|Sailing in New Zealand 2003
This part covers our sailing in the Hauraki Gulf and up to the Bay of Islands, a trip of about 150 nautical miles (300 kms) from Auckland North to the Bay of Islands and then on to Whangoroa Harbour, another 35 NMs. It is the second time we have done the trip, both times on Raven 31 foot yachts from Charterlink who we have been using for many years for two to three weeks each time. Charterlink did have 3 Raven 31s in their fleet, but now only Largesse is left. The sailing area, our previous experiences, Charterlink and the Ravens are covered comprehensively in an Introduction to Sailing in New Zealand so will not be repeated.
The first day we got to the Marina at Bayswater early, having dropped off most of our kit onto the boat the night before and caught an early ferry from Downtown. We found Rob Threxton, the owner of Charterlink, was only just back from bringing one of their other yachts, a new Bavaria 44, across from the Coromandel in interesting conditions - he admitted he had been a little apprehensive about pulling the anchor up in 55 knots (within Coromandel Harbour) but there were customers waiting so it had to done!
We found him in the engine room changing fan belts on the drive to the compressor for the fridge. The previous hirers had not told him one belt was broken and the other had been slipping so badly there was little left - the smell of burning rubber must have been incredible and inescapable. We were soon to find a few other problems they had left behind, or more likely had initiated, and left no warnings.
Although we charter a Raven 31 every year, it had been 5 years since we last sailed Largesse. Once we had been briefed we left to get used to her again - she is now looking very smart with her new foresail, furler and sail covers and recently updated instruments. We aimed to end up in Putiki on Waiheke Island to make contact with Jenny and Kev who have just moved there. Kev came up the coast with us last time but this year has his parents staying so will be unlikely to be able to join us although we do have the bedding on board in case he slips away.
We motored out past Devonport and across the shipping lane before raising sail which was fortunate as the first of the other 'sleepers' left by the previous hirers surfaced. We started off with a reef as it was blowing hard (and raining) and found there was sail everywhere - they had undone all the reefing lines. Fortunately they had put stop knots on the ends but it was not funny trying to get them onto a wet sail in 15 or more knots whilst being rolled around by the passing ferries. Eventually we got them attached in a temporary but safe manner and came to unfurl the jib. The jib seemed a bit unwilling to come out so Pete went down the front to check but everything looked OK and it eventually came out so we had a bit of a sail to acclimatise ourselves. The rain was starting and there was a superb rainbow over Browns Island where Logan Cambell, the Founder of Auckland started off with Brown, a lawyer.
The wind was still rising so we started to pull in the self furling jib and problem two - it would come in a couple of turns then refused to come in or out more than a part turn. So it was back to the front again, this time in a safety harness, and by now getting splashed by the waves - a little jiggling gained an extra two turns and that was it, half jib whether we liked it or not. We tried adjusting the tension in the halyard and the back stay without effect. Enough was enough and we sought shelter in the lee of Motuihe island and hove to and made a quick call to Rob who repeated the suggestion of adjusting backstay tension - we tried again without effect.
We were now faced with a return to the Marina and mooring with the jib flying loose at the end. The main was, of course, still in disarray with the reefing line temporarily attached straight to the clew rather than back down to the boom. The inevitable happened. We crossed the shipping channel and were proceeding past Devonport when the Americas Cup boats returned with Alinghi being towed right past us with the chopper with TV cameras overhead - I just hope the boat name was not readable!
The plan was to slide in quietly to the fuelling dock for Rob to have a look but when we got there it was too rough and we had to run the gauntlet of everyone in the marina who came out to watch from their boats, thinking we were another charter crew returning in even more disarray than usual - we told some the jib was jammed and several turned up to help after we got her into the berth before the new jib came to any harm.
Rob managed, with the help and advice from several who had come to assist and despite the wind, to unwind the sail round the stuck furler enough to get it down. All that was apparent was an odd extra half turn at the top. Everything seemed to be free but was sprayed with WD40 for luck and once it was back up all seemed fine - it should have been as it had only just been fitted.
