They say cruiser's plans are all written in the sand at low tide. Apparently our previous plans slipped away a few tide changes ago!
After completing our recent sailing adventures around New Zealand, we started to think more about our future plans, particularly sorting out our eventual route home! We realized that we were much more excited about heading further west and through Indonesia than beating upwind home. The beat home means revisiting some of the island groups and anchorages we have already seen, whereas as we travel WEST everything is all brand new!
So....Our latest plans are to sail north to Vanuatu where we will explore one of the most traditional islands in all of the South Pacific, visit a live volcano and dive on the famous WW 2 wreck. Next we will cross west to the Louisiades, an island group in the South East corner of Papau New Guinea. There is even a possibility that we will do some exploring of the Solomons enroute- all weather dependent, as usual. From the Louisiades we will cross to Australia (clearing customs at Thursday Island- which is on the top north east corner), then onto Darwin by July. This route from New Zealand to Darwin Australia is approximately 3000 miles! There we will join the Indonesian Rally, which will take us up through Indonesia to Singapore by December. The Indonesian Rally will be an adventurous passage with a wide cultural exposure, a chance to see orangutans in the wild, komodo dragons, and Bali! We also look forward to some great diving along the way.
Once in Singapore we will either ship the boat into the Med, or even possibly home from there. Time and tide changes will tell.
We will keep you posted, but it looks like our weather window is shaping up for a mid-week departure to Vanuatu (May 2 2012). If the weather holds, this will be the third anniversary in a row we have spent at sea! Maybe one of these years we will actually be able to go out to celebrate at a nice restaurant with a bottle of champagne, but it appears our 28th anniversary (May 5th) will be another one in our safety harnesses and a toast with fizzy water, or maybe a can of beer if the conditions are settled!
04/19/2012, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Back in the Bay of Islands!
We left Great Barrier Island with the wind still blowing persistently at 25-30 knots from the ESE. We planned to meet our cruising friends Bill and Kathy from SV Jarana on the small island of Ponui, very close to Auckland, but unfortunately almost due south of Great Barrier. The bash up wind was spectacularly wet; we were still in the left over winds and waves from the tropical depression.
Once we turned the corner around the bottom of Waiheke Island to make our way to Ponui we were greeted by a plethora of sailboats. Easter long weekend is the last hoorah for sailors in this part of the world. The sun was shining, the wind was up, and it seems every Aucklander who owned a boat was heading for one anchorage or another. We anchored well out of the crowd, but despite the initial distance we were surrounded before dusk.
The next day we had a lazy genoa sail to Waiheke Island, weaving our way in and out of boats anchored or drifting while fishing, which I fully declare is THE national past-time here in New Zealand. You can't be on the water without seeing somebody fishing. After fishing, comes sailing, but only if you are racing. We passed a total of 3 races which were underway just along that one side of Waiheke!
Forget racing on PM for the moment- it's always so relaxing to sail on the genoa alone, leaving the main tucked away, playing only with the trim of the one sail. This kind of sailing allows my mind to drift back to our early days of light wind sailing on Michael's catamaran, where we would youthfully sprawl on the tramp and steer with our feet. AND I remember why I love to sail!
Despite arriving in the middle of the Waiheke Jazz Festival, we left early the next day to make the 62 nm trip north up to Bream Head. The sailing got even better- this leg was possibly the best sailing we have enjoyed in months. With the sun out and winds behind us we put out our huge Code Zero sail and screamed our way north averaging about 8-9 knots. As the winds filled in we traded the Code Zero for the genoa and continued to blast ever so softly along. Approaching Bream Head the winds picked up to 25-30 knots, resulting in a spectacular display of sea spray against the deep green water spilling out of Whangerie River. We came to rest in McLeod Bay, where friends on Rutea invited us for Easter Dinner. Perfect!
