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|Sailing in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand|
Well this is the bit that a lot of you have been waiting for - Sailing in the Bay of Islands. Whales, Dolphins, Bays, Beaches, Islands and Harbours - we have seen them all. We have been up and down the coast from Whangaroa to Whangaruru and returned "Calana May", a 31 foot Raven to Charterlink having covered 360 Nm in the fortnight, mostly under sail. We caught as much fish as we could eat (and no more) whenever we needed to and have returned so brown even the locals have been asking what we have been doing. A fantastic fortnight and the best sailing yet - read on.
The Bay of Islands (BoI) is one of the most beautiful areas to sail in New Zealand and is where we started sailing. It is ideal for the first times one sails as the inner area is very sheltered yet has dozens of islands and safe bays to explore before even venturing out into the main part of the Bay of Islands, which is still relatively sheltered. To give a scale to it, the detailed chart of the area (NZ5124) covers about 14 x 9 Nautical miles and the inner island studded part is about half that in each direction. I think that the most you can get in a straight line in the inner islands is 6 Nm. On a short charter (3 or 4 days) or if you are relatively inexperienced you may be requested to keep to the Bay itself and it is normal to call up Russell Radio (Ch 63) if you leave and when you return. On longer charters and with suitable experience there is a big stretch of coast to explore including the Cavalli Islands (just possible as a day trip), on up to Whangaroa Harbour 30 Nm up the coast and on to Manganui at about 40 Nm (depends on the Charter firm and boat). In the other direction our boat limits were to Whangarei - half way to the Hauraki Gulf although many charter boats operate from both and technically are covered for the whole trip. Note if you plan such a trip that the section from Whangarei on down to Kawau Island is challenging (60 Nm) - a very long day and one without any bolt holes if the weather turns bad.
We have sailed four times before in the Bay of Islands and this was the first time we have really started to explore the coastline in both directions. The fortnight charter gave us plenty of scope to get out as well as to exploit all the lovely bays, beaches and island walks. Our experience and confidence has also built up over the years - we only sail in NZ so it takes time and the more one sails the more one appreciates how little one knows and how much conditions can change.
We chartered a Raven 31 "Calana May" from Charterlink, who mainly operate in the Hauraki Gulf, but also have a few (about 6 at peak season) boats in the BoI. We have used them 3 times in the Gulf, twice with a Carpenter 29 and last year with another Raven 31 - see last years report. Charterlink's boats are often New Zealand designs and privately owned and their rates compare very favourably with other firms - if you want boats that sail well and are matched to the local conditions at affordable rates we have found them very good.
We picked up "Calana May" at Opua Wharf and were given a relevant briefing by David, who looks after the boats whilst at BoI and then sailed down the inner islands and back to get the feel of her. We moored in an old favourite Opunga Cove after 17 Nm in 4.5 hours. We usually refer to it as Pipi Bay as the beach is full of Pipis, a small shell fish, which you can gather at low water - some years you can gather enough for a meal without even moving your feet. Instead we got our fish rods out for the first time and Pauline quickly caught two small but legitimate Snapper of 29 and 32cms (the minimum size is 27 cms) which provided us with plenty enough for supper. Snapper is the "the" New Zealand fish - very good eating but also somewhat overfished by the fish fleets for the Asian markets.
The next day the forecast was good and we set out for real and headed for the Cavalli Islands. The winds were very light at first and we motor sailed out past Motuarohia Island (Roberton Island) before getting the engine off and crossing the Bay north to Titikiki (Ninepin) Island and heading north west up the coast past the spectacular Needles off Rocky Point before the run across to the Cavalli Islands. The wind had by now become considerably stronger than forecast and from a very different direction so after a quick look round the Cavalli Passage and into Matauri bay where we camped last year. The Cavalli Islands have only a limited number of good anchorages none of which covered the wind directions we were experiencing or expected which was unfortunate. Whangaroa, another 10 Nm, offers many more sheltered anchorages covering all wind directions but we did not want to go that far.
We returned back to the Bay past the distinctive Titikiki (Ninepin) Island and moored at Orokawa providing a glorious cruise of 42 Nm, much over new ground - a good run for our first full day. The day ended with one of the more spectacular sunsets which seemed to last for ever and by the end was lighting up the whole sky.
