Interview with Nigel Jolly…

Posted: May 31, 2016 in Uncategorized


Nigel Jolly is the owner of the RV Braveheart and the newest member of the CQ DX Hall of Fame.

Introduction: Nigel Jolly is the very colorful and dynamic owner of the Stoney Creek Shipping Company based in Palmerston, New Zealand. His two ships are the RV Braveheart and the Claymore II. The Braveheart has been used by many DXpedition teams over the past 17 years, including on trips to Campbell Island, South Orkney, Heard Island, Ducie Island, Kerguelen, South Sandwich, South Georgia and many others.

Nigel is a very well read, intelligent and somewhat opinionated man. He will tell you his opinion on anything. Just ask him. Nigel learns by seeing and doing. He is not the type for classroom study, in fact the whole world is his classroom and he is always learning, from one adventure to another. Nigel is a very hands on ship owner. He is constantly giving directions and there is very little doubt as to what he intends to do. A self-taught man, driven to succeed in whatever he attempts. Nigel’s specialty is taking his vessel and her crew to the roughest, toughest and most difficult places to reach. While not a risk taker, he is willing to carefully plan and deliver his passengers to places that other charter vessels will steer clear of. Safety is paramount on his ships.

This interview took place over several nights of dinner aboard the RV Braveheart as we steamed from South Georgia back to the Falkland Islands. Nigel is newly licensed as K6NRJ.


Nigel watches for ice bergs on approach to Southern Thule Island.

Paul N6PSE: Nigel, tell us about the RV Braveheart, her history and when did you acquire her?

Nigel Jolly: In 1999, I travelled to Japan to buy the Braveheart. She had a Japanese name back then. She is a very sturdy vessel, built of the best of materials. The rail that you see topside, even though its painted, it’s made of stainless steel as are many of her fittings. No expense was spared to build the Braveheart and she will last forever.  She was built as a marine fisheries vessel for the Government of Japan. As she was built in Japan, her ceilings were quite low. We have raised most of the ceilings in fact, we have rebuilt much of the interior. The two heads were nothing but a squat hole in the floor with a handle on the wall to hold onto. We updated the heads and added conventional toilets.

Braveheart has a 1200 HP Niigata engine and two 125 kVA generators. Her range is 33 days but we can easily extend that with our water maker and storage capacity.

VP8_trip_CanonSD1200 029

Nigel enjoys breakfast each morning with the radio team and crew.

Paul N6PSE: Nigel, tell us about your first DXpedition ?

Nigel Jolly: That would be the 1999 ZL9CI DXpedition to Campbell Island. Your team mate Jun was on our first DXpedition and now seventeen years later he’s back again for more Braveheart fun. I’ve lost count on how many DXpeditions we’ve done but as you can see from the many plaques in the ship’s library, there have been quite a few.


Nigel skillfully keeps the rib boat in place so that his passengers can get onto the rocks.

Paul N6PSE: Nigel tell us about the worst/roughest seas you have ever encountered?

Nigel Jolly: The area between Australia and Tasmania has the worst seas imaginable. We’ve been all over the world and through many storms. The challenge in the area approaching Tasmania is that the spacing of the waves is very compressed and very atypical. This causes the bow to go into the waves. Last time we went through there we lost the wheelhouse front windows and darn near flooded the ship.


Nigel is in touch with his crew 24 hours a day.

Paul N6PSE: Nigel, if you could have a pint with anyone past or present, who would that be?

Nigel Jolly: Captain Morgan I think. I could learn a thing or two from him. Genghis Kahn would be interesting as would Captain Cook. In all seriousness, I would most like to chat with my first wife who died of cancer at a young age. No amount of time would be enough.


Nigel has a rough “gruff” exterior but a heart of gold.

Paul N6PSE: Nigel, have you had any bad DXpeditions or any that caused you regrets?

Nigel Jolly: No not yet, I find you Teletubby types rather amusing.


Nigel enjoys a good time with his passengers.

Paul N6PSE: Nigel, how did you learn seamanship?

Nigel Jolly: Like pretty much everything, I have learned by doing. I used to move and re-locate Yachts for a living. Then I bought a half interest in a charter yacht. That didn’t work out so well. No one is willing to work as long and hard as I am willing. My best partners are my family. My son Matthew alternates as the Braveheart Captain as does your Captain, Neil. My wife Brenda, she is a terrific woman. She runs the business when I am out to sea.


Nigel is a rather colorful, animated fellow.

Paul N6PSE: Nigel, please explain the concept of attaining “Teletubby status”.

Nigel Jolly: When you ham radio types come onto my ship. You know nothing. You don’t even know where the head is unless we tell you. You haven’t learned to listen or to get around and make due on your own. Its like you are in the swamp and you can’t get out without help. If you and your men listen and do as we instruct, you will survive and you will stand a good chance of being awarded “Teletubby” status by me and my crew. It isn’t easy though and you have got to listen. Not every radio DXpedition member can make Teletubby status.


