Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Auckland to Opua

Departed Gulf Harbour Marina about 0830 on Saturday morning, March 28.  I drove the boat while Bill took care of the lines and fenders.  After he had everything put away and we were well out of the marina, Bill came to me at the helm and asked if I had everything under control.  I responded that I thought I had it figured out that I needed to turn left at the next waypoint.  Seems I have forgotten how to sail during the months we have been sitting in the marina. 

Winds were very light so we motor-sailed the entire 42.1 NM distance to Great Barrier Island.  This time we entered through the narrow Man of War Passage and ended up anchoring behind the tiny island in Port Fitzroy harbor near the same spot where we had anchored last December 1.   Last December we anchored at 36.10.327S  175.21.530E.  This time we anchored at 36.10.362S  175.21.524E.  Can’t get much closer to the same spot than that! 

It feels so freeing to be out on anchor again rather than tied into a marina slip.  The scenery is so peaceful and pretty.  Looks like I imagine parts of Scotland or England.  There is a high pressure system that will last 4 or 5 days, hence the reason for no wind.  We had planned to stay at Great Barrier Island for only one night but after looking at the latest GRIB files we have decided to stay put until Wednesday or Thursday.  To go anywhere before Wednesday would mean motoring, and we would prefer to sail.  So we wait for wind.

The water behind this tiny island is so flat calm that we feel no movement whatsoever.  I took this opportunity to finish painting the deck stripes.  The stripes are now all painted except for some very tiny areas where the metal wheel of the striping tool would not fit, like beneath deck cleats and about ¼-inch from each deck pump-out fitting.  Those areas require painting with a tiny artist’s brush.  My knees and back are very relieved to be finished with 99% of painting the deck stripes.  Bill wants me to also paint the stripes in the cockpit floor and seats so the paint will all match.  The cockpit area shows no wear or fading whatsoever, but he wants the stripe color to match overall.  Maybe I will finish the touch-up areas and also do the cockpit while we are in the Opua Marina for most of the month of April. 

This quiet bay is filled with birds.  Very unusual birds live in New Zealand.  I have forgotten the number stated in the guide books but there are hundreds of species of unique birds that are found only in New Zealand.  There are also loons and ducks galore in this bay.  Bill enjoys feeding the ducks.  I figure they are wild ducks and they can fend for themselves, but Bill enjoys feeding them.  Every time he walks into the cockpit those ducks start swimming toward our boat.  And every time he will go back downstairs and bring something to toss into the water for those silly ducks.  What a change from the duck-hunter he was for decades.  Now instead of shooting them he is feeding them.   A 4-foot fish has been playing around our boat for hours this afternoon.  It looks very much like a tuna and has a yellow tail, but the body looks a bit wide for a tuna.  We don’t have a fish identification card for New Zealand so we can’t identify this fish for certain.  And, believe me, there are some extremely unusual fish around New Zealand!

Thursday, April 02, 2009
Whangaruru Harbour
25.21.317S   174.20.852E    Distance sailed 74.6 NM

Yesterday was too windy and also too rainy, so we stayed put at Great Barrier Island for an additional day and snuggled down with books and DVDs.  This morning we pulled the anchor as soon as it was light enough to see the other boats in the anchorage and to distinguish the land from the water.  It was beautiful sailing for the first 25 miles; then sea conditions began to build beyond the comfortable limit.  Bill got a bit queasy but never tossed his cookies.  I felt fine until a big wave tossed me across the cockpit and give me a few bruises.  Our route was to the Poor Knights Islands, where we had planned to pick up a mooring and spend 2 nights in total isolation.  The local radio weather forecast was for calm seas and winds dying down to nothing by tonight.  Well, that was a complete opposite of reality!  Winds built all day and seas built accordingly. 

We continued to Poor Knights Islands in hopes that the moorings on the western side of the island would be tolerable and protected from the easterly winds.  We sailed close to Archway Island at the extreme south side of Poor Knights Islands.  Archway Island is a favorite summer spot with the tourist dive boats and is very pretty.  There are spectacular rock formations in the waters around New Zealand and Archway Island is one of the more famous formations.   I didn’t even attempt to take a photo because sea conditions were far too rough.  We arrived at the area of Aorangi Island at Poor Knights Islands where some moorings were supposed to be located.  This is at 35.28.55S  174.44.23E.  But the 3+ meter seas were rolling around the islands and there was no way we would consider staying overnight on a mooring in those conditions.  We never actually found the moorings because the conditions were so rough that we canceled our plans and bailed westward to Whangaruru.  Figured we could reach there in daylight if we hurried.  Anyway we had a track of the last time we stopped at Whangaruru during our trip from Opua to Auckland.  So we could arrive after dark and still feel safe.  There is no visible moon right now and dark is really dark.

