As soon as the Rena container vessel got stuck on the rocks at Astrolabe Reef off the Tauranga coast, Hugh Ensor of Blue Ocean Charters took evasive action.
He immediately switched the bulk of his fishing, diving, sightseeing and island transportation business to Whangamata to keep his 23-year-old visitor operation afloat.
Since the Rena grounded on October 5, Blue Ocean and other charter boat operators still haven't taken any customers out on the waters off Mount Maunganui - the exclusion zone has stopped them from doing that.
But many of Blue Ocean's customers who had booked an adventurous fishing and diving day out have happily transferred to the pick-up point at Whangamata Marina, instead of Tauranga.
"We've been going out just about every day [at Whangamata]. If we didn't do that, then we would have gone bust," said Mr Ensor, who has operated three charter boats in Tauranga since 1993.
Blue Ocean has based two of its kauri boats, Ohorere and Ratahi, in Whangamata. The boats are skippered by Mr Ensor's two sons, Russell and Scott, who have rented a house there.
Mr Ensor doubts whether those boats will return to Tauranga and his third, Te Kuia, now being repainted, will handle the business here - when it resumes following clearance of the Rena crisis.
"People in Whangamata had been asking me for a long time to base the Ratahi there but I never did. I wanted to base the business out of Tauranga, but the Rena has forced my hand.
"In the long run, I'm going to gain all the customers from Thames and Tairua, even Auckland, and Whangamata alone has 40,000 holidaymakers. It is on the tourist route," said Mr Ensor, who will continue to live in Welcome Bay but will travel north to relieve his sons when necessary.
Blue Ocean postponed a four-day school trip of 40 students to Motiti Island, and the business had 494 customers from a Grab One deal. Those voucher holders had to use their tickets to go fishing by December 16 but Blue Ocean has extended the period to the end of January, hoping the exclusion zone off the Tauranga coast will be lifted by then. Or they might have to go from Whangamata.
Blue Ocean also had a booking from 12 Saudi Arabian students at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, who are still keen to go fishing out of Whangamata.
"The Rena grounding has changed people's perception of going out for the pleasantry of fishing," Mr Ensor said. "They don't want to go out among oil and containers, and they don't want to find dead birds in the sea - it's not good. The exclusion zone takes in most of the good fishing places."
He said there were other fishing grounds such as Mayor Island, Kawera Island and 10 Mile, but "you will get a lot of boats jostling for positions, the secrets are gone, and the fish would soon be caught".
Mr Ensor, a commercial diver and hyperbaric welder who has worked in Asia and the Middle East, started his chartered business in Whakatane under the name Fishing Trips in 1988.
His first boat was the 14-metre-long Ratahi, built in kauri in 1938, and is the oldest charter boat in Tauranga.
He bought the 15m Te Kuia, which takes 78 people, in 1989, and then added the 18m Ohorere, with twin V12 Mercedes engines and accommodating up to 12 passengers, in 1993.
Mr Ensor renamed the business Blue Ocean in 1990. "We have made a huge investment and need to work all year round running the boats and doing maintenance. We are lucky the business is sustaining," he said.
Meanwhile, Tauranga Chamber of Commerce has handed Work and Income a list of 60 businesses affected by the Rena oil spill. They include commercial fishers, charter boat operators, surf and kayak schools, marine suppliers of ice, bait, fishing equipment, sails and electronics.
Chamber chief executive Max Mason said Work and Income staff would have contacted the businesses individually and he hadn't yet heard what sort of support would be made available.
"The Rena grounding has impacted businesses directly and indirectly - and each one has to be looked at differently," he said.