We recovered from our sailing and autopilot investigation, got our new blade jib ordered, and got Pincoya comfy on her mooring ball. Surprising news is that we again have our gecko on board. It is not a native to the Kiwis here so it must have come from New Caledonia or been on our boat since Vanuatu, after living four months aboard incognito. Gloria made a delicious crustless quiche for our road trip. Kennedy from Far Star picked us up and dropped us at the dock. Finished loading the car, we were off on our 2012 road trip to the south island. Heading into Auckland, it was once again surprising to see all the sailboats in the bay and the high rise buildings. After surviving Auckland traffic, we parked at our first of many holiday parks just south of Auckland. As usual, the car does great as long as we keep adding oil (and gas at 2.20/liter). At least we don't have to spend money on oil changes! We pretty much have our holiday park routine down: register, locate the car on a flat spot, put ice jugs in freezer, food in fridge, empty back of car, make bed, wine, dinner, read, and sleep. Driving is similar: I drive, Gloria navigates. This narrative is a bit sketchy as we're reconstructing this 2 weeks later; maybe we need to put "write blog" down on that holiday park routine. We continued south, a long day to get near Wellington as we wanted to visit Paddy and Anna the next day and evening. Stopping outside of Manakau, we found a DOC campsite that had no fee and no water. Fortunately, we had everything we needed. The next day, we arrived at Evans Bay Marina late morning after experiencing Wellington traffic and found Paddy working on Wildflower 2 on the hard, with new bottom paint. There is lots of work to do inside though. 4 pm was wine o'clock and we joined Paddy for cocktails aboard; then at the yacht club, yakking it up with his cronies there. Anna, who was working, joined us about 7 and we went off to dinner via cab; a delicious Indonesian restaurant. In driving rain and wind, and another cab ride, we made it back to the marina where the 2 bottles of wine at the restaurant helped us sleep the night in there parking lot. Paddy and Anna insist that Wellington does have very nice weather, at times!
Next day was ferry day. After checking on the internet about cancellations, we headed to the terminal, only to find out the ferry was cancelled; just not posted on the internet. With the next ferry at 2pm, we took the opportunity to go to the Te Papa museum nearby. This turned out to be a delightful place with many floors and exhibit types, and much on the Maori history. Before we knew, it was 1:15 and time to return. Happily, we were able to get on the ferry but had to back down inside about 200 yards by the trains. I stopped at one point to see where to go and the car backing down in front of me just backed right into us. Fortunately it dinged his bumper instead of our, so no problem, life goes on. It was blowing about 40 knots and we wondered if that would affect the ferry. Except for a 10 degree tilt, it was smooth sailing and we arrived safe and sound in Picton a couple hours later. About 20 km south of Picton, we arrived at an unusual holiday park as it has a creek alongside which is home to many blue eyed eels, and one large trout; all of which we fed moldy bread and took pictures (see the pix). This is also the first time we have seen a monkey tree. We're getting excited as we are nearing our first tramp destination: St James Walkway in Lewis National Forest Reserve. We stopped at the dept of conservation (doc) office in Blenheim who tried, but were not too helpful. They did have a brochure for the track with a map and summary and we quickly decided that was all we needed. Arrived at the St James Walkway area perhaps 4pm and got information from the Boyle Education facility about secure parking and shuttles, which we reserved for the following day, and went to camp at the lower trailhead. The Boyle education facility was built by the schools. Part of the education process in NZ is to take high school students into the outdoors teaching them about the environment by tramping, river running and other outdoor activities.
