New Horizons for Classic Warwick Cruiser
A 21-meter motoryacht with a storied past as a party boat will be owner John Cook’s home away from home for the next few months as he motors around New Zealand, an undertaking more challenging than it may seem.
Oceanmax managing director Clint Jones is such an affable guy, he’s always making new contacts wherever he goes. Not too long ago, he met John Cook, chairman and trustee of CELF, a University of Waikato program that connects business leaders with nonprofits to enrich the local community.
Both residents of Tairua, a beach town on the east coast of New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula, Clint and John were introduced by a mutual friend at the Marina Bar and Grill, a popular local watering hole. An avid boater, John soon got to telling Clint about a round-the-country cruising trip he was planning now that he’s on sabbatical.
“I’m taking the opportunity to fulfill a dream of getting a much better look at New Zealand. I’ve done a lot of short trips overseas for work, but my business has taken me away from being able to do the kind of traveling I’d like to do in my own country. Now I find myself in a position where I can make the time.”
John’s 21-meter luxury cruiser, named Horizon III, comes from the stable of esteemed New Zealand yacht designer Alan Warwick. (That’s just under 69 feet for you Stateside readers.) Built in 1989 and modeled on the early America’s Cup boats, Horizon III was among the first to feature carbon-fiber construction, which significantly reduced its weight without compromising strength.
“Being lighter, she’s far more fuel-efficient than almost anything of a similar size,” says John. The result is a boat that moves gracefully through the water with predictably good habits, complete with an interior that maximizes space. Two separate living areas, four cabins, three full bathrooms and a day-use head at the rear of the boat provide generous onboard accommodations.
On the day we meet, John and his brother, Robin, are taking advantage of the first fine day in a while, busily painting the hull with antifouling treatment in preparation for their voyage, which they expect will last at least two months.
“It’ll be weather-dependent and dependent on what we find and what we’re enjoying,” he says. “We’ll leave it open-ended.” The two brothers will be joined periodically by John’s partner, Jo, and a few of their friends, who will board at various ports or even helicopter in where access is restricted, as in remote locations like Milford Sound and Fiordland.
“There are only a handful of people in New Zealand who have done it,” says Robin, a veteran boat-builder who will be John’s co-captain. “[If you look online], there’s not a lot of information, which is probably putting a lot of people off.”
“We do have, potentially, pretty bad conditions at sea in this part of the world,” explains John.
“We also have some of the best boating in the world,” says Robin. “It’s pretty fantastic, but the weather changes so quickly.” What makes it fantastic? “Take Auckland, for example. You can pretty much go out in any conditions and find shelter on one of the many islands out there. We’re not overpopulated with boats, so there’s always somewhere to go where it’s not overly crowded.”
A recently installed Raymarine radar and GPS will keep the pair on course. “It’s great to have a remote control right alongside the helm seat to make any changes or acknowledgments while under way, all without so much as leaning forward,” John says. “The radar overlay is a fabulous feature that provides confidence and security, even in poor conditions or while running at night.”
The brothers are raring to go and undaunted by the prospect of unpredictable weather. After all, smooth seas do not make skillful sailors. Between them, the pair have logged a lot of hours at the helm.
“I’ve probably done about 2,000 hours over 10 years, so it’s given me exposure to quite a lot of variable conditions,” says John.
Robin, who has worked in the boating industry for more than 30 years and now owns his own company, Innovative Marine Solutions, can’t even begin to count. “I’ve no idea. It’d be quite a few thousand. I’ve never really kept a log or anything like that.”
This time, they will be keeping a log, and John plans to share it online to help bridge the current information gap. At this stage, the plan is for him to provide us with weekly updates.
“I’d like to document what we’re doing so that we log our hours, our port movements. I need to record it because my memory’s not that good!”
Among the places he’s looking forward to visiting are Marlborough, known worldwide for its superlative sauvignon blanc, and Fiordland, in the farflung southwest, where glacier-carved fjords are truly awesome rather than merely surfer-dude awesome. These South Island locations are also where they expect to encounter the most treacherous conditions.
But the boat was refitted about two years ago, says John, “which means we’ve had a good period to settle it in, to make sure all systems are good. It’s been kept in immaculate condition mechanically, electronically and navigation equipment-wise. We’re putting a lot of effort into the preparations to make sure that we’re safe on this trip.”
Robin gave Horizon III an extensive and thorough refit that included new Navionics, plumbing, and a complete electrical and interior fit-out. The boat was also repowered with Cummins 11-liter, 550-horsepower diesels connected to ZF V-drives. “This provided the reliability, performance and confidence that a trip around New Zealand was possible,” John says.
One of the other things Horizon III has been prepped with is Propspeed, Oceanmax’s foul-release coating system for running gear, which will further enhance its fuel efficiency. “Clint was telling me about the trials they were doing, so I thought our trip might be of interest. He was very enthusiastic about what we were doing and also how he could help.”
All of us at Oceanmax are indeed keen to see how the adventure unfolds and wish John, Robin and Jo fair winds and following seas.