The next day we set out to explore the coast to the South leaving Orokawa early and motoring out through the Albert Channel - the best route, which David Bott originally showed us, is a deep but narrow passage between Hat Island (a low flat reef) and the 41m Island just off the mainland - it is nothing like as bad as it looks on the chart but is worth having the engine going the first time! The picture was taken soon after we had passed through and shows the 41m Island on the left and Hat Island (just awash) on the right - you need to click the image to get a larger version to see the reef. The more attractive looking side is full of foul ground without markings and gets very rough when there is any wind and tide and is best avoided. Look in the RAYC cruising guide for more details (references at the end of this page)
It was still a flat calm when we had cleared the channel and as we motored out we were joined by a school of Dolphins playing round and under the boat and leaping into the air - it was so calm that Pete went in and joined them for a few minutes but by the time he had got out mask and schnorkel they had lost interest. Even in a flat calm the boat drifted appreciably so beware if you go over in anything but a flat calm and wear a bright shirt and lifejacket unless you are a good swimmer. All the way out to Deep Water Cove there were dolphins in view or with us. One of the dolphin watch boats also came out but the pod they were with had a youngster so one should not swim - that did not stop them herding it with their catamaran at high speed in reverse to give the customers a good view of it - not a very good thing to do we suspect. We also saw large numbers of blue penguins swimming and diving with their little stubby wings just visible as they dived. By the time we had reached Deep Water Cove there was a bit of wind and we were able to sail.
Deep Water Cove is a popular fishing spot and has very deep water up to very close in making it very difficult to moor safely, especially overnight. It is also not as sheltered in strong winds as it would seem as they can curl down over the top giving strong downdrafts which can rotate a boat many times and eventually release the anchor.
From there it was a short sail to Cape Brett and Piercy (Motukokako) Island well known for it's Hole in the Rock, which trip boats run out to and pass through - one of the so called adventures for tourists. The hole is quite big but needs careful time in anything but a flat calm and definitely not for yachts! There are often fishing boats moored round it and we saw some big catches hanging off the sides of one (Earl Grey). We went round the outside but the inside passage between Cape Brett and Piercy Island is perfectly safe. Note however that the whole area round gets very rough compared to the Bay and is worse than most of the coast.
It seemed a shame to turn back so early in the day so we went on down the coast and decided to moor in Whangamumu, which is a well sheltered small harbour with a narrow, and rather difficult to find entry the first time one goes there - one needs to make sure you have the right headland. We set up a waypoint on the GPS the first time we went there a couple of years ago. It is a fairly short sail from the Bay and our distance for the day was only 18 Nms giving us an afternoon to explore. There is a DOC reserve covering much of the area with a camp site on the beach. There is also the remains of one of the old whaling stations which is well worth a row ashore to look at - there are a lot of information boards. They used a novel technique form the station involving use of a net across a narrow channel up the coast used by the whales. The nets did not hold the whales but slowed them down enough for the harpooning by hand from the boats. whales are of course fully protected by New Zealand these days but it still gives interesting insights into the history of the area. One year they caught 74 of those magnificent mammals.
Once we had finished looking round the Whaling station and swimming to the beach we got out the fishing rods and again it was Pauline who landed us supper - a Snapper for the starter and a Kahawai for the main course. The translation of Kahawai from Maori means "strong in the water" which is the perfect name for this fish local to New Zealand - the larger ones, which are over 50 cms, put up a strong fight with much twisting and jumping as well as long runs.
The next day we went on down the coast into new ground, the last time it had been so rough when we left Whangamumu that we had just gone back to the bay. It was however beautifully calm seas this year - one would not know one was not on a lake rather than a coastal passage and we carried on down to Whangaruru. The first major landmark after one has cleared the Whangamumu peninsular is Home Point a rocky headland with what looks like a series of small caves at the waterline. After that it is a straight run down the coast and eventually past Bland Bay with its large sandy beach and motor camp. One can moor their in the right conditions but the entry needs to be done carefully as their are various rocks and islands. It is much better to go on down the coast and round Cape Home and North Head into the Whangaruru harbour which is well sheltered and has several sub-bays with good moorings. We moored in Puriri bay which has the DOC camp site we stayed at last year. The run down to Whangaruru from Whangamumu had been 17 Nms.