Perhaps the previous hirers had never put the sails up or had created such a snarl up they never reported the problem. We had also found another unreported problem on route, the depth sounder had recently had a new multipurpose display box added. We had been warned that the response was unusually sluggish but we quickly found the depth display kept cutting out, sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for several hours and once overnight - a problem which again would have been difficult to miss whilst sailing and could not be fixed on the spot. We did however get the reefing lines attached correctly to the main with a fancy knot which Rob uses to allow them to be pulled closer to the boom.
We motored back out to Islington arriving just before dusk in hard rain and poor visibility to drop anchor in the well known sticky grey mud - it took us two days to get the anchor and chain clean. Largesse now has not only a heavy anchor but also a length of very heavy chain. It is fortunate she has a good anchor winch as it nearly pulled Pete over the bow when he came to lower it.
Next day we had a good run up to Kawau, our chosen stopping off point for the coastal passage. The sails were all working well now and Largesse felt very clean - it was quite easy to get her well over 7 knots in 15-20 knot winds. The new sails have obviously been worth while. We did not believe the speeds initially but it tied in with the GPS speeds and the logged distances indicated no more than 7% optimism in the new indicator unit.
The weather was not suitable for a coastal run the following day with NE (onshore) winds forecast to be rising to 30 knots by late afternoon so we went for a circumnavigation of Kawau. We made good progress but at times winds were down to 5-10 knots - much less than forecast. As we were completing the circumnavigation the 5th (and last) race of the Americas Cup started and as we knew there was no radio reception at Bon Accord harbour we turned away to listen. This gave the chance to run down past the inshore islands and look in at the wreck of the Rewa on the beach and then turn back for Bon Accord. During the afternoon the winds had come up steadily and we could possibly have made it up to Whangarei safely.
Settled in Bon Accord we got out fishing lines, in competition with a little blue penguin how came over to see what we were doing. Late in the afternoon a couple of small yachts turned up and moored, one right in front of us. It looked a bit close and we observed them playing with the anchor line and pulling it in a bit. Overnight the winds swung a little and in the morning they were so close we could have touched their anchor line with our fishing rod, I took a couple of pictures but they kept their heads out until we had left - I am sure they did not get Forty Winks of sleep as overnight we also got the predicted strong winds and I would not have wanted to be on a shortened anchor line.
The winds were then due to drop and turn to the West by mid morning, a perfect direction for the coast. An early start however looked less than promising with the nowcasting at Tiritiri recording peaks of 34 knots at 0630 and we reluctantly gave up at about 0730 and got the fishing rods out. At 0830 the winds swung and dropped just too late to go up the coast. We thought we would have a quiet sail back towards Tiritiri beside the coast rather than the outer route we came up. Conditions were perfect and we recorded an average of over 6 knots for the engine off time with the best hour on the GPS being 6.5 NM. We had long periods on the way back with the instruments showing a steady 7.4 - 7.6 knots. Winds had been forecast at 15-20 and we had one reef in the main at the time and the nowcasting was giving 19 mean peak 22 (Largesse has no wind instruments).
We now felt in a good shape for the coast by now having got to know the new sail set on Largesse well enough to get that important extra 0.5 knots out of her. We settled back at Bon Accord, welcomed by our blue penguin. The two boats from the previous day came back in together very late with navigation lights, but did a better job of mooring this time. Bon Accord is very popular. One year we were awakened by someone actually on our boat dropping his anchor at night, when it was very crowded.
The next day the forecast was perfect with West going SW and S overnight at 15 - 20 knots, good for both the run up the coast and for moorings at Whangarei. We were up at 0600 and slipped anchor at the first glimmer of sunrise on the clouds just before 0700 and shortly after had sails up but motor sailing out to the North Passage to save time - it is well over 40 NMs to the first shelter at Whangarei. Initially we had a reef but it quickly became clear we were not going to get over 15 knots for a while so it was shaken out and we had for a period the perfect tight reach slowly closing on another larger yacht just ahead of us. We gradually pulled up and passed it, each time the wind came up for a couple of minutes to give us over 7 knots we gained a bit more. Eventually the wind rose to a level that we had to pull in some jib because we were being pulled into the wind in the gusts and the competition was almost over, size has an advantage!