St. James Walkway
Next morning with the weather somewhat clearing after a rainy night, we opened up a tarp and put all of our camping-backpacking stuff on it to sort out the bits and pieces. We realized we had forgotten a few things like head nets for the sand flies and our croc type camp shoes. I went to check on a shuttle time and pay and found out we had to be ready in an hour, so back and pack quickly! We had forgotten what wearing a pack was like and at the last moment I threw in a 3 liter bag of wine. Plus, we had a lot of fresh stuff left from our frige on the boat like cheese and hummus to carry. Needless to say our packs were a little heavy. Anyway, off we went with our shuttle driver in our car. He dropped us off at the trailhead on top of the pass and took our car back to the secure car park. Shouldering our packs, off we went. It didn't take long for the packs to become heavy, but the first part of the day was downhill through beech forest covered with moss and then to a swing bridge crossing the river in Cannibal Gorge. This was named because rival tribes fought regularly here and the winners consumed the losers! No protein wasted here. Next we stopped at the Cannibal Gorge Hut and talked with other trampers who were on their way out. Knowing we had to make the 66 km in 5 days, we headed on to the next hut. It was uphill the next 8 km and since we were not in condition for this it was a bit of a struggle. Plus our feet were getting sore which we ignored. Arriving at our destination hut (Ada) about 4pm, we gladly shed our packs and changed shoes. We were tenting as that reduced the price from $15 per person to $5 per person. We could still use the hut for cooking and relaxing which was good because our old friends the sand flies were back in force. We found they went to sleep about 11pm and woke up about 7am. They really liked being in the space between our tent netting and our rain fly and you could see hundreds there waiting for you to come or go. DEET helps repel them as do long pants, shirts, socks, and hats. We had stir fry with the smoked chicken we had boned and brought; rosemary flavor, yum and lightened our wine by drinking two glasses each! Next day after hummus and English muffins, we continued on; another 11 km day to Christopher hut. After passing over Ada divide, the trail gradually descended for 5km then turned right into another river valley and great wide open meadows. We kept tramping on, with more sore feet, and eventually arrived. Our hut mates from the previous night all lunched there and continued on another 15 km to the next hut, Anne hut; but we were done in even though it was early. Off came the packs and shoes, up went the tent, then our feet! With cloudy weather, we haven't needed our sunglasses yet, and the following day was no different. Continuing down great river meadows, we came to another river turn and hiked along a mountain shoulder then started about 8km up this new river to the Anne hut, which was brand new. Apparently the previous hut here had burned down. This was very nice with screened thermal pane windows and a big porch, but it also had the sandflies. We're not sure why they are called that since we see them everywhere, not just by the sand! A number of new people showed up to share the hut space and of course we had our tent, the only one. Finally, our fresh food is reducing and we got to eat one of our freeze dried meals, plus oatmeal for breakfast. Still, we have cheese for lunch though. We did not know how the others at Christopher hut could have gone on; it took us all day to get this far! We met a man and woman that were hiking the Aretere Route from the northern most Cape Reinga on the north island to the southern most point, Bluff, on the south island. They had just completed their 2000 km on the trail after like 80 days. Apparently at this time, the track has to be done partially on roads, especially on the north island. They departed early the next morning to hike the 30 km out to Boyle Village trailhead. Two guys were also there from Canada. One was a fly fishing guide who in off season comes and spends a couple of months in NZ fly fishing. They had been fishing their way from hut to hut staying an extra night here and there. We headed to our next hut, Boyle flats, about 17 km away. By now, we are taping our blisters, and I'm taping the toenails on my big toes. Our feet are getting pretty ugly... It is a gentle climb up to Anne divide except for the last .5km, then a steep drop down the Boyle river side followed by more long endless meadows with up and downs through gulches. Along the way, there was a large herd of horses with foals. They did not want to get off the trail so we wisely kept our distance from the stallion and moved out of there way. We crossed the most exciting swing bridge yet to get to the Boyle flat hut. These are suspension bridges with 4 longitudinal wires and a cross piece about every 1.5 feet, and a handrail wire. It's pretty exciting to look down at the rough river you are crossing while going across! We finished off our wine here, and our fresh food, so next day with lighter packs but messed up feet, we left for the final 11 km out. Hiking up and through a river gorge, then alongside, then across another exciting swing bridge, followed by up on a side of the canyon to the trailhead which we were VERY glad to see. We retrieved our car, got our camp chairs, and enjoyed a cool beer, by now we are able to mostly ignore the sand flies. Completion saw us empty our packs, sort our stuff, pack it away, make the bed, and go to bed early. Next day we were able to assess the foot damage: Gene losing two big toe nails, and Gloria losing 1 big toenail, and 3 others plus two underfoot blisters. Gloria was able to clip hers off but I will have to wait for mine.
In review, St. James Walkway begins with moss covered beech trees, drops to wide valleys of winding rivers and streams surrounded by grasslands and then enclosed by glacial mountains. The trail was made exciting with a couple of washouts with narrow on the cliff, hanging on the trees bypass and the numerous one person swing bridges. In spite of our lack of conditioning and too much weight, It truly was a scenic tramp through New Zealand's northern South Island.