We rowed ashore and chatted to many people there but unfortunately it is was new caretaker as we had hoped to catch up with the previous couple who had taught us a lot about fishing last year. We had moored well offshore and Pauline had her first row of the year causing some amusement to the campers who had been set up to watch!
We had an early start for the run back as we needed to be moored somewhere close to Opua to pick Christine up the following day. The sea was like a mirror up the coast, with just enough wind to sail, and as we passed Whangamumu we had one of the experiences we will never forget. There was a gentle hissing noise and Pauline said "what's that?" and I sail "Probably someone just out of range on the radio" at which point a whale surfaced about a hundred yards away and going in the same direction. If the engine had been on or the sea a bit rougher we would never have heard it blow or seen it. A few minutes latter it was repeated, we assume a different whale as the blowing was to close in time. The tail never showed and their was none of the classic spout of water but the huge shape was unmistakable. I got up the video but nothing more happened so I took a shot of the entry to Whangamumu for the record and just after I took the shot (which takes about ten seconds to cycle) another whale surfaced only about a couple of boat lengths away along side us - by the time the camera had cycled all I could get was a shot of the oil slick of smooth water where it had slid under. It was a real thrill to see them so close and something we will never forget. Discussion with DOC in Russell indicate that we had probable seen a pod of pilot whales which had also been sighted at about the same time by two other boats as they came up the coast - they have small fins which explains why we did not see any.
We kept a watch all the way to Cape Brett and saw a few more slicks but no more sign of the three whales themselves. After that the sail back to our "home" at Opunga Cove was an anticlimax and by that time it was raining and strong winds were forecast for overnight. We did not have too bad a night in our sheltered cove and it abated by 0400 but Christine had an interesting overnight ride up the coast with David as it got progressively worse than the forecasts when they left. It was not too bad when we called them at 2000 but by midnight it was 35 knots plus and even on the 44 footer they got a rough ride especially round Cape Brett and they eventually moored at 0400 about the time it stated to abate. Never underestimate the sea.
We collected Chris from Opua at 0930 having had a fun sail in as the wind went round in all directions - we should have just motored in. We picked her up from the restaurant and fuel wharf - the couple of public pickup moorings are better when they are free as they have more depth of water. We then returned in a lazy manner just using the jib as it was an almost downwind run and we were not in a hurry. We moored in Parekura Bay well into the sub-bay Waipiro Bay - very well sheltered for the strong Southerly forecast overnight. A total for the day of 24 Nms.
Waipiro is a very pretty bay and very well sheltered - sort of wraps round the boat yet plenty of space. One could only just see out of the two bays and even then it is only to the inner islands so three layers of protection. We have been into the next "sub bay" Te Uenga Bay a previous year and have used Omakiwi Cove, the next bay round several times which is good for anything from the NE direction.It was Pete's Birthday so he was given priority fishing and caught two good Snapper with the expenditure of only one salted Pilchard and in half a dozen casts. One was 34 and the other 38 cms - the biggest yet and plenty for supper for the three of us. A good birthday present! Pauline grilled them as save taking all the scales off and you lose a lot filleting small fish .
The next day was a leisurely sail out to the Black Rocks which are very spectacular rising shear and black from the sea to their flat tops, with surging seas and spray even on a calm day. They are known as very fine examples of columnar jointing in basalt lava flows from a volcano of about a million years ago. The hills that formed the valley through which the lava flowed have been removed by the vigorous erosion and only parts of the columnar flow remain above the sea. The rocks mostly fall shear to the sea bed and the vertical sides have crashing seas striping off most vegetation and covering it what gets an early hold with salt spray.
We followed up with a lunch stop in a an un-named Bay on Urupukapuka Island at the western entry to the Waewaetorea Passage. Unfortunately we were quickly joined by a large Kings trip boat. The rocks were excellent for snorkelling and Pauline got some more rowing practice before snorkelling from the beach. Pete tried fishing from dingy but the only one he caught escaped from boat whilst try to hit it with the oar - lesson take a knife etc with one. We returned to Omakiwi for the night and Pete redeemed the fishing situation by catching two more snapper to make supper - Christine's speciality of Thai snapper with escalopes. A pleasant days cruising totalling 17 Nm.