It was not long before we had to once more pull up into wind and take in a reef in the main and at the same time we watched the other yacht take in some jib but we slowly slipped back in the increasingly rough seas with winds now over 20 knots giving a best speed of 8.3 knots. We were now over half way to Whangarei and the Heads (headlands sheltering the entry to a harbour or river mouth ) were clearly discernible as we passed Bream Tail which divides the two huge bays on this stretch. It was called Bream Bay by Captain Cook as he thought he was catching large numbers of Bream although they were probably Snapper which he would not have previously encountered.
The winds were steadily coming up and even with a tiny amount of jib we were getting an increasingly rough ride so it was time for another reef. It seemed prudent to have the motor running as a precaution during the reefing and whilst putting on a safety harness prior to proceeding forward to reef Pete noticed the Engine Start battery (one of two) was down to under 12 volts. A hasty change over to the domestic battery allowed us to start up and we left it running for the remainder of the day - mooring without a depth sounder or engine in winds rising towards 30 knots was not a scenario we wished to enjoy!
Despite being fully reefed Whangarei approached quickly, the only outstanding problem being we intended to moor under the Heads in Urquhart Bay which has a hook at the end and a sub Bay called Woolshed giving protection from the SW which was forecast. The winds were however not swinging as predicted from the West (or we had got there too early). There are few bays in Whangarei harbour giving good shelter from strong westerlies. We looked as if we were faced with the choices of either another 15 NM up the coast to Tutukaka (and a harbour we had not moored in) or to hope the winds would swing enough that we could at least seek shelter in one of the more difficult bays behind sandbanks. There was much active discussion with Pete marginally in favour of the longer run to certain shelter and Pauline wanting to first try in Whangarei before heading on up coast - fortunately we had plenty of time as we had made such good progress and it was only 1400.
The swell and seas had been steadily increasing to the extent that it was difficult to hold an accurate line so the quick solution had attractions and we headed down the shipping channel, well marked with huge buoys, towards the turn into Woolshed. Failing that we planned to try McLeod's Bay where we should at least be better protected from the swell as the channel was narrowing and the adjacent McDonald Bank (sandbank) should give further protection - both had entries which looked safe without a depth sounder. As we came down the channel we could see several boats moored in Woolshed some at anchor so it seemed worth a try. Luck was now on our side, the swing to the SW was starting and even the depth sounder came back to life. There looked reasonable shelter so our remaining sails were dropped and we dropped anchor on the edge of the fixed moorings - on the final run in to drop the anchor the depth sounder slowly went to zero giving Pauline a bit of a fright despite having moored in the same place the last time we came up the coast. Down went the anchor at which the depth sounder slowly crept back up to the 6 metres we expected much to Pauline's relief.
In retrospect the day had been a reasonably straightforward run up the coast with only one tack needed from sails up at Kawau to motor sailing in to anchor at Whangarei. We arrived at 1500 in a time of 8 hours with 5 hours light in hand. Both the mechanical log and GPS agreed on a distance of 43 nautical miles within 5%, exactly what the GPS route has predicted.
The next morning was again an early start - we wanted to get well up the coast while conditions remained reasonable. We could still receive the Auckland channel 21 forecasting and winds were predicted to be SW 15 knots giving us a broad reach up the coast towards Whangaruru followed by a short day to the Bay of Islands. The wind and swell in practice turned out to be from pretty well right behind us so it was a rolling passage up the coast, much of it goose-winged (sails out either side) needing considerable attention all the time and with the person not on the tiller acting as a preventer to avoid the risk of a potentially gear damaging gybe (when the wind goes from one side to the other from behind the boat sending the boom at high speed across from one side to the other).