02/12/2012, Opua Marina NZ
Great Barrier, Mokohinau and back to the North Island.
I (Gene) spent 3 days waxing the hull and stern of Pincoya, and then starting on the top decks. As the wind changed, we moved down the bay opposite Barrier Gold, a home manufacturing plant for manuka/and kanuka tea tree oil and balms plus honey. We got a tour of their impressive facility with quite the huge boiler condenser setup which burns waste oil. It takes 150 liters of waste oil to make one liter of manuka oil! They gave us directions to do an hour and a half hike up, around, and return of their property which gave us great views of Port Fitzroy Bay and Man of War passage. The beehive boxes along the way let us know where the honey we bought came from. On our return, Sven explained the difference between manuka and kanuka, while Trish got us each a glass of water with a slice of lemon. This 2000 acre farm has cattle and sheep running wild. Once a year, Sven will bring in a yearling for dinners while Tris eats her vegetarian foods. The only acess to this land is by boat, some 2 miles from Port Fitzroy which has only a small market. The ferry comes in to Port Fitzroy with goods and supplies that Sven and Trish have order. They make a weekly trip to pick up it all up. Returning to Pincoya with our purchases of oil, balm, soap and honey, it was time for showers, then wine o'clock!
Next morning, we made the short move to Port Fitzroy, visited the DOC center, got a map of the hike to Mt Hobson, and a few provisions from the store, like beer and eggs! We moved Pincoya to the nearby Forestry Bay, and next morning at 8:30 met our taxi to take us around the island to the Windy gap trail. This gave us nice views of the NE side of GBI, and a close up of a herd of cows we were stuck behind for a short while. Evolution had pointed out this approach to Mt Hobson and it did eliminate a bunch of the uphill! It was very beautiful hiking the ridges over to Mt Hobson and trying to imagine the massive Kauri trees that once covered these ridges. We saw remnants of the early 1900's timbering including the hoist for dragging logs over windy ridge and down the creek that have been damned and then released with the rushing waters pushing the logs down to the sea that are then tied together in rafts and hauled back to Auckland. The trail was very improved with drainage, gravel, boardwalks, and many, many steps! It tooks us six hours from boat back to boat. There were even step switchbacks; this was a great improvement from the roots and branches that Pete and Kathy on sailing vessel "Our Nirvana" described the next evening having sundowners aboard Pincoya. They are Aussies here for a short vacation and Pete single handed their boat from Australia and will return the same way in 2 weeks! Anyway, back to Mt Hobson. On reaching the top we were joined by a school youth group of about 20 to share the incredible 360 degree views. After quickly eating our lunch, we began the stair stepper of your dreams down to Kiarara Bay, then 2 miles over to our dinghy. The trip down was about 2 hours and a beautiful hike. It was great to return to Pincoya, cold beers, and a shower and washing our hiking clothes!
Next day, I finished waxing the top decks then decided to try a little fishing. Taking the dinghy out past the point, I had no success as it was too windy for drift fishing. Coming back to the boat, I spotted large fish under Pincoya which turned out to be undersize Kingfish that didn't bite my lures. So I dropped my tuna bait thru them to the bottom and caught a legal snapper right away. Putting the bait back over while dealing with the snapper, to my surprise heard the reels drag start to go out. The rod was bent double in its holder. In about 10 minutes I reeled in a nice Kawahai which Gloria netted, so late afternoon fishing in the anchorage turned out pretty good! I was finishing up when Pete and Cathy arrived for sundowners and we had a great couple hours swapping stories and hearing histories. Hopefully we'll be able to visit them when we visit Australia next year. I don't envy Pete, single handing their Jenneau 43 back to Australia.
Next morning, we packed up and left the anchorage about 8:30 bound for the Mokuhinaus thinking we could anchor there, 22 miles away. On arrival with a nice E breeze of 15 to 20, we looked around but didn't like either anchorage so continued on to Tutukaka, about 38 miles away, on a nice broad reach and hopefully reach there before night, which is after 8pm since it is summer here! The rock formations on the Mokuikinaus were unbelievable including a huge rock formation with an arch. More rock pictures for you to see!!! The easterlies are expected to continue for a couple more days at least, helping us make our northward miles back to the Bay of Islands. The afternoon cleared off to a bit of sun and we had a brilliant sail doing what Pincoya does best: sail downwind!
