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|Sailing in New Zealand 2006|
Before we start on the details of our planned 18 days afloat I should add a bit about sailing in general in New Zealand and the Hauraki Gulf in particular for those newcomers to the newsletter - there is also a web page on Sailing in New Zealand which provides more background. The yacht "Largesse" is a Raven 31 that we chartered for the fourth time from Charterlink, who mainly operate in the Hauraki Gulf, but also have boats in the Bay of Islands. We have used them 7 previous times in the Gulf, twice with a Carpenter 29 and the remaining times with Raven 31s - they are all written up and can be accessed via our New Zealand Sailing page. Charterlink's boats are mostly New Zealand designed and built - boats that sail well and are matched to the local conditions and are affordable. Charterlink is owned by Rob Threxton, who is not only a very experienced sailor himself but also brings considerable business skills and enthusiasm. We have got to know him quite well and joined his family for a barbeque the evening we got back from sailing.
The Raven 31 is a local design and, not surprisingly is 31 foot. The Ravens sail very 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 Largesse is an excellent example and carefully maintained - two years ago she had a new engine that we ran in carefully as it only had 1.5 hours on the clock when we picked her up. The next year we took the engine hours up from 320 to 380 and this year from 595 to 665 meaning we are quite a major user of Largesse. A couple of years ago she had a complete new set of interior furnishings in rich maroon suede complementing the sail covers and spray guards outside which still look pristine although the sail and spray dodger are now badly in need of work to match the standard and the work is planned for the winter break along with possibly adding a quick mainsail stowing system, called a sailstack.
Coming back to the actual sailing:
This year we were hoping to do the coastal passage from the Hauraki Gulf up to the Bay of Islands. Depending on the weather we knew we might be able to get back to the Hauraki Gulf, although we had not committed to the round trip. With no charter following in either place, CharterLink had said that we could have an extra few days to get back, so that they did not have the problem of leaving the yacht at Opua and then finding a skipper to bring it back. We will see what the weather brings.
In January we expected the owner to have his sailing holiday for the first two weeks of February, as usual, and return the yacht to Bayswater Marina on 24 February. In the event, he left early and was back on 17 February and so we were asked whether we could start our charter on the Friday afternoon instead of the Saturday morning. We would usually load food and other stuff on the Friday evening, so we had only to do our shopping early. The Mad Butcher does vacuum packed fillet steak which is good for days when the fish aren't biting, and keep for 3 or 4 weeks in the fridge. The Mad Butcher also does all sorts of very cheap bargains of things which are very bad for you like Tortilla chips and peanuts but they are good after a hard days sail whilst one gets up energy to catch and cook fish! We also found they had commissioned a couple of books on the ferries in the Gulf and we bought the one on the "Harbour Ferries of Auckland".
Having done our big shopping on Thursday evening, then stopped at the Mad Butcher, we arrived at Bayswater Marina just after 10.00. Going through Auckland at 08.30 was slow and we took an interesting route around the west side, through little narrow side streets full of narrows and speed humps. Fortunately we were following a big aggressive 4X4 and everyone gives way to white van-man. Even so it might have been quicker to stay with the crawl along Dominion Road.
Loading enough food for 18 days takes time, and there were a few bottles of nice wine as well as a suitcase of clothes and all the fishing gear. CharterLink asked whether we would like to have use of a marine BBQ, and loaded us with lighters and charcoal. Apparently they have several BBQs and they were not being used much this year. It was a nice thought as normally they cost extra. We thought it might be useful if we had a few days at anchor, for cooking fish.
Next we had to return our hire vehicle. We also had to detour to Westhaven Marina to buy a 33g CO2 cylinder for our second lifejacket. Largesse obviously comes with lifejackets and harnesses but they are bulky and last year we brought over one of our automatic inflatable life jackets from the UK with built in harness. This was a success and avoids feeling like Michelin man and getting caught up on all sorts of snags and falling overboard. It means we can get into the heads wearing them too. So this year we brought over our second lifejacket and we needed a CO2 cylinder for it. It is illegal to carry the cylinders on the aircraft, so we needed to buy one. Surprisingly the large chandlery only had the one cylinder in stock. It would have been nice to buy two so we had a spare. And it was just under NZ$40, so quite expensive.
Dropping off the van was quick and we caught a Link circular bus down to the Britomart centre, which is the restored Railway Station building near to the Ferry Building. Ferries go across to Bayswater every hour and we had time for a double scoop ice-cream before catching the 13.10 ferry. It was going to be 19 days before we got back to ice-creams.
There was then a very brief briefing meeting before we set off at 14.40. Winds were SW and 10-15 knots so it was a pleasant sail down past Devenport and Rangitoto to Waiheke. We had decided that a mooring at Oneroa would be the ideal for the first afternoon and leave us well positioned for a run across to Great Barrier Island. On looking at the log book we found we had done exactly the same in 2005 when we went to Oneroa and then to Great Barrier as a staging post to the Mercury Islands rather than Tutukaka and up the coast.
We moored at 16.40 having travelled 15.2 n miles. Our speed indicator was not working, but we had our GPS to give the speed so that was sufficient, although not very convenient. We find it helps to watch the speed in order to get the best performance from our sails, and unfortunately the GPS display is very small, and we had to attach an extra piece of Velcro so we could see it whilst at the tiller. The speed indicators use a little wheel under the boat which can easily get weeded up and it is a wet job extracting it from the fitting and putting in the temporary plug, a one and a half inch hole produces a lot of water and we did not want to do it whilst under way!
In discussion on routes for the coastal passage to the BOI it was suggested that we go via Great Barrier Island, instead of our normal route via Kawau Island. This is also one of the recommended routings for charters between BOI and Auckland, going from BOI to Tutukaka and then to Great Barrier. We thought it would make a nice change, and had looked at Tutukaka by car in 2005, so we knew the moorings and the marina area.
If we had been planning to go directly to Kawau from Bayswater then we should have been en route earlier yesterday. It takes well over 5 hours and we are not allowed to travel at night, except in an emergency. In addition, there was a Sailing Club meeting over the weekend at Kawau and so the harbour at Bon Accord would be full of boats, with many arriving after dark judging from our experiences other years. And we like the moorings at Great Barrier.
So at 0730 we left Oneroa. Winds were pleasant, again SW, and the forecast was for SW 10 - 20. This would be perfect for heading across to Great Barrier. We were greeted by a small group of dolphins as we left Waiheke. On our way to Oneroa we had received Channel 21, the local radio for weather and nowcasting, with no problem, but in the morning we found it was very bad reception. However the Auckland Coastguard on Channel 82 was loud and clear, and we did a radio check at 0920. It was a pity we would not have the benefit of nowcasting for our passage north, but we knew that we could get a weather forecast by other means, one of which was to ring CharterLink for up-to-date news. We did not hear Channel 21 again.