Father Christmas has arrived…

Paul N6PSE: Nigel, what is the worst place or least favorite port that you have visited?

Nigel Jolly: That would be Ushuaia. That place is hell and I’m not eager to go back there. They have too many demands and ridiculous fees if you know what I mean.


Nigel’s got a big rubber hammer.

Paul N6PSE: Nigel, what is your favorite port?

Nigel Jolly: Moorea is my favorite. It is the most beautiful place with the friendliest and genuine people.


Paul N6PSE: Nigel, who are your typical charter customers?

Nigel Jolly: In addition to ham radio charters, we take bird watchers, scientific people, the National Geographic Society. We brought a film crew to Antarctica to shoot background footage for the movie “Happy Feet”.  My second ship, the Claymore II is chartered by the Government for regular ferry service to Pitcairn Island.


Nigel helps Billy launch the jet boat.

Paul N6PSE: Nigel, will Braveheart be doing DXpeditions 5-10 years from now?

Nigel Jolly: Yes, I will be at sea until I cannot do it any longer. I would like for my son Matthew to take over but that is up to him.


Nigel coaxes Ned-AA7A to jump off the back of a perfectly good boat.

Paul N6PSE: Nigel, what do you do for fun back in New Zealand when you are not working?

Nigel Jolly: My son Matthew is about to give me a Grandchild. I plan to enjoy that. I have also bought a neighboring parcel to my home. It has a nice house and a golf course. I plan to renovate the house as a future bed and breakfast. I might tear up the golf course for a motorcycle track of some sort. I haven’t finalized my plans for the place yet.


Nigel does not seem to own any long pants. No matter how cold it is, Nigel is wearing short pants.

Paul N6PSE: Nigel, I notice that you read a lot. Who is your favorite author?

Nigel Jolly: My favorite is Martin Cruz Smith, author of Gorky Park.


Nigel and his Braveheart crew are inducted into the CQ DX Hall of Fame, May 20th, 2016.

Paul N6PSE: Nigel, where would you like to visit that you have not yet visited?

Nigel Jolly: I’d like to go to Bouvet. I have not yet been there.


Nigel and many Braveheart alumni at the 2016 SWODXA DX Dinner.

What do you think?

Paul N6PSE



  1. Paul DeWitte says:

    A very interesting interview, and I am sure a very interesting guy.
    I thought that he would like to go to Bouvet was interesting since it is one of the last 2 that I need to have them all.

    Paul K9OT

  2. Russ Guidry Sr. K5OA says:

    Paul always a must read and so well done. I have Bouvet but only 20 SSB from the old days.
    Might be a nice one for the team Paul.

    All the best. Russ K5OA

  3. Dino, 9A2NO says:

    Well, Nigel “The Braveheart” said all… Bouvet.
    I wish him, crew and to “Braveheart” calm sea.

  4. jerry says:

    Tnx,Paul…….great job!!!…cul…..K6MD

  5. Bill Breeden says:

    Great reading! Appreciate it!


    Bill – NA5DX

  6. Axel says:

    Very well done Paul!
    I was fortunate by all meaning to meet Nigel in person on our recent VP8 trip and to see his actions and learning to understand his character and become a friend with Nigel during that short time of our 6 weeks trip was one of the most important highlights for me personally.
    Sure there were the beauty of landscape and the remoteness of Southern Thule and South Georgia, the VP8 Intrepid DX team itself and of course the challanges we went through together … but Nigel especially together with his team were surely an important highlight for me personally and a key factor for the success of the VP8STI / VP8SGI DXpedition also.

  7. Milt Jensen, N5IA says:

    My 25 days with Nigel and Matthew, the other crew members of the Braveheart, and the other 12 members of the 2008 Ducie Atoll, VP6DX expedition, are at the very top of the list of most enjoyable days of my life. Nigel is a gem, and I am very happy that he and the Braveheart crew have been inducted into the CQ DX Hall of Fame.

  8. Tom K8BKM says:

    I had the pleasure of a brief encounter in the Hara Arena at the Dayton Hamvention this year. I was walking through the arena as Nigel was navigating his way through the crowd. I tapped him on the shoulder and congratulated him. He accepted kindly and seemed pleased to shake my hand. I was actually congratulating him on becoming a newly-licensed ham and joked with him that he is now a “Teletubby”. He blushed and said “how embarrassing – don’t tell anyone”. I did not know at this time that he would soon be inducted into the CQ DX Hall of Fame.

    What an iconic figure for the adventurous spirit of a world traveler and DXpedition facilitator. I hope his dream of going to Bouvet is soon realized! I’d love to join him / you.

    73, Tom

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