Boom lowered on labour of love


After nearly 20 years, 17000 man hours and $320,000 a famous Papamoa landmark is about to be re-homed.

The Double Deal yacht has been the consuming passion of a third of Max Page's life. The 60-year-old has coped with renal failure, a failed kidney transplant, chronic fatigue syndrome and a boat break-in to fulfil a dream which started over a bottle of rum.

On November 5, the 52ft, 18.5 tonne steel-hulled yacht will be transported to Tauranga Bridge Marina where it will be lowered into the water for the first time.

"My brother Greg and I started it together," said Mr Deal, who was born in Te Puke. "We both always wanted to sail but didn't know that about each other until heavily into a bottle of rum one night. We decided we should build a yacht together. That was in 1994."

The pair started from scratch with "five pages of plans and a load of steel".

"Greg was an auto-electrician, I'm an office boy. He taught me how to weld and did a lot of the wiring. Between us we welded the hull up."

However, after six years Mr Deal's brother emigrated to Australia leaving him to continue alone.

"I had a year off with chronic fatigue syndrome but had progressed well to the point of my kidney failure four years ago."

Mr Deal has been on peritoneal dialysis since January 2009. The procedure requires seven bags of fluid to be exchanged, via a tube inserted into Mr Deal's stomach each day.

It hasn't stopped the Pukepine Sawmills sales representative from working on the yacht, which is parked on a lot next to his and wife, Caryl's, Papamoa Beach Rd home. Nor did the 14 weeks he spent in hospital following a failed kidney transplant last year.

"I've only had two days when I've looked out the window and said 'I can't do it' and that was before the kidney failure. Since I got crook I didn't want it to be an excuse not to come out. I come out every day."

Three years ago the couple had another setback when the yacht was broken into, vandalised and set alight. The offender was caught and ordered to pay $4500 damages. The interior still bears scorch marks from the attack.

The towering Denis Ganley-designed boat has been in situ for so long it has become part of the local landscape.

"It's become a landmark. Lots of people navigate by it. There's people here who were starting school when this was first being built and they've got kids of their own now," said Mr Deal, who worked for Placemakers for 40 years.

People had been sceptical about the yacht's completion.

"I've had very good friends and some relatives say 'He'll never finish that'. Well that's the best motivation. Tell me I can't do something and I'm away."

However, seeing the boat in the water is not the end of the road.

"That's not the fulfillment. The idea was to go around the world. It's not impossible on this dialysis but probably would be when I have to move on to hemodialysis. So around the world probably not practical but round the Pacific, well ... "

Mr Deal said he was discussing his options with medical professionals.

"Hilary didn't get to the top by thinking 'Heck that's high', he thought about how he could overcome it."

He said dialysis usually meant a limited lifespan.

"Typically it's 10 years on dialysis and I've done four of that. The specialist said 10 years but then smiled and said 'you'll go a lot longer'."

Mrs Deal is immensely proud of the character her husband has shown.

"The biggest thing for me is the challenge he took on by building it and what he has been through over 18 years to fulfil his dream. His attitude, passion and ability to overcome all obstacles has been incredible.

"The love and the work that's gone into it. Max has probably built the boat twice because if he's not happy with something he will rip it out and start again," she said.

"This is our flash new mobile home and we're going to do as much as we can in it until Max is unable to travel."

A specially adapted hydraulic boat trailer has been ordered from Whangarei for the removal of the vessel on November 5.

The couple have three children and 12 grandchildren. A number of those grandchildren will be present to watch The Double Deal moved for the first time in two decades.

Once dipped in Tauranga Bridge Marina it will be removed for a further three weeks whilst the mast is put in place, anti-fouling paint applied and finishings completed. It will have cost $400000 by the time it is launched on Saturday November 24.

"It would've been cheaper and quicker to have bought a boat but because I've built this out of my wages I couldn't have afforded to do it in one go in any case," said Mr Deal.

He said he was not an emotional man but would have "a big grin" on his face on launch day.

"I just want it to start, float, not take on water and steer the right way."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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