The winds were steady and consistent, so it was just a matter of settling onto our course. Pauline thought she had seen two water spouts, from whales, as we travelled, but Peter wonders if it was just the splash of gannets fishing - they dive vertically from a great height. We will never know, but that part of the ocean is on the whaling routes, so it is a possibility. It would also explain why there were dolphins so close to Waiheke Island. At the beginning visibility was good and we could see the tips of the hills of Great Barrier, some 40 miles away, and eventually the island emerged from the haze and with our sighting compass we got a position fix from Little Barrier Island and Channel Island (off the Coromandel) so we could identify the entrance to Port Abercrombie, which was our intended destination. It is useful to have traditional navigation tools as well as our GPS. After a careful comparison of our three options (Katherine Bay, Port Abercrombie and Port Fitzroy) we decided to change our plans slightly and entered Port Fitzroy. It was closest, we had been sailing for nearly 10 hours, and it would only be an extra mile the following morning. So we moored just inside the entrance at Oneura Bay, with its distinctive Red Rocks, snuggled in behind a fish farm. The chop on the sea increased around the entry, so we didn't drop the mainsail until we were well into shelter.
The total distance cruised today was 41.5 n miles, and we had sailed most of that, recording just 2 hours of engine. Obviously we use engine to depart in the morning, and to anchor at night, and we need between 1 and 2 hours each day to keep the fridge and freezer cold.
It was 17.15 so there was plenty of time for fishing, and moored near a fish farm we had high expectations. Unfortunately we only captured a few undersized school snapper. In the Foodtown supermarket in Dominion Road we had purchased two packs of goat meat, one pack of leg steaks and another which included two shanks. We had sometimes bought goat meat at a butcher in Reading, and although it is quite unusual it is cooked in a similar way to lamb. The two packs combined was too much to fit into our largest saucepan so the steaks were boned and it was all stewed for a few hours. There was too much for one meal so half of it went into the freezer for the future. It did make a nice change and was far leaner and more tender and tasty than we had expected.
Today was going to be the long day, across to Tutukaka, and it was forecast to be a nice sail, on a beam reach, with winds SW 10 - 20. Overnight there had been more wind than we expected in our snug anchorage with willywaws and wind howling in the rigging, unusual for 10 knots! We started to wonder whether the forecast had been wrong about the weather, so Pete was persuaded to collect the marine weather forecast from the Internet. It all looked good, but we were nervous of whether the conditions around Great Barrier were different, so we set off at dawn in the mizzle, at 06.50, with 2 reefs in the mainsail. As we left the shelter of the harbour the swell was still a nuisance and we were rolling and pitching so much the sails never got a chance to fill and steady before we dug in again and we were barely achieving 5 knots. We turned on course towards Tutukaka and another yacht who left at the same time turned across to Kawau. Otherwise no-one was out and about. Looking back at Great Barrier there was a thick mantle of cloud covering the hills, and the forecast had said that it was going to be a day with showers. It was good to be away from all the rain falling behind us, and heading into the better weather ahead.
Eventually the chop on the sea reduced enough that Pete went forward and increased the sail. Having a small boat means that it is necessary to go up to the mast for reefing, and that can be an interesting business if the boat is bouncing around too much. Larger modern yachts, for example the Bavarias, have push button control from the cockpit which is great if everything works, if not all you can do is cut the sail free in a real emergency. The wind continued to reduce and we only managed to sail in the morning. We knew that we had over 50 n miles to do today and so we had to make over 4 knots each hour in order to arrive at Tutukaka in daylight. When the winds reduced to the point that our hourly average was below that we started to motor sail. By the time we reached sight of the entrance to Tutukaka Harbour the sea was glassy smooth. The Raven 31 does 5.5 knots comfortably on her engine so we made up a little of our lost time.
The route to Tutukaka from Great Barrier Island takes one first past the outside of Little Barrier then past the Mokohinau Islands where one has to take care as there is a small isolated reef, the Simpson Rock, five nautical miles from anywhere but close to the direct course of 295M. We took sights back and also checked on the GPS where we had it marked. Once past the Mokohinau Islands it is a long run down towards the Hen and Chickens. As we got closer Whangarei Head separated out from the Hen and Chickens and the coast slowly came into view. We had not realised how much the curvature of the earth affects ones view and how huge Heads appear first as tiny Islands when the visibility is good and it is important to hold one's planned course and take periodic sights on unmistakable close landmarks rather than make assumptions. The GPS is useful but one should never depend on it alone.
The entrance to Tutukaka Harbour is not straightforward. We had GPS coordinates for the entry and checked carefully against the charts. At this point a warning about charts and using a GPS - some of the NZ charts are on an old datum WGS49 and if one does not realise waypoints can be out by 100 metres or so, more than the width of the channel into Tutakaka. We used the latest chart which we checked was on WGS84 but in cross checking the way in on a sheet given us by the marina when we visited last year we found an anomally and in checking found their marked up copy of a chart was an old version on WGS49. We have had a similar problem with a fancy mapping chart plotter in the Bay of Islands where the chart had been incorrectly digitised and if one had followed it the Albert Channel was on top of Flat Rock! - the lesson is always check the chart datum and never depend only electronics rather than common sense. It helps to look around too.
Nevertheless the GPS helps confirm one is in the right place but it also helped to watch three small launches rush past us and enter the harbour at Tutakaka. The first challenge in navigation is to identify the light on the top of the large rock named the South Gable. When approaching from the Great Barrier direction that is visible first. Then the theory is that you line up using a transit - a large white pole which has a slightly smaller red pole in front of it but it is a catch 22 situation as they are almost impossible to recognise the first time. Both of these have lights on top which would be essential for a night arrival. Once we could see what was involved we copied the approaches of the boats around us, and did more of a dog leg than following the transit. Once we had safely passed the Red Rock on our left we turned towards the two poles. Then it was straightforward to follow the reds and greens down to the entrance to the Marina. In the distance we could see the row of brand new waterfront apartments which were still being built in 2005 and could pick out the area on our left where visitors can anchor south of Phillip Island. Most of the harbour is full of fixed moorings and space can be very limited we understood, but there seemed to be some spaces.
Once we were sure that we were going to get to Tutukaka Marina, we had arranged moorings by telephone. Visitor moorings are dependent on taking someones unoccupied berth and we were allocated berth D5. Being less than 10 metres long our mooring cost NZ$16 per night. We gave an ETA of 17.30. The Marina Office closed at 17.00 but we were told to collect our key from the Fishing Club. A key is needed to unlock the Ladies and Gents facilities, and a cardkey is needed for the car park. We had collected a leaflet from the Marina Office when we visited in 2005, so knew what to expect. Our berth was on pier D, and the piers are clearly labelled. The odd numbers are on the ocean side, with low numbers near the land. We found D5 easily, with some help retrieving mooring lines from the owner of the launch in D3 who had just returned from a fishing trip. The Marina Office must have been watching for us because as soon as we had our lines secured he came across to give us the keys, and said we could pay in the morning. For reference, the Office hours were 0700 to 1700, not the 0800 to 1800 written in the Akarana Handbook. It was 17.50 and we had arrived, having done 53.2 n miles, including 7 of our 11 hours on engine. A nice bottle of cold white wine celebrated our arrival.
