It seems astonishing that Auckland with its fabulous Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, five marine reserves, dozens of islands, whales, orca, seals, dolphins and amazing fish life has not, until now, had a dedicated scuba diving charter operator based in the city. “Visitors to our great city, as well as casual divers can easily miss out on seeing underneath our fantastic Hauraki Gulf,“ says Norman Holtzhausen.
This is about to change. The DiveCat, a fast 11.5m power catamaran, originally purpose-built for scuba diving, is commencing operations in Auckland this month. The Max Monkley-designed alloy vessel used to run fishing charters on the Kaipara harbour and before that diving trips to the Poor Knights, Whitianga and Whangamata. Now she has had a big clean-up, a striking new colour scheme, new custom-made dive facilities installed, new electronics and interior, and gone back into survey for 18 passengers.
In addition to special seating designed to make it easy to gear up, she has a special dive ladder that makes her easy to get on or off. A hot freshwater shower out the back is a pleasure for those chilly days, while full galley and internal seating makes the surface interval between dives a cheerful social occasion. Naturally she carries the very latest in electronics and safety gear, including emergency oxygen and an AED.
The DiveCat business is scheduled to run dedicated scuba diving charters with either half-day or full day trips, to weather-dependent destinations catering for all levels of diver. During the long summer days longer-range trips to Great Barrier Island and the Coromandel are planned.
Dive Cat can accommodate 12 divers in comfort, plus two diving crew and four others including the skipper. There’s space for two tanks per diver, plenty of space for people to gear up, and a massive T-style boarding ladder and extended boarding platform out the back that makes getting on and off the boat easy.
When he heard some women like to go on ladies-only trips Norman decided to cater specially for them. So, he has engaged two female boat skippers, both qualified divers as well, to run these trips. “I’m hoping they prove popular,” he says.
“Initially we will be running primarily unguided dives, with options also for hunter-gatherer trips as well as catering for technical divers. We will also be providing trips for trainee divers under the auspices of one of the local diving schools.”
“And though the boat is large and stable, we still want to give passengers a good day out even when conditions are not quite ideal,” he says. ”So we have been working hard to identify sites that are suitable for a wide range of weather conditions and prevailing wind directions.”
Initially based in Mt Wellington, DiveCat will offer pick-ups from the Tamaki Marine Park, Half Moon Bay Marina and Westhaven.
For details and the trip schedule, go to www.divecat.co.nz, or call 0800-DIVECAT
Norman’s arrival in New Zealand 20 years ago from South Africa allowed him to extend his love for the sea and everything in it. For years Norman has been a regular boat-reviewer and columnist for boating and fishing magazines, trying out the latest and greatest in boats, technology and marine experiences here and overseas, and it always bothered him, he says, especially before he had his own boats, that there seemed few opportunities to scuba dive near Auckland city. So the idea of running commercial dive trips has been brewing a long time.
Then the DiveCat came up. The boat was already in survey so it would be straightforward (but not quick or cheap!) to have the survey refreshed for the new purpose. Plus, the boat was purpose built for diving, hence no major structural changes were required. “Now I just have to sell my other boat….” Norman says.