A story about a bloke, his boat and an adventure in the astounding aquatic playground he calls home.
Check out Matt Jones' video review here
Due west lies the South Island’s rugged west coast wilderness and to the east - Tasman Bay’s idyllic waters. But, somewhere in between lies an aquatic playground like no other. A magical place filled with turquoise coloured waters and striking limestone cliff faces, set amongst a backdrop of lush green landscapes and snow-capped mountain ranges.
Crystal clear waters flow between picturesque islands offering secluded anchorages amongst golden sand bays that attract boaties and kayakers from far flung reaches. You see, in terms of outstanding natural beauty and iconic boating, the Abel Tasman National Park knows few rivals.
Abel Tasman himself dropped anchor in Golden Bay in 1642, but a run-in with the not-so-friendly locals of the time saw him beat a hasty retreat. Three hundred years later New Zealand’s smallest national park was named in our first European explorer’s honour.
These days’ visitors are welcomed with open arms and not only get to enjoy the stunning seaside surrounds but also the southern hospitality. As the park is closed to vehicles the best way to truly immerse yourself in all its splendour is of course by boat.
It’s for all of the above that local Mike Fraser has chosen to call Motueka, the gateway to this aquatic playground, home. So when Mike offers to give you the guided tour on board his silver Stabicraft 2900 Supercab you simply pinch yourself and count down the days.
With the clever blokes at Stabicraft becoming a trans-Tasman success story we had a special guest along for the ride. Hadley Deegan had flown in from Tasmania to check out the big 2900 Supercab in the flesh. Our local connection Vic Taylor collected us at dawn in the Bay’s Boating ute with dive gear, fishing rods and set-lines at the ready. On arrival at the Motueka boat ramp the striking silver Supercab made an impressive statement as it sat staunchly on its aluminium trailer awaiting departure. As the sun rose and the coffee’s went down Mike launched the boat before welcoming us all on-board.
Motueka’s entrance is guarded by a bar but the half a metre of swell present wasn’t going to cause our floating fortress any issues. However, a corresponding low tide leaving less than a metre of water would prove tricky. Fortunately the game chaser transom’s added buoyancy aft ensured the boat rode level and responded quickly to direction as we glided through untouched.
Once in the clear Mike nudged the throttles forward and the big Stabi climbed effortlessly to a 40mph (35 knot) high-speed cruise at which it’s using around 75lph. Settling back to 30mph brought this back to 40lph and with 570 litres of fuel on-board we were spoilt for destination options. As the twin Hondas purred in unison we left the land behind and headed towards the middle of Tasman Bay to soak the set-lines before setting off on a spectacular guided tour.
Crayfish, scallops and surreal locations
Dolphins somersaulted in our wake as we took in the sights of Fisherman’s Island, Bark Bay and the Tonga Island marine reserve, all the while enjoying the comfort of the big supercab while on course to a couple of Mike’s secret dive spots. Being the first dive for the season Mike was keen to get his eye in on a shallow reef first before revisiting a deeper pin where the big bucks like to hang out.
As the big Stabi arrived at the waypoint Mike suited up and disappeared into the depths. “Nothing in that spot,” he remarked as he re-surfaced some ten minutes later. But as Vic reached down to grab his catch bag its unusual weight suggested he may have been having us on.
As the catch bag was emptied on the deck the crayfish was out of the bag so to speak and a couple of nice crays were placed in the live bait aquarium for safe-keeping. The large split-lid live-bait tank brought a whole new meaning to the term “fresh seafood.” With plenty of air left in the tank we shot around to spot number two. This time Mike and Vic both made use of the big, stable cockpit to kit up and await the signal.
As the pinnacle came clearly into view on the Simrad NSS16 Evo2's impressive structure scan the lads dropped in and disappeared below. Once again we didn’t have long to wait until Mike surfaced with a smile and another couple of big reds in the catch bag. With the biggest beast estimated at 3kg there were plenty of smiles on board the big Stabi too. Happily we re-ignited the Hondas and headed off to yet another secret spot to compliment the menu with a scallop or two.
Another surreal location, another successful dive. As a group of kayakers paddled past the lads returned triumphant once again with a hearty haul of fresh scallops. It’s fair to say that I’ve never seen a live-bait tank look so attractive. With the diving well and truly ticked off we set off once again to see what the set-lines had in store.
Mike’s pot hauler made light work of retrieving the setlines amidst the mid-afternoon sea breeze while he casually worked the switch in his trusty gumboots. Fourty-odd spiny dogs wasn’t quite the reward we were looking for but one glance at the fully stocked live bait tank and our surrounds left little further to be desired.
As the big Stabi was safely put back on its trailer once more Hadley and I reluctantly waved our goodbyes. Mike‘s parting gift however was sure to make me popular with the family when I touched down back in Auckland. While the kids eagerly awaited the crayfish to come to the boil I reflected on what was a truly awesome adventure, in a spectacular part of the world, on board a fantastic boat with a great bunch of blokes. Once again pinching myself and counting down the days.
Pathways to success
Mike Fraser runs a logging business where safety and efficiency are paramount and his boat needed to match his business philosophy. This ultimately led him to the big, ballsy 2900 Supercab. His third successive Stabi is his largest and most enjoyable boat yet. “I wanted something that goes as good as it looks and this thing does” he says.
Like all successful people Mike’s leisure time is scarce and his carefully selected boat reflects that. When an opportunity arises he needs to be able to get out there and back in comfort and safety. When it comes to horsepower Mike’s motto is “bigger is better” so Stabicraft worked behind the scenes to increase the CPC hull rating to 500hp. His choice of twin 250hp Honda four-strokes on the back means the silver Supercab is capable of 50mph and gets there in exhilarating fashion - simply put – hang on when the power comes on.
Being a mad-keen diver he customised the boat for diving and day trips opting for twin engines for piece-of-mind when diving remote locations, which includes the likes of D’Urville Island. Mike’s personal touches include dive tank storage beneath the rear cabin seat, twin angled boarding ladders and dual transom walkthroughs for easy-diving experiences.
To keep the tow-weight in check with the added horses the boat sits on a custom alloy trailer. Mike’s done away with a fridge and kitchen unit instead opting for rear cabin seating where an infill creates seating for six inside the big lockable hardtop. A large underfloor bin, complimentary catch draw and XL live bait tank are on hand to keep the catch and wet dive gear well looked after as well.
When you’re 6’3” headroom’s important so local dealership Bay’s Boating worked closely with Stabicraft to lengthen the dash by 200mm, giving Mike the head space he needed along with the dash space to incorporate all the electronics.
Despite the design changes the boat performs exceptionally well and Mike’s more than happy. Consequently he doesn’t have a bad word to say about the blokes at Bay’s Boating either.
In spite of the 2900 Supercab’s size Mike regularly launches and retrieves it short-handed. “It’s the easiest boat I’ve ever had,” he enthuses. He often beach launches at Kaiteriteri beach where the front boarding ladder, reserve buoyancy and waterline length also prove invaluable. “It just makes boating a really enjoyable experience.”
With the newly incorporated arrow pontoons and game chaser transom’s ride enhancing attributes Mike’s also enjoying his time on the water. “It gives us the ability to go offshore with a nice comfortable ride while feeling safe and secure,” he adds.