In an effort to solve some of the transportation issues facing Motiti Islanders, resident Aubrey Hoete has developed a pontoon to try to bring down freight costs to the island.
Aubrey, the Noelex and the pontoon in Pilot Bay.
Two steel pontoons support a deck offering cargo area of 3x1.8m, with a carrying capacity of about 880kg.
He tows it out to the island behind his Noelex 22. It works as a freight delivery system; and is better for ferrying passengers ashore than a dinghy, says Aubrey.
But it’s a weather-dependent service, as he found out on January 31, in a blustery easterly. A wave caught the pontoon as he was passing Rabbit Island on the way to Motiti. The pontoon went sideways, wrapped the tow lines around the rudder – and Aubrey needed a tow back.
In good conditions the 22km trip from Motiti Island to Pilot Bay takes about two hours, but he has to pick his weather.
It’s a voyage best made in a northerly or southerly breeze, says Aubrey. Easterlies bring big swells, and westerly winds also bring problems.
“I really have to take the southerly wind and northerly winds; they just push me straight across. The westerly winds will bring me back to the island, but it’s very tricky on the beach.
“A grandfather lost three of his mullet boats to the unpredictable winds round the coast of Motiti Island. And here I am today, waiting for a wind change to sail.”
If the wind blows from behind, he tows an aluminium bucket open at both ends behind the pontoon as a drogue to prevent the pontoon surfing down the swell.
“The pontoon is just like a floating jetty; very stable. You can jump on it you can’t sink it.”
Aubrey had the hulls made by an engineer on the mainland; and he’s designed the pontoon like a kitset.
“We don’t have any engineering shop on the island. I drew the plans to make it so it’s much easier to put together.”
The hapu at the north end of the island has no jetty, no breakwater; and the pontoon is Aubrey’s transport solution.
“We have problems of access from Motiti Island to Tauranga; it’s very, very, difficult. The 12-minute flight to or from the mainland costs $50 or $100 if there’s no one going with you.
“What the hapu want is something on a bigger scale; about twice the size of the Nolex.”