2004 Jan 25: Auckland to Bay of Islands, NZ

On Sunday, January 25, we untied our dock lines and stowed our fenders as we departed Westhaven Marina in Auckland. It was a long weekend, “Anniversary Day”, for Aucklanders, and they were all out on the water. We saw a hundred small fishing boats in a pass north of our route. We sailed to beautiful Waiheke Island, just 12 nautical miles from Auckland. We proceeded along its southern shore for another 12 nautical miles, and up its eastern shore to Man ‘O War Bay where we anchored at about 1 PM. Ours was the best location in the anchorage, and more than sixty other boats anchored behind us. People were swimming from the beach, and two men swam out to ADAGIO to have a look and a chin wag with me. They were fellow catamaran sailors.

The wind was light, and was forecast to be light in the morning, even though we had arranged to meet our sail maker in this anchorage for a test sail. Two days earlier we had received delivery of our spinnaker. The wind never arrived, but our weekend away from the marina was superb, cruising the islands of the Hauraki Gulf. The last night we anchored in full view of the Auckland skyline and Rangitoto Island in the distance as flames of sunset filled the skies and painted the water and ADAGIO in pinks and reds.

I toured two islands, Rangitoto and Tiri Tiri Matangi, in the gulf near Auckland and have written a separate illustrated document about it, entitled “From Volcanoes to Pohutukawa Forests in New Zealand”.

We met some fellow cruisers who had recently cruised in the islands of Vanuatu. I thought you would enjoy hearing what the people of the islands of Vanuatu call a piano: “Big black box, kick him in the teeth and he scream”.

At last there came the weather for a short test sail with our sail maker to trial our new spinnaker. His chase-boat crew took some good photos of the operation. It was a real eye opener. I was very happy. I had not been so sure I wanted to wrestle with such a large sail as a spinnaker again. But the ATN Snuffer worked dependably, as soon as we got the hand of its quirks and pulled hard enough on the retrieving line. We would need a lot of practice to make it fool proof. The Snuffer makes it easy to hoist and unfurl the spinnaker when you want to sail, and then to snuff the spinnaker and lower it when you want to take it down. The spinnaker moved ADAGIO through the water at 6 knots boat speed in 10 knots of wind. Perhaps we can now sail in the light winds rather than motoring. The spinnaker is gorgeous, by the way.

We have arranged to be in the Bay of Islands at Alan Legge’s Boatyard for haul out by February 1. The best tidal range was to occur on February 5 and 6. We needed a three meter tidal range so that we could tie ADAGIO in place over the concrete boat ramp at high tide at 8 PM. At low tide at 3 AM the house moving truck would lift ADAGIO off the dried out ramp and haul her to the boat yard nearby. That gave us about a week to get ADAGIO up to the BOI and get organized. We had time to do some sightseeing on the way. There were several islands and bays we wanted to visit, continuing to follow in the wake of Captain Cook.

We departed Westhaven Marina in the early afternoon of February 5, in fresh breezes. The wind forecast was for 25 knots of wind from the SE, then easing to 15 knots. We had a rollicking sail blasting across the region of the Hauraki Gulf where the America’s Cup boat races had been held for the past three years. They could have used some of our wind. We were making 10 to 11 knots of boat speed in 20 to 25 knots of true wind, under full main and jib. After four hours sail we set the anchor in Harris Bay, Bon Accord Harbour, Kawau Island in 5 meters of water. A few houses nestled on the shore with small jetties out into the bay. It was a beautiful small harbour. The cloudless sky allowed the nearly full moon to shine its brightest.

As the sun set, the anchorage began to fill with boats, with more arriving after dark. You would be amazed at some of the mega motoryachts that anchored around us. One was the size of a small hotel, and just as noisy. As we prepared dinner after sunset, more and more boats came into the anchorage, and before we turned in there were 100 boats all around us. A look at the “2003/2004 Auckland Harbour Events Calendar” showed that today was the “Night Race to Kawau Island sponsored by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. Well, timing is everything. We should have known by the names of the boats (Xaviera, Cutting Edge, Photon, Heluva Hurry, E Type II, Bull Rush, Dynamo, Mind Bender, Arch Rival, SatelliteSpy, Fast Company, Mustang Sally) and the mostly all male crews, that our visit to Kawau Island had coincided with a sailboat race. I think Junkyard Dog was also a race boat but I’m not certain. By contrast, the cruising boats around us had names like Roam, Elysium, Fulmar, Warringa, Legal Tender (must be a lawyer or banker), Nimble, Namu, Plane Jane and Viva.

In between peeling carrots for the chicken stew, I had to stand on the bow of ADAGIO and ask other boats to please not anchor upwind of us, on top of where we had set our anchor. We have learned from experience that the skipper of another boat will be more cooperative when a woman asks him to move. My strategy is to stand on the bow of ADAGIO, making sure the other boat’s skipper can see that I am watching him, and just before (not after) he begins to lower his anchor, I ask him to please find a different place to anchor as he is dropping his anchor on top of ours. I then walk slowly back to the cockpit, as an indication that I expect he will do as I requested. If not, I return to the bow and ask with more emphasis, and invite Steve to join me. An electronic bullhorn works wonders in difficult situations. If all else fails, we would raise our own anchor and move out of a dangerous situation.

I had been enjoying reading The Journals of Captain James Cook, as we followed his route along the east coast of New Zealand. We visited several of his anchorages, and can see how much things have changed since his first visit. He encountered many of the native Maori people, some friendly and some not so friendly, and traded cloth for fish, collected fire wood and water and native “celery” which he fed to his men to prevent scurvy.

After we departed Kawau Island, we sailed north along the beautiful east coast of the North Island, counting the sandy beaches and rocky headlands, bays and volcano peaks as we went. On Friday we anchored in Whangaruru Harbour, a beautiful deep inlet rimmed with beaches, tree-clad rocky cliffs and dotted with islands green and red in bonsai Pohutukawa trees.

Saturday morning we continued up the coast, rounded Cape Brett and passed Piercy Island (named as a pun by Captain James Cook after a Mr. Piercy) which has a huge hole through it and which has become a fun tourist treat as the tour boats take passengers through the “hole in the rock”. It was wonderful to be once more sailing the waters we had come to know so well when we lived in New Zealand for six years. We were slipping gently and gradually into our old haunts.

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