The further North one gets up the coast the more options there are for mooring. The first being 18 NM from Whangarei Heads at Tutukaka which has a big marina as well as anchorages which give reasonable protection from all wind directions. The only catch is that strong easterly winds and swell can make entry and exit hazardous with Red Rock reputedly acting as a siren.
Once past Tutukaka, an increasingly large number of small pretty bays are available, especially for settled conditions with offshore winds. We stopped just short of Whangaruru in Mimiwhangata, a huge sweep of linked beaches almost half a mile wide with good shelter from the South and West. For several hours we were the only people present other than a tinny fishing and a couple of people on the shore. The waters were very clear and when we looked down in the recommended position, a tiny cove, we could see lots of underwater rocks and the depth looked very low so we did a quick U turn and settled for the big sweep of beach, which was still well protected from the wind and swell. Once more it was an early finish with 40 MN covered in just over 8 hours and we were moored at 1530.
At that point we were rash enough to relax. We thought 'we were back to familiar ground from the Bay of Islands and we were within sight of Cape Brett'. So instead of an early start we got out the fishing lines in the morning whilst waiting for the weather forecast from Russell Radio at 0930. A call from another boat however got an early forecast which showed there had been a dramatic change over night in the predictions - a front slowly leaving NZ had turned round and was coming back from the East and the weather was expected to deteriorate rapidly. We pulled in the lines and hastily got under way at 0745.
The conditions were already rough but since the wind was only rising slowly we set out - after all it was only 15 NM to Cape Brett and shelter and if we ducked out it could be days before we could move. It did seem prudent to make the best time possible and, as we had left with a fully reefed main, we continued to motor sail with the main pulled in - we were being rolled so much by the swells it proved impossible to keep it filled properly even well away from downwind. Even so the wind was pushing us up to about 6 knots with very little engine power.
After an hour or so we began to wonder if we were doing the right thing as we could see an ominous line of black clouds forming from horizon to horizon in front of us with obvious and heavy rain. A call to Russell Radio got us another update on the forecast and information that another boat was also running up the coast, in fact they were only just in front of us. The advice from Russell Radio was to keep going and that we were doing the right thing and that nowhere short of the Bay would offer good shelter. The other boat, obviously local but whose name we never caught over the crashing of crockery, called with the useful confirmatory advice that Bland Bay, one option we were looking at, was not a good idea.
In the event it was a challenging couple of hours but no worse than we had experienced South of Cape Brett in the past. Ritchie at Russell Radio had described similar conditions a few years ago as the "Cape Brett Washing Machine" a good description of the big confused seas with a swell from up the backside, probably only 2 - 3 metres but rolling and swinging us all over the place. Any worse and it would have been time to put in the shutters on the companionway, a point we have never got to yet.
We watched the yacht ahead try to take the shortcut inside Piercy Island to round Cape Brett but we saw them turn back quickly to go the long way round the outside. We had already made that decision having been 'tumble dried' there before - swung in all directions by the treacherously curling winds you get under the cliffs under conditions of high winds. We soon passed Piercy Island, an island best known for The Hole in the Rock, only to find some of the trip boats were still going through the hole and a couple of small boats were fishing in the lee. It is strange how conditions can be so different only a few hundred metres apart.
Right said Pauline, stop the engine and up with the jib and off we went on a tight reach, an exhilarating run towards the Albert Channel and shelter. Despite being fully reefed the rails were skimming the water and we were touching 8 knots at times. The winds were clearly more than the 25 knots forecast as our rubber dingy, only tied on at the top, was trailing out flat at times rather than sitting neatly on the boarding platform. I estimate we were seeing a steady 30 gusting to 35 plus. What a change from the early days when Pauline would not have been amused at a few degrees of heel in 15 knots to her sitting enjoying every minute on the tiller in 30 Knots with the rails kissing the water and periodically sheets of water coming over the side to drench us.
