Alan Langdon was open about his quest to flee Kawhia so that he couldn't be found - but he didn't mention 6-year-old daughter, Que, in his plans.
A Kawhia resident, who did not want to be named for fear of retribution, said in the end Langdon made no secret of his big trip - packing up his 6m catamaran while the local school's prizegiving was being held at the town hall next door.
Langdon and Que have not been seen since sailing over the Kawhia bar in relatively calm conditions on December 17, last year.
Police have searched the coastline stretching from Wellington to Cape Reinga in the west, and Cape Reinga to Bay of Islands in the east out to 35 nautical miles.
Although there have been "a number" of unconfirmed sightings of a similar vessel - a 6.1m Wharram-design catamaran, painted white, with white sails and the number T878 in black on the sail - in the upper North Island, but there hasn't been any since the new year.
Police haven't ruled out Langdon tripping across the Tasman but they described that as a "foolhardy" thing to do.
The resident told the Herald today that Langdon had openly talked about fleeing the country under the cover of darkness.
"He just said 'I'm just going to take off in the middle of the night and no one will know which direction I go'.
"Apart from saying that and the fact that everyone watched him load up so much gear, that's about it."
Langdon told people they were heading to the Bay of Islands but by the amount of gear he was packing, including many sealed buckets of items, it was obvious they were going away for a long time.
Langdon told locals he was dropping his daughter off to her mother, Ariane Wyler, but they would later learn that she was nowhere near that part of the country and was on holiday in Switzerland at the time.
Langdon was an extremely competent sailor, she said.
"He could sail a fence post around the world that guy. But he is blase about it."
He loved sailing so much he almost became melancholy when he wasn't on the water.
"He was more sad than anything. He just wasn't himself without a boat. He's not a person that is good on the land for long."
But she was worried for his and Que's safety as she understood he didn't have a lot of safety gear on board.
"He's got no back-up outboard and I don't know if he's got an Epirb [emergency locator beacon]."
Like everyone else in Kawhia, she had known Langdon all her life and said he was a doting dad. Que had a strong personality of her own but was very friendly yet happy in her own company.
Although the weather was nice the day they left, there was a reasonable swell as bad weather was looming off the coast.
She said the Kawhia community had closed ranks and didn't appear to be co-operating much with Australian child recovery expert Col Chapman who visited the town yesterday.
She couldn't understand why as a young child's safety was at risk.
As for why he fled when he did, Langdon had spent many months on land and was also annoyed with the custody battle over Que.
"He loves his daughter. He will die looking after her."