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Sailing in New Zealand 2002

Like previous years I found very little time to write up the sailing every day - usually we were to busy sailing during the day and after anchoring it is time to fish and cook before collapsing exhausted into bed. Eventually, however, the time came when we had plenty of time on our hands as we were anchored in what we thought was a nice sheltered mooring called Putiki on the South side of Waiheke island. We were there because a gale warning was in force and even in our sheltered bay the wind was howling past - the instruments told me it was averaging about 25 knots and I saw it reading over 35 knots (about 65 kms hour) for short periods. To return to what I wrote and the present tense:-

It is much worse outside and the continuous "nowcasting" readouts on the radio have peaks of 45 knots in the Hauraki Gulf at Tiritiri and Channel Island. Even in the bay where we are enclosed round 300 degrees there is white water and the anchor warp is so tight we nearly had to resort to motoring forward to take the load off to adjust and check for chaffing. It is however sunny and the cockpit is sheltered from the wind and the fishing lines are out although it is many hours since we caught anything but bait fish.

Before I start on the details of our two weeks afloat I normally say a bit about sailing in general in New Zealand and the Hauraki Gulf in particular. I have now written a web page on Sailing in New Zealand which provides all the background. Before continuing with the details of this years holiday I should however fill in a few details about the yacht we chartered. "Latitude 55" is a Raven 31 which we chartered for the second time 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 4 previous times in the Gulf, twice with a Carpenter 29 and twice with a Raven 31 - see the previous years reports on the web site. Charterlink's boats are mostly 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. Charterlink has recently been taken over by Rob Threxton, who is not only a very experienced sailor himself but also brings considerable business skills and enthusiasm.

We have sailed Charterlink yachts 4 times in the Gulf, twice with a Carpenter 29 and twice with a Raven 31. There are full reports on our Sailing in the Hauraki Gulf in 1999, Sailing in the Bay of Islands in 2000 and The Coastal Passage from the Gulf to the Bay of Islands in 2001 as well as a general introduction to the various areas at Sailing in New Zealand.

The Raven 31 is a local design and, not surprisingly is 31 foot. The Ravens sail well and can be handled safely by two people as most of the controls come back to the cockpit and she is fitted with an anchor winch. The Raven can in theory sleep 7 (who need to be very good friends) and has plenty of space for the two of us with the part time addition of a relation or two - we expected both my niece Christine and nephew Kev to join us for part of the time.

"Latitude 55" is, like all the She is the third Raven we have chartered and joined the fleet last year but we understand may be taken out at the end of this year which would be a great shame - we have really enjoyed our time on her and would happily charter her again next year if she is in the fleet. The owners have obviously put a lot of work into her including a brand new and comprehensive suit of instruments only fitted a few weeks before we took her out last year. They include wind speed and direction as well as the usual depth indicator and fairly standard speed and distance log. She also had a Raytheon GPS with a chart display covering the whole of New Zealand last year but it is no longer available on charters which was a considerable and unexpected disappointment. Last year we had some problems with the Simrad (IS15 series) instruments and these have continued with one being changed 5 times so far and still not perfect as we found this year.

Our hope in 2002 was to extend our cruising to the West side of the Coromandel as far as the Mercury Islands - the limit of the permitted cruising range and insurance of charter fleets out of Auckland. This, like the coastal passage to the Bay of Islands, is very dependent on weather conditions as you are outside of the shelter of the Gulf. The coastal passage took three years to achieve, going to the Mercury islands is even less common for charter boats but should be less challenging so we hope it will not take so long. The phrasing will have probably have given away we did not make it this year as due to the strong Easterlies!

The holiday divided into several distinct sections. Firstly a period round the inner Gulf where we were joined by my niece Christine and when we were sailing with David Bott in his 38' home built trimaran Pengwen. David gave us our first sailing instruction in the Bay of Islands in 1995 and has remained a friend ever since. He has done a lot of the returns of charter boats up and down the coast, sometimes with Christine as crew and always non stop regardless of weather - they have interesting stories about some of the trips.

