"Hell yes!" was a Westmere dairy farmer's response to the chance of a trip of a life-time.
Cameron Handley was preparing for Christmas celebrations when an Auckland family member contacted him.
"My cousin gave me a text message and then rung me up and said he's just bought a boat in Surfers Paradise, Queensland, would you like to be part of the crew and bring it back to New Zealand."
Before the sentence could be finished, Handley replied emphatically, "Hell yes!".
A crew of five was assembled.
"It was my cousin Chris and his father Keith, and a couple of friends," Handley said.
"Chris was a professional sailor and his father had been a sailor, so we were in good hands. He wasn't going to take any risks."
After a series of rigorous safety checks and an arduous process at Customs in Surfers Paradise, the crew was set to hit the water.
They departed Surfers Paradise on December 28 and arrived in New Zealand on January 4.
They would make the eight-day, 2500km journey across the rough Tasman Sea in the 57-foot Formula, a former luxury cruiser and fishing charter boat.
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"It was a big boat, but very small in the middle," Handley said.
They had three stops on their way to New Zealand - Lord Howe Island, Wanganella Banks and Three Kings Islands.
Lord Howe Island is just shy of 700km from Surfers Paradise.
"We knew it was gonna be rough because we had to push ourselves into the high pressure, but (Lord Howe) was our go to. If we burnt too much fuel we could turn back and go to Australia."
The first two days at sea were "very, very rough", Handley said.
"You couldn't sleep. Well, you could sleep, but you'd be bouncing around and hit the top of your bunk."
The crew couldn't cook for those two days, and resorted to eating a classic Australian and New Zealand sandwich.
"We lived off vegemite and chip sandwiches."
The crew would cycle four hours each in the captain's chair, ensuring someone was in the chair at all times.
"All I remember is holding the captain's chair with my knees locked in and making sure we are going in the right direction."
The captain's duties included checking radar for any nearby boats, checking oil pressures of the engines and any deviation on the gauges.
"And you're doing all this while maintaining the boat. Changing oil filters, checking the engines and patching any leaks."
Handley was quick to point out this was no normal fishing trip. "It wasn't like, go have a few beers on the water... your life depends on this."
The journey provided a "real test" for the boat. "It was getting beaten up; pounded by waves."
Another 793km away was the crew's second stop, Wanganella Banks. Handley's face lights up at the name of it. "It is the mecca ground for marlin fishing."
The crew had eight hook ups, with two striped marlins tagged and released. "One would have been 120 kilos and the other 100. It was a pretty nice arrival. Just amazing."
There was, however, "the one that got away".
"We ended up seeing a big granddaddy. A big, black marlin, a 1000-pound fish. Absolutely massive fish. But he wouldn't take the lures and we didn't have live bait to throw at him, so that's a fishing tale. It just came up and was looking at the lures, but not interested."
Handley emphasised the size of the black marlin, stretching his arms as wide as he could. "It was just massive... biggest fish I've ever seen. Metres and metres long."
As they departed Wanganella Banks for their next destination, the crew came across something quite random. "We went past a cruise ship."
Handley couldn't believe the chances. "We are in the middle of the Tasman Sea. You don't expect to see anyone."
The third and final stop on their way to New Zealand was Three Kings Islands, 300km from Whangārei where they would dock.
"It was a real beautiful island. Another really good place for fishing. We tried our luck with sword fishing, but had no joy of getting any swords. We did get a lot of big kingies though."
As the crew neared New Zealand waters, they called into Customs via radio. "We even saw a few spotter planes taking some photos of us. It's good to see that Customs are doing their job."
After eight days covering 2500km of the Tasman Sea, the crew was welcomed in by Customs in Whangarei.
Handley says he would do it all again in a heartbeat. "Absolutely loved it. Love the sea, love the rough conditions, love fishing, just loved it. One hundred per cent would do it all again."