Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Farewell Gulf Harbour! And New Zealand ...

The great people who helped us collect goods for Vanuatu.
It is time to say goodbye to our new friends in Whangaparoa and Gulf Harbour as we slip out of the marina to sail north. Since we did a direct overnight trip down from Opua last fall so we could fly to see the family for the holidays, we did not stop anywhere along the coast or the many islands off New Zealand's mainland. The boat is filled to the ceiling with goods for Vanuatu and provisions for the next few weeks.

We are stuffed to the ceiling!
We did have to delay our departure for several days due to 40 knot winds and rough seas. It is a sure sign that winter is coming in from the south. We planned to stop at Great Barrier Island about 40 km northeast of Auckland on our way to the Bay of Islands. Again, the wind was light so we sailed a little and then motor sailed to get anchored before dark. This is one of the local favorite weekend destinations.

A view from Port Fitzroy wharf.
Trillium in the foreground with Circe
We found a lovely calm anchorage in Overlook Bay off Kiakoura Island. Captain Grill Master did his thing and we had a fine dinner in the cockpit. It was so incredibly quiet there. We played a card game of Hand and Foot which we do regularly before tucking in for the night. 

What a great feeling to be lulled by the gentle rock instead of being tied to the dock. The stars were so bright since there were no city lights anywhere near. I love nights where the sky looks like black velvet strewn with diamonds!

And the only store has the essentials!
One road and a few places to see.
In the morning, we weighed anchor and moved around the island and through a channel to Port Fitzroy. What a nice surprise to friend our World ARC friends from Germany on S/Y Circe anchored there! We tucked in behind a small islet which protected us from the wind and tide and settled in for a nice day and night. 

After a little excursion to see the town and walk in the woods we had Sundowners actually, a lot of red wine on S/Y Circe that evening. S/Y Circe is a Hallberg-Rassy 48 and was one of the five Hallbergs in our Rally year.

While enjoying our wine in the saloon, we saw another boat buzz us very closely! In fact, it seemed too close for comfort. When we looked out, we discovered that it was another German WARC boat just having fun with us! So we had our own little WARC flotilla anchored in the harbor.

Much to our frustration, we woke to a miserable day of rain and wind so all of us stayed put on our own boats. It was a batten down the hatches sort of day. Since there was no Internet available, it was time to start a new book! Sometimes it is good to have a day where you can just veg!

Since we had a reservation at the Opua Marina, we needed to move on the following morning. Dennis was on the bow ready to weigh anchor when I announced that the engine wouldnt start! It didnt give any signs of life! Nothing! Oh, great! Here we are in the middle of nowhere, our friends are pulling out and we are stuck! After some serious trouble shooting, he got it started and we headed out of the islands toward the mainland.

Hole in the Rock where tour boats pass through!
Our destination was Tutukaka harbor for the night. It was an all-day sail with a little motor assist at the end to get through the channel before dark. Once the anchor was down, we settled in for a short night, knowing we needed to get out on high tide early in the morning. The anchorage was crowded as a number boats were also on their way north to the Bay of Islands. 

Cape Brett lighthouse
The second long day of sailing took us around Cape Brett. Actually this time we were brave enough to cut between the mainland and Hole in the Rock island so it saved at least an hour. 
Since we had never sailed in this area of hundreds of small islands and reefs, we followed several boats. It could have been the blind leading the blind, but it worked out just fine. We followed another Hallberg-Rassy as we assumed that their draft would be similar to ours. If they ran into trouble, we would see it before finding it ourselves!

Paradise Bay: And it is!
S/Y Alba led us to a beautiful anchorage where we stayed for two nights, calling the marina to postpone our arrival. I could have spent a week in Paradise Bay, which is one of the most popular anchorages in the Bay of Islands. We went ashore to explore Unupukapuka Island and walk the beach. Shell collecting was bountiful.

I spotted a familiar boat in the anchorage. It was the catamaran, Field Trip! We had sailed with them in the Atlantic Cup back in 2012. The children had grown so much! We had Sundowners on Field Trip and caught up on the events since we were last together. It is so much fun to cross wakes with people you have met in other times and places out on the ocean.

We did a huge provisioning with Paul and Susie on S/Y Firefly, totally filling a van with stuff! I think we spent $2000 between us. Food and everything is expensive in New Zealand! We took advantage of a holiday to do our shopping in Kerikeri about 40 km inland. The weather was awful! Torrential rain all day! Unfortunately, I had left two portholes open while we provisioned. Upon return, my heart sank when I discovered the crew cabin, including the mattresses and all of our chart books, were flooded. Since Rob was going to sleep on the top bunk and the lower one was crammed with goods for Vanuatu, we had to move quickly to get everything dried! What a mess! How stupid of me to forget that I opened the portholes the day before to air out the cabin. So for three days we climbed around drying mattresses and bags of clothing. 

It is time to say goodbye to New Zealand at least for this year and head to the marina for departure preparations. We will be sailing with the Island Cruising Association Pacific Circuit Rally during the cruising season. Several of our World ARC New Zealand boats will be heading off to Australia so we have to endure more goodbyes. I hate it when we go our separate ways. One has to hope our wakes will cross again, but as we all move closer to the end of our cruising adventures, we will have to meet on land somewhere in the world. 

We enjoyed a dinner across the bay in Russell. And I arranged to have a World ARC New Zealand dinner again at 35 Degrees, the same restaurant where we had our initial dinner upon arrival in New Zealand. Unbelievably, everyone made it! Two boat crews arrived by car since they were not in Opua. What a great group of sailing friends! Tough goodbyes!

At the final weather briefing, we were told we would be leaving on time on May 2. The winds should be light the first two days and then pick up when we reach the trade winds. The plan is to stop at Minerva Reef, which is a submerged reef in the middle of nowhere. You want to know where it is so you dont hit it! Only one percent of people who sail the oceans stop at Minerva Reef so this is a special opportunity.

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