At 1745 we dropped anchor deep inside Whangaruru Harbour.  So glad we decided to move to this very protected anchorage.  We were both beat from the long day of sailing in rough conditions.  I lay in bed and listened to the wind howl all night, but all was calm where BeBe was anchored.

Friday, April 03, 2009
Parekura Bay in the Bay of Islands
35.14.855S  174.14.661E     Distance sailed  36.6 NM

I dreaded leaving Whangaruru this morning, knowing that we would have to go directly into large seas at the harbor entrance.  Turned out that reality wasn’t as bad as my imagination.  There was at least a 3 meter swell rolling into the harbor entrance, but the swells were spaced far enough apart and the sun had not yet heated up enough to build the morning winds.  BeBe handled the conditions just fine.   Unfortunately the wind angle was just too tight on the stern to permit sailing our desired course without poling out the jib, and we did not want to deal with the pole in the heavy rolling; so we motor-sailed almost the entire distance to Cape Brett.

Cape Brett is at the southern tip of the Bay of Islands and is notoriously rough; and it lived up to its reputation this afternoon.  Did at least get a photo of the Hole in the Rock formation at the tip of Cape Brett.  The Hole in the Rock is another of those famous rock formations around New Zealand.  In Pahia there is a cigarette boat that takes tourists out to see the Hole in the Wall.  If conditions are calm enough then they will actually take the cigarette boat through the hole.  This little trips costs $100 per person so we will not be enjoying this tourist attraction.

As soon as we rounded Cape Brett and turned westward into the Bay of Islands the large swell, waves and wind were placed off our port stern and true sailing was finally possible.  Turn that engine off!  Surfing 3-meter waves is completely different than having the waves across the beam and rolling the boat.  This was enjoyable!  Great sailing for the 12 miles westward down the middle of the Bay of Islands before we turned south to reach Parekura Bay.  We motored up into the Whiorau Bay area in the northeast corner of Parekura Bay.  We have this anchorage entirely to ourselves and it is lovely.

It was odd to get back to an area full of cruisers and hear all the VHF radio traffic again.  We recognized many of the names of the boats hailing one another.  S/V SCARLETT O’HARA was leaving Opua as we were sailing westward in the Bay of Islands and we spoke on the radio.  Looks like we will miss seeing John and Renee again as they are headed to Auckland and then back to Tonga, and we will be staying here in the Opua area until we depart for either Vanuatu or New Caledonia.  Maybe we will meet up elsewhere someday.

Tuesday April 6, 2009
Opua Marina
35.18.821S  174.07.338E   Distance sailed 11.7 NM

Sunday morning we weighed anchor and motored through the long channel to Opua Marina.  S/V DESTINY arrived a couple of days earlier and Frank & Barbara met us at the dock to help tie BeBe into her slip.  We are in the last slip on the first dock, facing towards the channel entrance.  Probably the best slip in the entire marina, not only because of the easy egress but also because it is 17 feet wide which means no squeaking fenders rubbing against the finger piers.  Since we are at the far end of the dock there is no foot-traffic off our back bedroom.  The boats docked nearby belong to locals and have no one aboard so I can play music as loud as I like without worrying about annoying others.  Nice place to sit for the next few weeks.  

Monday morning we shipped our mesh side panel extensions for the cockpit to the Boat Cover shop in Auckland where we had the cockpit cushions reupholstered.  They will duplicate these side panel extensions in clear vinyl.  This will provide a warmer and drier enclosure for the entire cockpit.  The solid side panels we have now only extend about 5 feet down the side of the cockpit.  The extensions will zip onto the sides of the current panels and will provide solid coverage for the complete length of the cockpit.  Sure would have been nice to have had these panels when we sailed down here in rough cold weather last November.  Figure we will need these solid panels for the first few days on our passage from New Zealand to New Caledonia.  I’m sure it will be cold and rough for the first half of that passage.   For now, it is nice to be sitting exactly where we are.

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