Tutukaka Marina has good facilities, including a large laundry and a BYO (Bring Your Own bottle) Pizzeria restaurant. It was too early to make use of the laundry, but after a long day we decided to treat ourselves to a large garlic bread loaf and their biggest and nicest large pizza. In total it cost just NZ$28. We topped up our water tank from the drinking water hose, which may have been a mistake because when we tried the water later in some spare containers it had a slight tang - lesson taste first! Fortunately we only put in a small amount and so it doesn't taste any different combined with the old Bayswater water.
We settled our mooring charges and checked what was needed to use the fuel point. After so many hours on engine we thought it prudent to top up our diesel. Tutukaka Marina has a good fuel jetty with easy access which gobbled up our BNZ EFTPOS card and enabled us to add 17.8 litres into our main tank and top up the fuel tin. We chatted to another yacht on the fuel point who had made a very good modification - they had modified the sail cover by turning it upside down, adding a stiffening rod (old sail batten??) and then attaching lazy jacks to make reefing and flaking the sail at the end of the day almost foolproof although an additional flap would be needed to keep the sail dry. They had a 9.8 Lotus and had come from Christchurch. Then at 08.15 we set off north. We left the harbour by using the white and red poles in reverse, checking the route against the chart and keeping a careful watch on depth and obstacles. The forecast was for variable winds and the sea was like glass so we didn't bother with the sails.
In the gentle conditions we decided to start trolling. One large fish gave a tussle, pulling lots of line off the reel time and time again and then finally managed to escape by going around the front of the yacht, with Pete trying to follow it around the deck until it caught on a fitting and could break free. It didn't behave like a Kahawai or a snapper and felt like a seriously large fish - maybe 75 cms and 5-6 kgs in weight. It obviously knew that it had a better chance of escaping if it managed to find something to use to pull the hook against. It was most likely a little kingfish (a rat as they are known) from the behaviour and the way it was going deep and round. Kingfish are perhaps the most desirable and challenging NZ sport and eating fish of all and we have never caught one of any size, they can grow to 50 kgs with an average of 10 kgs. The limit for keeping them is now 75 cms, and our fish might have been a legal size.
There were several choices for mooring tonight, each of them familiar from previous trips around the Bay of Islands. In order, our first option was Mimiwhangata, at the entrance to Whangaruru Harbour. We approached the harbour entrance too early, so decided to explore, trolling again. There were several masses of small fishes so we trolled through, hoping that our little troll looked like one of the many small fishes and would be taken by larger predators. But we had no luck. Puriri Bay, our favourite DOC camping ground, was on the wrong side of the harbour for a SW wind, so we followed the coastline north until we reached the entrance to Whangamumu. We have been to Whangamumu several times in the past, yet we still had to take care as we approached the entrance. The moorings by the old whaling station are good, but it is not easy to see the narrow entrance when approaching from the south. We had expected to hear Russell Radio on Channel 63 as usual north of Tutukaka to get a weather update, but there was nothing.
At 16.45 we had moored alongside a group of yachts, including the Raven 31 Emma Rose. We had travelled 29.3 n miles, with 6 hours on engine. In the evening the rolling motion we had come to expect here started, but it was gentle and no problem.
We left Whangamumu at 0830 in light winds. There was no need to hurry so we set the sails and slowly headed towards Cape Brett, keeping far enough away from the coast that we had the benefit of what little wind was around which was giving us 3 - 4 knots on the GPS. We reached Cape Brett at 11.00, and decided to sail outside Piercy Island, the Hole-in-the-Rock, rather than risk the unpredictable wind directions on the inside. We watched the yacht ahead of us suffer from the sudden changes in wind direction when he took the inside passage. Our wind direction changed too and we had to tack. Whilst we were approaching Piercy Island we hooked up another big fish, this time we saw it was a Kahawai from the leaping and by the time we had hove too (for the non sailing readers that means deliberately turning across wind without changing the jib so all the sails are crossed and one goes nowhere) it had jumped clear. The easy way to extract oneself from a hove too is to leave on the opposite tack which left us heading closer to Piercy Island than we really wanted, and took the easy way out and turned on the engine for a couple of minutes rather than tack across all the boats waiting to go through the hole in the rock. We were trolling, which added to the fun, especially as we caught several pieces of seaweed but no fish. The reel always chooses to howl at the most inconvenient moments. This year we have also captured several seagulls who have flown into the line and then got trapped, and that involves bringing them on board and then cutting our line in order to release them.
Once around Cape Brett we checked in to Russell Radio on Channel 63. It is no longer Ritchie and Lynda but we were welcomed to the area. We were invited to go and visit and told their base station has moved to the back of the RSA building, and we will try and do so. We wondered what had happened to Ritchie. We noticed that our radio reception seems to be limited in range and we arranged with Russell radio to do some checks when we went up the coast.
Our usual routing is to enter the Bay of Islands through the interesting Albert Channel but this time we decided to continue past Red Head Island towards Russell, and then turn to the SE around Roberton Island and east along the Te Rawhiti Inlet. After some efforts at tacking in the area of Whale Rock, and with the approach of a nasty rain storm, we turned across towards the Paramena Reef, between Motukiekie Island and Urupukapuka Island. Russell Radio was giving a weather forecast at the time and was very excited that it was raining in Russell. Apparently they are short of water this year. At the Paramena Reef the weather suddenly improved, the sun came out, and we steamed along towards Roberton Island with the rails clipping the water, coming back on a restful broad reach. The Dolphin Encounter boats were rushing around searching for the resident group of dolphins who were eventually found between Moturua and Roberton. It was nice to be back in the Bay of Islands.
There are several good moorings for a SW wind and we anchored at Te Uenga Bay at 16.40, having travelled 28.4 n miles with just one hour of engine. An alternative choice, Waipiro Bay next door, has a lot of fixed moorings and never seems as sheltered although it looks as if it ought to be better on the chart.
Having confirmed what was involved in cleaning the little wheel which gives the speed reading, that was done and a pile of little shellfish and a 5 cm long chunk of weed was removed. The wheel did give a reading when turned manually so we were hopeful that it might now work.
