When you are young and straight out of school, you have certain ideas about what you’ll end up doing in your career. While most of us don’t have a full-fledged plan chalked out, we tend to have some goals that lead us to our first foray into the real world. But life can often have different plans. Or so it seemed to be the case for Michael (Mike) Hopwood.
It was 2006, and a 17-year-old Mike had just left school to pursue a career as an electrician but when the tradesman he wanted to do an apprenticeship for did not have a job opening, he started sweeping floors at Calibre Boats. Not all was lost because as it turned out, that was the first, albeit small, turning point in Mike’s life as a boat builder.
Although he has always been into boats and a keen fisherman, Mike admits to never have thought about it as a career. “After working there, I knew I wanted to work with boats but not in the composites sector.” After a start at Calibre Boats, Mike’s next stop was an Alloy Boat Building apprenticeship at Alloy Yachts, which he continued until 2012.
Next up was a brief stint in Fiji building an 18-metre semi-submersible glass-sided boat for tourist operation. From there, he went down to Rangiora to build some jet boats and a 16-metre catamaran. A bigger turning point came around the end of 2014 when, as a joke, a friend tagged Mike in a Facebook job advert looking for a Kiwi boat builder to go to China to set up a jet boat production line.
“I thought it was a cool opportunity so I applied and I got the job. I was there for four-and-a-half years.” During his stay in China, he became friends with James Hakes, another Kiwi boat designer, and over the course of about two years, they designed the boat Fishing & Outdoors saw being made on our trip to Helensville late last year.
“Using James’ expertise, the boat has been extensively tested for stability, strength, and buoyancy and is well over-engineered,” Michael says. However, the only way to really test a design is to build it and put it in the water and that is what Mike has been doing with his new venture Pelagic Boats.
“A local engineer has put trust and faith in the design and has kindly signed up for the first one, and we commenced the build at the beginning of November 2019,” Mike says. “It is an exciting time for me, as I have always wanted to design and build my own boat and now, due to a lot of help and support from friends, I can finally do it.”
A bit about the boat
Mike admits to not being a fan of fibreglass, so he set out to build an aluminium one, emulating what makes a fibreglass boat perform well on the water. “I based the core shape of the boat on what I thought would give all-around good performance, focusing mostly on having a softer ride, as this boat will be doing bar-crossings and a lot of offshore fishing,” he says. “Larger deadrise angle usually means a soft ride, but a little less stable at rest. So it is always about making a compromise.
“To give a softer ride, I started with a 21-degree deadrise, and to counteract the loss of stability at rest, it has 140mm wide chines at the stern. To counteract the wide chines ‘slapping’ on impact with water while underway they have a slight downturn to help trap a cushion of air. “The boat also has a lot of internal structure, adding to the overall strength and also (just as importantly) the weight.” This is not a light boat.
Dry and empty, it will weigh 2300kg, and with a full tank of fuel and a couple of people on-board, she will be sitting around the three-tonne mark. “This means that, at rest, the chines sit around 150mm in the water, adding to stability,” Mike adds. The self-draining deck is 100mm above the waterline at the stern and has a one-degree rise going forward to aid any water to run aft. “I have always liked the old-school ‘Carolina Flare’ bow look and have tried to emulate that with this design.”
Aesthetics are important, too, so a lot of time has been spent on making her look as good as she can, with emphasis on keeping with the raised sheer line look of an old sport fisher boat. And getting down to what it is going to cost to buy a boat like this, Mike says they are costing it as they go and while they cannot give an accurate price, it may be around the $150k mark for this particular model.
But Pelagic Boats isn’t just limited to this specific model. “We can scale it up or down depending on the customer’s need and we’re open to doing any custom work.” With the boat due to release soon (end of January/start of February), Mike’s hoping that it generates a lot of interest among buyers. It may be his first boat but looks like he is just getting started.
To find out more about the boat, call Mike on 021 129 9387. Pelagic Boats NZ Ltd is located at Unit F, 69 Mill Road, Helensville.
Overall length 7159mm
Waterline length 5875mm
Overall beam 2549mm
Waterline beam 2318mm
Dry weight 2300kg (with Honda BF250)
Bunk length 1900mm
Hardtop headroom 2010mm
Photos: Laura Batten and supplied