Robert "Baldy" Baldwin has smiling eyes from the smile that comes easily.
But beneath the easy exterior is a steely determination. He needed that when four years ago at the age of 53, he suffered three heart attacks and a stroke. It was only earlier this year that Baldy says he came right.
Baldy has fought back every step of the way to regain his faculties and get back onto his boat, the 19.5m riverboat Adventurer 2.
At the time of his stroke Baldy said to the doctor: "If I can't get my ticker back I may as well die. He told me he would get me back on the awa, so I dug my toes in."
The 13.6-tonne Adventurer 2 was built from the ground up based on the 20th Century river tour guide Alexander Hatrick's best upriver boat, Wai-Iti 2.
Baldy made a few changes to the original design, including widening the boat by a metre. The tunnel-hulled boat, powered by a 94kW modern version of the original Gardiner engine the Wai-Iti 2 had, can hold 49 people. Baldy sailed the riverboat into the history books in June 2010 on an epic 288 nautical miles (533km), seven-day round trip from Wanganui to Taumarunui - the first time the trip had been made in 82 years.
His perseverance to get back to the boat was matched by the support of his wife Trixie.
"I would not have got through without Trixie," he says.
She is after all first mate on Adventurer 2 and shares the tasks of hauling on the ropes when the boat has to be tied to the wharf, or fire extinguishers need to be fetched from the car.
However other areas remain compromised. Baldy was an above-average welder, but following his stroke the precision was no longer at his fingertips because welding is a very fine motor skill, he said.
"My thought processes were too slow, and it was a bit rough when I tried to weld.
"I knew what to do but I could not get my left hand to do as it was told."
He was welding at the time the stroke hit and working on the Adventurer 1 with co-owner Bob Harris.
"I woke up to Bob standing over me."
Baldy said he then tried to get the welder to go, and demanded why it was not turned on.
"Did you turn the welder off? Turn the bloody thing back on, I've only got five minutes to go."
Mr Harris "panicked", Baldy said, and had already called an ambulance.
"You bugger ... put the billy on, we'll have a cup of coffee," Baldy remembers telling Mr Harris, who then informed him the ambulance had arrived.
Baldy remembers the onset of the stroke was slow, and the St John Ambulance medic jumping into the boat where he was.
"She knew something had happened and told me that they needed to get me to hospital."
It was not until they had reached Wanganui Hospital and he was admitted that Baldy realised his voice was changing.
"I was talking out of the side of my mouth but I did not realise I was buggered.
"I knew something was wrong but I could not put my finger on it."
Baldy was now in the stroke recovery ward where the staff had their work cut out for them.
"I was stubborn and set in my ways." Those eyes smile again.
Baldy had one thing on his mind, and that was to get back on to his boat. That was non-negotiable.
However, Tony Blake, locum at the time in assessment, treatment and rehabilitation, told Baldy: "All right Baldy, we will get you back on the boat but you have to take the medication and food."
"Don't mess with me, I'm the captain," Baldy insisted, and was backed by his wife Trixie who reminded the staff; "He's Captain Baldy don't forget."
But this was not the boat, this was hospital, Baldy was in recovery and he had to listen to Dr Blake.
He was assigned an occupational therapist to help in his recovery.
"I understood pretty quickly I had a brain injury. The brain is a muscle and you have to exercise it ... I grabbed hold of that."
Baldy's stubbornness turned to determination and he sat down to do the daily puzzles in the newspaper.
He also played chess with Trixie and short-term memory games with her on the computer.
"I could not beat Trixie, but it was good motivation."
Testimony to his recovery, Trixie won't play chess with him anymore.
"I'm ruthless," he says, without a boasting tone in his reply.
In January last year Baldy celebrated when he got his ticket to drive his boat again. Up until then licensed skipper Vance Crozier was on board whenever the boat went out.
Baldy is community-minded, and he's taken his Adventurer 2 along to the Saturday market to give people a ride.
There's diesel to pay for, and maintenance, especially when vandals have left their unwelcome calling card.
Everything takes money and Baldy likes to work - that also continues to exercise his mind and body.
"It's hard enough getting employment these days, let alone when you are challenged with a medical condition or disability.
"The team at Workbridge took a lot of stress and disheartenment away, finding work.
"Approaching businesses, negotiating with employers, setting up interviews and assisting in putting a CV together prepared me for interviews."
Baldy said the team at Workbridge never gave up on him, and without their support he would not be where he is today.
"I am forever grateful, and a big thanks to Larsens (Concrete and Drainage) for giving me a go."
He still gets out on his bike and rides to his boat, tied up at the City Marina.
Baldy looks at the fast-flowing river and remarks how special it is.
"For those of us who work on it and others who live beside it, it's very special.
"It helped me get my health back."