Arriving near Tutakaka, we turned up into the wind and waves which immediately seemed much stronger and larger and more difficult to take down our sails in. Entering the pass into the harbor was precarious.. This reminded us of reef passes in atolls, with large waves crashing on dangerous rocks at a narrow entrance; strong currents and eddying winds. Fortunately our chart plotter had a line for entering and following it we encountered only big waves as we slipped into the not so calm waters of the harbor, alongside the tall ship Spirit of NZ and others, anchoring in 15 feet. Delicious snapper was dinner thanks to Neal on Overdraft. Next morning, the wind gauge was at 25 and we decided to have a lazy day watching the big waves crash on the rocks at the harbor entrance. It was interesting watching Spirit and other boats leave the harbor. It will be our turn tomorrow as we leave here and move up the coast about 20 miles to Whangaruru. On our layover day, Gloria created a delicious crustless quiche, chicken soup, coleslaw and meatballs out of chicken mince; yum!
After watching the Spirit of New Zealand and another smaller sailboat leave Tutakaka the day before, we decided to leave even though we still had strong easterlies. With the engine at 3500 rpm, we crept along at 2 knots pounding into 5 meter waves, 25 knots wind, and very slowly made our way out of the pass. Exciting waves crashing on rocks, along our portside, made for a very interesting exit. Once out of the pass and with a favorable wind direction; we ended up having a great sail, passed by Whangaruru, and made it back around Cape Brett to Deep Cove. The next morning, we headed to shore and made the hike out to the lighthouse at Cape Brett, which took 5 hours round trip. This trail was a series of ups and downs with great views from land of the rugged coast line. When the light houses were staffed by real people, we often wonder how supplies reached them and the solitude they had over extended periods of time. After spending two nights at Deep Cove, we headed back through Albert Channel with the green marker on the rocks marking the center of the pass into the Bay of Islands and back to Opua. A mooring ball was waiting and here we are completing a few projects before we start our road trip to the South Island!!
Back to the West side
As we headed around the south end of the island, we motored most of the way so Gene could continue to bottom fish, this time close to shore and we left the engine idle to avoid any potential collision with rocks. No luck on fishing this time except it was interesting that Gene caught two snapper on one line, both undersized, and another red pigfish. Gene had mounted two hooks on each line. Having completed half of our circumnavigation, we have found that sailing the less traveled areas are by far the most enjoyable. Reaching Tryphena Bay, we anchored in Shoal Bay which was filled with boats on mooring balls. This is where the SeaLink ferry comes from Auckland several times a week. We headed in the dingy to Mulberry Grove at the other end of the bay to visit the small store there. We were out of salt!! Leaving the store, we saw a group of men sitting at a picnic table making something with bottles. Talking to the man in charge, we found out that this is a park service project to eradicate the Argentinean ant from Great Barrier Island. They place 1000s of bottles that are traps all over the place. When they check and see the ants they spray the area. Thus far, this has worked and they capture less of the ants each year with most of GBI already clear of the ants. The tide was out and again we had to paddle the dingy past the waves to an area where it was deep enough to start the motor. It did not start and we gradually drifted towards shore again. It was windy and rough so I put the paddles in the oar locks and rowed to keep us in deeper water while Gene worked to get the motor started. While working on it, his wallet fell overboard. Fortunately, it was in shallow enough water to be rescued. Finally, the engine started and we arrived safely back to shore. A new spark plug installed and no more troubles! We have threatened many times to drop this Mercury 3 hp engine in the water and buy a new Yamaha 3 hp. Fortunately, we do have a second Mercury 15 hp, but it is heavy and is harder to drag up the beaches when we go to shore.
Heading up the coast, our next stop was at Graveyard anchorage in Whangaparapara Harbor where we stopped by the local graveyard and took a short hike on shore to a pass that overlooked the sea. This was quite the bird anchorage where 100s of gannets were flying and diving for their dinner. It was almost as good as the pelicans diving in Mexico, the same approach flying high then dropping directly into the water with a big splash. A couple of fishermen in their dingy were fishing by our boat. We saw them bring up two fish, both got a way. We signaled them over and they had caught three Kahawai giving us one, about 2 kilos, to have for dinner. Nice people in NZ!!
