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Voyages of Sarah Jean II
Photos, Photos, Photos!

This shot was taken while kayaking in the Cavalli Islands. They are located north of the Bay of Islands and just south Whangaroa Harbour.

Photos of our travels down the east coast of New Zealand's North Island have now been posted. The names are funny but the scenery is stunning! Albums include:

Whangaroa Harbour
Cavalli Islands
Whangamumu Bay
Mimiwhangata Bay
Kawau Island
Great Barrier Island
Hauraki Gulf

Australasian Gannets
03/06/2013, Great Barrier Island, NZ

We watched these beautiful birds at a colony on Motutaiko Island, part of the Broken Island Group. They have pale yellow heads and dark lines about the base of their beaks and dark patches under their eyes. There were thousands of them soaring above the cliffs and nesting along the rocky headlands. While most of the young birds were adolescents, old enough to fly, we did see a few fuzzy chicks that had been born late in the season. Gannets build bowl like nests with seaweed and bird droppings and then lay one blue-green egg. We watched several birds working on their nests, looking quite comical with beaks full of seaweed. The chicks are fat and fluffy with downy feathers, looking bigger than the parents. When old enough they leave the rookery for the coast of Australia, returning to NZ to breed after 3 - 7 years away. Gannets can live to be over 30 years old!

Gannet in Flight
03/06/2013, Great Barrier Island, NZ

Gannets are amazing flyers. They soar effortlessly on the updrafts along the coast. This bird was flying away from us, heading out to sea. You can see his yellow head looking down, surveying the water. Gannets drop on their prey of small fish like dive bombers, typically from heights of up to 100 ft. They can reach speeds of up to 80 miles per hour before they hit the water. To avoid getting hurt on impact gannets will collapse their wings and inflate special shock cushions on their lower neck and chest that act much like car air bags. A diving gannet is an impressive sight!

The Pied Shag
03/06/2013, Great Barrier Island, NZ

The trees lining the NZ shores are often decorated with Pied Shags sitting motionless except for the slow turning of their heads as they survey their surroundings. These same trees often contain nests where young shags can be seen anxiously waiting for their parents to return with dinner. When hungry, adult shags will paddle about the bay, diving for fish and squid, typically staying under the water for about 30 seconds. At the end of the fishing session they will often sit on a branch facing into the wind with their wings spread open to dry, similar to cormorants on the BC coast.

Little Blue Penguin
03/06/2013, Great Barrier Island, NZ

The waters around Great Barrier are full of Little Blue Penguins. They typically float about the coast in small groups, poking their heads into the water from time to time looking below for fish or squid. When under the water they fly like birds with amazing speed and agility. Little Blue Penguins are tiny, measuring only about 16" in length. This makes them the world's smallest penguin. They nest along the coast but have been known to waddle inland for up to ½ miles in search of just the right spot. If you're lucky, you can see them come ashore at dusk, making their way up the beach back to their nests, little folks in blue tuxedos chattering socially as they go!

A Crayfish Dinner Invitation
03/06/2013, Great Barrier Island, NZ

Mathew proudly displays a couple of huge crayfish, fresh out of the cooking pot!

The serendipitous moments are one thing I love about the cruising life!

The other day we were sailing from Port Fitzroy to Whangaparapara Harbour, both on spectacular Great Barrier Island. Our planned route took us through the rugged Broken Island Group just off the west coast of the island. As we passed Rangiahua Island, also known as Flat Top Island, we were captivated by the myriad of picturesque bays and the lush rolling meadows that covered the entire island. On the east side we saw a nicely protected anchorage with a small settlement and a long pier piled high with crayfish traps and fishing gear. It looked like an interesting place to stop for the night.

I'm glad we changed our plans, otherwise we would not have had the pleasure of spending an evening with Margaretrose and Matthew, long time residents of the island.

After anchoring in the small harbor we went ashore to ask permission to hike on the island. Margaretrose greeted us and thanked us for asking. To our great surprise she told us we were the first boat this season to come ashore and formally ask permission.

She explained that Rangiahua Island belonged to her husband's family and he had grown up there. He left the island for a while and met Margaretrose. Together they moved back to the island where they raised their 7 children. Only Benjamin and Victoria remain. The others are grown and have moved off island to work and begin their own families. Margaretrose loves the simplicity of the island life. There is no electricity so their power comes from a generator, some solar panels and two wind generators. The children were home schooled at the primary level and then went to boarding school off island for their high school years. Matthew earns a good living catching crayfish along the coast of Great Barrier, just like his father before him. Crayfish, as they call them here in NZ, are similar to our Canadian Maritime lobsters but without the claws. Mathew's son, Benjamin, works with him checking the traps every day. Perhaps he will become the third generation to fish these waters.

Later that afternoon after we had hiked around the island, we met Matthew and Benjamin as they returned from checking all the crayfish traps. Margaretrose strolled down the dock and very graciously invited us for a crayfish dinner in their home that evening. We had been hoping to enjoy some New Zealand crayfish so this was indeed a special moment - an invitation to dinner from a professional crayfish family! We thought they would know just how to cook it!

What a special time we had with them! We loved hearing more about the history of Rangiahua Island and its Maori heritage. They in turn were interested in stories of our sailing adventures across the Pacific. The crayfish was absolutely delicious! Margaretrose served salad with vegetables fresh from her garden followed by a dessert of homemade fruit crisp and ice cream. Yum!

Margaret and Matthew often travel to the US and would very much like to come to BC. We hope they will visit us in our home in Vancouver so we can return their warm hospitality. Perhaps we can serve them fresh BC Salmon!

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