The Albert Channel came up alarming fast as Pete cross checked the critical approach angle (230 magnetic) as the only safe passage is via a narrow gap between Hat Island, a low rocky outcrop covered in breaking water and a 32 metre high island - this 100 metre wide channel (Orerewai Channel) offers deep water whilst the other side of the rock looks possible on the maps but many boats have come to grief in heavy weather when the rocks can break.
Engine on just in case and we turn onto 230 as the Green Buoy the other side comes into view through the gap and through we go. Exactly as one might expect the depth sounder slowly goes to zero as we enter the channel but we have been there before and know there is actually deep water under us. No corner cutting however without the depth sounder so onwards to the Green Buoy and then turn onto 160M and rocket between the reefs on the next two islands. By which time we can see the marker poles on Shag Island protecting the entry to Omakiwi our chosen stop for the day. 26.5 Nm in 5 hours.
Our total logged distance from Kawau to the inner protected area of the Bay of Islands was 109.5 NM taking 21.5 hours giving an average of better than 5 Knots from anchor up to anchor down each day. We had excellent margins as we moored at 1500, 1535 and 1230 on the three days. We gained a lot of additional experience on the journey, the conditions were never quite what were forecast and some of the conditions stretched us - none were worse than we had experienced but they were for much longer periods. The last day when we were against the clock up the coast to Cape Brett was the first time we have ever chosen to motor sail to save time and judging by the way it was brewing at the Cape and the 30 plus winds we saw within the Bay it was a prudent decision.
Having arrived safely and with a poor forecast for proceeding further up the coast the next day we decided to give Terry at Charterlink a chance to sort out the minor snags, batteries not seeming to be charging fully and the depth sounder being the important ones. We had a gentle run to Opua and the marina. The charging turned out to be simple, an apparently tight fan-belt was still slipping very slightly on a very small pulley - this seemed to be confusing the fancy electronic charging system. The belt had less than the usual half inch play and no sign of any black on the side but it was possible to rotate the pulley by the cooling fins on the alternator -it had to be tightened it to a tension which would normally be considered inadvisable to cure it. The depth sounder was less tractable but at least the problem materialised in front of Terry and a few other anomalies such as the sluggish response of both speed and depth point to it being the brand new display unit at fault - a new one will be fitted under warrantee a soon as it can be freighted up from Auckland.
We returned late in the day to our old "home port" in the Bay - Opunga cove. A fortunate choice as the winds came up far more than forecast and I am writing this up as the winds howl over head and a gale warning is in force with predictions of 40 knots shortly. It has given Pauline a chance to mark the 14 OU ETMAs I have collected for her over the last few days - they finally went back close to midnight taking a horrendously expensive roaming telephone call of 25 minutes to upload them.
The following day still had gale warnings in force with winds of 40 knots expected and although Pete has all the maps set up and enough waypoints in the GPS to get us to Whangaroa in even zero visibility it seemed pointless to even motor round locally in the torrential rain.
So it was out with the few books we had brought. Pete has just finished reading a copy of "Biggles learns to Fly" by W E Johns which he found at "Bookish" on the Coromandel. There are a few books which change ones life and it, along with "Where no Birds Fly" by Philip Wills led to an interest in flying and gliding and then into the Satellite Game. Fortunately it was not a disappointment after a 45 year gap. Another example of influential books would be "Swallows and Amazons" by Ransome which probably led us to being sitting on a boat in the rain today!
In the end we had three days in Opunga, the first of which allowed me to write up the first part and send it passed with winds finally up to 45 knots. We were a bit too far back and eventually had to move forward to allow us to get a bit more anchor warp out as we seemed to have moved a couple of metres - probably due to the layout of the chain changing but we were not prepared to take chances.