The next day we set off for the Cavalli Islands but again the winds were very variable and unpredictable so after mooring for lunch at Matauri bay opposite the Cavalli Islands, on a decidedly rolly beach, we proceeded on to Whangaroa - absolutely glorious scenery as we came in at seven in the evening light through the cliffs followed by a sunset (after we were safely moored!) which lit up the sky over the forest and shear rock faces. It is a very good sheltered anchorage with a narrow entry between two rock faces only a couple of hundred metres wide then opening up into a labyrinth of arms and bays giving shelter for every direction of wind. Near the entry is the fabled Kingfish Lodge only accessible by sea. The whole area we moored in was virgin forest down to the waters edge mixed with dramatic vertical rock faces and terraces. It reminded us of Port Fitzroy on Great Barrier island but perhaps even more beautiful in the West arm where we moored. The log showed we had completed another 37 Nm.
The next day was planned to be a leisurely look round the area so everyone other than Pete rose late. He was woken by the noise of fish jumping and got out the rod and rapidly caught a starter size snapper (31 cms) followed by a couple of Kahawai, one a quite reasonable 40 cms. We then set out to slowly explore round the magnificent anchorage - trailing a troll which collected another small Kahawai.
We stopped on the way at the small settlement of Whangaroa to see if there were buses so Christine would be able to get back to Auckland the next day, or if we were in for a quick trip back to Opua to drop her off. Whangaroa has a public wharf, which seems to mostly used by commercial boats and a Marina which can offer berths if you arrange in advance (on channel 62). The Whangaroa Big Game Fishing club also has a floating pontoon which visitors can use briefly for fuel and facilities. Whangaroa harbour is much bigger than we realised, we worked our way round looking into all the bays and arms and even without going down into the shallow ends, many with oyster farms we logged a round trip of 9.5 Nautical miles. The morning section had been a leisurely cruise under power at a couple of knots and the afternoon a slightly brisker sail, despite only using a well reefed jib to slow us down. We returned to the lovely area at the end of the West arm, this time in a slightly different part of Waitepipi Bay.
We set out the following morning to drop Christine at the wharf to get a taxi/hitch to the nearest town to catch a bus to Auckland. On route I thought it might be worth seeing if anyone else was heading back after their weekends sailing and called up on the radio and asked if anyone could offer a lift. Kingfish Lodge responded a few minutes latter and said that someone was going through Auckland on their way home. Christine accepted their very kind and convenient offer so we turned back and dropped her off. Once she was safely ashore we set off for a cruise down and round the outside of the Cavalli Islands.
The Cavalli Islands have some very attractive scenery, reputedly some of the best fishing grounds and diving grounds in NZ with crystal clear waters. Once we had completed the circumnavigation, which was much further than we had expected, we called up Kingfish Lodge and booked a mooring and dinner. That done we were not in a hurry to get back so we thought we would run along the coast and have a look at some of the other possible moorings - one of the problems of the Cavalli Islands seems to us to be that there are few good looking overnight moorings, the nicest looking bay (Wai-iti Bay) has poor holding only leaving one overnight mooring (Horseshoe Bay) which is best if the winds look set to be in the North East half circle. It probably best to go on to Whangaroa the first time but the charts and the Cruising Guides show some alternatives nearby on the mainland that we wanted to have a look at for the future. Matauri bay is right opposite and has a shop at the campsite (one we stayed at last year) but it unfortunately has reputation for rolling, as we found at a lunch stop. There do look as if there are some nice sheltered bays a bit further up the coast and sailed in to have a closer look at Mahinepua which is tucked up in a corner of the Mahinepua peninsula leading out to the aptly named Flat Island. It looked delightful and is half the distance to Whangaroa Harbour and is reputed to have good holding and comfortable for everything other than easterly - it is one we have noted for the future.
