Baby Itís Cold Outside
25 November 2008 | Opua, New Zealand
We closed New Zealand's coast outside the Bay of Islands just as the sun was setting Friday evening. Normally we'd prefer not to navigate an unfamiliar harbor in darkness but we'd heard from our friends on Airstream that it was an easy, well-marked approach and definitely doable at night. Our electronic charts were only slightly off, but with the radar returns we were able to keep our course and we arrived at the Opua Quarantine dock about 11:30 pm.
The next morning Tin Soldier and Mr. John arrived and tied up behind us. Shortly after that the friendly folks from Customs and Immigration met us on the Q-dock and proceeded to process us into the country. They took a look at the girls' shell collection, the baskets we'd acquired in Tonga and John's Marquesan war club and pronounced them all acceptable to keep. Our eggs, popcorn, and veggies were confiscated. No big deal.
Just before we were checked in, Jim on Blue Plains Drifter radioed to say he would be on the dock to take our lines as soon as we were ready to move to our marina berth. We were grateful for that because just as we completed our check-in the winds that had been expected started to fill in and were 20 knots with higher gusts. Winds like that make docking a sailboat (with lots of windage and poor steerage at low speeds) a rather stressful affair. I had visions of the wind blowing us down onto the entire row of boats along the fairway... could have been an ignominious end to our passage!
I needn't have worried. Jim was on the dock along with about 15 other friends all ready to help us get into the slip without incident. After getting tied up they gave us a proper welcome (everyone that makes it to New Zealand gets a well-deserved heroes welcome). They also presented us with a bottle of champagne and gift certificate to the local restaurant as a Thank You for maintaining the "Meridian Net" SSB radio check-in while they'd been underway. John and I were honestly touched to see how much they'd appreciated what was a simple effort on our part.
We've since begun to settle in quite nicely here and are enjoying the area tremendously. The only downside- and a minor one at that- is how COLD it is here!! As we're in the southern hemisphere it is officially spring here, but apparently winter isn't quite ready to relinquish its hold. Poor Maddie has outgrown any warm clothes that I brought (Sophie is wearing them now) but thankfully Dionne grabbed Maddie right off the boat that first morning and ran her down to Orca III to find some of Maya's old clothes to tie her over until we could get to a store.
It's been quite a reunion here in Opua as nearly all the boats we've met over the last year make their way into this Port of Entry before moving along down the coast. We're all here to be out of the hurricane belt for the cyclone season. Some folks leave their boats and travel home for the season. Others plan to spend the five months doing in-land travel throughout the North and South Islands. In fact, several friends have already taken advantage of New Zealand's amazing used care market. Apparently Japan makes it prohibitively expensive to register a car that is over 5 years old. As a result, the Japanese are all driving new cars and an incredible number of used cars are constantly being shipped to New Zealand. By the time these cars are around 10 years old they can be had here for CHEAP. Most cruisers will buy a car for around 3,000- 5,000 kiwi dollars (that's about 1,500 - 2,500 USD!) drive it for 5 months and then sell it back to the used car market for slightly less than they paid. For a bit more money some buy camper vans so they can travel without need of a motel.
Wayne from Moonduster lent us his car and we took a drive down to Whangarei (road trip!) to check out our home for the next several months (Town Basin Marina) and look at some cars. We'll be in Opua just a few more days before topping off on fuel and sailing down to Whangarei...