2003 Dec 30 – Jan 14: Nelson to Auckland, NZ

David Radtke, our friend from Russell, Bay of Islands, arrived on the day after Christmas, after a 24 hour bus trip. No flights were available, due to the holidays. He had bought the last ferry ticket to cross Cook Strait. We were very grateful that he had persisted against all odds and discomforts of the trip from Russell, to come to crew aboard ADAGIO. Our passage to Auckland would involve several challenges, including crossing Cook Strait which separates the North Island from the South Island, and rounding East Cape, the most eastern point of land in the eastern hemisphere. David and his wife Susan cruised their sailboat SLOOP DU JOUR for many years before landing in New Zealand. They had crewed aboard ADAGIO for her maiden voyage from New Zealand to New Caledonia in year 2000. David “knew the ropes” aboard ADAGIO, and brought with him a level head and a fun sense of humor.

We departed Nelson Harbor at 1140 hours on December 30. Most of the hills of the Marlborough Sounds have been logged bare, and mussel farms line many of the shores. The wind “bullets” can be funneled down the valleys, so we would choose our anchorages carefully. Three hours later we were entering Croisilles Harbour where we picked up the mooring owned by Dick and Babbie, in Wairangi Bay, inshore of mussel farms. The sunset was framed in the mouth of the inlet whose tree-lined headlands stood in stark silhouette.

The next morning we navigated the treacherous narrows of French Pass at favorable tides, rounded Cape Jackson and headed in to Queen Charlotte Sound. We lowered the anchor in Ngakuta Bay, a beautiful cove, just large enough for ADAGIO to swing. The quarter moon shone ahead, over the bush-clad hills. Fresh breezes died before dusk. The setting sun blazed on the hills astern. Songbirds sang ashore, celebrating New Year’s Eve.

Cook Strait Jan 1, 2004

The first day of the year 2004 we anchored in Umungata, and departed the next morning for Tory Channel. We checked the tide and current tables and ferry schedules, and timed our pre-dawn departure and passage out into Cook Strait at favorable tides and with a minimum of ferry traffic.

The weather forecast for Cook Strait was 15 knots of wind out of the north increasing to 25 knots in the morning. Sea rough. SE swell 2 meters easing. Outlook 25 knots of northerly winds. At 0700 hours we put one reef in the mainsail.

We could see a snow-topped mountain on the South Island off our port quarter, and the rugged coast of the North Island abeam to port. Waves decreased as we came more into the lee of the North Island. The waves had been a bit rough and on the beam. Earlier the wind speed had varied between 15 and 30 knots.

By 0930 hours the wind increased again to more than 30 knots. ADAGIO surfed at 14 knots. The wind was backing to the northwest. By 1015 hours the wind and waves had eased a bit. The seas were more comfortable on our port quarter. An albatross circled as we crossed Cook Strait in good time.

North of Cape Palliser the winds went light, but then we sailed into a new wind. It was the forecast northeasterly wind. We saw that we would be able to tack when we were abeam of Cape Palliser. By evening we were motoring into 1.5 meter seas and 8 knots of NE wind. Our 7 PM log reads: “Motoring into the seas. Quarter moon ahead. Sky clear. Occasional dolphins, shearwaters, albatross. Occasional ship or sailboat out to sea on reciprocal course to ours.”

At three in the morning we passed Cape Turnagain. As the seas calmed, the ride became more comfortable. We continued motoring on towards Napier, estimated time of arrival about noon, January 3, 2004, where we would take on fuel. Sunrise brought dolphins. Abeam of Blackhead Point the seas turned to smooth swells on our bows. Ashore to port were huge, rounded, peaked sand dunes. At 10:30 AM the Inmarsat-C notice reported a 3 meter long submerged log off of Gable Cape Foreland, close to our planned route around East Cape. This warranted watching.


n Napier we purchased 911 litres of diesel fuel from a Caltex truck, as the fuel dock accepted only Caltex credit cards, not Visa, and it was a Sunday. Napier is the NZ town that was destroyed by an earthquake and completely rebuilt in Art Nouveau architecture.

During the evening we reduced the engine rpms to have a more comfortable ride into the seas. The countercurrents caused uncomfortable seas in Hawkes Bay. We hoped that the seas would smooth as soon as we rounded Portland Island.

