Many cities are called boating paradises, but few hold as strong a claim to the title as Auckland, New Zealand.
One of the few cities in the world to boast two harbors on two separate bodies of water, the possibilities for boaters in this natural wonderland are virtually endless. In just an afternoon, one can head north through Waitemata Harbour to the Hauraki Gulf or through Manukau Harbour, which opens west, to the Tasmanian Sea. A mile wide at its narrowest point between the Mangere Inlet and the Tamaki River, Auckland has a waterway to challenge and amaze every boater, be your ambitions big, small or somewhere in between.
Perhaps it’s no surprise then that the boating industry in New Zealand is world-class. Soren Stewart, sales manager at Sports Marine Auckland, has sold many boats in his time but recently purchased his very own Boston Whaler, a 230 Vantage, which he agreed to take for a spin with us. Ownership has been a breeze so far, and Soren is thoroughly enjoying the boat. “The supreme ride in rough conditions and flat water is my favorite feature,” he says. “The Vantage gives you the confidence to go out anywhere at any time, especially in Auckland where weather conditions can change fast. Plus, the seats are really comfortable.”
Soren is a seasoned boater with nearly 40 years on the water under his belt, and he has two members of his family ready to take advantage of all the Whaler has to offer: his wife, Janey, and his black Labrador Retriever, Luna. Today, he launches from Half Moon Bay, cruising past picturesque Bucklands Beach on the right. He’s just returned from several days of hiking with Janey and Luna up at Mahurangi Spit about an hour and a half north of Auckland. Some of his favorite boating in the area is around nearby Rangitoto Island, and the family spends tons of time outdoors. New Zealand’s 2,300 miles of coastline provide ample opportunities to explore on both water and land.
Soren maneuvers the Whaler with grace up to the Motuihe Island Recreation Reserve to check out the native wildlife. A stingray glides by the boat as Soren beaches it onshore. He says many people used to hunt the rays in Marlborough Sound where he grew up. His parents still have a summer house there only a few miles from Picton, and the only way to get there is by boat, which should make for some new adventures with the Vantage. There’s still a market for the rays in New Zealand, where they’re a popular local delicacy at Asian markets. New populations from Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan in particular have added special customs and culinary delights to the local scene, which is already a diverse cultural melting pot. In fact, Auckland has the largest Polynesian population of any city inthe world.
To Luna’s chagrin, dogs are not allowed on island at the Reserve to chase the local birds, so she waits patiently onboard. As we walk the pristine beaches, Soren spots some shy Kiwis and later a pair of black birds with vibrant orange feet and beaks. We pass a clutch of beautiful eggs near a walking trail before the two black birds make it known they want us to have no part of their nest. Compliantly, we move on and greet Luna back onboard.
While underway, Soren shares a bit about his furry companion, who it turns out is as much of a water enthusiast as her owner. “Luna’s spent her whole life on the sea, pretty much,” Soren says. The night Soren got her as a puppy, she slipped out of the yard for some misadventures. It was then that he decided she needed to be called Luna, Spanish for the moon, to remind him of the night she’d disappeared. Their family expanded from just the two of them when Soren married Janey this March on Wiehackie Island. He drives the Whaler by, and we’re able to spot the vineyard where the nuptials took place. Janey is American, and the couple was lucky enough to enjoy some 60 visitors from the States who traveled long distances to help them celebrate.
A light drizzle dappled with sunlight begins, on and off, and Soren points out how well the Whaler copes with the fickle island weather. “You can’t put faith in forecasts here,” he says. “The weather changes a dozen times a day.”
Soren loves his Vantage’s unique dual-console layout and says the boat’s intuitive design has been very well received in New Zealand. As if to illustrate the changing weather patterns, a wind gust takes hold of Soren’s hat, a birthday present from Janey. He spins the Vantage in a tight arc, and we catch the hat just before it sinks. Soren’s skill at the helm is enviable, and he nimbly maneuvers the Vantage to do his bidding. “I feel incredibly secure on the boat, knowing the brand’s history,” Soren says. “There’s even a video online of a classic Whaler’s bow being sawed off before it easily drove away.” A testament to the hull’s extra-buoyant foam and to Boston Whaler’s unsinkable legacy.
While the Vantage is a new addition to Soren’s life, the plethora of on-water adventures Auckland offers will be a joy to explore for years to come. “We have so many places that going all around the country is easy,” he says. “We are completely surrounded by sea and the spots to boat are unlimited, with amazing scenery to match.” And with Janey, Luna and the 230 Vantage on his side, boating memories are bound to come easily.