One of the biggest sailing super yachts in the world is almost ready to leave Auckland after its low-key owner spent a month voyaging around the New Zealand coast with his family and friends.
Millions of dollars has been spent overhauling the 86m vessel here.
Launched in 2016, Aquijo's twin masts are each as tall as a 30-storey building and while "the boss'' is aboard for up to five months a year, this ultra luxury yacht can be chartered for between $800,000 and $900,000 a week for the rest of the year.
Kiwi co-skipper Luke Hoskins said the final maintenance jobs were being completed ahead of scheduled sea trials tomorrow and then a crossing to Tasmania later in the month.
Aquijo's owner is a ''European businessman''.
The yacht's handlers say reports on a super yacht fan site and inevitably Wikipedia, of him being a Norwegian billionaire with fishing interests are incorrect. The Norwegian is said to be amused by his being linked to Aquijo but did deny ownership to a news site in his home country last year. The Aquijo is apparently not owned by a Russian oligarch, either - it's not all-out glitz.
From the little Hoskins does let on, ''the boss'' sounds like a reasonably regular guy, albeit a stupendously wealthy one.
''Everybody is different - these guys are very low key.''
The owner and his wife have grown-up children who were here this summer and celebrated Christmas Day with Hoskins' extended family at Matakana.
''I've worked on boats where they invite celebrities because they want to show off, worked on boats where people do their big business deals on board but this boat is for the owner to enjoy with his wife and his family,'' Hoskins said.
He was surprised when he joined the yacht to find the owners swimming with some of the 17 crew in southern Italy.
''For them they want the crew to feel like part of the family.''
The owners have a Christmas cruise wherever Aquijo is, spend the time around Easter on board and an extended holiday in the northern summer. At other times they're working, Hiskins said.
Crayfish and kina
He said that in the bridge there were banks of screens to monitor weather (it was blowing 40 knots at Silo Marina on Friday) and the complex hydraulics to control the maximum sail area equivalent to half a rugby field.
The rig can push it along comfortably at 17 knots, and its big Caterpillar engines are capable of cruising at about 15 knots.
The yacht is too tall to pass through the Suez or Panama canals, so circumnavigating the globe must be round Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope. One of the owner's wishes was for it to be designed and built tough enough to round the Capes in a storm, under sail and safely.
The keel reaches down to nearly 12m to provide a low centre of gravity, although it can be raised to 5.2m in shallow water.
The crew is from around the world - including Estonia, Britain, Australia, South Africa - and there are four Kiwis on board. Peter, one of two chefs, grew up in Auckland and spent eight years in Los Angeles working for Steven Spielberg before his job on Aquijo.
He said that during the January voyage the owner and his guests (there's room for 12) dined on paua, crayfish and kina caught around the coast. There was no sign of a bait board on the stern but catching food was popular from tenders.
Hoskins said the January voyage hit some bad weather in the South Island but the owners and their family were able to enjoy a great night with locals at Great Barrier Island around a bonfire and travelled up to Cape Reinga.
''Ding fairy'' to the rescue
Aquijo is 1538 gross tonnes with a high-tensile steel hull and alloy superstructure. One report puts the cost of building the vessel at $175 million. The main and mizzen masts sink deep into the hull of the vessel, which is more like a ship than a boat because of its size and machinery.
Inside the tender bay are three 7m boats capable of 40 knots, other water toys and a small gym for the crew.
Tender slings are being rebuilt in Auckland, just one of the jobs being done here on top of the major overhaul at Orams Marine over October and November. Hoskins puts the cost of that work at between $1m and $2m alone.
Local experts have been at work including a radio technician, a carpenter and an engineer.
Earlier in the stopover, a local gold leaf specialist had been at work in the main guest salon working on palladium leaf domes and an Auckland woman Hoskins calls ''the ding fairy'' had been touching up tiny nicks on the teak flooring, avoiding more costly replacement of the timber.
He said the range of services available in Auckland - beyond traditional marine companies - was surprising.
Asia Pacific Superyachts New Zealand has been providing services for Aquijo and the firm's managing director Duthie Lidgard says work here was proof of the ''Kiwi can-do'' approach. Equipment around the yacht's giant carbon fibre rudders was repaired while the vessel was in the water instead of an expensive dry dock stay by lifting the stern out of the water by sinking the bow.
''Be prepared to put in the hard yards''
Hoskins' passion for the ocean developed after a spell as a trainee on the Spirit of New Zealand sail training ship while at school, but he got into super yachts by accident while doing a philosophy at Victoria University.
While waiting tables during the holidays, he overheard some diners talking about working on super yachts and he took it from there.
The first boat the 39-year-old worked on was a 35m wooden schooner in Mexico in 2002.
He works two months on and two months off and says the money he earns now means he can live ''comfortably'.'
Starting rates for jobs on super yachts are about $5000 a month, and all living costs - right down to toiletries - are taken care of.
The key is not spending it all while in some of the most beautiful and expensive ports in the world.
He says he's aware of the horror stories of poor treatment of staff by awful owners but hasn't experienced that himself.
Training for a skipper's ticket is a long and expensive process but he reckons it's a great career.
''I always encourage people to consider it as a career - not only on private yachts but also the cruise industry. Be prepared to put in the hard yards. I do find kids coming in want to run before they walk. Just be patient.''
Rooms for the guests
There's an elevator - described as luxurious - to travel between three levels.
The master suite on the upper deck is enormous and photos show it opens out onto an exterior deck with private lounging, dining and bar areas.
The rear-facing bedroom offers 270-degree views.
The two-level suite has a private library (which is equipped to serve as an onboard hospital if needed) a cosy lounge area, and his and hers bathrooms with a spa bath in one of them.
There's lots of timber, glass and stainless steel. Including decking, the suite covers an area of more than 200sqm.
Suites for the other guests are luxuriously furnished and feature art, rather than televisions on the wall.
''The boss says you're not coming on the boat to watch TV,'' Hoskins said. They can however, be fitted for charters.
Aquijo's interior design is by Dölker + Voges, which worked closely with the owner's wife who is reported know every last part of it in detail right down to the crew quarters.
''It was her baby,'' Boat International says.
The main salon occupies much of the aft main deck and there's an indoor/outdoor bar extending out into an area covered by a retractable canopy.
On the lower deck is the beach club, a spa area that has a steam room, sauna and a hot tub (there is also another tub on the fly deck). This one of the feature areas when guests are aboard. Direct access to the sea is through a steel sea door (closed while underway) via a deck near sea level.
There's gym gear, but if you want to get your heart really racing Hoskins says there's a crow's nest which can hoist you 60m up the main mast.