At midnight the northerly winds increased to 18 knots. We altered course after rounding Portland Island and the Mahia Peninsula. Early on the morning of January 4 the seas were up to 2 meters high and the winds still on the nose at 16 knots. At 0430 hours we bailed out and headed for Gisborne. Waves washed up the front windows from time to time. The seas were rough enough that we were not sleeping. ADAGIO had been bashing into the wind and seas. After we altered course, the seas were still on the nose, but were expected to diminish as we sailed into the lee of the land. We sailed into Poverty Bay.

A gale warning was in force for the Castle Point region of the coast, south of us. Seas had been calm when we transited the area. A 1022 High over the Tasman sea was sending a ridge onto the North Island. A slow moving and weakening front lay over far south of the South Island. Our local forecast was for 20 knot northerly winds, not at all suitable for rounding East Cape.


We entered Gisborne Harbour Marina the morning of January 4. After many unanswered phone calls to the Harbor Master, Gisborne City Council, we tied up in a slip owned by Fred on the game fishing boat BLACK WATCH, with the possibility that we would have to move to a different location when Fred returned in the afternoon. Fred was most gracious and allowed us to use his berth.

The bashing to windward had tired us out. After much research and talking to the New Zealand Meteorological Service’s weather ambassador, Bob McDavitt, we set our departure date for Saturday. This would give us time to complete some maintenance tasks, visit friends who lived on Great Barrier Island, and then go in to the Westhaven Marina in Auckland on January 15.

Dorothy snorkeled in the Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve, East Coast Hawkes Bay Conservancy, as the guest of the Department of Conservation Program Manager for the Gisborne area. We had met him at a cafe near the marina, and I had asked if there were any natural history tours of the area. He said that I could join him for his first day back at work after the holidays. He took me on a tour of the very scenic coastline, including the monument marking the place where Captain James Cook had made his first landing in New Zealand. It is also believed to be where one of the great Maori canoes first made landfall.

This coast is the premier surfing region of New Zealand, and I could see where the surf breaks would be awesome. These are the beaches where the movie “Whale Rider” was filmed. Many of the locals were extras in the cast. The world premier showing of the movie was here in Gisborne, and the audience hooted and hollered as each of them appeared on screen.

The lagoon where I snorkeled is protected from the surf by a reef. A sandy bottom over which grew a forest of kelp, in two to three meters of water, is the habitat for large crayfish, which is what New Zealanders call lobsters. I found many of them under the overhangs and under the kelp. They are the colorful orange and yellow type which do not have claws. The reserve is protecting a population of crays which grow to be a much larger size than the crays that are caught outside the reserve. The crays in the reserve also have abandoned their nocturnal habits and have been observed parading around in broad daylight.

We passed a sign pointing to the “Whale Grave”, where 57 sperm whales were buried by the locals after beaching themselves many years ago.

There is a great deal of pride in this town where many tourists came to watch the first rays of sun of the new millenium. The school children were each given a ceramic tile to decorate before firing, to commemorate the millenium. The tiles have been installed in a waterfront wall, beautiful to see, not far from the lovely river where paddling canoes practice their racing form.

East Cape

On January 10 we departed Gisborne, having enjoyed touring the town and waterfront. The forecast was for winds “SW 15 tending NE in evening becoming SE 20 about East Cape in the evening. Sea becoming moderate in the north. NE swell 2M. Outlook NE 15, but SE 20 about East cape”. These would be excellent conditions for rounding the notorious East Cape of New Zealand.

Captain James Cook named the points of land along this coast in 1769. He first made landfall in New Zealand at what is now the town of Gisborne. He named the location Poverty Bay because the local Maori people seemed very poor. He then sailed south along the coast. At the south end of what he named Hawke’s Bay, Maori took a servant boy but released him after gunfire. Cook called the place Cape Kidnappers. Where Cook decided to turn back north he named Cape Turnagain. North of East Cape he sailed across a wide bay and observed that it was well populated with Maori and looked fertile so he called it the Bay of Plenty.