The first morning we went round to Bayswater Marina early in the morning, stopping at a Mad Butcher to pick up some meat and fish bait we had ordered. We loaded up Latitude 55 with the provisions and other kit, ran up the freezer and had an abbreviated briefing since we had chartered her before. It was then back to Rental Car Village to drop off the vehicle and back over on the 1108 ferry from downtown Auckland to Bayswater. We finally motored out of the Marina at 1230 and down past Devonport. We waited to clear the shipping lane, which was unusually busy before raising sail the first time. We then sailed down the Tamaki Strait (the enclosed stretch between Waiheke Island and the mainland) whilst waiting for David to contact us on the radio and arrange a meeting point for the evening.

He made contact and we arranged to meet in Putiki Bay, the closest mooring for him, and continued down to Passage Rock at the far end of the Tamaki Strait before turning back to Putiki. A glorious sail in perfect conditions - when we checked we found we had actually done a respectable 26 NM during the afternoon. David came in a spot later and we joined up for the evening. He was elated as he had just had Pengwen passed for Cat 1 (offshore/blue water) subject only to adding extra safety equipment. This means he is now well on his way towards his ambition of sailing under Tower Bridge although he his planning to first work his way round the islands (Tonga, Fiji etc.)

The next couple of days were very instructive, sailing with, or against, such a competent yachtsman in his own boat. Pengwen is 38 foot giving her an advantage, only partially countered by the fact he was single handed. The first day was a short run down to "the Bottom End" as everyone seems to call the series of bays at the far end of Waiheke and we had the impression David was often playing with us. We moored in a delightful bay called Cowes Bay which neither of us had been to before. On checking the Royal Akarana Yacht Club Coastal Cruising Handbook (the bible for cruising) we discovered it is not so delightful in some wind directions when it has such a pronounced roll that people have coined the term "Cowes Roll". It was peaceful for us.

We were trying to position ourselves ready for the first leg towards the Mercury Islands via Great Barrier Island so the next day we continued round Waiheke to Oneroa Bay on the North side, where we also hoped we might be able to meet up with Jenny and Kev - unfortunately they never found any of the messages we left on their many phones.The second days sailing was better matched and by keeping more offshore on the leg along the North of Waiheke, and tacking into wind, we managed to hold onto Pengwen and had a series of crosses on opposite tacks so close that the give way boat had to break away. It also became clear that we could sail much closer to the wind than David who still had a huge Genoa up from the first leg and could not take the time to change it single handed - by the end he was also overpowered at times and was starting to lift his windward hull out of the water giving us a further advantage.

By the time we had the beach we intended to moor at in sight Pete was fairly certain we were ahead but skill and local knowledge foiled us. David chose to make his final tack along the coast whilst we kept offshore and turned in. What David knew was that the wind funnelled down some of the valleys giving him a big final boast while we came into quiet air on our inward tack. David had time to select a mooring before we got in. Even so it was only a lead of a few hundred metres over 20 NM showing the Raven is no slouch as well as being a well equipped cruising boat with lots of room.

We were now positioned for a possible run to Great Barrier the next day - a 40 NM journey across open water before reaching the first shelter. Conditions did not look very promising to us with a wind warning in place with winds of 25 Knots gusting to 35 knots but David pointed out the wind would be from behind and, with his experience, said it should not be a serious problem. Even so we had a plan B on the chart so we could assess the conditions after a couple of hours after we cleared Rakino Island and turn to Kawau.

We set out at 0730 and the winds were already high enough for us to have one reef in the main and by 0830 we were fully reefed although we were not out into real open sea. By 0930 we had come level with the end of the Noises, a set of small rough islands and rocks and were as exposed to the sea as we would get but still had 30 NM to run and we could see a line of nasty looking cloud forming in the distance. We reluctantly turned for Kawau with only 20 NM to quiet water and a perfect staging post for Barrier the next day when the forecast was better.

