Jessica Loftus first began noticing her now-fiance Zak Olsen when he'd come into her bar barefoot, fresh off the fishing vessel and raucously spend all his hard-earned cash.

"He'd come in either barefoot or in gumboots, being loud and shouting everyone drinks, drinking top-shelf champagne and generally having a whale of a time," says the owner/operator of Butter Factory in Whangarei.

"Whenever Zak was onshore we would always have to stock up on rum."

Over time, she got to know him, both at work and socially through mutual friends and realised he had a 'heart of gold'.


"He was one of the good ones and was someone worth my time and energy. This was at a point in my life when I was being pretty picky about who I was going to spend my time and energy with," adds the 31-year-old.

Recently single after a nine-year relationship with two years of marriage, Jess was not looking for a relationship and, instead, went about trying to set Zak up with her friend.

"We were in Auckland at the NAPTA awards and Zak was in town, fresh off the fishing boat and we invited him to party with us afterwards. Everyone was dolled up to the nines and we ended up having a massive night.

"I actually spent a large part of the evening trying to set Zak up with a friend of mine because I had decided that he deserved a good woman in his life – I never thought that woman would be me!"

She continues: "We basically ended up spending the night together by default as we were the last two people standing. I told Zak the next morning that last night was a one-off thing and it was never going to be repeated. Zak text our mutual friend in the morning saying: 'I've either made the best or worst decision of my life'."

Says Zak: "I thought she was pretty dope but she's pretty intimidating though – she's a real staunch woman. I thought I was either gonna lose my favourite pub or stay attached to it forever."

Over the following weeks the two spent time together while Zak, a Southern Cross fishing vessel skipper, was onshore.

Says Jess: "I had it in my head that he could be a project of mine; refine the rough edges and shape him into being the perfect man for some lucky lady. I had only been officially single for several months at this stage and had really embraced it."

Besides, Zak had a tattoo on his left leg stating: 'Real fisherman don't know real love'.

"I've never been interested in relationships," explains Zak. "All I've ever been known for was partying and fishing. I was married to the ocean first and everything else came second."

Jess continues: "When I started recognising that I was falling in love with Zak I was annoyed with myself. I didn't want to be in love! Not now, so soon after ending a marriage, and not with Zak! But, in the end, I just went with it and accepted it," she says, adding that being whisked away on a holiday to Bali probably helped.

As it transpired, it was one of the best things to have happened, says Jess. During their first six-months together, she realised how amazing it felt to be adored and with someone who had integrity in what they said and did. Having a baby felt like a natural way to progress their lives together and they were blessed with the arrival of daughter Ariel Pearl Olsen the following year.

The couple now co-own and operate Butter Factory and say life with a bar and baby is 'pretty full-on'.

"'The juggle is real', is a favourite quote of mine. Throw in a partner that goes to sea for a week or so at a time and it's very challenging, but working through the challenges that life brings us together as a team is what helps make our bond stronger."

On Boxing Day last year, Zak got down on one knee at the water's edge at Whale Bay – Jess' favourite place where she spends every Boxing Day with family and friends.

"It was unexpected and just perfect with our little one right there with us and people we love up on the beach cheering us on and we celebrated on the beach into the dusk. I have found out since that he was planning on the proposal for last Boxing Day but he wanted our daughter with us and, since she was two weeks late, I was kept waiting another 363 days."

The couple's Easter wedding day will have traditional elements, including the vows and exchange of rings, while other elements will reflect their lives. Jess will be walking down the beach and Zak will, fittingly, arrive by boat.

"We will be getting married on the first of April 2018 which is April Fool's Day! When we sent out 'save the date' messages, a lot of people thought we were joking.

"It will basically be a big party with everyone we love and cherish with all the things we enjoy: I love the beach and live music, Zak love boats, and partying. We both share a passion for food so the day will be filled with those things but, most importantly, celebrating love, the love me and Zak share but also the chance to honour all the people in our lives that love and support us. We have an amazing village surrounding us and bringing everyone together to celebrate that love is just as important to us."

Reflecting on their journey so far, Jess says: "I think that when you are not actively seeking to fall in love, that's when it blindsides you – bam, when you least expect it.

"I remember making a list of ideal qualities for what I would like in my ideal partner: good sense of humour, honest, passionate, patient, good earning potential, kind. As it turns out, I was listing Zak, so be careful what you wish for!"

And as for Zak's tattoo stating that real fisherman don't know real love?

He explains: "As things progressed, fishing doesn't come first anymore – Jess and Ariel come above fishing."

"He says he's not a real fisherman anymore," adds Jess with a laugh.