At 2 PM in 11 knots of a southeasterly wind, we were 4 nautical miles SE of East Island which forms the eastern point of the cape. Seas were slight. A 2 knot contrary current slowed our progress a bit. All was well. We rounded East Cape in 14 knots of SE winds at 3 PM on January 10, 2004. The following wind and seas increased during the afternoon, but in the evening log we entered, “Beautiful rose sunset flaming up from the horizon. Seas easing a bit. Wind speed down. Should be a quiet night as we cross the Bay of Plenty.” The active volcano White Island was abeam at midnight.

At 6:30 in the morning of January 11, our log entry was, “Calm morning with waning moon ahead and rising sun astern. Clouds ring the horizon. We should see the Cormandel Peninsula soon. Our position is 34 nm due east of Mercury Bay.” The weather forecast for the Hauraki Gulf and Great Barrier Island was looking good: “Hauraki Gulf: SW 10 tending E10 this morning. Sea slight, fine weather. Outlook: SW 10, fine with some cloudy periods. Swell increasing to 2.5 m.”

Great Barrier Island

By 3 PM on January 11, we had set our anchor in 10 meters of water at the head of Whangaparapara Harbour, Great Barrier Island. Surrounded by green hills, several boats on moorings and several more on anchor. Helmut & Meryl of the sailing catamaran FALLADO have their house at the head of the bay. We phoned their cell phone to learn that they were still in Picton, waiting for a weather window to come north. They offered us their mooring in this bay, but we preferred to anchor. We slept well.

The next morning we headed over to Port Fitzroy in the center of the island. By noon we had set our anchor in charming Kiwiriki Bay in 8 meters of water. Beautiful. Only one other boat. We had considered anchoring in Wairahi Bay, but there were already a dozen boats anchored there. Before dark, 12 other boats were anchored on the eastern side of the Kiwiriki Bay. We seemed to have the best anchorage on the west side of the bay.

Our January 13 morning log reads, “A mostly cloudy morning anchored in Kiwiriki Bay. Songbirds and cicadas in the bush. The shoreline is decorated with Pohutukawa trees, boughs reaching out over the water. Beautiful forested hills and rocky islands. The Great Barrier Island guide book calls this a “lowland mixed broad leaf forest”. Pohutukawas, the New Zealand Christmas tree, were still in bloom. One tree had a much lighter shade of red blossoms than the others. Some tea tree still with white blossoms.” David and Dorothy walked along the Kiwiriki track ashore, through a successfully regenerating native forest. Many Kowhai trees, some quite large, also a very large Kohekohe tree. Some Kauri trees beginning to tower over the tea trees. Beautiful stream with rounded boulders.

Auckland, Westhaven Marina

On the morning of January 14 we departed for Auckland. Our 9:30 AM log entry reads, “Seas are slight. We have about a .5 knot current going with us, as tide is flooding towards Auckland. Tiritiri Matangi Island is visible ahead to starboard. Waiheke Island and The Noises are ahead to port. Rangitoto volcanic cone is silhouetted on the horizon off our port bow. Occasional outbreaks of sunshine. Rain showers to the north are moving away.”

Even though we had arrived a day before our reservation was to begin, the staff at Westhaven Marina managed to squeeze us onto the end of XWV dock, in full view of the Auckland Sky Tower, blazing sunsets and the Auckland city skyline.

While in Auckland we planned to meet with our sail maker, rig maker, and other marine tradesmen to give ADAGIO a thorough going over and seek advice for some modifications.

Steve had ordered a spinnaker for ADAGIO. We wanted to try it out with the sailmaker aboard. Even with our wonderful sails, we have done a lot of powering, so we hoped the spinnaker would allow us to keep sailing downwind in light breezes. Steve worked with an engineer to resolve some problems with our generator. We consulted with our sail maker regarding solutions for controlling the angle of our boom while reefing the mainsail. Also we needed to improve the hardware for the downhauls on our jib and reacher when sailing off the wind.

Our very good friend David Radtke returned home on Friday. He was good company as well as very experienced crew. After completing our tasks in Auckland, we planned to make our way north to the Bay of Islands, continuing to follow in the wake of Captain Cook, and put ADAGIO in the capable hands of our boat builder for several months, while we prepared our house for sale.

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