Blokes & their Boats - February 2012

Last updated 12:50 06/02/2012
Blokes Boats 1
Alan is hoping to bring his latest boat Venom up to survey standards with the aim of eventually getting into the charter business.
Blokes Boats 2
Alan Sharp found himself in the marine business almost by default.

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Alan Sharp and Venom

Pommy Alan Sharp managed to avoid the fishing and boating bug until he’d become established in New Zealand.

Born in Sheffield, England, Alan came through the football ranks as a goalie whilst training as a specialist Renault auto mechanic. Having worked for 30 years in the UK as a Renault specialist, Alan was attracted to New Zealand by both family and opportunity.

He and his wife arrived at the height of 1980s boom, and in 1993 he and his brother-in-law purchased Reo Motors, the Auckland Renault agents. Interestingly, the stock market crash of 1987 passed them by – just shows how dependent we all are on a reliable motor vehicle.

The marine world knocked on Alan’s door quite by accident. Apparently a popular line of Mercruiser diesels were re-badged Renaults. It turned out that a fair few boaties had them in their vessels, and about the time Alan arrived they were in need of replacement or parts and repairs. So after a first call for help, the reputation of the new business quickly spread, and before he knew it, hey presto, Reo Motors had developed a marine service and supply department.

Finding replacement Renaults hard to come by, the boys ended up developing an enduring relationship with French marine diesel specialists Baudouin. Supplying both new and replacement marine engines that ranged from 75 to 1300hp kept the marine section busy for many years. Notable vessels fitted with them included tugboats, barges and super-yachts, with a geographic spread from Nigeria, through Egypt and India, and down to French Polynesia and New Zealand. Apart from the adventure of it all, Alan most keenly recalls the many remarkable and interesting people he met during the course of his business life.

Selling up and heading north, Alan and his wife Audrey arrived at Northland’s Whangaroa Harbour around 2000. Here Alan tried a bit of fishing with Danny Ivecivich on board Millennium, a 42-foot (12.8m) purpose-built game boat launched in 1999. The two got on so well as a team that Alan ended up working as deckhand on Millennium for four years.

Describing the launch as a semi-displacement hull of glass over triple-skin kahikatea construction, the single Scania 400hp managed a top speed of 18 knots and could maintain 11-12kt all day. Moving for’ard from a large self-draining cockpit, the main cabin features a galley and full-width saloon with bunks in the bow. Fitted with navigation stations in the cockpit, saloon and flybridge, Alan was lavish in his praise of the Carey hull’s sea-keeping qualities. Even a 5-6m angry NE swell off the Cavallis couldn’t tip her on her side when turning 360° to seek cover behind Motukawanui Island.

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Having lost count of the gamefish he’s helped tame, Alan’s fishing highlights on board Millennium feature winning a Ladies Tournament with a 267kg blue marlin. He reckons it was the lady’s first marlin, and with the fisherwoman weighing in at a diminutive 51kg, the contest was very real. Apparently they had to run the Millennium in reverse for all but 15 minutes of the one and a quarter hours required to boat the fish.

There were a couple of close calls as a deckie. As well as having a flailing bill sandpaper his inner thighs, Alan’s biggest fright was only experienced in retrospect. A small stripie that was being secured alongside decided to take a last leap for freedom – straight at Alan’s head. Ducking to one side he caught the bill like any well-trained goalkeeper should, just two inches from his left ear. The near miss only became apparent to Alan upon viewing video footage of the performance afterwards – and it was only then that his gut took a churn and his heart a flutter or three. Whew!

A couple of years as Marina Manager at Whangaroa are also recalled with pleasure. He just loved the people side of the business, and is very proud of his initiative, an inside trailerboat section that has proved extremely successful, especially over the summer months. After his resignation, he really missed the people.

The first boat of his own was a 28-foot (8.54m) ferro-cement Hartley powered by a four-cylinder Ford. Alan reckons those first three years provided a very steep learning curve in seamanship and boating skills. Not only did he have to learn to manage the huge current flows coming in and out of the Te Atatu River, but he also barely managed to escape grounding at the entrance on a number of occasions. Then there was the time his exhaust caught on fire. Oops!

Alan also remembers a very close encounter with a certain ‘gin palace’. He was returning from Kawau Island when the said 50-foot (15.25m) vessel raced in from astern at 25 knots. There was less than a boat-length of clear water between his launch and the other as it careened past. Continuing on at a steady four knots, he later found the same vessel unloading, so approached from astern.

Colourful words were exchanged, which included Alan’s confident assertion that concrete was harder than plastic and to “Stay out of my #@%$*ing way!”

After which, Alan quietly chugged back to his own berth.

His second boat was an alloy 7.5m Sea-Ranger powered by a 120hp Mercruiser through an Alpha leg. He took in a bit of tournament fishing, and won a drinking contest at the Furuno on Kawau Island one year. Also, a cruising speed of 15 knots enabled Alan to get about the Gulf a bit more, with the outer islands – including both barrier islands – all within his ambit. He learned to catch snapper, too.

The third and current boat is a Craig Loomes designed and built 8.6m GRP Tournament. Regarded by many as the ultimate fisherman’s trailer boat, Venom is powered by a 200hp turbo Volvo through a duo-prop sternleg. Its features include full walk-around decks, lock-up cabin, a V berth and galley buried in the bow, and an under-floor engine compartment with built-in live-bait and fish tanks. Cruising on the plane at less than 20 knots, full noise gives 30 knots. Fuel consumption at cruising speed is about 1.3L per nautical mile. The sea-keeping qualities of this deep-vee hull are as legendary as boats from the fabled Bertram stable, and while they can be tender at rest, Tournaments are about as good as you can get in all safety respects.

Alan is currently getting Venom up to survey with a view to taking to the water as a charter skipper, so watch this space!

An active member of the Whangaroa Sports Fishing Club, Alan’s primary fishing pleasure is kingfish on light line. A 7.2kg snapper on 2kg was caught to prove a point, while a 16kg kingie on 10kg is his best in that department so far. Favourite kingfish locations are the Cavallis’ Tea Pot and Step Islands, with Cape Karikari considered the best location of all. A live slimy mackerel is his all-time favourite kingfish bait.

- Fishing News

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