The biggest boat built in the Far North in more than 80 years is taking shape at an Ōpua boatyard.
The public had a first peek at the $4.5 million, 72-foot (22-metre) fishing vessel on Thursday morning when it was towed out of its shed so the wheelhouse could be lowered on by crane.
The longliner is being built by Bluefix Boatworks at Bay of Islands Marina for brothers Adam and Nat Davey, of Russell and Cable Bay.
The build is a coup for Northland's marine industry and has employed an average of 20 people for the past 12 months.
The designer wanted it built in Picton or Tauranga but the Daveys, who own Medea Fishing, insisted on a Northland build.
Adam Davey said it made ''perfect sense'' to have it built in Northland, where future maintenance would also be carried out, by the highly experienced Bluefix team.
The Davey brothers grew up in Russell and started working as commercial fishermen even before they left Bay of Islands College in Kawakawa.
''As fishermen, we never thought we'd build our own boat,'' Adam Davey said.
''To build something this big is pretty amazing. It's a legacy. I hope some day my son will be running it.''
Bluefix owner Brad Rowe said the vessel combined modern engineering with old-school design.
Labour costs could make boatbuilding uneconomic in New Zealand so the company had used a range of clever, high-tech methods.
''To be able to build a boat of this stature, to the allocated budget, is something to be really proud of. It's bringing industry back to New Zealand and to Northland,'' Rowe said.
The hull was triple-skin plywood fibreglassed inside and out, effectively making it a composite boat.
It was likely to outlive any vessel built of steel and, by an even bigger margin, aluminium.
Its unlimited survey meant it would be able to fish outside the 200 nautical mile limit, beyond the range of New Zealand's quota system.
The biggest boats previously built by Bluefix measured 45 feet (14m).
With the wheelhouse now in place, the next phase will be the fit-out with most of the wiring, hydraulics and electronics installed by Northland contractors.
The entire project is expected to take 16 months with a month's delay caused by the Covid crisis.
The vessel will be called Manakai ('spirit of the ocean' in Hawaiian) and carry a crew of five fishing deep waters for blue nose, bass, hapuku, tarakihi and southern bluefin tuna.
It will be powered by two five-cylinder Scania engines, each delivering 300hp, and will have a 27kVA generator, a water-maker and an ice-maker capable of producing three tonnes a day.
It will carry 20,000 litres of fuel and travel at 9 knots with a maximum speed of 12 knots.
The initial drawings were by renowned boat designer Phillip Carey of Blenheim with detailed design by LOMOcean Design.
The Davey brothers already own two 62-foot (19m) fishing boats. Medea and Florence Nightingale.
Bluefix was originally based at Kapiro Rd, near Kerikeri, but moved to Far North Holdings premises at Ōpua six years ago.
The company has 27 staff, half of whom are Māori, as well as apprentices in boatbuilding. marine painting and marine engineering.
Ōpua historian Myra Larcombe said to her knowledge the biggest boat built in the Far North was the New Golden Hind, a 94-foot (29m) schooner built at Deemings Boatyard in Ōkiato in 1939.
The biggest vessel of recent times was Olga, a 52-foot (16m) pleasure boat built in Ōpua by Jim Ashby in 1997.
■ Since this story was published the Advocate has been reminded of the series of large steel vessels built in Kerikeri by the late Bernard Kuczera. They included the 82-foot (25m) Nanu, which was launched at Waipapa Landing in 1996 and took part in a nuclear-free flotilla protesting radioactive waste shipments in 2001, and the 75-foot (23m) ketch Sylfia launched in 2010. All were bigger than Manakai but the New Golden Hind remains the biggest vessel built in the Far North the Advocate is aware of.