grew up in Warkworth approximately an hour drive North of Auckland. I first started centre board sailing in the beautiful Kawau Bay at the age of 12, then moved on to keel boats at the age of 18 years. Upon leaving school I trained to be a motor mechanic at Wilmot Motors.
You had a long career sailing the seven seas. When did you first leave New Zealand for a life at sea?
My wife and I left New Zealand in 1979 and headed to London, I guess you could say the commencement of our O.E. We were working in a London pub, as you do, and went to the London International Boat Show where I met up with a gentleman who was to change my life forever. After a chat and expressing my desire to sail back to New Zealand, he imparted some very good advice and suggested that I get my 'Yachtmasters', he also suggested that there was no shortage of sailing to be had in the United Kingdom for a 'Kiwi'. With this advice firmly fixed in my mind, and before sitting my 'Yachtmasters', I happened to pick up a Yachting World magazine and while browsing came across an advertisement looking for a skipper and cook on board a 60' John Alden Ketch, built of Australian Jarrah on Steel Frames. After being picked from 70 applicants my life at sea was underway. On the way home from the interview, my wife and I had to stop and purchase an atlas to find Corsica, as this was where we were heading. The next 16 weeks were full on, with back to back charters.
The opportunity arose to take on the position of Captain on board an Ocean 60, Ocean Keveral, which was the start of many trans-Atlantic crossings cruising in both the Med. and the Caribbean. The first crossing was by sextant navigation only, it was also the first season that saw satellite navigation introduced on some boats but this was only for the wealthy.
One of the many trips to the Caribbean saw the commencement of a life long friendship. While in English Harbour, I found myself stern to with the SY Sealestial which was under the command of my now business partner, Allan Jouning.
In 1986 I joined Asteroid in the final stages of her build before commencing her maiden voyage, with a live-aboard American family, departing from the Van Dam Nordia yard in Alsmere, Amsterdam, heading for New Zealand, a passage which took approximately 18 months, covering the North Sea, Maderia, Mediterranean, Venezuela, Panama, Galapagos, Marquesas, Tuamotus, Tahiti, Cook Islands, Nuie, Tonga, and then New Zealand.
At the same time as Asteroid left Amsterdam, Allan Jouning launched and commenced his journey to New Zealand on board the SY Freedom. His passage saw him leaving Italy and heading south through the Suez Canal, via the Freemantle America's Cup
This voyage was the beginning of another journey - I discovered I was to become a father. As the Owner's wife and my wife became pregnant it soon became apparent that the boat was too small for two families.
Time to come ashore, and Allan and I established the first ever yacht agency in New Zealand, Pacific Ocean Marine, later renamed Thirty Seven South Limited,
Allan continued sailing, and I came ashore and focused on developing Thirty Seven South with emphasis on refits and project management on behalf of owners and captains, at the same time promoting New Zealand as a cruising area and refit venue. To assist swallowing the anchor, Allan, who was still on SY Freedom, would enlist me for any upwind deliveries which gave me the opportunity to head out on the briney from time to time. The longest such delivery was New Zealand to Antigua via Easter Island.
SY Freedom was sold when the owner bought the MV Itasca and I was convinced that it would be a good opportunity to go back to sea and run SY Freedom full time for the new owners, which I did for two years.
What is your most memorable moment in your yachting career?
On the way back from our first trip to Tahiti with the new owners of Freedom, we stopped off at Palmerston Atoll and off loaded our surplus supplies, at that time there were only two supply vessels a year visiting the atoll. As we continued past Beverage Reef, (a small atoll only exposed at low tide) we were tipped off that a tuna boat was high and dry. The crew, never ones to miss an opportunity for an adventure, headed over to the tuna boat and armed with a hacksaw, proceeded to cut through the 3 inch shaft of the propeller.[It was] a popular feeding ground for sharks: the boys found themselves poking at the sharks to fend them off. The propeller free, the exciting bit was yet to come, it was carefully placed on a raft constructed of fenders from SY Freedom and towed over the reef back to Freedom, just short of its destination. The raft flipped, and a hasty plan was hatched to save the propeller from a watery grave: it was another trip into the shark infested water, to hook up. The propeller took pride of place in the Trans Pacific Marine/Thirty Seven South Offices for many years.
When did you come ashore permanently?
I came ashore in 1995 and together with Allan we have taken Thirty Seven South from strength to strength, to become the longest running superyacht agency and support company in the Southern Hemisphere.