From Te Uenga we had a clear view of Ninepin Island, which was directly on our course for Whangaroa. There was forecast a change of weather to 30+ knots wind on Friday and we preferred to go up coast and then sit it out at anchor in Whangaroa Harbour. We left Te Uenga at 08.00 and unfortunately we still had no speed reading. Trolling as we passed the long thin island, Poroporo Island, we were delighted to catch a 59cm Kahawai, weighing in at 2.7 kilos (6 lbs) our biggest yet. This presented a problem because even with his head chopped off he was too big for the BBQ or the frying pan. Undecided whether to fillet it, he was put into a large Glad bag, with his tail sticking out of the end, and deposited head down into the fridge. The tail had to be kept on because it is needed to hold onto for doing the filleting if the head is gone. We gave a Trip Report to Russell Radio and set off towards Whangaroa. They warned us that the usual Channel 62 was not working at the present time, and we should use Channel 69. We had a couple of extra bites which bent the rod briefly but did not hook up as we worked our way out round Ninepin Island. Shortly after we found we had lost our favourite troll, the trace bitten through with just a few teeth-marks left. We didn't notice for a while and wondered why we had not caught anything in our usual spots. Then we swapped to our spare identical lure.
We have always caught fish in the Bay of Islands, and expected to catch more as we trolled through the Cavalli Islands. As we approached the Cavalli Passage we hooked up another big Kahawai which leapt off whilst we were answering a phone call from Rob and did not have enough hands to stop the boat and handle the rod. We got another which we got as far as the boat but it escaped from the new landing net. Using the net is a skill we need to practice but is useful with Kahawai which have a very soft mouth and the hooks can tear out if you lift them struggling into the boat on the line so it could have got away anyway if we had not used a net. This Kahawai had been caught where there was a sharp change in depth and so we went back over the same ground, hoping it might still be there or have friends of the same size, but nothing was biting. Even so we were pleased to already have a 59cm Kahawai in the fridge, and looked forward to dealing with it for dinner.
It was with some surprise that we caught another fighting fish as we passed Flat Island which did not feel like a Kahawai and took lots of line off the reel with deep runs in all directions. It was only when we had it safely on board that we found we had a yellowtail kingfish. At 59 cms it was under size, the limit is 75 cms, so it had its photo taken and was put back into the water for next year. These small kingfish are nicknamed "rats". Then we hooked up a Tuna which also gave a good fight before we could bring it in. We recorded it as a 47 cms skipjack tuna, it weighed 1.4 kilos, and looked just like the pictures in the fishing books. Apparently tuna are one of the preferred foods of kingfish so it should be no surprise to find the two fish living in the same area. Tuna is a plump heavy fish, with a silvery black coat and no scales. ( Later we caught a bigger tuna, and reckon that this one was actually 37 cms, and we wrote down the wrong length in our excitement. ) Flat Island is a well known area for catching fish although we were in comparatively shallow waters. The tuna looked a good candidate for supper. Pete says he is starting to recognise the feel of the different types of fish on the line. There was an increasing chop on the water and we hesitated about when to bring down the mainsail and motor into Whangaroa. As we discussed timings, just opposite the holiday park at Tauranga Bay, we caught another Kahawai. This one was not quite as large as our first, but at 56 cms and 2.2 kilos it was still a challenge. So during the day we had hooked up and brought in 5 good sized fish, of which one had escaped from the net (which Pauline would prefer to forget), one was undersized for its type, and 3 were in the fridge. Even if we didn't catch anything else we had enough to eat for 6 or 7 days while sitting out the weather in Whangaroa Harbour.
Our favourite bay is Waitepipi Bay, at the end of the west arm just inside Whangaroa Harbour, so we anchored there at 18.30. It is a good direction for the strong SW winds which are expected. Today we travelled 37.4 n miles, with 7.4 engine hours.
The two Kahawai were both filleted and frozen for later consumption. The tuna fitted nicely into the oven, with roast kumara alongside, and the half which we did not finish was frozen. It went well with the Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2003 which we had been keeping for a special occasion. Tomorrow is Pete's birthday, and with all the success at fishing today he decided to start celebrating early.
Today was planned to be a restful day, recovering from all the long days sailing and having a relaxing time to celebrate Pete's birthday. So the morning was spent at anchor fishing. At 10.00 a nice 33cm snapper arrived for Pete, followed shortly afterwards by Pauline's first of the season, a 30cm snapper. These are a good size for eating, and are called pan-sized snapper for the obvious reason. The limit is 27 cms, but a 27cm snapper is really too small for one person. As well as the snapper, a few more baitfish were added to the salted bait box followed by a one person Kahawai for the fridge. A perfect start to the day because Pete wanted a snapper for dinner today.
We usually have a tour around Whangaroa Harbour, visiting all the little bays, so at 12.30 we raised the anchor and set off, trailing the dinghy and with a troll line out too. Although some wind was predicted, we had not expected the rough chop on the water once we reached the main entry. In addition there is a flow through the entry and the GPS recorded just 0.9 knots although the engine should have given 4 knots in still water. Turning towards an interesting boil-up of fish we were surprised that the dinghy blew over. We turned it back, and then it blew over again but that was OK as before we could reach it it had blown back again. Pete decided it was time to take it up using a spare line rather than risk losing it. Our plans were to go down to the wharf at Whangaroa, anchor and then row ashore to the shop. The wind was continuing to come up, and the hat test for 20+ knots was passed successfully. It now seemed a better idea to go back to our nice moorings.
We anchored again at 14.45, and at least we had charged up the batteries and cooled down the fridge and freezer. After a swim the afternoon passed with a cold bottle of Selaks bubbles to celebrate Pete's birthday, and then the two snapper became an excellent meal in the evening with some left for another day.
Our neighbours had radio reception so we heard snatches of the weather forecast yesterday, enough to convince us that today was not a day for sailing. Listening to Whangaroa Radio on Channel 69 was patchy but we heard words from the forecast at 08.00. It sounded like rough seas and 30 knots, which was confirmed from the Internet when we collected email. Much of the radio broadcast was about the procedure for filling in the census form on 7 March, which we will ignore. We don't expect to be in Whangaroa then.
Each time we thought of going out and exploring the harbour it started to rain again and another willy-waw came through. But between times it was delightful and sunny and the dinghy only turned over once. We stayed put and ran the engine, reading, listening to our CDs, writing up the diary and practising fancy fishing knots. Pete polished the speed sensor with a toothbrush and sprayed it with CRC, cleaned out the bilges, fixed the salt water 'tap' and tried to remove the evidence of the fishy battles and dead bait from the cockpit. From time to time we caught fish, but nothing memorable. One snapper measured exactly 27cms so we put it back for next year although we were tempted to keep it as it fitted the barbeque nicely. Fish must be scarce today because seagulls have been trying to steal our pieces of bait !
