Just checked our last blog entry date - boy have we been slothful! We do have some good excuses though ...... lots of wandering, work, and guests onboard. So let's pick up where we last left off, at Great Barrier Island. We spent over two weeks in the lovely protected anchorages just south of Port Fitzroy with lots of paddleboarding & hiking to keep us occupied. Highlights included seeing our first New Zealand Blue Penguin, exploring the numerous trails that make up the Kaiaraara Track which encircles the central highlands of the Island, renewing old acquaintances and making new ones. Most days we hiked, and by the end of our stay felt confident enough to tackle the 6 hour round trip to the summit of Mount Hobson ( Hirakimata in Maori ) ..... which at 621 meters ( 2037') is the highest elevation on the island. It is probably the only peak that either of us have climbed with hundreds of wooden steps leading up to the summit. These have been placed there to protect the habitat of the black petrel, which is native to NZ and only breeds on Great & Little Barrier Islands. They nest in burrows under tree roots which are easily damaged by hikers. We have to admit to a certain amount of skepticism regarding the necessity for this massive project, but had to eat humble pie when we chanced upon a couple of ornithologists who were in the process of extricating a mature adult from its burrow in order to check its leg band. They were more than happy to show us the bird and educate us as to the breeding habits of this shy ocean wanderer. (They winter over in Chile). At the summit, on the observation platform, we were delighted to meet up with our good friends Jan & Richard of Slipaway. Also during our stay on the island we reunited, and enjoyed dinner, with friends Neville and Robbie from Catwagon and had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of the crew of Robbery, Graeme Jane & their charming children Matthew & Laura. The one low point of our visit was our encounter with Waitanguru, a small but very solidly built kauri motor launch. The anchorage had become rather crowded, and when TabbyCat swung wildly on a strong gust of wind there was a loud bang and we suddenly found ourselves impaled on Waitanguru's bowsprit. It took some maneuvering to disengage ourselves, as their anchor chain ended up underneath our hull just ahead of the propeller, but we disengaged without further damage. Les, the owner of the boat , came over for a friendly chat later on and there were no hard feelings on either side, but it did mean that TabbyCat would have to replace both port Plexiglas windows. While our original plan had been to haul out in Nelson on the south Island while we visited the USA, given our recent mishap, coupled with oil & waters leaks in the engine rooms, we decided that it would be better to take care of our maintenance issues sooner rather than later. Thus it was that we found ourselves back in the Whangarei river for a haul out at Norsands in early February. In addition to replacing the port side windows, removing both saildrives and replacing all oil & water seals, we also had Arthur "the prop guy" add 1/2" to each propeller blade. We also managed to slap on a coat of bottom paint, buff & polish the topsides and have the "out of water" portion of our 10-year survey completed. Add in the usual assortment of projects, and we did not re-launch until February 27th. We were delighted to discover that with a clean hull, and Arthur's magic, the boat will now motor at 9 knots with both engines, and 7 knots on one ..... speeds which TabbyCat has not attained since she was new and a lot less loaded down with cruising gear.
Maintenance chores completed, it was time to head back to Opua for a busy social schedule: First to visit us were Col's sister-in-law Bozena, accompanied by her sister Plu & brother-in-law Tony, from Vancouver, Canada. They were followed by Greg & Jen who had previously visited TC in French Polynesia, but this time were accompanied by their boys, Grant & Nate, who enjoyed learning how to paddleboard. Finally, Col's sister Sue flew in from England in advance of niece Katia's wedding which we will be attending in 10 days time. With a large high pressure zone hanging over NZ, all three groups of visitors enjoyed wonderful weather, calm seas & smooth sailing. Unfortunately Sue was the only one whose timing was good enough to include dolphins swimming alongside the boat. In any event, a fun time was had by all. Between visits we shared an anchorage with friends Steve and Dorothy of Adagio as we both took refuge from Cyclone Lusi. We were reasonably comfortable as we got battered with wind speeds of up to 55 kts, but had some anxious moments with a French boat in front of us. During the storm their headsail became partially unfurled and they had a really hard time getting it under control. Meanwhile they were sailing wildly on their anchor, and getting violently whipped about when they came to the end of their scope. We spent an hour or so with the engines running, hoping to be able to motor out of the way in the event that their holding failed. Needless to say we were relieved that it didn't ...... and very impressed with their anchor, a CQR for those that are interested. After the storm Steve and Dorothy introduced us to a beautiful anchorage off the Te Pahi islands which we had never visited. We also wandered up the KeriKeri river as far as is navigable and spent an enjoyable 2 days anchored outside the Stone Store ...... NZ's oldest surviving stone building. Currently we are enjoying a few days on our own, in what is for us an as yet unexplored area of the BOI (Bay of Islands). Next week we will be heading out on a short road trip to Whanganui where we will be enjoying celebrating niece Katia's & Brett's union.
Some of you may be asking "What about your proposed trip to the South Island?" Well between our unforeseen early haul out, & our relaxed wanderings round the BOI & Hauraki Gulf, time just seemed to get away from us. There will always be next year!
Right now though, it's time to go paddleboarding...
Wouldn't you like to try it? Come on out!
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