We got back about at about 1700 and called in on the radio to check where we should go - Kingfish Lodge has its own landing stage and moorings and we were allocated a buoy close to the landing stage. We quickly identified and successfully picked up our buoy - it looked very close to the shore and shallow compared to where we normally anchor but in the event we never had less than 1.5 meters under the keel even when we looked alarmingly close to the rocky shore. We rowed ashore and checked in and they were very friendly - it is the sort of place they like to find out your Christian names and introduce you to all the staff you may meet. The dinner was excellent and very modest in cost in view of their reputation. The menus were all unpriced so we feared the worst but in the event three courses and a good bottle of Hunter's Sauvignon Blanc set us back $160 between us, a bit expensive by NZ standards but much less than one would end up paying for a good meal out in the UK.
Kingfish Lodge is full of pictures and trophies of game fishing going back to the time of Zane Grey. It can only be accessed by boat, seaplane or more recently helicopter and only has 12 guestrooms plus "accommodation for chauffeurs and pilots". The whole atmosphere is very relaxed and boaties are obviously very welcome even in shorts although footwear is mandatory.
Several of the boats taking part in a big gamefish contest came in to celebrate having weighed in their catches. One still had a 100+ Kg shark across the back, the more desirable fish had probably already taken all capacity of the smokers. It was peaceful whilst we were there but they were expecting 35 boats and 200 people for the whole following week. They can get very busy so it is wise to call on Channel 62 to book.
On our way back to the Bay of Islands the next morning it was very calm and as we motored past the Cavalli Islands we put out a troll as it has the reputation of being one of the best fishing areas in NZ. It turned out we were in an area heaving with fish and almost as soon as it hit the water we hooked a large fish. We stopped the boat but eventually it broke the line and disappeared off with the lure - lesson, use proper fishing knots and occasionally get rid of the last few feet of line. After putting a new strong leader onto our smaller 40 gm lure, using proper knots and setting the friction lower on the reel we tried again. Almost as soon as the replacement troll was trailed another fish was hooked - it and several more got away at the last moment by jumping and twisting but at least we held onto the lure.
Pete eventually got the hang of it and tired one out before bringing it up to the surface and landed a nice 55 cm Kahawai. We now understand why they are described as one of the best sportfish in NZ and it was quite a challenge to get the first big one - that size is quite capable of breaking the 15 lb. line as discovered to our cost. The setting of the friction on the reel is critical - the fish we finally caught took most of the line off the reel at one point. The water was incredibly clear and we could see our fish with many other fish circling round during the final stages of bringing it in and Pauline had time on the last attempt to get a lot of it on Video - she was very disappointed it was too tired and did not starting jumping (and escape?) at the end. I was not allowed to catch another so she could film the jumping - she said she would be tired of Kahawai and would prefer Snapper! It was so big it would not fit in the bucket and in the end we tied a line round the tail to make sure it did not escape.
It is disturbing to find that ones hunting roots and urges still exist and it quickly becomes more the challenge than merely collecting food, there was a temptation to continue even after one had caught the fish we could eat. It was also surprising how keen they were on the lure - many of the times they were hitting the troll before it was fully out or the boat back up to speed.
We got back in and moored at Opunga, almost a second home by now and much to Pauline's horror I presented her with 3 more nice matched Snapper after she had fallen asleep briefly, worn out by the days excitement - she did say she preferred them to Kahawai. In fact I had brought in enough to be able to be selective and put a couple of smaller (but legal) ones back. Even a 30 cm Snapper is capable of putting up a bit of a fight but I am still on the same hooks as started with although they probably ought to be changed (or sharpened) by now. In protest Pauline made me gut, head and tail the fish myself, despite my protests that she did it so well, and fed me lamb in a sauce made from 8 more of my bargain "10 kgs for $5 oranges".
The next day started with a bit more wind and we headed out of the bay and round Cape Brett to where we had previously seen the whales. The forecast was also good so we decided to go on down the coast past Whangamumu towards Home Point (about half way between Whangamumu and Whangaruru) on approximately the track the whales were taking then back to Whangamumu for the night. Not a sign of whales although there were a couple of slicks like they left behind when they surfaced last time beside us - it was a however a good excuse for a sail down the coast and back. Whangamumu is well sheltered from almost every direction although it can be difficult to leave if there is a strong wind and swell into the narrow entry - it can also be very rolly under some conditions of wind and swell. It looked a near flat sea when we came in and the wind is light but even so we are moving around as I write this moored opposite the old whaling station. It was fish for supper and fishing is banned until stocks have been reduced so there seemed nothing to do but try to remember some of what we have done.