We stayed fully reefed but were still doing about 6 knots limited more by the banging into the rough seas rather than the sail we could carry. In fact we may have been doing more as the log and speed were obviously under-reading and we could not get more than an occasional look at the GPS. We quickly came level with Tiritiri, a large island off the Whangaparaoa peninsula which is a protected nature reserve. It also has a large lighthouse covering most of the Hauraki Gulf and has one of the weather stations which provide the nowcasting for the continuous forecasts on channel 21. We could hear that the winds were 20 knots mean and 23-25 max as we approached. We were in sunlight but there was a menacing dark grey band of cloud from horizon to horizon approaching rapidly with obvious rain in front.

It looked as if our decision to shorten the journey had been a good one as 8 NM was a lot better than 18 NM and at the end we would be going into very familiar ground rather than a mass of confusing islands and headlands. We were still in sunlight but the coastline had disappeared completely leaving Tiritiri shining out against an almost black background with a grey line of rain - the stuff pictures are made of but we were too busy getting our lifejackets off and putting on safety harnesses and waterproofs on under them as well and reducing our jib down to a handkerchief in size. Suddenly Tiritiri went dark and almost disappeared from sight and simultaneously the winds being broadcast every 2 minutes jumped to over 30 and gusts of 35. We waited and the readings at Tiritiri dropped back a bit as the line squall passed and then it hit us - Kawau disappeared from sight and we were left with the odd glimpse of Tiritiri as the rain lashed us.

We did not have much time to look at the instruments but on the quick glances we were seeing up to 33 apparent wind as we tried to keep close to the wind and ride through the individual bursts whilst keeping a eye on the compass to make some ground towards Kawau. After half an hour it began to lighten and the winds reduce where we were, they had already dropped back at Tiritiri so we knew we only had to hold on a bit longer. Another few minutes and we were back on course although it took another hour before we got any sight of Kawau. We did not need it but it was nice to know that we had a waypoint pre-set for the South Channel entry to Kawau as well as those for Barrier.

From then on it was a routine trip working our way in through the South Channel past the island looking like a Christmas .pudding and into Bon Accord Harbour which has a number of separate sub bays for mooring, we moored in Harris well down the harbour where we were joined by some of the distinctive but rare local ducks - those that have not hybridised with English Mallards have a much more pronounced dark band by the eyes. It was a complete contrast to outside and we had a very peaceful night listening to the Moreporks calling - Moreporks are a native owl with a very distinctive call which sounds very much like a drawn out more-pork.

The forecast for the next day was much better with South West winds of 15 knots so it was an early start for Great Barrier. We left with one reef - the Ravens do not gain from too much sail, particularly in rough seas when you find you go faster reefed than fighting too much sail. Even in the downwind quadrant it is better to be able to have a balance of headsail and main. We left via the North Passage and cleared the end of Kawau after a bit over an hour with Little Barrier definitely in sight and an outline of Great Barrier to aim for - the curvature made it look like a series of islands.

The wind came up nicely to the forecast 15 or a bit over and we made reasonable progress despite the seas still being a bit rough from the previous days of high winds and swell. Our course was almost downwind but we kept a little to the South to avoid being goose winged or having the sails banging around every time we rolled because of a big sea. We occasionally gybed and ran back to the North to work our way back onto course. For our non sailing friends sailing with wind directly behind may sound the easiest direction where you go fastest but that is not the case as one sail blankets the other unless you sail a little to one side or put the sails out either side (goose-winged) which is not easy - a deviation of only a few degrees can collapse the headsail or cause an unexpected gybe which sends the mainsail and boom across from one side the other.

The biggest problem we had on the way was the headsail self furler jamming so we could not bring the sail in. The headsail is normally wound up like a blind by a rope round a spool and unwound by pulling on the sheets (sheets are the name for the ropes connected to the end of the sail for the non sailors of you). The bobbin is nearly vertical so if the line (another name for rope!) is slack or not wound on evenly when the sail is pulled out it could drop of the spool. This is normally prevented by a cage of vertical rods round the bobbin. In the case of "Latitude 55" there was only one bar and we did not notice it was missing completely this year - we had a dropped turn in the first couple of days but put it down to finger trouble such as leaving the line slack.

