Whanga (pronounced Fanga) means harbour in the Maori tongue and since we left the boatyard in Whangarei seven weeks ago, we have visited two other harbours further north and found that Whanga could just as well have meant beautiful. Whangarei, Whangamumu and Whangaroa are all spectacular, with lovely hiking routes that offer breathtaking views.
Since Moondust splashed back into the water in Whangarei, we’ve been busy provisioning the boat with food and technical spares for the months to come. We are still hoping that Fiji and other countries on our route will open in time for us to continue our voyage this sailing season.
We felt we could not leave Whangarei before enjoying some of the popular hiking routes and visiting the Whangarei Falls.
Having been stationary for so long, I unfortunately got seasick upon heading into the waves at the mouth of the Hatea River. Luckily it was a short 30 nautical mile sail to Tutukaka, where we could find some shelter, albeit in a rolly anchorage but somewhat protected from the big, nauseating swells of the ocean.
The next day we pushed further north to Whangamumu, not far south of Cape Brett, the south-eastern entrance to The Bay of Islands. Whangamumu is a beautiful, protected inlet, which used to be home to New Zealand’s most successful whaling station in the 1800’s and early 1900’s.
We stayed here for more than a week and enjoyed the various hiking routes. We also made some wonderful new friends, on their catamarans: Russ and Margy on Sunrise and Peter, Jo and Mark on Three Little Birds. Pete and I agree that meeting such wonderful, like-minded people is one of the most special things about our voyage. However, for me it is always a bit sad to part ways, often never to see them again.
We had a surprisingly pleasant sail north from Whangamumu to Whangaroa and were intrigued by the high volcanic rocks guarding the narrow opening to the big Whangaroa harbour.
We anchored in a cosy little bay, amongst two other yachts, from where we were protected against the stormy weather that would arrive a few days later. On one of the most hectic nights our windspeed meter stopped working but Ulla and Pelle, a Swedish couple on board Loupan, who were anchored near us, stayed on anchor watch until 04:00 as they recorded up to 50 knots and one of their solar panels got blown away. I must admit that I slept through most of the storm but Pete had a last look at our anchor alarm at 02:00 before he finally dropped off.
Once again we made new friends and enjoyed a few sundowners together. On the day that New Zealand lifted all lockdown restrictions as it had eradicated the Corona virus, we celebrated sipping French champagne with Ulla en Pelle.
As we were expecting our new breadmaker and Ulla and Pelle and John and Wendy on Midnight Sun also had business in the nearest town, Mangonui, we all decided to head north and meet for lunch at the Mangonui Fish Shop the next day.
Our business stop in Mangonui turned out to be the most surprising fishing experience. We were anchored near the town jetty, from where local fishermen would fish throughout the day, but mostly at dusk and dawn.
One day at sunset we saw a teenager fishing from his canoe, with each cast reeling in one Kahawai after the other. We were nearby fishing from our dinghy, also following the shoals of jumping fish, however, we only caught three. After we asked him about his magic touch, he showed us the shiny lure that he was using. The next day we bought similar lures at the Waterfront Shop, and voila!
Over the next few days we would go out at sunset on a rising, near high tide, and we’d catch ten plus Kahawai within about 40 minutes. It was exhilarating to reel in these fine fighting fish with almost every single cast!
Apart from the fresh fish meals we enjoyed and the few that we gave away to our non-fishing friends, we filled up the freezer and also pickled some curried fish.
It was also nice to meet up with our young Norwegian friends, Andreas and Helena, whom we’d met in the Norsand Boatyard. Wapiti is also circumnavigating and they’re also hoping that Fiji will open this season.
We thoroughly enjoyed our period of calm weather in Mangonui, but since the anchorage is quite exposed to the easterlies and some heavy weather was predicted, we headed back to the shelter of Whangaroa.
For now we don’t want to venture too far from the Bay of Islands, from where we would have to clear out once Fiji again welcomes cruisers from surrounding Pacific islands. Whilst we are in limbo we have thoroughly enjoyed the amazing cruising ground of Northland. New Zealand has been very kind to us, with its friendly, helpful people, beautiful hiking trails and great fishing. The authorities have also automatically generously extended visas to all transient yachties. However, with winter all but upon us and temperatures reaching single digits inside Moondust at times, we are looking forward to warmer tropical weather and the snorkeling that the islands further north have to offer.