Broken Islands and Beyond
The next morning, we were excited to finally get to the Broken Islands and the Man of War Passage. Having sailed to the entrance, we quickly dropped our sails and entered the pass to Broken Islands. The wind immediately dropped to 5 knots and we motored our way through these islands. Amazing so many islands, carefully we moved our way slowly around them with sonar on to ensure we did not have any underground surprises of buried rocks. The islands are hard to describe, other than there are many with unique rock formations. Little Barrier Island is visible as you look west. We probably won't go there as the anchoring is poor and you cannot go ashore. You will have to see our pictures of rocks and islands.. Taking a right turn around more islands, we entered the narrow man of war passage arriving in a large lake like area with numerous bays throughout. After dropping our garbage at the garbage dock, we anchored at Smokehouse Bay. We have been here for four days and will probably stay a couple of more. Smokehouse Bay has a jetty with pile moorings and limited facilities on shore including a wood burning stove that heats the water for showers, laundry facilities that utilizes ringer washers and a granite counter for cleaning fish. What more can we ask for? To our surprise we were greeted by Neil and Jillian on Overdraft and from NZ. They had also been part of the ICA Rally to the islands. It was fun to get together for cocktails and dinner three nights in a row before they continued on their way to Port Fitzroy and Nagle Cove, places we also plan to visit. First task was to do laundry and take a short hike over to the next bay. With a low passing through, the anchorage quickly filled with motor boats fishing at GBI. This was a long holiday weekend for Aucklanders and Smokehouse is a much protected anchorage. Monday, we and one other boat is all that remains from the chaos of the previous weekend. After being on the move everyday, it was time to take a break, relax and then start in on some major boat projects. I have the easy job of catching up on the blog and screening photos for input while Gene has the tedious and tiring task of waxing the hull of the boat. We will need a day of rest before we continue our scenic tour of Great Barrier Island.
From looking at the pictures on our trip north and then on our trip to Great Barrier, you get a real flavor for New Zealand from a sail boat. Lots of shoreline with cliffs and many scatter islands with in fifty miles of the north Island, including Three Kings, Poor Nights, Hens and Chickens, Mokohinau and many, many more. Views and destinations, you don't get see by land!!
We made it to Great Barrier
While we normally don't like to motor that much, sometimes it is necessary to get where you want to go. We have been fortunate thus far that we generally have been able to sail everywhere. We dropped our hook next to a fish farm at Nimaru Bay (aka Katherines). Not many Kiwis actually circumnavigate the Great Barrier Island. It was our only chance, so the following day, we headed north to the upper end of the island past the Needles, another great rock formation, landing that night at Arid Island. The narrow entrance to Arid Island bay had fascinating caves and archways with high cliffs that made you feel like you were entering a moat around a castle. The bay was very small, but soon we found our spot to anchor. Our concerns were minimized when we found the 60 foot motor yacht was actually tied to a mooring. The anchorage was full with four boats in it and then along came Evolution, a 60 foot sailboat that after numerous attempts managed to squeeze in a tight little spot next to the rock cliffs. We were impressed given that they could not even turn around in the anchorage! Later that night we had them and Portea over for cocktails, getting to know each other. It is always fun to socialize and then later to meet again at another point in your travels. Doug on Evolution shared the story about Arid Island and its unique cow population. The cows supposedly bred for the environment eventually could drink salt water. The farmer who owned the island was excavating with a bulldozer brought in by sea the area where he wanted buildings. The bulldozer broke down so an airplane suitable for landing on the water in the bay decided instead to drop the replacement part from the air, dropping it on the only bull on the island instantly killing him!
Because the next day was forecasting high winds from the west, we had to abandon Arid and move three miles over to Harontaonga Bay back on Great Barrier. Taking our dingy to a very rough shoreline, we proceeded up to a campground to find a hiking trail that was in our guide book. Finding the trail, part of the NZ walkway network, we headed up the moderate grade until we saw a clearly marked sign. If we continued on, it was six miles one way to Okiwi, so we took the shorter 1 hour loop trail that led along the ridge back to the campground. Hiking can be interesting in NZ. One trail, albeit steep, is well groomed with orange arrows marking your path. Once reaching the pass overlooking the bay, we continued on up the ridge through the long grass we soon lost our trail as we began our descent. After a couple of tries, we found the way down, no signs and a snarly steep straight down. Holding on to trees, ferns and bushes, we finally reached bottom and headed along the beach back to our dingy. The landing on shore of the dingy was much easier that our departure. The water was shallow on shore so we had to row out a ways instead of using the engine. The waves were large enough that we got swamped with salt water before we could get our far enough to engage the engine. Of course, it also began to rain. As we were approaching Pincoya, we got waved over by a motor yacht to find out Neil and Debbie on Wild Blue had anchored just behind us. They had joined the ICA rally in Vanuatu for the trek to New Caledonia. We chatted with them for awhile with Neil sharing his fishing stories in the channel between us and Arid Island.
