Tuesday 2 August 2016

Lafayette link

I bet you never thought I'd be able to connect Waiheke, Whanganui and Lafayette, Louisiana. Nor did I, until a minute ago, when I was researching a boat-building company that I visited yesterday in Whanganui, a town of around 40,000 on the coast down the line. I went there on a junket to publicise the first flight from Auckland to WAG by Air Chathams, which has taken over a route abandoned by Air New Zealand because they're much too busy and important to bother with Whanganui any more.
Despite having to get up at 5am to catch the first Fullers ferry of the day into the city, and then the Skybus, and then the little Saab twin-prop that took us to Whanganui, 50 minutes south; and then reverse it all at the end of the day with the added excitement of missing my ferry by two whole minutes and having to wait an hour and a half for the next one, it was a good day. Whanganui is full of enthusiastic locals who are keen to spread the word that the town is worth a visit, and we were treated very well. They took us all in different directions, and one of my visits wasn't tourist-focused at all, but actually turned out to be pretty much the highlight.
Q-West is a boat-building company in a couple of big sheds down by the Whanganui River, and there I was introduced to the two new catamarans that will be Fullers' newest boats on the Waiheke service. They're being pieced together like some huge and immensely complicated puzzle from variously-shaped and -sized bits of aluminium, and while one doesn't look anything like a boat yet, the other that is meant to be finished for November is quite excitingly recognisable. We walked underneath and then up and through it, into the cabins, past the bar, out onto the bow, up to the bridge, and then even further up, onto the new roof level that the last new boat it's modelled on, Te Kotuku, doesn't have.
These new ones, with the extra space, can carry 401 passengers - that's 63 fewer people to be left stranded on the jetty in the height of the summer season, which has to be a good thing, eh Fullers? There were men welding and sanding, up ladders and lying on their stomachs, and it was remarkable to see what 44 people can achieve in a year, and interesting too, to look at the bare bones of a boat I'll be spending plenty of time sitting on in the future, standing at that bar, climbing those stairs, leaning on those rails.

Oh, and the Lafayette connection? The Australian company that designed the boats, Incat Crowther, has an office there, not far from the Kaliste Saloom/Pinhook intersection. I drove through there about 6 weeks ago.

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