We listened to the 0800 weather forecast on Channel 69, described as 0-8-circle-circle, which said it would be SW 20, and set off shortly afterwards. The sea looked calm as we reached Kingfish Lodge, so we raised the mainsail and headed for Stephenson Island. It was a beautiful sunny morning, with no wind. Then just approaching Flat Island we caught another "rat", this time only 54 cms, which was gently put back for next year. Turning onto course towards the Cavalli Islands, where we had caught fish previously, we had no more success. As we passed Matauri Bay, with the Rainbow Warrior monument on the hill top, we decided there was enough wind to try and sail. Just as we were receiving the 13.30 update to the weather forecast we caught another fish. This time is was another tuna, and much bigger but we did not have much of a fight to get it in - it turned out it had caught the line from our lure and it was wrapped around its tail. Much of the tail had been torn by the hooks on the lure, and the poor fish could easily have become live bait for a more serious predator. We could see no evidence that it had started hooked in the mouth then got the line round the tail so it is all a bit of a mystery. While not very photogenic, it weighed 2.9 kilos and was 49 cms. Even when gutted and with its tail and head removed so it was small enough to fit in the A4 Glad bag for the freezer, it still weighed over 2 kilos. We plan to keep it for a feed when we get back to Bayswater.
With a SW wind forecast we planned to take the direct course from Ninepin Island between Motukiekie Island and Urupukapuka Island to go back to Te Uenga. The winds were steadily increasing and as we passed Whale Rock Pete's hat suddenly disappeared overboard. We were so surprised. He has had the hat since our first sailing holiday from Opua, so it is over 10 years old now, and has always been a good indicator that the wind speed is over 20 knots. It is worn with a string around his neck so it had never escaped before. We discussed whether it was likely to sink or float and then stopped and turned to see where it might have gone. Trying to find anything so small in a choppy sea is difficult and we had no success on our first search. Then we realised that we could use the GPS to follow our exact track and in a few moments Pete spotted something floating. Fortunately the hat was a faded red colour and showed up well against the turquoise ocean, and it floated. It was retrieved efficiently using the boathook. We have years of experience of handling a boat hook for retrieving all sorts of floating objects at home. This provoked a discussion of how we might have better dealt with the situation, and next time we will use the GPS to mark the spot, just like with a real Man Overboard drill.
We moored at Te Uenga at 17.15, checking in with Stewart ( or is it Stuart ) at Russell Radio. He prefers to call the mooring Waipiro, which is the next bay. We guess it is easier to pronounce. We had travelled 14.3 n miles under engine, and then another 19.9 n miles, making a total of 34.2 n miles today. Since fuelling at Tutukaka we had recorded 24 engine hours, and the measure indicated the tank was now only just over half full as one would expect with an 80 litre tank - the engine is supposed to consume about 2 litres an hour at cruising revs and a bit less when charging batteries or manoeuvring.
Later in the evening a nice large 2-master arrived next to us. Called Delta Tango she was from Lancaster. We wondered if that was from the UK at Glasson Basin, which we had visited last summer with our narrowboat, but never had a chance to ask.
We thought that midday on a Sunday would be a quiet time to go and get fuel and water, so we left at 08.30, heading towards Opua. In previous trips we had been able to obtain fuel at the Opua Stores, but on checking with Russell Radio we now had to go to the Marina. Fortunately we still had the information sheet about Opua Marina from Rob because our Akarana Handbook dated 2002 was too old to have a plan of the marina. The fuel berth is on the entry to the marina, and we found there was already a cruiser moored ahead of us. They gave Pauline some help in getting her lines attached and then we chatted. We found that our experience in getting water at Tutukaka was typical and we now know for future trips that there is good water at Whangaroa Harbour, as well as at the fuel jetty at Opua. Pauline rushed off with her shopping list to the Opua Store nearby, still wearing her lifejacket, while Pete filled both our water tanks from the hose after filling with diesel. It was entirely self-service and accepted our BNZ EFTPOS card and we filled with 31 litres. There was a lot of foam at the end, so the tank may not be completely full, but it was good enough. It did indicate that the engine on Largesse was economical - 24 engine hours for 31 litres is good, even with some of that being at anchor to keep the batteries charged. We had worried earlier that the tank may be smaller than 80 litres.
Shopping at the Opua Store for fresh food was limited on a Sunday, and their vegetable shelf was almost bare. There were some very nice loaves, but we still had one in the freezer. We hoped to replace our lost Lethal Chrome/Blue Mackerel 60g lure, but only 10g and 90g lures were available, and there were no spools of trace line. So we will just have to use what we have in stock. They also have a new range of posh boating hats, now $16.95.
Pauline returned carrying only two double scoop ice creams and the March copy of NZ Fishing News. We like to buy NZ Fishing News, and one of their regular features is the Maori Fishing Calendar. It is a formula based on tides and the moon, and labels each day as either Good, Fair or Bad. We quickly noticed that the good days at Whangaroa had been those marked as Good in the Calendar, and that we were due for a lot of Bad and Fair days for the rest of our holiday. We were pleased that we had a few fish in the freezer so we had enough to eat to get back to Auckland. The definition of Good is that there is up to 2 hours good fishing from the listed Bite Time, whereas Fair has only 30 minutes good fishing, and Bad is just bad. In addition there are lots of interesting articles about local fishing successes, future competitions, and special offers in the specialist shops. It also helps us identify our fish from the spectacular photos.
The wind was rising so we raised the mainsail as soon as we were clear of the Opua ferries and started sailing. Outside Russell we noted an interesting vessel, ZMAS Capt M. J. Souza, which had a little chopper on its deck. We wondered if it was part of the Antarctic Survey, and will check on the Internet when we get back.
The lunchtime weather forecast for the next few days sounded promising for getting back as far as Tutukaka tomorrow, then a few days in the marina before completing the trip back to Auckland. Tuesday was going to be windy with N 30 to 40 forecast and this is not the weather for being out on long coastal passages. We wanted to moor somewhere safe in SW 20, and close to Cape Brett for an early start, so we decided to go to Oke Bay, somewhere we had not been before. It would be an hour closer to Cape Brett than mooring at Te Uenga again. So, where would we go first ? We had not been out to see the Black Rocks, and Pete wanted to troll for more fish. The wind direction was good for sailing but all we caught was a bird. Then we had to sail goose winged, with the wind directly behind us, to get back on course towards Oke Bay. And we caught another bird. This time it was more complicated to stop and release the bird. It had the line wrapped around its neck and we thought it was dead until it was on board and started scratching and biting. Pete suffered and was pleased to release it back, and it sat on the water and then flew away. Meanwhile Pauline went looking for the antiseptic cream in the First Aid Box, we are still debating whether we have to file an 'incident report' - bitten by sooty shearwater! Eventually we sorted ourselves out, and set sail again.