Unfortunately the real trouble manifested itself at the worst possible time in heavy seas and swell as we were approaching Great Barrier at great speed as the wind had come up a bit. We needed to get the sail in to reduce speed and work our way in through the many islands and narrow channels. Normally it is a quick task - release the tension on the jib sheet and pull the self furler line with the other hand until enough is wound it and tie it off - done quicker than can be described. This time nothing happened and a quick look showed the line had dropped many turns which were tangled round the bottom and spool. There was no choice but to let the jib loose and flapping and sail on the main whilst Pete went forward to the very front with safety harness to try to untangle. Meanwhile Latitude 55 was pounding on into the seas and the coast and islands grew bigger at an alarming rate.

It probably took less than five minutes working by feel as he could not get down to see the problem without getting even more drowned but it seemed a lifetime and every minute will be fixed in his memory for a very long time. Once the line was back in the correct place it took seconds only to get the sail in and the mad pace abated. We could then take our time and worked our way in through the islands, past Paget Rock, a nasty unmarked and largely underwater rock into the Man-of-War passage, a deep but narrow passage through steep cliffs. Suddenly we were in the peace of Port Fitzroy Harbour, a vast totally enclosed piece of water. It is big enough to take the best part of a day to sail round and explore every bay and inlet. We however went virtually straight into Wairahi bay to moor for the night.

The next day the priority was to find out what was wrong with the self furler. It only took a few seconds to find that the single bar normally preventing the line coming off the spool was missing. There was evidence of an old broken weld where it had been attached. Furthermore the guide for the line was positioned pointing towards the bottom of the spool compounding the problem and it changed to a question of why it had not happened more frequently. During the run to Great Barrier we had been downwind and had been gibing from side to side. If the sail is completely unwound each gybe rotates the whole self furler and spool through an angle approaching 270 degrees before the sheets are tightened in, often with some flapping of the sail during the gybe before the sheets are tightened up. This back and forth rotation was slowly winding the line down the spool until the first turn came off. After that the line was slack and more turns could come off ending up in a horrendous tangle at the bottom.

We clearly could not risk a similar incident on our return and it seemed unlikely we could get it repaired on Great Barrier so we looked for a procedure to minimise or remove the risk. The solution was simple - we did not fully unfurl the sail leaving a couple of turns of sail unwound. This reduced the filling of the spool so it was less likely to come over the side and during gybes the sail wrapped and unwrapped round the forestay rather than rotating the spool. The price was that we were restricted in headsail size. This worked well as a procedure and we only had one more case of a dropped turn during the remaining week of the holiday and we saw and corrected that before it became a major problem.

We than had a pleasant cruise under motor round Port Fitzroy going into and out of every bay and out into Port Abercrombie, another large adjoining harbour to the North. Whilst working our way round Abercrombie Pauline spotted a pile of gulls over a heaving mass of water and we quickly turned to run the troll (a metal imitation fish with hooks at the back trailed behind a boat) through. Almost every pass we got a fish on the line but they all escaped with great jumping and twisting out of the water - they looked like 50-60 cm Kahawai. We finally brought a smaller one in but it turned out to be a Kingfish of about 40 cms (minimum legal size 65 cms) so it had to go back. The Kingfish were probably following the Kahawai who were herding the smaller fish still. In the end we returned empty handed.

During this trip round the bays we were also trying to calibrate the log and speed indicators which were under reading by about 35% compared to our GPS. We put in a correction factor of 1.40 which reduced the error to a few percent when checked over a series of daily runs totalling 100 NM. This calibration is important otherwise all the clever resolution of true and apparent wind is in error. The calibration was against the GPS and all tracks were checked to ensure lock had not been lost.

The next day our plan was to work our way down the coast, looking into the various harbours such as Whangaparapara and ending up at Tryphena at the South end. We made our way out past the many islands and False Head. A Head is usually a large Headland on the seaward side at the end of a harbour giving protection to the harbour which you aim for and round to enter the harbour - sometimes there are a number of hills and headlands so it is possible to be confused and some are actually called False Head like at Port Fitzroy, there is another at Whangaroa.