We made one last stop in gorgeous Whangamumu (love these Kiwi names) where we had the whole bay to ourselves. We 'bush-wacked' up the steep pastures south of the anchorage and connected with a barely visible trail that led out to the end of the peninsula. This hike was striking, with great vistas, birds and geography. At one point we walked across a natural bridge between two pieces of land - a mere four feet wide, the trail overhanging the cliffs at one point, about 80' vertical drop with water on either side. I love New Zealand.
As we sailed around Cape Brett we interrupted a conference attended by thousands of gulls. They sprang themselves out of the water in a mad flap as Paikea Mist sailed by, and regrouped again behind us.
Once around the Cape, we hung our hook in Oke Bay and climbed our way to the lookout on the Cape Brett Trail which gives you a bird's eye view of the Bay of Islands.
So here we are, full circle, our circumnavigation of the North Island completed. We will take a few days in our now familiar stomping grounds of the Bay of Islands before heading back into Opua to do some final maintenance and provisioning before looking for our weather window to head back to the tropics.
04/01/2012, Great Barrier Island
The sign on the small dock said "Sanctuary Walk- tie up your dinghy, and follow path up past houses, Glenfern HQ on your right". We were looking for a diversion- and this looked like just what the doctor ordered! We had spent the last 5 days anchored in squirrely winds in the protected harbour of Port Fitzroy, Great Barrier Island as we waited for the tropical depression of Cyclone Daphne to brush by the northwest coast of New Zealand as she zoomed her way southeast. We love Great Barrier- the island was high on our list to return to after spending time hiking and hanging here last year. But in five days, we had crossed off every hike available to us, and this pleasant sign was a warm welcome.
We wandered up through an exquisitely manicured garden along a perfectly laid brick foot trail towards a group of freshly painted heritage houses. New Zealand land owners are so amazing I thought to myself- this seems in keeping with the same level of openness to visitors as we found on the privately owned Great Mercury Island. A second sign said "Follow the driveway up to Sanctuary Walk". So up we went, up and up and up through steep, deep green pastures and a seemingly endless series of gates (which we carefully closed behind us), until finally we came to another sign which simply said "Sunset Lookout". We followed the path as directed and climbed out to Sunset Lookout. Here, sitting atop a craggy peak, we found a bronzed plaque and a hat with an epitaph to Tony Bouzaid: the script indicated that he passed away at 71 years of age just last October. As I looked at this beautiful marking of a man's life I thought to myself, this must have been a wonderful man. The hush of the wind seemed to speak to me there at that lookout, and the voice was soft and kind.
We continued on further up the trail and came across the next sign which directed us to the "Giant Kauri Tree". To our surprise, the trail not only ended at a 600 year old Kauri Tree, but there was a very solid suspension bridge from the steep hillside out to the crown, some 50' above the forest floor. Despite winds of 35-40 knots screaming through the valley, I took a deep breath and followed Michael out to the viewing platform. This tree was a veritable giant, and while the branches were at the liberty of the wind, the grand tree stood up boldly- she'd seen it all before. We stood in among the branches, looking over the forest canopy below and for a sublime moment felt a little bit like the tree herself, wondering how many storms like this one she had weathered in her long life.
From the Kauri tree , the trail dropped down through a magical, enchanted forest. The native bush draped the well groomed trail, which zigged and zagged it's way down to a gurgling stream below.
The singsong chuckle of the NZ Kaka and the small peeps of Fantails filled the air. We never spotted the Kaka, but the Fantails made a pretty show of following our progress, effortlessly flitting in and out of the bush around us. Back in the dinghy we pulled away from the dock and gazed back up at the sanctuary. Despite being a fairly overcast day, the sun was shining on Sunset Rock.
We managed to get the hike in just before Daphne dropped her endless buckets of rain down on Great Barrier. We watched as rain came down in sheets, hitting the water in several directions at once. After a day and a half of cabin fever, we found ourselves drawn to the Sanctuary yet again. This time we decided to follow the quad track which continued on up the hill past the Giant Kauri. Michael and I seem obsessed with heights. They call to us: "climb up here, take a look, it's beautiful up here". Up and up and up we went along the narrow track. Some parts were so steep they secured chicken wire on the track to improve the traction. Finally we were traversing along a narrow ridge when the track ended abruptly at a stony outcropping, an obvious place to find the ultimate dizzying lookout. We pulled ourselves up, foothold by hand hold until we were on top of the world. I immediately sat down, the wind, with the clouds whizzing overhead gave me vertigo and I wasn't completely sure I could hold my footing! Michael stood into the wind and took some amazing photos.