The entry to Oke Bay is not far beyond the Albert Channel, so we were familiar with the area. Oke Bay has a beautiful sandy beach but in SW the wind blows over a low hill from Rawhiti and we suffered from being rolled by swells coming in the NW from some distant system and reflecting round the bay despite the calm seas. It is similar to the problems we have experienced at Whangamumu and seems to be a worse problem with Ravens - some time we will try the bucket hung over the side trick to dampen out the oscillations. We moored next to Delta Tango from Lancaster, and then noticed Kokako, a Raven 31 from 'Great Escapes' the Bay of Islands charter firm which mostly has small boats and have restricted sailing limits. They rowed over to chat. Judging from their windows, their Raven is the other model, with a chart table instead of the second double cabin. They decided to go and find a more peaceful mooring, as did two other yachts. We stayed in the hope of an early start but Pauline paid the price in an unpleasant restless night whilst it just rocked Pete to sleep. We had travelled 28.0 n miles.
We were up at dawn to get away from the rolling motion, and set one reef in the mainsail. Leaving the shelter of the harbour it was quite rough with far more swell than we had expected from the forecast so we decided to stay in the BOI instead of working our way out to Tutukaka. For the first time this holiday we turned through the Albert Channel, and headed back to Te Uenga. The safest entry through the Albert Channel is through a narrow but deep passage, the Orerewai Channel, which lies between a 41 metre high pudding shaped islet off the Te Hui point and a flat rocky outcrop, Hat Island - other routes can be dangerous in heavy weather due to breaking water and unmarked reefs and need local knowledge so do not get seduced into following a fast shallow Fullers Ferry! Even the 100 metre wide 12 metre deep Orerewai Channel is quite interesting the first time one does it with good views of rocky edges. We have sailed through it but even in steady conditions we always have the engine running and ready just in case. We approached on 235 degrees magnetic and after passing in the gap we then lined up on a green buoy the other side, and then turned away south on 160M between the various islands when we reached the buoy. The view can be confusing as it is not always possible to separate the islands from each other and the background so having a course laid out is useful.
The wind direction had changed slightly so Waipiro was a better mooring, and as we arrived at 09.00 there were gaps as other yachts departed. With bad weather on Tuesday we expected to have to stay in Waipiro for some time. In two hours we had travelled 7.3 n miles. Settled happily in Waipiro Bay we were disappointed to hear the lunchtime forecast was now for northerly winds reaching 40 knots, gusting to 45, and this was not so good in Waipiro. So we checked Russell Radio for local advice, given our choice seemed to be between Urupukapuka Bay and Orokawa, next to Opunga. The other good places were on Moturua Island in either Pipi Bay, or Norwegian Bay next door, but they had already looked fairly full when we passed them in the morning. It is worth noting that many of the bays are not named on the charts and have to be identified from the Akarana handbook.
We raised the anchor and steamed off towards Orokawa, a nice mooring sheltered by the sheer cliffs at Te Hue Bay. Te Hue Bay, also called Assassination Cove, is a snug anchorage, sheltered from almost all winds and the Northern entry has a high cliff under which we moored. In 1772 the French navigator Marion du Fresne and 26 of his men were massacred here by the Maori for violating the tapu on the beach and there are still charges made for water at the little wharf at the end of the bay.
We had done a total of 12.9 n miles.
Kokako came and joined us later and we noticed they had some success fishing but, like us they all seemed to be undersize snapper. The evening weather update confirmed there was a Gale Warning in force and the forecast for Tuesday was now N rising to 30 knots gusting 40 knots late morning and 35 knots gusting to 45 knots in the afternoon, then W in the evening and easing to 30 knots to 40 knots overnight. Wednesday would be NW 15 to 25 then changing to SW 15 to 25. The wind direction (or the forecasts) does vary a lot here, and quickly. Listening on Channel 63 a lot of boats were reporting that they had gone back to their marina berths to sit out the bad weather for a few days.
Fair fishing was at 07.16 so the lines were baited but without success. While waiting for Russell Radio to come on air at 08.00 we looked for the Coastguard radio chat on Channel 86 and, as we were scanning up the channels, we found there was a new weather service on Channel 21 which was similar to Channel 21 in the Hauraki Gulf. This gave a continuous broadcasting of the forecast as well as including useful now-casting at Channel Island, Tutukaka, and BOI. We checked on Russell Radio and our neighbour, the cruiser Silver Hawk, said that the BOI now-casting was from Red Head Island. We also found the full national forecasts broadcast on Channel 67 and Channel 71. We heard nothing on channel 86 and later heard that Channel 86 was down, everybody seems to use Russell radio for Trip Reports anyway. Many of the VHF channels are now transponder channels where one transmits on one frequency and receives via a transponder on a high point somewhere which retransmits on a different frequency
The day started with a dull and overcast morning which quickly developed into the promised rain as we sat at anchor, did more work on the diary and read. But without any wind - we drifted round in circles under our sheltering cliff and at times all five boats in the area were facing different directions. Listening to the nowcasting on channel 21 it did seem as if the weather forecast had been a little pessimistic.
The rain increased and Stewart at Russell Radio said that he was very pleased that his water tanks would be filling. It had been a dry summer and many people in NZ do not have mains water and rely on rainwater for their water supply. Unfortunately the afternoon forecast, still a Gale Warning, was now suggesting the wind direction would change from NW to SW. Nestled against the cliffs in NW was good, but SW would mean that we would be facing outwards, and much closer to the nasty rocky face. At tea time we decided that we had no choice but to move, and the suggestion was to go to Opunga which was the next bay to Te Hue. Listening to other boats on Channel 06, some of those moored at Norwegian Bay had decided they also had to move. And they were going to Opunga. In spite of the awful rain we raised our anchor too and motored across. Pete had put on his swimming gear under his waterproof jacket. It was his job to deal with the anchor and so he would get the full benefit of the sheets of "liquid sunshine". We like Opunga and have been moored there in windy conditions in other years. Two cruisers from Norwegian Bay got to Opunga before us, and then a steady stream of yachts and cruisers arrived, including the Raven 31 Liaison, which is another "Great Escape" and seemed to have a skipper on board. Everyone knew that Opunga is a good place in SW winds.
We had travelled just 0.6 n miles today.
We checked our anchor and position regularly during the night and were surprised to find the number of twinkling lights behind us. Overnight the wind shifted, but only as far as West, so everyone was facing outwards. At midnight some of the other craft raised their anchors and motored elsewhere, and by dawn there was the steady noise of anchor chains being raised. We had moored in the middle of the bay so it was less of a problem and our anchor was very well dug in. The wind was not as strong as predicted and we were able to stay in Opunga until 10.00.
With the wind less strong we put two reefs in the main and ventured out to see what it was really like. BOI now-casting was reporting 30 knots of wind but that was on the outside of the islands whereas we were sheltered. The forecast was now for NW changing to SW and we wanted to look at our options - Pipi Bay, Urupukapuka Bay and Waipiro Bay. But first we went to look at the state of the ocean on the outside of Roberton Island. Hopefully tomorrow it would all be settled enough for us to get back towards Auckland.