At that point we saw another line of cloud in the distance which matched with the weather forecast warnings of a large depression coming across the Tasman and meeting the high over New Zealand leading to predictions of extremely strong Easterly winds for several days. The Mercury Islands were obviously out in strong Easterlies as there is little in the way of good shelter on the Mercury Islands from any direction and we would be on a lee shore on the East side of the Coromandel which has no harbours protecting from Easterlies.

It looked as if we were either going to have to sit it out on Great Barrier Island for three or four days or change our plans and cross the Colville Channel to the west side of the Coromandel immediately. The Colville Channel is under 10 NM wide but has a bad reputation as both tides and winds are funnelled by the mass of Great Barrier to the North and the Coromandel Peninsular to the South. There is a large rocky outcrop called Channel Island in the channel a little closer to the Coromandel than Great Barrier and the worst stretch is between it and the Coromandel - it pays to keep well away in anything over 15 knot winds as the sea gets very rough. The tidal effect is accentuated by a steep drop in the sea bed near the gap.

Looking at the sky we did some quick drawing of new lines on the map and decided we should easily be able to get across before the weather arrived and down as far as Colville Bay where there is a reasonable overnight mooring and possibly get down to Te Kouma which has an excellent harbour secure from all wind directions. The winds were perfect with a broad reach and 15 knots and we made good time and we seemed to fly down the Great Barrier coast towards the Colville Channel.

The seas were remarkably smooth across the Colville Channel and the wind increased a fraction giving us long periods over 7 knots (some at a true speed averaging 7.2 recorded on the video). Towards the end of the crossing we got speeds up to 7.9 when the final calibration factors for the log were fed in. The log and speed measurement from the instruments give a much more steady reading than the GPS but come from a small paddle wheel spinning under the boat - these are prone to marine growth changing the profile and flow and eventually stopping movement altogether. We considered these speeds to be very respectable for a Raven 31 especially with the headsail not fully out.

We quickly completed the crossing and had lots of time in hand so Te Kouma looked easily on (about 42 NM total) so we cut in from our track to look at the various camp sites we had stayed at down the Coromandel coast. This turned out to be a mistake as the mass of the Coromandel, rising several thousand feet, gave almost total shelter and at times a wind reversal (sea breeze/anabatic winds??) and we sat becalmed for half an hour until we gave in and motored out into clean air and then ran down the outside of the many beautiful islands towards Te Kouma. We were joined by a pod of dolphins who played round the boat crossing from side to side right under us for a while. It is always adds a little magic to the day when they choose to come and play.

The Islands are quite distinctive when you know the topography but the first time with a chart they can be quite confusing. Fortunately the turn in for Te Kouma is beside a very distinctive pair of islands called the Cow and Calf (see below). The entry is however very well hidden until the last minute so a waypoint is a useful cross check. Once one gets close a light is visible well up on the headland rather than at sea level. Te Kouma also has its entry protected by a bolder bank under the light - this features in the guides but is not shown at all on the chart so beware.

Once one is into the harbour there are a number of sub bays of which Squadron Bay is the best from winds with a NE component. The bays either side are surprisingly called East and West bay and either give less good shelter (West bay) or have reefs on the entry (East Bay). There is also an unmarked rock in the middle of the harbour just passed East Bay which has caused a lot of grief in the past. There used to be transit marks on the shore but they have fallen to overgrowth. We say someone had put a small buoy (more like a float) on top but do not depend on it! If you want to explore the extremities a GPS mark is probably a good idea as a back up. We had a quiet night with a few other yachts and fishing cruisers and caught a small Kahawai and lots of undersize Snapper round dusk and dawn. The bad weather had been delayed for a day so we decided to have a cruise up the inside of the Coromandel Islands for the day. It gave us a very pleasant days cruise in light winds and plenty of exercise in navigation before returning to Te Kouma for the night. We saw the dolphins but they did not join us for long, perhaps we were going too slow.