On our way down we passed the houses and received a friendly wave from one of the folks there. We hopped back into the dinghy and zoomed across the bay to stop in at the grocery store, which was when we got our first inkling that perhaps we had made a pretty big assumption! The small pamphlet posted to the information booth said "Glenfern Sanctuary Walk- contact HQ for your guided nature walk (min 4 people) or enjoy self guided walks." Hmmm...Michael this sounds like a commercial endeavour (think again!), but those signs made no mention of money... Michael and I played with the riddle for a bit, and I resolved to google it when we got back to the boat.
Late that night, a treasure box of information poured out of my one ping of the google search button. Tony Bouzaid was one heck of a man. Among other things he was an avid yachtsman, and had in 1979 won New Zealand Sailor of the Year. He was a forward thinking conservationist, and a very successful business man. He used these two energies to create Glenfern Sanctuary, a non profit environmental project. Glenfern is a very large chunk of land, sprawling out over 260 hectares, on the end of a peninsula. His dream was to create a pest free zone, allowing native bush and birds to flourish. To this end, he built an 8 foot high, two kilometre impenetrable fence across the narrow part of the peninsula, successively cutting off his land from the rest of Great Barrier Island. The fence itself is a remarkable engineering feat, and can be seen from several vantage points around Port Fitzroy as it blazes its way up and over the steep terrain. He then went about ridding his lands of possums, rats and other pests, laying down 2500 tunnels and traps. He also planted over 10,000 native trees. He has received world recognized awards in environmentalism for these efforts, and the project is also funded through large non-profits such as WWF. Sadly, Tony Bouzaid passed away suddenly, still full of life energy, wisdom and sense of direction.
Assuming fools we have been, but appreciative ones. On the internet, Tony's breathtakingly beautiful Sanctuary Walk was advertised as $20 NZD per person, one we would have gladly paid for the privilege of sharing his vision, had we known. In the memoir section, we read that the bronzed sculpture of Tony's Tilley hat was placed on Sunset Rock because it was his favourite spot in all of Ferndale Sanctuary, and invites the reader to visit the Sanctuary anytime to pay respect. As we left early the next morning, sailing past the mussel farms he had hotly protested, I thought of him yet again, and wished the world was full of more men like him.
I would have dearly loved to have met Tony. He surely was a most magnificent man, one who had a passionate and kind heart and a sense of adventure too. We would have had endless, comfortable chats about this and that. I can imagine him extending us his well worked hand in a warm welcome as we pulled up to his dinghy dock, maybe even walking along beside us and sharing his passion for life, nature, and even sailing as we climbed up and up to his lookouts. But perhaps it was his voice I was listening to all along, warmly embracing us in his sanctuary.
For more information about Ferndale Sanctuary go to http://www.glenfern.org.nz.
As a parting gift to New Zealand and all that this amazing country has given us we have decided to make a donation to Glenfern "Save the Species" project.
03/30/2012, Coromandel, New Zealand
New Zealand has is a long history of sharing farm land for' tramping' or what we called hiking in Canada. This is especially true of privately owned Great Mercury Island, where pleasant signs are posted on all the landings asking that you please refrain from lighting fires and ensure that all the gates are closed after you pass through. If only the rest of the world took this approach, the world would sure seem a friendlier place.
Michael Fay, the owner of Great Mercury Island keeps it in tip top shape.
Over 3 sun-soaked days, we enjoyed our explorations here, especially at dusk when the light was exquisitely deep. We tried to capture it in photos, but wonder if the photos really do it justice. Some things are just better seen in person.
