22 November 2014 Okura Bay to Rere Bay , Whangaroa, New Zealand
I received an email from Cater Marine about the radar and chart plotter. They’ve knocked £300 off the whole package, which is not bad. It would probably cost me £300 (and a load of hassle) to get stuff shipped in from Defender in the USA, so it’s a good deal. The equipment is now only costing 5-10% more than in the states, so I've ordered £4,000 worth of electronics gear from Cater Marine. And so the spending starts…
After putting my red hot credit card away, we motored across to Whangaroa Town and anchored off the small marina. The town is very small with one tiny grocery store, a hotel and a café. We bought a couple of pies for lunch and walked up to the top of the hill overlooking the town, which was a strenuous, but pleasant 45 minute walk with a bit of a scramble at the top. The view of the Whangaroa Harbour is stunning.
Back at the boat, we motored back around to Rere Bay, which we think is the most dramatic anchorage in this area and chilled out for the afternoon.
23 November 2014 Rere Bay , Whangaroa, New Zealand
It was a lovely day, so we decided to stay put and have a chill-out Sunday. In the morning, at high tide, we went for a small excursion in the dinghy up a small tributary of the bay. It’s a pleasant little trip following a river coming down through the valley with steep sided conglomerate rock cliffs looming above.
There are mangroves at the end where the river shallows rapidly and turns brackish, but the one thing that is very noticeable is the lack of wildlife here in New Zealand. If we went up a similar river in North or South America we’d be seeing lots of birds and other creatures like lizards, alligators and even the odd troop of monkeys. We spent nearly an hour on this little trip and saw a few seagulls, a Pied Shag and not much else.
We pottered about in the afternoon then John and Jan from “Second Chance” came over for a beer or two. They live on their boat on a mooring in Opua and gave us some good information on local marine businesses.
24 November 2014 Rere Bay to Matauri Bay, New Zealand
It was a lovely day, so we upped anchor and motored out of Whangaroa Harbour. We’ve spent a pleasant few days here and there’s more to explore, so we’ll definitely be coming back here in autumn before we leave New Zealand. As we left the shelter of the steep cliffs, the wind picked up to 10 knots from the north-west and we had a lovely, if slow, sail downwind in the calm seas.
Just as we passed Flat Island, the reel buzzed out and I landed a nice big fish. It looked like a cross between a Spanish Mackerel and a Barracuda and was soon brought aboard - my first New Zealand fish. It had a smelly, slimy skin like Barracuda, and had a lot of small bones, but tasted great in the fish butties that Glenys made later for lunch.
Around midday, we anchored in 5 metres of water in Horseshoe Bay on Big Cavalli Island. This lovely big bay has good holding and is on a large deserted island, but it’s very exposed to west and south winds. The wind had backed to the west, but was only 10-14 knots, so we scooted ashore to have a look around.
The shore is pebbles which are piled very steeply up to dense scrubland. There’s an old camping hut, but nothing else around. Alba was starting to pitch up and down as the chop in the anchorage built up, so we didn’t venture inland, instead, we stayed on the beach in sight of our precious home. Glenys picked up some nice sea shells including some lovely shiny abalone shells. At the far end of the beach, we disturbed a nesting Oystercatcher and a Caspian Tern, which kept dive bombing us to force us away.
The wind continued to back to WSW, so we were soon back on board pulling up the anchor and motoring a mile across to Matauri Bay, which in contrast to Horseshoe Bay , has a lovely sandy beach. Once around the headland, the sea calmed down and we had a lovely calm night.
25 November 2014 Matauri Bay to Urupukapuka Bay, New Zealand
It was a misty morning, but we just had enough wind to sail off the anchor. We don’t normally do this, but we were all alone in the peaceful anchorage and just didn’t feel like putting on the noisy engine. However, once clear of the anchorage, the wind died completely and we had to put the engine on anyway.
There wasn’t a scrap of wind all morning and we had to motor all twenty miles to the Bay Islands. On the way, we kept getting fleeting glimpses of Blue Penguins swimming on the sea, but they dive down below the surface as we approach, which is very frustrating.
We wove our way through the Bay Islands, past some lovely looking anchorages, to Urupukapuka Bay, which is a nice bay, but very shallow a long way from the shore - we were cowards and anchored a couple of hundred metres out.
Glenys dragged me off the boat and we went for a two hour tramp on the island (New Zealander’s don’t go hiking, they go tramping.) It was a very nice trail - just about circumnavigating the island. There are some steep sections, but the path is very well maintained and has steps on the more steep sections.
The famous "New Zealand Christmas Trees" (Pohutukawa) are just coming into bloom and can be found perched on cliff edges all over the island. This tree produces brilliant crimson flowers from November to January, hence the nickname New Zealand Christmas tree.
In the evening, I went on deck to throw away a bit of food and within a minute, we had our own private flock of Red-billed Gulls waiting patiently for more food. These small gulls have a similar shape to UK black-headed gulls, but have predominately white bodies and head. We couldn't resist throwing them scraps of bread, just to watch their antics while they hovered and jostled for position, then snatching the bread mid-air.
