Bay of Islands Coastguard has doubled its rescue capacity with a new boat at Paihia wharf as the volunteer group gears up for what's expected to be a busy summer.
The group's current vessel, the purpose-built Bay Rescue II, is based at Doves Bay on the northern side of Kerikeri Inlet.
But with most of the Bay's boating action — and many of the group's volunteer crew — based around Paihia at the other end of the bay, the situation has proved increasingly unsuitable for responding quickly to maritime emergencies.
That's about to get a whole lot better.
The Bay of Islands group is one of many Coastguard units around the country taking delivery of new rescue boats built as tenders for the 2021 America's Cup in Auckland. The 26 boats were built with a $9.8 million Lottery grant on the condition they be donated to Coastguard afterwards.
The AC36 Rayglass Protector boats have since been retrofitted with the specialist equipment needed for water rescues, and the Bay of Islands group has been putting its new vessel through its paces from a temporary base at Ōpua.
This week the boat has moved to a permanent berth on one of the new shore-side fingers on Paihia wharf.
"We've been kind of invisible," Bay of Islands Coastguard president Phil Snowdon said.
"We want people to realise we're here and this is what we do. It's also very central — even from Ōpua it's a long way at 5 knots to get to where you need to go. This location enables us to serve that whole southern area of the bay much more quickly, particularly when you consider a lot of our crew are based in Paihia."
Two out of the group's three current skippers lived in Paihia and needed 40 minutes just to drive to the boat at Doves Bay.
"Doves Bay just isn't fit for purpose for the size of the job we're now doing. We need to go to where our members are going to come from and where most boating activity is. This will make us better able to attract, train and retain crew members, and will solve a lot of our problems."
The existing Bay Rescue II would remain at the Doves Bay base. With its larger size and fully enclosed cabin, it was better suited to bigger and more distant rescues in wilder weather.
It would also be deployed for incidents in the northern Bay of Islands or when rescued boaties needed to be returned to Kerikeri Inlet.
The new vessel had an open cabin and was about a metre shorter than Bay Rescue II with a narrower beam, but was still a "very, very fancy boat" designed for keeping up with high-speed foiling yachts.
With two boats on the water the group would need even more volunteers, Snowdon said.
Comprehensive training was provided and volunteers of all ages, genders and ethnicities were needed, he said.
"We want people across the board."
Members had many different reasons for joining Coastguard, he said.
"Some people just want something to do and to get on the water, others want to learn new skills, but many have got a lot out of being on the water and want to give something back to the community. That's a huge motivator."
The new vessel will be named in a ceremony in February during Waitangi Day commemorations.
The new boats are the result of a partnership between Coastguard, Lotto and Emirates Team New Zealand. Far North Holdings has also provided assistance.
• Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are keen to become a volunteer.