During this period Peter broke a corner off a tooth whilst grinding and gnashing them in frustration, or more seriously eating muesli for breakfast. A call to Russell radio got the name of a Dentist who was able to offer to fit him in the following day which fortunately coincided with the end of the gales. We had a pleasant sail into the Marina at Opua where Terry, a Canadian who was sailing round the world but now seems to have found a home in New Zealand as Charterlink's agent, lent us a car to get round to Paihia for the appointment - where else but NZ would somebody you had only met for a couple of hours insist you borrowed their own car for the afternoon.
It was turning into a lovely evening and we had a long sail down to Omikiwi where we had some excellent fishing for a short time just before dusk - we caught first a 35 cm Kahawai, the perfect size for supper and then within minutes a similar sized snapper. We latter looked in one of the fishing magazines at the Maori Fishing calendar which rates every day for fishing quality and gives a bite time, and discovered the fish had been caught in the middle of the good period. The periods vary from 15 minutes to 2 hours each day and are worked out on tide and moon but do not seem to have real pattern, you can get a good day like that one sandwiched between several bad days or sometimes 4 good days in a run. It seems to work and is worth buying the magazine just for the calendar. I think the author is Bill Hohepa in NZ Fishing News.
The following morning was lovely and after a slow start we decided to have a sail round the bay and after a brief orientation it looked so good we decided to go out as far as Ninepin Island, the Northern Guardian of the Bay as is Percy Island off Cape Brett for the South. We decided that if we got there by 1100 we would have a chance to get up as far as Whangaroa. We made it with a couple of minutes to spare almost perfect conditions ahead, a broad reach and 15-18 knots of wind and an almost flat sea, even the swell from the gales seemed to have died out.
We flew up to the Cavalli Islands where one has to make a dog leg through the Cavalli Passage as there is a rock just below the surface - it is safest to have a number of clear sight-lines and transits to follow rather than depend on the GPS or estimates. We had to go Goosewinged briefly before returning to a reach and continued our quick journey up passed Flat Rock and the Arrows and the Frenchman (sets of small rocky outcrops from the coast were quickly passed and we confirmed to Russell Radio we would be in Whangaroa overnight as we passed the Arrows - reception is very poor in Whangaroa even for the high relay station for channel 63. May of the coastal channels have relays and transmit and receive on different channels. We switched to Whangaroa Radio on 62 but it was mostly concerned with a fishing contest.
The Raven may be a roomy cruising boat but her performance is very good and Largesse has certainly benefited from the new sails. We were seeing speeds well up above 7 knots with the occasional spurt to take us over 8. The total time from the Ninepin to be entering the harbour at Whangaroa was 4 hours dead - one would normally expect closed to 6 hours hence our initial deadline of 1100 at the Pin. The total journey took 6 hours for 32.5 NM (as calculated on the GPS route laid out during the gales in case an opportunity presented itself) and we were just ambling round without even an intention to go at the start!
We motor sailed round all the little bays and inlets in the harbour for several hours before we finally moored so the total distance logged for the day was over 45 NM, one of the highest of the holiday. We could not get a booking for dinner at Kingfish Lodge, an excellent restaurant which we have described in previous newsletters, because there was a fishing contest. The whole area was full of Hooray Henries in huge fishing cruisers calling "Watertaxi, Watertaxi" on channel 62 because they did not want to get their dinghies wet. One was even calling for a Water taxi to take then 20 metres from the mooring buoys outside Kingfish Lodge to the landing stage.
We left early in the morning to return to the Bay, it was our last complete day and we could not afford to get caught by bad weather - short of gales we had to travel regardless. It started off with a little breeze and we were making a two or three knots but by the time we were getting close to Flat Island we were hardly moving and eventually had to motor sail for a couple of NMs. The wind then came up progressively and we were travelling well by the time we got to the Cavalli passage and we were up over 7 knots at times. We did not quite make it without a tack through the dogleg past the hidden rock.