The Fish Story
The next morning we headed out to the channel with Pincoya and shut off the motor to drift fish and prepared ourselves for bottom fishing at 100 feet plus. Gene no sooner put bait on my line and wham first fish caught! He then put some more bait on my line again and before he could get out his line, another fish jumped on my line. I handed my line over to Gene and he caught two more fish which was enough to feed us for a few days. Do you want to know what kind of fish we caught? Well, we really have no idea. We took pictures, asked other fishermen and no one can conclusively say what the fish are. Three of the fish appear to be like red snapper with brilliant orangy red color and they may be a red pigfish??. The other fish was so unique, ugly but yet beautiful with its leopard orange skin, big mouth and large gills. The best we could determine it is a scorpion fish. With the navy and police patrolling the water and checking on catches, we just hope we don't get arrested for catching a rare protected species. Cooking the fish that night on the grill made us want to try bottom fishing again. They were delicious. That night we anchored in Oruawharo Bay, the last anchorage on the east side before we headed back to the other side.
Going to Great Barrier Island
Leaving Opua was the first step in leaving the Bay of Islands to begin our short voyage to Great Barrier. With numerous islands and rocks along the way and us not knowing the area, we made the decision to do short hops rather than an overnight passage. We also wanted to see the coastline. Our first stop was at an anchorage known as Urupukapuka, the last anchorage within the BOI. The trip started out with great smooth tacks until we made the turn to pass by Roberton Island. The Bay was full of both motor yachts and sailboats anchored everywhere fishing, diving for clams and swimming. The wind gusted to 20 plus knots and Pincoya zoomed along at 8-9 knots dodging all the boats. It was time to reef when Pincoya decided it had a mind of its own and only wanted to go into the rocks on shore. Gloria, at the wheel steering, was panicked while Gene calmly and quickly brought in the sails as Pincoya was brought back under control. It was a fast trip to Urupukapuka. The anchorage was a high use beach with 30 plus tents on shore and many small speed boats anchored along the shoreline. We were surprised when our friends Jan and Kevin from Extravagant suddenly appeared. Dining with them that night on their boat, we had an opportunity to get information on the Great Barrier and mark our guide books accordingly. We actually stayed here two nights so Gene with wetsuit and weights could clean the bottom of our boat in 76 degree water.
Moving out of the BOI we were enjoying the coastline and then we hit one of those Oh Wow moments when suddenly appeared huge rock formations with a hole through the middle. To see the Hole in the Rock is one of the classic charter trips out of Pahia, the small town by Opua Marina. We sailed around this point, better known as Cape Brett with a lighthouse sitting peacefully on the ridge, anchoring at Whangamumu Harbor. Do you like these names of towns and bays? When pronouncing "wh" use the "f" sound. This anchorage has an abandoned (1930s) whaling station with ruins of the huge vats and heating mechanism they used to process the whale fat. Pictures were mounted on signs that showed whales on concrete slabs. It was interesting to realize that there had been that many whales in New Zealand given that we have yet to see one. From the whaling station, we took a hike up the track by the stream and small waterfall to the pass that overlooked Rawhiti in the Bay of Islands. The next day we were able to sail to Mimiwhangata Bay, This was part of a coastal marine park, but we did not go ashore instead viewing the scenery from our boat while enjoying our cocktails. Thus far we had only gone 15 miles a day taking us 4 -6 hours as we needed to tack or jibe depending on the wind direction. The following day, we made 25 miles to Urquharts Bay at the entrance Whangarei Basin. While at Urquharts, we hiked along shore seeing the funny looking Puketos and passing WWII look out bunkers that protected New Zealand from invading enemies. Continuing on the hike we were able to make a loop out towards the point and returning via Smugglers Cove. Back on the boat, we dined on oysters we had bought from Ben's in Opua before we left. It was a real treat!! Originally we were going to continue down the coast to Kawau Island, but when we awoke the next morning, the winds, although light, were from the west, making it right to head east to Great Barrier Island. Yes, I said the winds were light so we had to motor the 40 miles to Great Barrier Islands past the island group Hens and Chickens and viewing Mokohinau Islands and Little Barrier Island. Because the anchorages are deep and the swell was from the northeast right in line with the anchorages, we passed by to land in Catherine Bays on GBI.
