MASTERTON commercial fisherman Richard Kibblewhite stayed close to home yesterday for the launch of his new fishing boat ? at dawn his ocean-going craft took its first voyage on the placid waters of Henley Lake.
Richard was determined that friends, well-wishers and all those who had helped build the 9.3m Stevens Cat "Splashzone II" should see it christened, and the lake seemed a perfect venue.
"It'll be based at Flat Point and it seemed a long way to drag everyone, so we got the blessing of the council to do it on the lake," he said.
His wife, Jean did the honours of breaking the champagne across the boat's bow and then everyone shared a barbeque breakfast. Fish was not on the menu, but venison and sausage sandwiches were, washed down with champagne.
Jean and Richard have been fishing off the Wairarapa coast for 16 years.
Splashzone II is their third boat, but there first brand new one.
"The name Splashzone comes from where the pauas live," Richard said. "Our other boat, 7.5m Splashzone has served us well and we could see no reason to change a successful name."
Richard's deck hand Mike Griffith was also keen for the work and so the Kibblewhite's took the plunge.
Mike was greatly involved in the finishing and layout of the boat, and indulged in a few "home comforts", including a padded seat, microwave and gas cooker.
Richard chose Grant Stevens from Stevens Marine in Masterton to build the new boat.
He specialises in twin-hulled alloy cats for commercial or recreational use and had done many modifications and improvements on Richard's other vessels.
"The complete process of building this boat from concept to fit out has been an enjoyable one. The workshop is only five minutes from home and it allowed me to be involved in the building and layout," Richard said.
Grant Stevens designed the tipping launching trailer, and this was built by Astrolite Motor Bodies, in Masterton. The twin 200hp 4-stroke Yamaha outboards power "Splashzone 2" along at 30knots, but she can also plane at very low speeds.
"It gives a day range of about 30 miles along the coast giving time to be home at night to deliver fresh fish to local buyers or markets in Wellington and Auckland," Richard said.
Splashzone 2 will target crayfish, paua, moki, warehou, school shark, hapuka, rig, butterfish and trumpeter.
Jean was a rousie and Richard a mechanic when they were married 20 years ago.
As newly weds they went to Australia to work in the pearl industry out of Broome, Darwin and Freemantle.
Jean worked seeding pearls on one of the 33m boats and Richard dived and did engineering work. Working 10-12 days on and 3-4 day off he dived up to nine hours a day depending on the depths that had to be worked. They could range from 5m to 45m.
Australian born, Richard described it as "hard yakka".
During the four years they were there, they saw some die of the bends, nitrogen narcosis and embolisms. They saw sharks regularly but learnt to fend them off with the poke of a sharp stick!
When Richard and Jean moved back to New Zealand they wanted to buy a fishing business. They were encouraged by a cray fisherman at Whangaehau Beach in Hawkes Bay, where Jean's family farm, to buy a paua quota.
After another year in Australia to pay for it, they settled in Masterton.
Richard has learned very quickly the need to diversify in the fishing industry and when the paua finishes in March, he goes cray fishing.
He worked off Pahaoa for Earlybird Products for eight years running a 6m cray boat.
In recent years he has expanded with his own boats to include wet fish.
Richard has been involved in the New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen for 12 years.
He says there are huge benefits with this organisation for the fisherman on the water "working his guts out to make a living and to support his family."
Richard says fishing is not easy in New Zealand's climate.
"You have to be a worker and an accountant all wrapped up in one to make ends meet and plan your future direction, so you don't end up washed up."
With a growing family of two teenage boys and a girl, the Kibblewhite's have discovered fishing is very much a family affair. Sam, 15 and Jack, 13 are becoming more involved with the business, making cray ropes or snoods, pulling nets, loading fish bins and taking the fish to market. Ellen, 11 will be on deck next year to do what the boys did at her age, but with a soft seat and microwave!"
Richard said he took the plunge to buy another boat "because we love fishing".
"Fishermen are leaving the industry in droves, someone had to do it," he said.