We moored back in the same bay and put out the fishing lines. Just as we were about to give up on fishing Pauline saw the rod, by now sitting in the holder at the back, almost bend double and Pete grabbed it and eventually wound in and found an awesome sight.The Sabikini we were using had 5 small hooks each with a set of little tassels hiding the hooks which we had primed with tiny bits of bait. Four of the five hooks had medium sized Kahawai attached. They had thrashed the whole thing into a knot which took us ages to untangle but we were not complaining as we had collected several meals of fish in one go. Kahawai are a lovely fish to eat especially at the 35-40 cm size we had on the line. They do need immediate treatment to avoid going bitter and dark fleshed. The heads need to be removed and the fish bled as soon as they are landed and gutted as soon as they are quiet enough to avoid cutting oneself.

Once more stocked with fish and with indications the weather would soon change for the worse it was time to cross to Waiheke and the Tamaki Strait where there were more good places to hide from the NE gales promised to arrive shortly. We left with a course to take us through the Ruthe Passage between Ponui island and Rotorua Island but it turned out to be directly downwind so we elected to enter through the Waiheke channel and then past "The Bottom End". It would work out a bit further but avoided a long (10 NM) run Goose-Winged across from the Coromandel to Waiheke.

In the event the wind came from all directions then died away completely and after best part of an hour during which we made less than a mile we powered up for a mile or so at which the wind came up as predicted and we then had a nice fast run down the Waiheke Passage past "the Bottom End" and into the Tamaki strait.

We made good progress and it seemed a shame to stop at Putiki as planned so we continued to Motuihe island between Rangitoto and Waiheke. It is basically a triangular island with bays on three sides all of which are suitable for overnight moorings in the correct wind direct - we moored in West bay under the cliffs part way down as there was a boat club rally filling the popular spot in a "hook" at the North end. We had a nice sunset followed by a less pleasant night as the seas came up and set up a roll which moved everything a round most of the night.

The next morning the winds were up and the plan for a circumnavigation of Rangitoto and Motutapu was shelved in favour of a run down the Tamaki Strait to look at a possible mooring for the night on Ponui island. The wind went round just too far to make it tenable so we returned to Waiheke, initially to Putiki but we changed our mind and continued to Islington Bay between Rangitoto and Motutapu.

Islington used to also be know as Drunks Bay as many ships used to leave Auckland and moor overnight to sober up the crew sufficiently to proceed to the open ocean. We had another night rolling around as the swell was reflected in - the first time we have had any problem in Islington which we have used before to sit out storms and as a close mooring before returning yachts at the end of our holidays.

The next morning the bad weather had definitely arrived but we could not face several days rolling around so we decided to motor to Putiki "just round the corner". Just round the corner meant an unpleasant two and a bit hours banging straight into rough seas and 20 plus knot winds. We would have done much better under sail as Pete had wanted - the Raven has a lot of area above the water line and there were times we could barely get above 3 knots under engine especially as we passed the Sergeants channel where wind and waves came up. We eventually made it past and into relative shelter. We anchored as far into Putiki as we dared in far shallower water than we normally do - we did a circle round first to check depths where we might swing and dropped in an indicated 2.5 metres at close to low tide. We let out lots of anchor line and settled back to fish and wait for it to blow over. Whilst waiting I finally got round to start writing up - which is where I came in at the beginning.

One of the few highlights of the wait was watching a large yacht with lots of people all identically clothed out in fancy wet weather gear motor in at and approach the beach close too us at high speed until they suddenly slowed very quickly and came to a halt angled over somewhat - they obviously did not realise how shallow Putiki was. They extracted themselves and came down to try again next to us but saw we had binoculars and video cameras at the ready and turned round and left quickly to moor in the next bay with an identical boat. It looked very much like a training boat and we afterwards discovered the yachts belonged to the Navy and were giving new recruits their first sailing training!

