Sealegs craft on South Island circumnavigation bid

David McKee-Wright (left) and Warren Farr arrive at the Otago Yacht Club on their Sealegs amphibious craft yesterday. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.Heads turned in Dunedin yesterday when a boat drove out of Otago Harbour. The Sealegs amphibious craft is on a record-setting circumnavigation of the South Island.

''It's a professional and personal trip,'' Sealegs International co-founder David McKee-Wright said yesterday.

''We wanted to set a record for an amphibious craft around the South Island, because it's never been done before. We thought it would be a good way to celebrate the 750th boat we've built. And there's no better way to discover your boat like sitting in it for 60 or 70 hours.''

The 7.7m craft is powered by a 200hp Evinrude outboard, and can reach speeds of 80kmh at sea, while the 24hp internal Honda will reach 10kmh on land. The three all-terrain wheels are raised and lowered in about five seconds by hydraulic motors.

Mr McKee-Wright and Sealegs International design engineer Warren Farr left Picton on Thursday and made good time by cutting across land at Queen Charlotte Sound and Pelorus Bay, trimming more than 30km off the Picton-Nelson leg of their journey.

''You can go to the all beautiful places that roads don't get to. They're great for people who live near the ocean. The design morphed out of the fastest way to get a craft from land to sea,'' Mr McKee-Wright said.

''The concept is awesome, but the commercialisation has been a bit more difficult. We've sold them to 44 countries, though, and this is the 750th one we've built; so there is definitely a market.''

The New Zealand designed and built craft was worth ''around $200,000'', he said.

The pair arrived in Dunedin yesterday afternoon, after exploring Dusky and Milford Sounds, in Fiordland.

''We were in some pretty big seas. We've seen Maui's dolphins and heaps of sharks and some real penguins. We only get the little blue ones in Auckland,'' Mr McKee-Wright said.

''We've been doing lots of fishing, too'' Mr Farr added.

''We've been eating blue cod for breakfast, lunch and dinner.''

Sealegs International produces a range of rigid inflatable amphibious boats at its Auckland factory for recreational, commercial and government use.

The pair plan to leave Dunedin early today and hope to reach Picton by Friday.

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