We paddled the kayaks to the bays close by and took the car (aka dinghy) to the fine white sandy beaches on the far side of the island, where we had an impromptu picnic of Hawkes Bay Chardonnay, a selection of local cheeses, spreading out on what seemed like a very private beach ( I guess cause it was!). How many places in the world would an island owner welcome you to one of his 12 pristinely sandy beaches, only asking you to take your garbage with you when you go?
Can you spot what we forgot to bring?
03/27/2012, Around East Cape
Final leg into Mercury Islands-Otto at the helm
Our two day passage around East Cape and up into the Mercury Islands was a breeze. The passage is known to be a bit of a bear, and East Cape itself is renowned for being particularly unkind. The last thing you want is to be bashing up around the Cape in a strong northerly. Of course, rarely do you have favourable winds on both sides of the Cape. From Napier, the first 24 hours of the run is North East, and takes you out to the Cape. From there, the next 24 hour line to the Mercury Islands is West North West. The past week we waited patiently (okay the wine part helped) for the endless string of gale and storm force northerlies to abate before we cast off the docklines. We left at high tide to clear the bar at the entrance to Napier's inner harbour.
The first day we sailed and motor sailed in light airs to make our way out to East Cape. We cleared East Cape early the next morning, greeted by several albatross gliding effortlessly across the swells. The second day the winds began to fill in again. The result was a very pleasant afternoon and overnight sail with wind behind the beam the entire way. It's been a long time since we've enjoyed a downwind leg on Paikea Mist, and it sure felt nice!
At Runaway Cape we encountered a commercial fish boat who called us on his radio. He had wrapped his fish nets in his prop and was wondering if we had any dive gear on board. He had gone under for a look, but couldn't stay down long enough to do anything. He told us that he thought the net was wrapped once around the prop, and it shouldn't take long to cut it away. He didn't have any dive experience, so asked if we would dive to disentangle his mess. The winds were light at the time, but the 3 - 5 ft swells were still pushing both of the boats around, and the water was fairly choppy. Michael and I had a serious chat while we considered our ability to help him. As he didn't have a dinghy, we would first have to deploy ours. With our dinghy secured for an offshore passage, and our rigid davit system, this task can be quite challenging while at sea in the swells. We also thought about our own dive skills, equipment and experience. With mainly calm tropical water dive experience and lightweight 2mm wetsuits, we were nervous about diving under the heavy vessel as it plunged up and down in the swells. We discussed our concerns with the Captain of the fishing vessel, and regrettably informed him that we were unable to provide assistance. We did let him know that the 50' motorsailer "Solstice" was a short way behind us, and possibly in a better position to provide assistance. We had met Soltice's owners, Toby and Cath, in Napier (they are from Keri Keri just north of Opua), and guessed correctly that they might have the experience and the right equipment needed to tackle the problem. It took Toby an hour and a half, and a second dive tank, to free the badly wrapped net. The fishboat was then able to fire up his engines - we can only imagine how happy and relieved the fish boat captain was.
The next morning as we arrived in the Mercury Islands, the sun had just climbed out of bed, and was waking us up to what looked like a stellar day.
early morning magic
We diverted our path away from Great Barrier Island when we spotted this gorgeous uplifted island.
Korapuki Island is too interesting not to stop
We anchored in behind it and inflated our kayaks where we paddled through a series of caves and overhangs, and eventually around the entire island.
Nothing like a little exercise after being at sea for a couple of days! After we pulled our kayaks on board we continued our sail to tuck into a lovely bay behind the protection of Great Mercury Island.
03/25/2012, Napier, East Coast North Island NZ
Oh drat! Poor us, 'stuck' in Napier for over a week waiting for the wind to stop blowing at ridiculously high speeds out there. What shall we ever do?!! Hmmm. I don't detect too much sympathy- nor should we! Napier is a soulful seaside town with fantastic wineries, restaurants and friendly people. It's easy to lose yourself here dockside for weeks at a time. The first day we arrived we cycled into town, and ran into Carlos, a large boned Samoan Kiwi serving at a wine tasting store. He gave us lots of great advice on how to enjoy Napier, where the 'hot' wineries were, and sent us out that Sunday to a live concert at one of the seaside wineries. Sitting in the warm sun, with vistas to the sea we listened to a jazz band while drinking a bottle of Hawke's Bay Chardonnay and eating pizza (total cost: 35NZD). Thanks Carlos!