Needless to say, our sailblog took a holiday! The rain eventually did stop. We did finish our trip north and starting back to Opua, stopping next at Whangaroa Harbor area anchoring in Rere Bay after tacking our way down the coast. There, we did the hike up to Duke's nose which surprised us as we got to the final 100 feet or so and had to literally use chains to climb up to the top. It was more interesting going down than up because you could not see your foot holds. Because there was no information on Duke's nose, we never did find out if it was referring to John Wayne or to some actual duke! The next day we did a second hike that went from our anchorage over to Totara North, the next bay over.
Because our memory is short, somewhere along the way, Gene did harvest some oysters. They were actually quite good, but we both agreed it was much easier to buy Ben's Oysters for $12 a dozen by Opua. We continued to tack our way down in mild weather, stopping for a couple of nights in Whangaroa. There actually was a nice marina with berths and a few services. We dropped the hook nearby and checked out the local wharf, bought a few supplies at the small market and hiked up St. Paul's rock. As we continued our trip, we again tacked our way to Wangaihe Bay. Small cabins were built in the cove and we thought possibly it was a holiday park. This bay was privately owned by a local farmer who allowed yachts to come ashore and hike. A couple of family members were there getting the cabins ready for the Christmas holiday where the family gathers for the holidays. It was a great bay that made you envious of their private camp.
In New Zealand, schools get out right before Christmas which is summer here. Then the masses spend two weeks on holiday traveling to visit family or staying at the various holiday parks. It really is quite a zoo. From last year seeing the chaos on land, we decided it was much better to travel on our boat away from Bay of Islands. It was a good choice as we had very few other boats traveling this far up the north coast.
Continuing our way back to Opua, we again and again tacked our way staying one night in the lower end of the Cavelli's, Thus far the tacks had been very gentle with relatively smooth seas. Leaving the Cavelli's, we exited through a narrow pass that had a rock in the middle. The sea was very rough at the pass which is typical. Continuing our way out we kept waiting for calmer seas. There were none until we turned the corner at Nine Pins, a familiar jagged looking tooth rock, and back into the Bay of Islands. It took us roughly 5 tacks and seven hours to go the fourteen miles!! We were glad when we finally anchored at Motorua Island near Keri Keri. It was Christmas Eve where we spent a quiet and peaceful evening on Pincoya.
Christmas Day we tacked our way to Opunga and joined our friends Kevin and Jan on Extravagant for dinner on another yacht, Southern Breeze (Lindsey and Jan). Also there was Simply Cruising (Warren and Ann) and Ice Breaker (Mark and Philip). It was good meeting new people and being back in the Bay of Islands.
If you noted from our blog, we seem to be tacking a lot. The truth is, no matter which way we go, the weather pattern seems to switch and we are faced with noserlies, the wind at the bow of the boat. Our chart plotter history looks like a series of zigs and zags.
After our trip north, we went back to Opua and continued on with a few boat projects taking time out to head back to Matauwhi Bay for the Tall Ship Race. The day of the race, a low passed through with rain and 35 knots of wind. We were certainly glad we had not participated as crew. It was interesting enough to hear the stories of the water up to their calves while they were sailing back and forth to the point. That night, the locals provided a hunga. Food consisting of chicken, pork, beef and vegetables in a foil wrap was buried in the ground using huge wire baskets with mussels piled on top. For $12, it was quite the feast! While there we walked into Russell and took a hike to Tapeka Point on the far end of the island. First we hiked to Flagstaff where a flag staff was mounted four times as a peace offering with the Maori tribes around 1844 and felled by the Hone Heke's warriors each time. Walking mostly on the road to Tapeka, we climbed the final ascent up to the peak which had panoramic view of the point and the Bay of Islands. Returning we took the coastal rock walkway which was not much of a trail but a scramble over the rock.
Pincoya had its standing rigging tuned and adjusted in hopes to improving our upwind performance and reducing weather helm. We also met with the guy to get new cockpit cushions which will be ready for us in February. Having completed most of our boat projects, it was time to start taking our big trip south to Great Barrier Island and possibly to the Coromandel coast.