The Hauraki Gulf, east of the city of Auckland on New Zealand’s North Island, is a popular playground for tourists as well as local boat owners. It is also the venue for the iconic 2021 America’s Cup sailing challenge. Despite Covid restrictions on tourism from overseas, we had freedom of the Gulf on Moondust.
This area is extremely popular, being close to Auckland, as it features a number of islands, most of which are also accessible by ferry. We had previously visited Great Barrier Island, so this time, sailing from Whangarei, north of Auckland, our first stop was Kawau Island.
Kawau is one of the bigger islands in the Hauraki Gulf and has an interesting history. In 1862 Kawau was bought by Sir George Grey, at that time governor of New Zealand. Interestingly, Sir Grey was Governor of the Cape Colony of South Africa before his appointment in New Zealand. It was perhaps his role played there in the resolution of hostilities between the natives and European settlers that made him the ideal candidate for governing New Zealand, with its conflict between the native Maori and British authorities at the time.
It was great to meet up again with friends Ulla and Pellé and they spoilt us with a lovely dinner on board Loupan. They also introduced us to Patricia and David of Gulf Harbour Radio fame, who inspired us to fix our SSB radio.
Unfortunately the house was closed, being off-season, but we could still enjoy the colourful peacocks and exotic gardens that were established by George Grey.
A few days later Trijnie and Hennie, our Dutch friends on Yana, arrived. Together we did the short hike to the old copper mine, which was active in the 1840’s.
With Patricia’s help we contacted a radio technician in Auckland who would be able to fix our SSB radio, so we sailed to Auckland to deliver it. We were also able to purchase a spare second hand anchor to replace one which we lost when we sailed south. It was hanging off the bow roller and the aluminium stock must have fatigued and snapped. It is a good thing it happened then and not when the safety of Moondust depended on it!
After a quick stop in Auckland, we headed for the very popular Waiheke Island, which is known as the ‘island of wine’ for its numerous award-winning wineries.
Fortunately Waiheke offers shelter from all quarters and thus we kept moving from bay to bay with the extremely variable wind directions.
After some inclement weather an improvement brought some glorious days, so we enjoyed some of the beautiful walks on the island.
Motuihe was initially a private working farm before it became the property of the government in 1872. As such it was used as a quarantine station during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and also as an internment camp during World War I. In later years it became a children’s health camp and during WW II it was used as naval base to help protect Auckland from the threat of Japanese invasion.
In 1987 the Department of Conservation (DOC) assumed control of the island and since 2000 the Motuihe Restoration Trust works hand in hand with DOC to restore original vegetation to the island, eradicating rabbits and other pests and re-introducing indigenous bird species.
Apart from reading about the island’s interesting history on one of our walks, we also discovered that Motuihe has some of the most beautiful beaches that we’ve seen thus far in New Zealand.
Once again seeking shelter we moved to the inlet known as Islington Bay between Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands, just off Auckland. These neighbouring islands are very different in geology. Rangitoto is a young volcanic island and its rugged lava fields and forests contrasts starkly with the rolling green hills of neighbouring Motutapu.
A two hour walk takes one to the summit of the volcano from where the now overgrown crater is clearly visible. Here there are beautiful views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf and it will provide an excellent vantage point to watch the America’s Cup racing events.
On another hike we strolled through lush vegetation to explore the lava tunnels and caves on the island.
The Hauraki Gulf also offered the perfect nursery for Pete to get to grips with sailing Moondust single-handed. Since my extended visa for New Zealand was about to expire at the end of September, which coincided with my daughter’s wedding in South Africa, I made huge efforts to get home.
I arrived in South Africa on 3rd September and had to isolate in Johannesburg for ten days, but was in time to enjoy a beautiful wedding.
Pete holds an Australian passport and can thus stay in New Zealand indefinitely. However, should he leave he also won’t be able to return until the extremely conservative Kiwis re-open borders. He thus elected to stay. I hope that I’ll be able to return to Moondust well before the next cruising season, which begins at the end of the south west Pacific cyclone season in May 2021.