After a day during which the winds reached gale force and we saw over 30 knots even at anchor we woke to find the wind had finally dropped enough to venture out and sail up and down the Tamaki Strait. We were still seeing wind speeds of up to 27 knots over the deck. We have no ideas of speed we were achieving as the sensor had jammed whilst moored - marine growth is fast. We ended up sailing around for about five hours and covering 23 NM sailing on all quadrants to get the feel at the higher end of the wind speeds that the Raven likes, certainly into wind. The sails have three reefing points but only two can have reefing lines attached at any time - for winds predicted to be over 25 knots it would be worth changing the lines onto the position for the third reef.

We looked at Rocky Bay but finally went back into Putiki which looked more sheltered for winds which were forecast to shortly change from the East to Southeast and then South. When we had moored we found some of the carpet felt a bit damp at the edges and we found that we had been so heeled over that even the small amount of water in the bilges had reached up to floor level. We sponged about a gallon out and took the opportunity to also take out the speed sensor and clean all the little shellfish and other marine life off - hopefully it will rotate for a few more days. Fortunately the hole seals automatically when you remove it otherwise we would have had a 4 cm hole filling up the bilges and a lot more to pump out by the time the plug was in!

Once such domestic activities were complete we put out the fishing lines out but nothing happened until about 1915 when one after another small Snapper started getting caught on the Sabikini primed with a tiny bit of Pilchard on each hook. Finally Pete caught a plump legal size Snapper, the first off the boat this holiday. The small ones continued till dusk, we must have put more than a dozen back - you could feel them taking the bait almost as soon as the Sabikini was down.

The final full day had a better forecast for sailing although rain was expected. We decided to head out in the one direction we had not been this holiday - towards Rakino Island. This involved leaving the Tamaki Strait through the Sergeant's Channel, a channel where it is possible to get a rough ride when there is wind over water although not as bad as the nearby Motuihe Channel. When we got to Rakino we stopped for lunch at Woody Bay. It was so nice and there were so many small snapper biting we decided to stay overnight which would leave us with a run of 15 NM in the morning to return Latitude 55 to the marina. Mostly the Snapper were small and went back but we eventually caught one large enough to complete supper.

We also caught lots of Jack Mackerel, also known as yellow fin, which are good for bait when salted. They are easily identified as they have a distinctive yellow tail and have an unusual external bony feature in front of the fin. They also have a symbiotic sea louse in the mouth.

Woody Bay is very picturesque - surrounded by hills and with reefs off the points making it almost round with quite a narrow entry. Despite seeming to be very sheltered we have had a least one night here in the past rolling from side to side and as I write the boat has started to gently rock - precisely at the time when we can no longer leave in daylight!

In the event we had a quiet night although the wind swung far further round than forecast and was almost South West by the morning - not an ideal direction for Woody Bay as we were almost facing out by first light. We needed an early start and that gave the excuse to up anchor as soon as we could and we were on route with sails up by 0715. With the new direction of wind it seemed more sensible to go down the side of the shipping channel past Rangitoto to Devonport to go into the Marina. The wind was supposed to come up quite quickly so we had a reef set ready. In the event the wind stayed well under 15 knots but it was so nice a morning we felt in no hurry to get back so left the reef and enjoyed a slow sail in at 5 to 6 knots.

A few minutes out we called in on the cell phone and Janet came down to meet us and take lines. The wind fortunately had not reached the 15-20 knots forecast so it was easy to slip her into the berth - it is strange how much bigger it seemed at the end than when we manoeuvred her out two weeks before!

Once more we had a super time on an excellent yacht - we hope the owners change their mind and leave her in the fleet next year although we can see why they want to keep her to themselves. Overall we logged 336 NM in the fortnight and covered every corner of the Hauraki Gulf from Kawau to Great Barrier, all down the Coromandel and round Waiheke and the other inner islands. The Mercury Islands and "outside" of the Coromandel were not sensible in the Easterlies and will have to wait another year. We visited old favourites and new places, caught fish, watched Dolphins and increased our experience - what more can one ask?

We stopped at the office and booked early for next year which will be an Americas Cup year and potentially very busy. Provisionally it will be a different Raven 31 which we hope will be positioned in the Bay of Islands but we are flexible - if has to start in the Gulf we will perhaps do the coastal run up to the Bay or try again for the Mercury Islands.

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