In the Passage itself once we seemed well established Pauline disappeared below to the Head - unfortunately it was the time the wind started to come up and gust and we were soon healed over to the point where the deck rails were clipping the water making life difficult. At that point a final gust took it to the point where Pete claims Largesse broached (heeled and pulling to the point where the rudder stalls and looses control and on a well behaved boat you are pulled into wind). At that point the G forces of the near instantaneous turn threw Pauline in a heap onto the floor of the Head in full flow as it were. Pauline is not so convinced and still thinks it was deliberate and the air was somewhat blue as she appeared half clothed to see if Pete was still aboard only to find him suggesting it might be time to get on deck for a reef!
Once the reef was in we had an excellent run back to the Bay. We completed the reef at the same time as another yacht which had been motoring put sails up alongside but we steadily pulled away on the 12 NM run back to the Ninepin Island. We were enjoying ourselves so much and it was our last day so we decided to overshoot the 6 or so NMs across the top of the bay so Pauline could get some pictures of the Hole in the Rock to paint. By now we were getting a steady 20 - 22 knots of wind and were whistling along despite the reef. The other yacht, which had not reefed, was hugging the coast and was scarcely in sight any more - Pete checked the GPS for the distance back to the Ninepin as they passed inshore of it and it looked as if we had gained 3.95 NMs since we left them at the Cavalli Islands. As we said before the Ravens sail well and the new sails suit Largesse.
The seas were admittedly getting a bit rougher by now and we heard another yacht had given up the struggle up the coast and was ducking into Whangamumu 7 NMs the other side of Cape Brett. As soon as Pauline got her pictures we angled in and after a couple of tacks we were lined up for the Albert passage but decided it would be prudent to motor through as it was on the giddy limit and right on the wind, having to tack in a 70 metre wide channel is not a good idea.
We were heading for Omakiwi in the hope of some more fish but the wind had come a little too far round so we settled for Te Uenga which had no boats at anchor although there were plenty on fixed moorings - we have used it before and it looks a bit open but has high hills in front which actually make it very quiet. A couple of boats joined us including "Summer Breeze", the Moorings Hunter 295 which we chartered many years ago for three days after sailing with Charterlink in the Gulf.
In the morning we did not need to get back too early so we decided to take the scenic route back round the outside of the islands. The winds were light and once or twice we had to motor for a mile or so but overall a lovely relaxing sail for the last morning - the perfect sort of sailing which makes the Bay of Islands so perfect for learning. We worked our way out past Urupukapuka, and across the outside of the islands towards the Black Rocks. In the increasingly long calm periods we motored with a troll - we had seen a few big clouds of birds and gannets on the surface. Pauline had a number of bites from Kahawai but after much leaping in the air they all got away as they were pulled them in close to the yacht, the trolls (metal imitation fish with hooks on their tails) are quite heavy and they seem to be able to shake and tear them out of their mouths during their spectacular leaps.
We stopped fishing to go over and watch the Dolphins and Dolphin Watching boats - fascinating as one boat has a big net of humans over the side to attract the Dolphins who come to watch the antics whilst another boat puts people in the water with snorkels to swim with them - so who is watching who?
Eventually it had to come to an end and in a strengthening wind we sailed down past Russell to Opua and presented Largesse back to Terry with one of those arrivals one always hopes for but so rarely gets - the fenders just brushing the pontoon as she came to halt to be blown gently on as the ropes were taken - a contrast to the first time when we had not realised the strength of the tide through the marina and sat in the middle of a berth wide enough for a Cat with an 'offshore' wind as Terry struggled to pull us in.
Overall the conditions had not been perfect for our sailing but we still managed the trip up the coast and on to Whangaroa and our total mileage was the highest yet in a fortnight. The disappointment was that the lack of a reliable depth sounder combined with some high winds meant we never stopped and anchored for lunches as we usually did and we were usually moored so well out in deep water that we realised at the end we had never got into the dingy and rowed to shore. However the other side of the coin was that we gained a lot more experience and our tolerance of conditions increases every year. The more we learn the more we realise we have to learn.
Next year sailing we may have another try at getting to the Mercury Islands from Auckland via Great Barrier.