26 November 2014 Urupukapuka Bay to Opua, New Zealand
Our short “holiday” was over, so we headed back to Opua Marina to get ready to go down to Whangarei, where we are booked to get hauled out on the 8th December. Once ensconced in a berth, we connected to the internet and caught up on a week’s emails. I did a bit of research on the fish that I caught a few days ago and found out that it’s called a Barracouta and is the only fish in New Zealand that people don’t eat - here’s a quote from a web site …
Few anglers will actually cook and eat a barracouta – or at least few will admit to doing so! They all have a parasitic worm in their stomach, which when they die, leaves the stomach lining and enters around the backbone and into the flesh. If you are keen on eating one, gut them as soon as possible and then make sure that the flesh has no worms... Oh Dear!
I called in at the Cater Marine and unfortunately, our Raymarine radar and chart plotter hasn’t been delivered. I’ve been told that some of the parts won’t be available until the end of next week, so I’ve told them to deliver it to us in Whangarei next week.
27 November 2014 Opua, New Zealand
Rod and Mary from “Sheer Tenacity” gave us a lift into Keri Keri, so that we could do errands and provision. The minutes on our satellite phone have finally expired, and we’re not going to bother to renew the subscription until we leave New Zealand, so we needed to sort out our communications again. I managed to buy a data card for our iPad that cost £15 for 5 GB of data, which is cheaper than buying wireless internet access.
Back on the boat, we tried to get a marina berth in Whangarei, but really struggled. It looks like a lot of the “Pacific Fleet” has already headed down there and the marinas are full up. After a bit of whinging, I finally managed to get a berth in the Whangarei Town Marina from the 1st December until the 8th when we get hauled out at Norsand boat yard.
In the evening, we were invited over to “Sheer Tenacity”, where Rod grilled some Boerewors sausages - a very South African thing to barbeque. They were heavy going, but very, very tasty - much better than the pork sausages that the Kiwis are fond of.
28 November 2014 Opua, New Zealand
It was a miserable rainy morning, so we hunkered down and did some serious internet work. Glenys has taken control of the iPad and loves having constant internet access. She is becoming a bit of a iPad bore, because every time we talk about something, she’s now looking it up on her iPad which seems to be glued to her hand.
I bought a couple of 2TB USB disk drives yesterday and spent most of the day copying movies and music from our old drives to the new - I still need to buy yet another 2 TB hard disk drive because I’m running out of space already. There’s only three weeks before we fly home to the UK, so I started to buy things to be delivered to our son. I blew £ 1,000 today on two new laptops and some other bits and pieces.
It cleared up in the afternoon, so I replaced some blocks on our roller reefing. I’ve become a great fan of Garhauer blocks. They’re manufactured in the USA from stainless steel with great bearings - much better than the more expensive, plastic offerings from Harken and Lewmar. I’ve spent £350 already, but that has replaced eight blocks and is a bargain - honest.
29 November 2014 Opua to Wangamumu Harbour, New Zealand
We were up early and escaped the marina by nine o’clock heading towards Whangarei. It was a pleasant sail past the Bay Islands and out to Cape Brett, which is one of the most impressive headlands that we’ve seen in our travels with steep cliffs and a white lighthouse perched on a ridge.
Once past the cape, the wind turned variable on us, dropping off to nothing then gusting up to 25 knots as the cold wind dropped down the steep sided ridges. We sailed and motored and sailed and motored for five miles into Wangamumu Harbour, which is another lovely, well protected anchorage.
After lunch, we donned tramping clothes and headed out to look at the old Whaling Station on the shore. This facility was in operation until the 1940s and was the only place in the world where nets were used to catch whales. The whalers strung steel nets across a channel not far from the station and then, using longboats, drove the Humpback Whales into the nets where they would become entangled and could be easily harpooned.
After looking around the ruins for a while, we set off on a trail, tramping up the steep sided hill to a ridge high over the coast line. It was a pleasant path, but the views of the magnificent coast were mostly hidden by trees and undergrowth. We turned around when it was apparent that we were as high as we were going to get and the path started going steeply down towards the sea.
30 November 2014 Wangamumu Harbour, New Zealand
Thankfully, the engine started this morning and we left by half past eight. There was no wind at all for the first hour, then a light breeze kicked in allowing us to sail. I put out a blue squid lure on the rod and, within 20 minutes, had hooked and landed a Yellowtail Amberjack. It was damn hard to kill and we ended up with blood splatters everywhere on the aft deck which took me fifteen minutes to clean up.
We had a big Bottlenosed Dolphin join us for fifteen minutes before it got bored with our leisurely 3-4 knot boat speed. Then Glenys went down below to make fish butties for lunch and five minutes later, the wind decided to pick up giving us gusts of 25 knots - typical... We reefed heavily allowing Glenys to finish off lunch and then had to roll away the genoa and pull out the staysail when the wind increased to 25-30 knots. It stayed like that all the way to the harbour entrance.
We anchored in Tutukaka Bay at about two o’clock, a little shell-shocked by the unexpected high winds. The anchorage is pleasant and sheltered, but we had difficulty setting our CQR anchor. We dragged the first time and then we left it for an hour to settle before backing it in again. I think that I’ve finally convinced myself to change our anchor to a Rocna. They’re made here in New Zealand and we should be able to get one fairly cheap (£500). Everyone who has one swears by them including Rod from “Sheer Tenacity” who has been banging on about them ever since I met him in 2011.
Jobs on the boat are piling up. The engine ignition switch worked okay today, but it’s definitely very flaky - I hope that it lasts for a few more starts and stops. Our Rope Stripper is making a horrible clacking noise. In a warmer climate, I would dive down to check it, but it’s too damn cold here… I just hope that it’s not doing any damage and lasts until we get to Whangerei tomorrow.
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