Watch out! Paul Henry is coming back.
After dividing most of his time between his luxury home in Palm Springs, California, and enjoying the company of friends in London, the controversial TV host is back on the Pacific wave – and he's coming this way.
He reveals he's in "very, very early" talks with Mediaworks to again front a New Zealand television show – his first since he pretty much abandoned these shores in 2016.
"I loved being able to do TV, but I hated having to do it. They're horrible bedfellows. Now I can do what I want, the things I genuinely have an interest in.
"I've said no to everything. Some people try very hard to get me to do things.
"But to be honest, I am in the very early stages of a conversation about a project that I would be very interested in doing – I still have very strong opinions. It just has to fit in with my life. I'm concerned that by not ruling it out, I've basically said yes!"
At 59, Paul could retire.
"I more or less am retired."
But somehow, his close family is calling him back to New Zealand.
Last year he took delivery of his new super-yacht Olive – named after his late, beloved mum – and his daughters joined him sailing around the Mediterranean.
His oldest daughter Lucy (31) brought her eight-week-old baby son Rei – Paul's first grandchild – on board in Athens to sail around the Greek Islands.
And so it is that after cavorting around the blue waters of Croatia and anchoring up off Venice's famous Piazza San Marco – where youngest daughter Bella's fiancé Julyon Collett (29) proposed on the bow of the yacht – he's now sailed his way through the Panama Canal into the Pacific.
Paul steered Olive into sunny Rarotonga last week, to a warm welcome from locals who remember him from his days in the flotilla protesting nuclear-testing in the Pacific. They garland him with flowers.
Passersby wave and call greetings. One woman asks whether he's bound for the remote atoll of Palmerston – she needs a lift!
But he laughs when an expat Kiwi writing for the Weekly hollers, "Permission to come on board, cap'n?"
He breaks open a bottle of rioja on the rear deck of the 25-metre ship and points off the port side: "I saw a humpback whale breaching yesterday, just out there."
This is his first sit-down interview, he says, since "I don't know when."
Whether being interviewed or doing the interviewing, he tends to get himself in trouble. He remembers the famous faux pas that cost him his Breakfast job at TVNZ: After interviewing a Greenpeace campaigner, he commented about her, "That's a moustache on a lady."
Knowing what he knew then, he wouldn't do anything differently, he says. But hindsight brings its own regrets: Paul says he never meant to personally offend her.
"I've told her I never set out to cause anyone personal discomfort or invade anyone's personal life. So for that, I'm sorry."
And it's all a bit ironic – because what many people don't know is that back in 1995 when he was a radio reporter, Paul threw off journalistic objectivity to fight alongside Greenpeace for a nuclear-free Pacific.
It was on Rarotonga, in Trader Jack's bar (where he confesses he had a few too many drinks over dinner last night) he and his friend the late Sir Peter Williams sat and strategised their "gung ho, phenomenally risky" assault on the entire French navy.
They sailed Peter's yacht close to Mururoa atoll and then, in the dead of night, Paul and crew members climbed into a nine-foot inflatable with a seven horsepower outboard motor, and drove off through the darkness and the ocean swell into the path of a huge French military patrol boat.
"As soon as we left our boat we were lost, because the inflatable was so small underneath the swell as much as we were on top of it. The next thing these huge search lights come on, these gantries swing out from this destroyer and they lower these two huge Zodiacs full of guys into the water, and they just go for us.
"The advantage we had was we were so small half the time we were invisible, so we were just zipping along at the bottom of the swell. The fact we got back to our boat was a miracle."
But it was all a ploy to distract the French, so Greenpeace could get onto the atoll – and it worked. That was the last time a nuclear bomb was ever detonated in the Pacific.
Dressed in stylish floral shorts and a casual T-shirt, Paul leads an intimate tour below decks. There's not a sailor's knot or ship painting to be seen, he is anxious to point out.
Instead, like any home to Paul Henry, it's the last word in clean, simple elegance: the fine art, the carefully placed cushions and reindeer-skin throws in the saloon, the star fruit in a bowl in the galley. No clutter anywhere.
There is an apology for moving a cushion modelled on the New Zealand flag, acknowledging how much it will upset the famous neat-freak. He laughs: "You know me too well!"
Paul reveals a secret: there's someone else on this yacht, whose importance to him far outweighs all the art and expensive French and Spanish wines in a Customs-sealed cellar.
His mother Olive is travelling with him, her ashes in a beautiful crystal globe overlooking the bridge, and worked into the sparkling flooring in his quarters.
This is a relaxed visit, on calm waters. It's a far cry from the last time he was in the Cook Islands, holidaying on the nearby atoll of Aitutaki in the teeth of the ferocious Cyclone Pat.
All the other tourists were evacuated; he and his girlfriend remained on the island, the resort and its villas devastated.
"Every time we needed to use the toilet, we had to go to a different villa because each one had only one flush in it," he recalls.
As Paul and his crew prepare to throw off the ropes and set their compass for Tonga, there's the tantalising prospect of a new hurricane sweeping its way across the Pacific and on to our TV screens: here comes Cyclone Paul!
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