Carlos takes his own advice- that's him on the right
We arrived into Napier just ahead of the Round New Zealand (RNZ) Yacht Race and were lucky to get space in front of the Napier Sailing Club. (NSC was a fantastic host to us, even though they had their hands full with the race. We were ushered into our dock by Lyall, who also took the time to show us around the facilities.) As the raceboats came in over the next few days we had an interesting time meeting the crazed sailors. Who on earth would decide to race a boat double handed around New Zealand? Check out some of the boats taking part!
Truxton- the first boat in on the leg from Stewart Island- these guys only had one change of clothes the entire race and slept in their foulies
This Beneateau First series is the big boy on the circuit
Hatches are battened down with plywood
A feat just to circumnavigate the islands, racing it is an entirely different category.
Brave or foolish? We won't be the ones to judge. Their stories though were of unbelievable strength and fortitude amidst utter chaos of a 70 knot storm on the Tasman Sea (West Coast of NZ). Here one of the yachts (34' sloop) actually called a mayday when they started to sink. The captain described the storm as terrifying, yet somehow absurdly peaceful as their boat started to go down, with water coming up over their knees inside the boat. They were well offshore, past any help NZ Maritime could provide. He tells us that when he called the Mayday, he fully expected to die, and was merely marking the spot where he would go down. His crew suddenly shook them out of this passive stance. "F@*k death tonight!" he roared. This single declaration was all that was needed to plunge them both into survival mode. They turned on crash pumps, started a bucket brigade and found the leak, patched it, floated the boat and SAILED ON!!!
It poured with rain while they were in town, licking their wounds and gearing up for the next race. Roger, from Doyle Sails was busy inside the Sailing Club fixing up torn sails.
Roger mans the sewing machine while Michael helps feed the cloth
We were invited with the group to a wine tour which was hosted by RNZ. The wineries we went to put on a great show and we were able to purchase some fantastic wines, some at reduced rates for the racers! The racers didn't wait for a weather window like us- they just went out into the storm with wind and waves pounding down on them. We took the time to cycle out to the point to watch the start of the race, which was in fog, and out into a 40 knot northerly! Yup, they were headed north!
While the racers were there, we were particularly pleased to meet Tom and Vicky on SV Sunstone. Tom is in his 60's and Vicky in her late 50's. They sailed from the coast of B.C Canada back to NZ to have a chance to sail in the RNZ double handed race!! The two have lived aboard their sailboat since the early 80's and have cruised and raced her all over the world- 180,000 nm so far. Having checked off everything on their cruising list they are now preparing to spend some time in Auckland, where they have residency. They invited us for tea and gave us lots of tips on cruising Vanuatu, as well as some great ideas for sail management in storms. We toasted them that night with a glass of, well, really really good red wine while eating lambshanks at the sailing club!
Tom and Vicky get ready for the last leg to Auckland
Napier is braided with bike trails, so we made good use of our bikes exploring the art deco town center, riding out through the country side, and visiting more wineries. Michael loves a glass of red with the best of them, but he can sniff out a good brewery in the midst just about anywhere. As such, we found ourselves one evening enjoying some great beer tasting at the local brewery.
Michael's smiling now-but will he share?
With Paikea Mist sitting right off the walk/cycle path we had lots of friendly visits from the locals, all offering a sincere welcome and apologizing for the weather! We really didn't mind in the least, we just kept buying more wine!
When the weather window finally opened up to round East Cape, we drifted off the dock at calm high tide to get over the bar and out to sea for our two day passage to the Mercury Islands. By the way, the word on Hawke's Bay red is that 2009 was a stellar year. With all the cold weather and rain this year, take a pass on the 2012 vintage.