Lighthouse Launch Joins Dolphin Watching Fleet

Lighthouse Launch Joins Dolphin Watching Fleet

A new addition to Tauranga’s dolphin watching fleet offers more experiences than marine mammal spotting - as a sturdy launch with a fascinating history, built nearly 40 years ago to service the country’s lighthouses.

Tim Olsson of the charter company Sea Trek is the third owner of the well-built, 60-foot kauri launch Enterprise, which transported supplies to light house keepers at wave-battered coastal spots around New Zealand. 

A veteran charter skipper who bought his first keeler as an 18 year old, with a long-time love of ‘old boats,’ Tim Olsson purchased the launch around four years ago. She’d been in service as long liner fishing for tuna off East Cape.  ‘At that stage they’d put a fish hold in, the reels for long lining and a couple of slurry bins,’ he says.

Rundown but ‘extremely solid,’ the launch was due for its four year maritime survey. It received what Tim describes as a fairly complete cosmetic job; the cabin and topside painted, and the decks stripped back to reveal native maitai timbers in ‘mint condition.’

The vessel was originally built by Jorgensen and Son boat builders in 1966, for the New Zealand Government.  A ‘lighthouse tender,’ the launch was used to carry up to four thousand litres of diesel in specially-built tanks. ‘They would pipe the diesel straight out into storage (ashore), back in the days when light house keepers lived on the light houses.’ Enterprise was also used by the Department of Conservation.

Sold into private hands in the late 80’s, Enterprise took on jobs such as carting materials like mooring blocks to Great Barrier Island, before her role as fishing boat.

Things fell into place when Tim Olsson bought Enterprise, he’d seen and admired for some time. He already owned a former Auckland ferry boat, the 50 foot Olive Rose, but was fortunate to line up a buyer for that vessel. He was able to ‘sell the ferry one day and buy Enterprise the next.’

Not surprisingly, with years of seagoing experience, Tim and his wife Charlie can describe some memorable experiences with dolphins. One occurred some years ago when their twins were about five years old. At Mercury Islands dolphins came into the bay where they were moored. They swam around the boat, ‘swam with the kids, swam with everybody...that was absolutely fabulous. ’

Another incident springs to mind; Tim was diving with mates, again at the Mercurys, when three dolphins appeared and played with them underwater. After they’d climbed back in the boat, they took their dive gear off and returned to the water in wetsuits. ‘Honestly, the dolphins played with us for about an hour. We got cold and jumped on the boat and shifted. They followed us into the next bay and just kept circling around the boat. It was a fascinating experience.  

I’ve always admired dolphins and enjoyed having them around.’

Enterprise has been heading to sea for a variety of marine adventures including ‘dive treks,’ fishing and island treks, so dolphin watching was a natural addition to the trips. The boat also serves acts as a ‘mother ship’ for kayakers taken out to Mayor or Motiti Islands on trips run in conjunction with Adventure Bay of Plenty. Enterprise has racks on top of the boat for transporting the kayaks.  

Kayaks will be used on the dolphin watching trips for people who are a ‘bit nervous’ about swimming with dolphins and for disabled who can sit in a tandem kayak.  ‘With a kayak you can get just that bit closer,’ says Tim. Under marine regulations a kayak is treated as a vessel, so you can’t have more than three in the water, and the launch must sit 300 metres away. 

But for those who do want to swim with dolphins, the launch is well set up, with a long rope dropped off the stern. The stern area was arranged to suit divers, so it’s an easy boat for people of all abilities to get on and off, says Tim. ‘We don’t have a duckboard (to get caught under) so it’s quite safe.’

Enterprise can take 22 people but the number will be increased to 50, for another of its key roles - ferrying hikers and sightseers out to Mayor Island. Tim describes the island as a real gem, with its cabins (rented in a venture between the local iwi and DOC) serviceable and comfortable. 

Tim Olsson plans to charge a similar amount to Tauranga’s other dolphin watch operators, a $100-plus for weekend day trips, but aims to run cheaper trips on week days.  The aim is to keep the boat busy during the week if possible, but a minimum of ten people is needed for such runs.

More information on dolphin, fishing, diving and other treks aboard Enterprise: or Tel Tim and Charlie Olsson, 0274 - 969973

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