I arrived back on Moondust shortly before Christmas after a wonderful three week visit to my family and friends in South Africa. In my luggage were quite a few items for Moondust, amongst which was our new Genneker, made by North Sails in Cape Town.
It was good to be back and also to again see Rick and Liz, Pete’s brother and sister-in-law, who were visiting from Australia. Rick was very helpful and he and Pete finished a number of two man jobs while I was away.
EXPLORING THE BAY OF ISLANDS
After stocking up the larder in Paihia we set out to enjoy the Bay of Islands, situated on the east coast of New Zealand’s northern island. This vast bay, where Captain Cook landed in 1769, has 144 islands and a choice of anchorages, sheltered against various wind angles. A very necessary attribute as the winds were very variable and at times, strong.
The Bay of Islands, described as the cradle of the nation, is of historic importance as this is not only where Cook arrived but also where the peace treaty was signed between the British government and the traditional Maori inhabitants, at what is today known as the Waitangi Treaty Grounds near Paihia. Russell, which today is a touristic little hollow, was once the capital of New Zealand.
Summer at last arrived as a very welcome Christmas gift, so we had a wonderful time exploring the island. After Rick and Liz departed we were itching to try out our new Genneker! With following winds this sail gives us an amazing possible sailing angle of 210 degrees.
We spent New Years Eve anchored off Russell with cruising friends Martin and Carola and Hürgen and Lesley. From that anchorage we had front row seats for the magnificent fire works display at Paihia.
In between exploring The Bay of Islands we kept doing maintenance and repair jobs. Pete had worked like a trojan horse while I was away, but the list just seemed never ending. Our jobs varied from electronic, electrical, rigging, painting, servicing the dinghy’s outboard engine and sewing to the big nasty; clearing a blocked toilet!
Early in the New Year Nicolas and Jaqui, friends from South Africa who currently work and study in New Zealand, joined us for a weekend of fun.
EXPLORING FURTHER AFIELD
Finally we were ready to explore further afield, but not before we stopped over in Deep Water Cove to do the five hour hike to the Cape Brett Lighthouse.
The next day we sailed to Hole in the Rock. Located at the entrance to the bay, this is a popular spot that daily attracts tourist boats from Paihia.
After our two day sail we enjoyed some time at Urquharts Bay, at the entrance to Whangarei. Here we did some hiking and prepared our spare anchor rode, which had only 12m of chain. We then headed for Marsden Cove where we dropped our anchor chain for re-galvanizing, now having to make do for the next few weeks with this short length of chain plus polyester rope.
GREAT BARRIER ISLAND
On heading for Great Barrier Island, we realised that sailing wasn’t only difficult in The Bay of Islands. The wind in New Zealand this year is extremely fickle and unpredictable. The good northerly that was predicted didn’t materialise, so at 15:00, realising that we would not make Great Barrier Island before nightfall, we decided to turn back to overnight at the Hen and Chicken Islands. We snuggled in between Whatupuke and Huarewa Islands for the night.
The next day the wind varied from light in the morning to none at noon and then finally a strong beam wind pushed us the last little bit to Nagle Cove, on the northeast side of Great Barrier Island. The next morning we were woken by the splashes and blowing of a pod of dolphins swimming around Moondust! After listening to them for about 15 minutes I decided to join them and swam for about half an hour with five of them. They came very close but remained just out of touching distance. However, they frolicked in the bay for the rest of the morning, to the enjoyment of all onlookers.
Since the water in New Zealand is not as warm and clear as elsewhere in the Pacific, we took to hiking and later fishing rather than snorkeling. From Nagle Bay we sailed to Kaiarara Bay, from where we walked to Port Fitzroy where there was a little shop. We also worked out our lazy legs, enjoying the various well-signposted hiking tracks.
Anchoring with rope proved to be quite a bit more challenging than our normal procedure using only chain. Most inconvenient, we could not use rope on the windlass and had to pull the anchor up by hand. Further, following our experience in Hiva Oa where the rope on the stern anchor chafed through on a rock, Pete initially preferred to buoy the rope, despite the cumbersome procedure, to keep it clear of sharp objects. We later found that by using satellite images of each bay, we could ensure that the sea bed was clear of rock and so could dispense with the buoys, which had resulted in several midnight disturbances and one swim to untangle the bouyed line from one of the propellers. Luckily for Pete’s peace of mind, we had not yet encountered any of the large sharks that we saw later.
It had taken us a while to realise that, for the first time in ages, in fact all our time in the Caribbean and Pacific, we were now able to catch fish in shallow water and eat them without any fear of Ciguatera fish toxin. One of the local fisherman advised Pete that the mussel farms were good fishing spots, and after buying squid for bait, we dinghied over to a nearby farm at dusk with our fishing rods. The snapper were abundant and hungry and with no bag limit, it was nice to be in an area where we could fish to our hearts delight!
After picking op my driver’s license in Tryphena, at the south end of the island, I could start planning our land trip to South Island. Both our driver’s licences had expired since we left South Africa but fortunately I could apply for a new one during my visit and have a friend pick it up and post it to me.
On the way back to the northern bays for some more fishing, we stopped over at Whangaparapara and did the hike to its well-known Hot Springs. We also spent a delightful evening with Dennis and Joan, a local cruising couple who left South Africa 25 years ago on Mossie, their 35 foot homebuilt sloop, with their two teenage sons.
At Oneura Bay, just inside the Man of War Passage, we anchored near another mussel farm and went fishing daily. Pete even went twice on some days, and we were glad to fill the freezer up with delicious Red Snapper as the larder had run low on almost everything.
On one occasion a 3m shark repeatedly surfaced around us. Back on Moondust it appeared again, nosing up the edge of the sugar scoop, inches from Pete’s toes, but only interested in feasting on the leftovers from the fish cleaning. Apart from the harmless whale sharks at St. Helena, it was the biggest shark that we have seen in all our travels.
It was time to sail back to Whangarei where we had to haul Moondust out on 27th February. Apart from anti-fouling and picking up our re-galvanised anchor chain we had quite a few jobs which would keep us busy.
Since Marinas are very expensive and we previously couldn’t find a secure mooring, we decided to do our trip to Southland while Moondust was safely on the hard.