In New Zealand’s Bay of Islands, Askari helps charter guests eat up every ounce of local adventure.
By Kim Kavin— August 2004
In the heart of the Waitangi treaty grounds, where British explorers and native Maori made peace in 1840, it sounded like warriors were preparing for battle. Through the trees, in the direction of the bay where the 108-foot Askari was anchored, I could hear deep male voices blotting out the gentle lapping of the surf.
The dozen women in our charter party followed Fraser Yachts Worldwide broker Allan Jouning—our lone male companion and acting chief—over the grassy knoll. We snaked behind him in a line as he inched respectfully toward the 30 or so bare-chested Maori. The men and boys were in four lines, shortest to tallest, each holding what appeared to be a kayak paddle with sharpened ends.
Amid the fierce faces, one of the smaller boys focused curiously on those of us with blond hair. I glanced from him toward Askari, rolling on the hook an easy swim away, and thought about diving toward her, clothes and all. I heard a snort, a shout, some hissing. The biggest Maori could have been sumo wrestlers, and when they leaped forward and stretched their eyes open, I believed they might actually eat me alive. They jabbed out their tongues and hollered in challenging bursts. I assumed the phrases would loosely translate into: “Kiss your boat goodbye, little lady—you’re toast.”
Such was my welcome to the Bay of Islands, on the tip of New Zealand’s North Island. Jouning and Askari’s captain, Lon Munsey, had arranged the traditional greeting with the Maori well in advance, and it served as a thrilling introduction to the Land of the Long White Cloud—a place seeping with culture, adventure, and even luxury, but that most of us know only as the backdrop for Oscar darlings Whale Rider and The Lord of the Rings.
While the Bay of Islands is a well-established tourist destination, it and the rest of New Zealand are only beginning to develop in terms of yacht charter. The nation is working to become the regional powerhouse for yacht refit and services while allowing nearby islands to assume the role of charter destinations. Lane Finley, executive director of New Zealand Marine Export Group, says his country wants to be the “Fort Lauderdale” that supports a “Caribbean” composed of Fiji, Tonga, and more. “It’s a wonderful potential economy about to flower in the islands,” Finley says, lamenting that so few luxury charter yachts call New Zealand home. “We don’t have locally owned vessels that attract that clientele.”
After the week I spent aboard Askari in the Bay of Islands, I thought the lack of charter activity a real shame. The Auckland area of America’s Cup fame and the South Island’s wine country of Marlborough may be better known, but I found the Bay of Islands (even though it was flooded with rain during my visit) great fun for hiking, cold-water diving, golfing, dining ashore, and a cultural education. New Zealand’s landscape is as stunning as it appears in the movies; there are first-class resorts for charter guests wanting to extend their journey, and Askari has a style and crew that fit perfectly into the scene.
Next page > Part 2: The crew helps one another in a way that tells you they genuinely enjoy what they’re doing. > Page 1, 2, 3, 4
This article originally appeared in the July 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.