We didn't want to go back to Waipiro again, but when we got into Urupukapuka Bay the swells from the ocean were causing rolling and we wanted a more settled mooring. So it was back to Waipiro Bay and we were moored early afternoon. Lots of other boats also decided it was a good place and there were several large posh fishing charter boats which came in in the evening.
We had travelled 15.9 n miles. It is easy to forget that the Bay of Islands spreads over a large area, and we had only travelled from the one end to the other of the Te Rawhiti Inlet.
We were up early and raised the anchor, which by good fortune was not quite underneath one of the late arrivals, as light appeared in the sky at 07.00. We were not the first yacht to set off. Our route towards Urupukapuka Island then through the Albert Channel was familiar now and the seas were calmer than yesterday. It was still lumpy as we bounced along towards Cape Brett and the only consolation was that a much larger yacht with two masts was having a very unpleasant roll ahead of us. We had a mainsail so had an easier time. Then we chose to go around Piercy Island whereas they took the shorter but more lively passage on the inside.
We had planned to be able to stop at Whangamumu if the conditions were too bad, or else at Mimiwhangata on the entry to Whangaruru Harbour. As we proceeded it became clear that we were going to have much better conditions, and we rang ahead to see if we could get a berth again at Tutukaka Marina. We were not too hopeful because we knew from NZ Fishing News that there was the Air Vanuatu / Nationwide Finance Tutukaka One Base Fishing Contest from 8 to 11 March. Indeed we were told that there were 60 extra boats in the marina, and that there were no available visitor moorings, however the Bay outside had lots of space. We had seen the area behind Phillips Island and that suited us well, although we would have preferred to get into the marina for the showers and laundry facilities.
We set our sails for a steady course to the entry to Tutukaka Harbour, and heard one other boat reporting that it was leaving Waipiro, heading for Tutukaka. So we looked behind and saw 3 small white sails in the distance. We had company. As we progressed we wondered whether they would be going into Whangaruru because they were hugging the coast more than us. It must just be a different style of sailing. The weather was generally good but there were a few rain showers which Pete managed to avoid. We soon identified the distinctive "Three Gables", with the South Gable being the hill which is on the entrance to the Harbour. Some 6 hours later we were still ahead, and even after a short delay while we turned into wind to bring down the main, we were still ahead in spite of the largest yacht trying to overtake us on the inside. This meant we had the choice of where to moor between the local boats, and we arrived just as another rain storm began.
We had travelled 39.0 n miles, and had taken 8 hours, of which we had only used the engine for 3 hours, mainly at the beginning to get to Cape Brett.
At 17.00 there was the announcement on Tutukaka Radio Channel 04 to Stop Fishing. One boat caught a stripey afterwards, and brought it back for weighing and smoking, but it was too late to count for the competition. Not every boat came back to Tutukaka in the evening, but each of the 60 teams checked in on the radio. We watched as they all rushed past us.
Unable to get a weather forecast by radio we needed to confirm the forecast from the Internet. In the darkness at 06.15 Pete managed to get his heavy computer bag and put it on the table in the saloon, and did not notice that his glasses were also on the table. They got thoroughly squashed under the weight, the lenses came out of the frames and it all looked like an elephant had trodden on them. Perhaps they can be repaired. Fortunately he carries a spare pair. (Back in Auckland a posh optometrist in Ponsonby did the repair, which costed just $8. Very good value)
The Met forecast confirmed that conditions would be good so we knew that we should be able to get back from Tutukaka to Kawau Island. We estimated it was over 55 n miles, so might take us 10 or more hours. Largesse does 5.5 knots under engine, and can do 7+ when sailing.
The first boats went out to the fishing grounds before dawn, and we raised our anchor as soon as it was light and joined the procession for the gap between South Gable and Red Rock. There was just one problem - as we raised the anchor it jammed. The first part we raised was rope and then we started to get to the chain. And at the join between the rope and the string there was a joint which jammed as it came up. So we wondered how to un-jam it. What could we hit it with ? There was an axe as part of the kit, intended for cutting through metal, and it was heavy. So we used that to bang the joint back towards the water, and it went back down. We could then pull it up normally. We plan to log the incident in our trip report.
Two other small yachts were preparing to leave together, and they were only a few minutes behind us. We all put up our sails at the same time, and then we motored off on the direct course towards Sail Island and the Hen, of the Hen and Chickens. We watched carefully for large boats entering and leaving Whangarei. There is serious shipping to the refinery at Marsden Point. Reaching Whangarei Heads we were well ahead and we wondered whether the other yachts were going to Whangarei instead, but they were just keeping closer to the coast, and seemed to be having some success sailing, but more slowly. Much of our journey we used the engine because there was not enough wind to sail and maintain the necessary speed of 5 knots.
The Hen and Chicken Islands are supposed to be good for fishing and we slowed down to put our little troll in the water, but caught nothing. But we did get some spectacular pictures of the islands, and Sail Rock, in the sunshine.
Leaving Sail Rock behind us we could just identify Cape Rodney in the distance ahead, and Kawau Island is hidden immediately behind it. Our trusty engine was still giving us a steady 5 knots, we were still on the same course, and we wished we had the option of an Autohelm. We took turns in holding the tiller. There was nothing to do except watch the coast move slowly past and check the names of the beaches against the chart. Then we saw a bright yellow mark against the land, which eventually became a vivid yellow barge being towed by a little vivid yellow tug. It seemed to be going towards Whangarei. It certainly surprised two yachts who came upon it as they edged their way along the coast in the opposite direction. Then opposite Goat Island we noticed a large boat coming towards us, and we steered away. Eventually it turned too and passed us on our right - presumably also heading to Whangarei. Goat Island is part of a special conservation area where fishing is prohibited and we have gone snorkelling with the friendly fish in previous years.
We were now almost at the end of our journey, but we had to be careful. The entrance to the North Channel of Kawau Island needs special care. Maori Rock is a hazard on the right, and after we were clear of it we decided to have a short sail before settling at our mooring. Again Pete hoped to catch a fish with the troll, but without any luck. There were lots of boats around and we decided to moor before it became too busy. So it was just after 18.00 when we were anchored in Harris Bay. Being a sunny Friday evening we expected to have a lot of boats arrive during the evening. Indeed there were boats arriving as late as midnight, mostly yachts, which did surprise us. Overnight the wind direction changed completely and we were facing into the harbour in the morning. So it had changed completely from the west to the east.
Our trip from Tutukaka was 55.2 n miles and took just over 11 hours.
