By Pauline Stewart.
“If we can live and work together, we can do this.”
That was what Toni and Morgan Drew said to each other when they set up their Yacht and Property Management business, ELITE, almost two years ago. “With our skill set and experience of ten years on super yachts, we felt ready,” says Morgan. Thus, their idea for ‘ELITE’ came to be a reality. “We were both in Alaska working together on a super yacht at the time - had been working together for several years. We had seen the area of yacht management and care of luxury homes grow. We wanted to use our experience doing maintenance inside and out of super yachts and caring for high end houses, so we started this, our own business, from scratch. There was no one else doing it in this area,” says Morgan.
When it comes to yachts and the big boats, sometimes it is not readily understood how some things require constant attention, especially if a big boat has been sitting there for weeks, even months on end. Morgan was first mate working on some very big yachts. Toni was Chief Stewardess and attended to all the interior work on board. “There is a seven-star standard and then there is a level of perfection required above that, when it comes to detail. That’s our attitude and we deliver,” says Toni.
Where did it all start?
For Morgan, “I was on a surfing trip in Bali when I heard about working on super yachts from a fellow surfer. I picked up on the part, ‘you get paid to travel.’ That was enough for me. I started at the bottom and worked my way up.”
Toni says, “I was in a business management role in hospitality, but knew I loved travel. Someone came to work in our office who had been working on super yachts. When she had answered all my questions, I knew that was what I needed to do, and I did. I sold up my possessions, but before I left on my big adventure, my sister and I bought an apartment between us here in Whitianga. It is now our home, Morgan’s and my home.”
When asked about the adjustment from travelling in super yachts to moving into an apartment in Whitianga, both Toni and Morgan smile. “Well, our apartment is not 60 or more metres in length, it doesn’t move on the waves, and it’s not bunk beds.”
“We came here almost a year ago,” says Morgan. “We had been on boats for ten years, and travelled everywhere and most of the time, travelled constantly across oceans or from port to port. We loved it and we gained so much experience, and it was a big adjustment for us, coming to settle in one place. But it’s a decision we made because we were ready to and we would add, “for an even better life.” It’s been a challenge and fun for us to create our own timetable and our own life now. We have created something for the both of us.”
Toni grins, “I miss having a private chef cooking us breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
Who’s the cook now? The answer is out on that. Ask them when you see them in town.
They are keen to explain their business which has a number of facets. Morgan begins. “Our priority is to check on the boats of our clients. They are a huge investment. Berthing fees are just about the area of water the boat takes up, but there is so much more to having a boat excellently maintained – the running, operating, appearance have to be just right. I have an engineering background, so I can check on things such as pumps and engines. I also have a Captain’s licence so I can move peoples’ boats, I took one from Pauanui to Auckland just the other day.
“Some yacht or boat owners can’t come up to tend to their boats over the winter. The broken highway has hindered that ability to do so even more. if there is a job that we can’t do ourselves, we outsource and manage it for them. We work to give boat owners peace of mind.”
Toni speaks further about the situations they attend. “We do the same for the high-end homeowners. Some own a boat that we are looking after as well, and others don’t. We will check on any number of things to do with the exterior of a boat or home, and then you have the variety of interiors. We also do the house and boat provisioning for people. The owners call and let us know what they would like and when they are arriving. We make excellent detailed preparations, so that all they have to do is arrive at their home or at their boat and it’s all ready. People come for just a short time, and they have hospitality planned, so to prepare everything for them is the key. It’s a pleasure to provide this service and it’s our job.”
“We feel we can grow the business and have different arms of specialisation,” Morgan explains. “We need to be masters of detail, and pricing is customised. We have extended our work to include homes because our clients need assistance with the care of their home as well as their boat. Lawns and gardens are a separate matter which we also do. We are busy but we want to build our client base, so getting the word out is important and also getting the feedback. We are a somewhat new business here.”
It is clear that Morgan and Toni are at home with their professional, detail focussed lifestyle. Their branding, their immaculate van and uniforms speak of their daily standard of work, which is definitely pitched for the luxury market.
“We have met some very good people and people moving here for a better life. That’s why we are here,” says Toni.
Recently, Morgan and Toni were married at a ceremony beside the estuary in Robinson Road. The Bay is truly their home now.
To be sure, Mercury Bay has gained a youthful, excellence based and conscientious business team. “We have been trusted with multi-million dollar super yachts. We are trusted with the keys to people’s beautiful and gracious homes. That trust will not be broken,” adds Morgan.
Caption: Morgan and Tony spend a lot of their time down at the berth at the Whitianga Marina
tending to their clients' boats - a great partnership.