One of the biggest boats built in the Far North has been launched at Ōpua with a touching tribute to the owners' mum.
The 73-foot (22m), $4.5 million longliner Manakai, built at Bay of Islands Marina by Bluefix Boatworks for brothers Adam and Nat Davey, entered the water on Tuesday morning looking more like a gleaming superyacht than a fishing boat.
The owners' mother, Dianne Davey, who is in charge of the family firm's accounts, was invited to break a bottle of champagne across the hull before Manakai was winched down the ramp.
She was also honoured with her initials in gold on the bow.
''She's an amazing woman, we wouldn't be here without her,'' Doubtless Bay-based Nat Davey said.
The 18-month project was finished on time despite disruptions caused by a global pandemic.
''It's a huge relief. Hopefully in another couple of weeks we can have her at work. The guys at Bluefix have done an amazing job,'' he said.
''It's all and more than we expected. It's nearly superyacht finish. We keep saying it's too nice for a fishing boat but that's the work they do. We're stoked with it,'' Davey said.
Manakai will be based at Russell and used for longlining around New Zealand in summer. In winter, Covid regulations permitting, the vessel will head to the Pacific Islands.
The vessel was eased into the water by a Mac tow truck capable of winching 100 tonnes, with the final push by a 60-tonne haul-out trailer.
There were some nervous moments when the trailer's hydraulic arm failed as the tide was falling, but just after 10.30am marina staff got it working again and around 10.45am Manakai floated free to a chorus of cheers from the 200 or so people gathered on shore.
Bluefix is owned by Kerikeri couple Brad and Charlotte Rowe, whose business has been based at the marina since 2014.
Charlotte Rowe said some staff had worked 70 hour weeks to get the vessel finished.
''The [Davey] boys have been great to work with, they knew exactly what they wanted with the whole boat customised to their exact specifications. They gave us the opportunity to build it so we weren't ever going to let them down.''
Rowe said the project had been ''huge'' for Ōpua and had benefited many Northland businesses.
The Bluefix crew won't have much of a rest with another major project due to start within weeks.
It is still under wraps but, despite being a smaller vessel size-wise, it will be even bigger in terms of employment and income with a price tag expected to nudge $7 million.
Manakai ("spirit of the ocean" in Hawaiian) is built of triple-skin plywood fibreglassed inside and out. It was designed by the renowned Phillip Carey of Blenheim with tweaks by LOMOcean Design. It will take a crew of five but can comfortably sleep 12.
Tuesday's launch was also celebrated by marina operator Far North Holdings (FNH), which said it vindicated its efforts to create a marine industry hub at Ōpua, stimulate economic development and create employment.
Bluefix's state-of-the-art boat-building and paint shop facility was built for about $1m by FNH with Travellift bays and 11m high roller doors to allow year-round, under-cover boat-building. Bluefix has since bought the building.
FNH general manager Chris Galbraith said Bluefix's presence in Ōpua had taken boat-building and repair services there to "a completely new level".
The company had hired 10 extra staff to build the Manakai project and now employed 30 people in Ōpua. Another 10 would be needed for the next project.
Galbraith said the company was getting a lot of refit and repair work it didn't get when it was based near Kerikeri.
■ According to Ōpua historian Myra Larcombe, the biggest boat built in the Far North was the New Golden Hind, a 94ft (29m) schooner built at Deemings Boatyard in Okiato in 1939. The biggest vessels of recent times were the 82-foot (25m) Nanu, launched in 1996, and the 75-foot (23m) Sylfia in 2010. The steel ketches were built in Kerikeri by the late Bernard Kuczera. However, measured by tonnage, Manakai is the biggest boat built in the Far North since the Golden Hind more than 80 years ago. Manakai's displacement is just over 60 tonnes compared to Nanu's 60 tonnes and Sylfia's 40 tonnes.