The weather forecast sounded good for the next two days, but with the possibility of high winds on Monday. So if we wanted to get across to the Coromandel this year then we needed to go today. It was a pity because we had been promising ourselves a day on holiday at Kawau, with a chance to visit Mansion House and perhaps have a short tramp in the hope of seeing the famous wallabies. (We later stayed at Sandspit and caught the Kawau Kat ferry and had a very pleasant day walking around Kawau)
We do not usually admire cruisers, as opposed to yachts, but one beautiful boat named Harrier from Auckland, which moored next to us in Harris Bay, is an exception. When we left at 07.45 we noticed they had a superior Siamese cat which was patrolling the deck. Passing Mansion House we kept close to the coast of Kawau and then took the Rosario Channel towards Coromandel. In the distance there were two large cargo ships and we watched their course towards Auckland carefully.
We set our course on the location of Cow Island, at the entrance to Te Kouma Harbour, and waited for sailing wind. Eventually there was enough wind to make it worthwhile, and it was in a good direction, from NW. Now-casting indicated it was quite light but we had a shorter day today, and we settled down to enjoy a pleasant sail. Pete thought it might be nice to have some music, and chose one of our Vivaldi CDs. Pauline on the tiller noticed a small group of dolphins, and they came to play with us. We guess that the combination of no engine and music must have attracted them and they stayed with us for a long time.
We reached Te Kouma just after 17.00, and after avoiding the famous boulder bank we moored in our favourite Squadron Bay. We had travelled 40.8 n miles.
We listened to the weather forecast at 08.05 on Channel 82 before setting off as planned to have an explore around Coromandel Harbour and the other Bays in the north, before turning to Waiheke Island for overnight mooring. The sea had been choppy in the evening, and continued in the morning. We had left with 2 reefs, expecting there to be some wind, and having noticed that a yacht which left before us had one reef. On leaving the shelter of the harbour we decided that it would be more comfortable to go directly across to Waiheke Island, and perhaps we might get there before the change of weather and the rain already visible in the distance.
Starting with a NW wind we set our course for the Ruthe Passage, but we were too slow and the rain arrived when we were only about half way across. It is over 10 miles from Te Kouma to Waiheke. With the rain came a change in wind direction, to SW, which made it more difficult to sail to the Ruthe Passage and so we revised our plans and aimed instead for the main approach by Shag Island. We lost visibility near Shag Rock due to the rain, but it soon cleared and the main hazards became little moored fishing boats. We now know another situation Pauline does not like, no visibility, whilst Pete just tacked away into clear water on a compass course and then had a look at the GPS for the couple of minutes until Shag Island reappeared. We looked at Man-o-War Bay as a temporary refuge until the rain stopped but we could just receive Channel 21 and the morning update to the weather forecast encouraged us to head straight for Chamberlin's Bay also known as North Harbour on Ponui Island. The wind was expected to turn to the SE, and so we needed to find shelter from all winds from the south direction.
The rain passed by, the wind increased and it was still from the SW. We sat fishing in the sunshine and writing up the log in a lovely bay. The only disadvantage is that the shelter is not as good as one would expect as there is quite a low saddle which reduces shelter and through which the wind seems to funnel.
We had "only" travelled 18.8 n miles today.
It was a good forecast and we planed to do a cruise down the Tamaki Straight and part way round the outside of Waiheki, eventually mooring at Owhanake bay which looked beautiful in the "Moorings in the Hauraki Gulf book" and was perfect for a SE wind. This would have set us up to complete 500 nautical miles in the holiday. Unfortunately we met a snag when we came to pull up anchor as there was a shaking/grinding noise from the engine/drive chain when Pauline tried to motor forwards whilst Pete pulled up the anchor. At a second try in gear it sounded fine but as soon as Pete had another go at raising anchor the noise returned and a quick look inside showed the engine looked as if it was try to shake free of the engine mounts. Everything looked OK and the engine mounts were intact so we rang Rob who suggested we might have lost a propellor blade however it seemed intermittent which did not match a fouled prop or broken blade. We could not risk sailing off anchor from the position and wind which was funnelling down the harbour and producing the odd willlywaw - the rocks looked a bit close if she did not pick up instantly in the right direction.
In the end Rob and we agreed to try gently motoring enough to get sail up so we could work our way back - Ponui island is about as inaccessible as anywhere for a repair or tow. The engine/drive seemed reasonably smooth so we edged out of Ponui and got the jib up as soon as we were turned in the correct direction and got out of gear and sailed back towards base. When we stopped the engine and speed built up we noticed the floor of the cockpit was shaking - a quick check showed the engine was dancing on its mounts and the propellor was still turning. Stopping the prop by going into gear with the engine halted stopped all the vibration - a missing prop blade looked a real possibility and any significant running would do damage to everything.
We initially picked Islington as a mooring big enough to sail off anchor as it was late in the day to reach Bayswater in light winds. The latest update to the forecast then indicated SE winds overnight which would have been straight into Islington. We had to make other choices. We had Putiki as a target for a while as the winds were extremely light, then they picked up and we worked up to three then four knots goosewinged and changed our target to West Bay on Motuihe Island, giving us an easy exit in the morning under sail. It was a beautiful sail in light airs down the Tamaki Straight and it proved easy to drop the anchor with the main sail up. As soon as we had the anchor down Pete went over the back with a mask and snorkel and quickly found the prop had one blade out and one folded back. A quick call to Rob confirmed this meant the folding mechanism, which reduces drag, was definitely broken and we were, in effect, running with a single blade. The dive did show that the antifouling was in excellent condition with nothing obvious on the bottom - Pete should have checked the speed sensor at the same time.
The evening and night were not so pleasant as we had forgotten how much one rolled as every ferry from Auckland to Waiheke went past. It was difficult to stand upright to fish but finally Pete got a pan sized snapper for supper. The evening was very clear with a sunset over Auckland - one felt one could almost reach out and touch the Sky Tower.
We had travelled 15.2 n miles
Sailing off the anchor in 8-10 knots of wind was much simpler than we had expected. By the time Pete had secured the anchor and got back to the cockpit Pauline had picked up speed and control and we were off. The sail back to Bayswater was a perfect beam reach and the 8-10 knots of wind was giving us up to six knots. We were doing a steady 5 or more knots when we came to cross the shipping channel after which the winds dropped in the harbour and for the approach to the marina.
We had regular contact with Rob and he came out with someone in the marina Rib and breasted up as we dropped the main and towed us back to our berth. Timing was not perfect as we shared the narrow entry channel with the Fullers Ferry, but that was just bad luck. The ferry only goes hourly. We ended the holiday with a safe but somewhat ignominious return although less fun for spectators than when we returned one year with the self furler jammed and a full jib flapping making enough noise to get everybody out to watch and offer advice ! We subsequently found out that the surmise had been correct and the feathering arrangement had stripped a tooth and then done sufficient damage that the propellor was not worth repairing and was replaced - it was still the original, 18 years old, so it had done good service.
The final day was only 9.2 n miles.
Coming back a day early unfortunately meant we missed our target of 500 nautical miles by a mere 19 miles, well under our average daily mileage. Last year in 15 days we covered 503 nautical miles and we had hoped to better than that this year.
| Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
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