I also had time to read up a little more of the history of the area. The word Whangaruru indicates a place to shelter. A chief of the Ngatiwai tells of Puhimoanariki coming to Whangaruru in the Mataatua canoe: " ... the reason for the naming of this place by Puhi is that it took them a long time to find a place and at last they had a good sheltered one. That is why it is called Whangaruru -Whanga - to wait and ruru - to shelter." Whanga is also the name for harbour and mumu is boisterous wind hence the name of Whangamumu - Shelter from boisterous winds. similarly roa is long-lasting and rei is treasure/jewel and roa long-lasting. Whangaroa and Whangarei can make for some confusion on the radio and when asking whether the radio range of Russell radio reached to Whangaroa we were eventually told only to Tutakaka in the opposite direction! We rapidly found an excuse to reconfirm our destination.
We had a chat with the owner of a boat Uncle Remus who was single handing up from Auckland. It was what used to a quarter ton class boat with a back stage added making it 26 foot long. He had done a lot of racing in his time and knew many of the Americas cup crew. New Zealand is a very friendly place and one seems to strike up friendships with people very quickly especially when sailing or camping.
We left Whangamumu in the morning to find the seas were the roughest we had met this year - the big two masted yacht ahead was rolling through 40 degrees in the swell under engine. We did a lot better once we had got some sail up to stabilise us - the wind was quite light to start with but by the time we were approaching Cape Brett it had come up enough for us to be doing 6.5 - 7 Knots and the crockery was starting rattling and the cupboard doors opening and spilling the contents over the floors - a great near down wind run until we gybed and went through the passage between the Cape and Piercy Island (Hole in the Rock) at a great speed but just as we cleared we hit a hole where the wind must have been curling round - we sat for several minutes without even proper steerage. After a little nursing it all came good and we gradually speeded up to 7 knots again as we got to clean air and calmer waters.
The Raven does really sail very well and will take up to 25 knots before reefing becomes essential although we found last year you get a more comfortable ride and probably go faster if she is reefed once it is reaching a steady 20 knots. This holiday the conditions in the Bay of Islands were so good that we only reefed the main once and that was more because we wanted a slow trip back to look round the Islands. The best we got was a steady 7.4 with occasional flicks up to 7.5 knots. As an aside we believe the instruments because our GPS and the Trip Log worked off the speed and depth instrument (an Autohelm) always agreed with about 3% which we found very surprising and we also found that our basic GPS (a Garmin 38) never lost lock with our angled mounting under the spray dodger. We have put a strip of self adhesive velcro on the back and fit matching strips to secure it.
We stopped once more in the Waewaetorea Passage NW of Urupukapuka island for lunch and a swim round the rocks with a snorkel in "Engine Block Bay" (so named by the locals because there is an old engine block cast up on the beach). The only problem with it is that it is so sheltered and such good swimming that the trip boats use it so just when you think you have a lovely beach to yourself a King's Cat turns up and deposits 50 white pasty people with flippers who flounder around for an hour and are then put into nets and towed round the bay with much screaming.
We moored mid afternoon in Parorenui Bay, a very pleasant bay on the mainland but not marked specifically as moorings in the guides - we stopped for an afternoon break but it seemed so sheltered we stayed overnight. The forecast was for South 25 knots for which it was ideal and it still seemed fine for the evening weather update to 20 knots from the SW as it was very sheltered from that direction and there were several other boats. We tried fishing from the boat and round the rocks from the dingy but nothing however we still had plenty of Snapper in the fridge.
Just as we were turning in for the night (2200) we noticed one of the Sunsail boats was dragged its anchor and they very nearly ended up on a nasty set of rocks in total darkness. They fortunately woke up in time and after several attempts managed to get back in and get the anchor to hold. We spent a while plotting an escape route to a bay we knew had good holding just in case especially after they had to moor a second time as the anchor was not still holding. We had already worked out some bearings to the light on the Paramena reef to get us out as it was a night with virtually no moon. We always like to be prepared however safe it looks and good the forecast. If there had been a bit more light we might have moved but and round to Omakiwi Cove. In the event we and the other boats held so it might not have been poor holding - many people in NZ do not put out the recommended 5 times the depth of water of chain and warp and they may just have had insufficient out. We did an hourly watch and it was a relief the wind was not the 20 knots forecast.
The next day was our final day so we could not go far so we settled for a leisurely sail round the islands and bays. We moored at Urupukapuka bay first, absolutely empty at that time of day and moored far too far out giving me a 10 minute swim to the beach. The water was so clear that we could watch how the anchor and chain went down and lay. We were only in about 4 metres but it seems to shelve steeply right at the beach so we could have gone in much closer, but it was good exercise. There was a completely deserted DOC camp site on the beach. We then continued out through the Albert Channel by which time the wind was up enough to put up the sails and the couple of knots rapidly built up to a nice fast sail on down past the out side of the islands part of it goose-winged (for our non sailing friends that is with the jib and main out on opposite sides to go due downwind) - many boats do not like that and need a very careful balancing act to avoid accidental gybes (the boom crashing from one side to the other) or deflating the jib but the Raven excels and will not only sail itself but can be taken 5 or more degrees either way before it all gets lively.
We looked a couple of bays but decided to go into Mangahawea Bay on Moturua Island where we again found a sailing boat on a day trip but they were not intrusive. Being the last day fishing was once more allowed and I caught a small but just legal (over 27 cm) Snapper before we started back to our favourite of Opunga. The wind had come up well and we had a glorious run at well over 7 knots back past Roberton Island and round the point before tacking up to Opunga which is a sub bay of Manawaora Bay the best part of two miles from "open water. Opunga has also always been good for fishing for Snapper, probably because they feed on all the Pipis on the beach. I quickly caught a couple of nice sized ones including the biggest yet at 39 cms - probably good for two or even three people. Supper however was our big Kahawai which we grilled and only managed half between us. Kahawai is underrated and it was superb and very succulent firm white flesh (you do have to kill and bleed them very quickly for them to be at their best).
The last morning and whilst Pauline did the last of the packing and whilst she was not looking I tossed over the line and after a few typical nibbles and after the lose of a couple of bits of bait I brought in another presentable 32 cm Snapper. The next couple of bites felt very different and then a I had a much more lively fish on the line trying long fast runs which after a while turned out to be a 40 cm Kahawai - good for another few helpings. That seemed a perfect ending so we started the engine and pulled up the anchor to motor in for our ETA of 1200 at Opua.
As we travelled the wind started to come up so, despite some protests about the fragile state of the packing, I persuaded Pauline to help getting the sails up and the wind gradually came up until we had a good sail in. We hit one of the few rain showers of the last weeks during which the wind increased again to provide a lovely final high speed run - which deposited everything over all the floors again - Pauline is, getting quite philosophical about it and it made an even more perfect ending. There ought to be a word for better than perfect!
The Penny Whiting Sailing Book - Penny runs courses in New Zealand and has a very simple, practical and pragmatic approach.
Royal Akarana Yacht Club Coastal Cruising Handbook - The bible for cruising and finding "interesting and attractive anchorages, sheltered in relation to the weather conditions prevailing at the time" with sketch plans showing the dangers and "in general to supply the information and local information without which many snug and pleasant havens are barred to a stranger".
Destination NZ Blue Water Cruisers Guide Ed Graham Brice. - Very useful to any visitor to NZ wishing to sail as well as the true Blue Water Cruiser. Lots of good maps of the popular areas showing anchorages etc to augment the full charts and lead you to the correct entries in the RAYC handbook above. Also has lots of useful background on the areas and heritage.
All about New Zealand's Favourite Fish by Steve Sneddon and Gary Kemsley. We spent ages looking for a suitable fishing book before finding it in duty free whilst leaving the first fishing year.
The Story of the Bay of Islands Maritime and Historic Park "The enduring Land" DOC Publication - An A5 sized 1989 paperback by DOC, part of a series which has not been reprinted recently but well worth seeking any of them out by asking in the major DOC offices which still have stocks of many of them.
Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Content revised: 26th September, 2001