As we entered the beautiful Bay of Islands, we tried hailing our various friends on VHF radio, with no responses. We finally reached our sailing friends Jane and Shelly aboard their yacht MAGIC DRAGON. They were anchored in Indigo Bay at Urupukapuka Island. We turned and retraced our course, as we had passed the island, and a pod of dolphins swam under ADAGIO, seeming to take refuge from the large “swim with the dolphins” tourist boats that were in hot pursuit. We stopped ADAGIO and let the dolphins pass safely beneath her hulls.
Jane and Shelly came aboard ADAGIO for dinner, as we had a rack of wonderful New Zealand cervena (venison) we had bought in Auckland, just crying out to be shared with friends. Steve unpacked our BBQ for the first time in over a year, and I grilled the cervena chops my mother’s style. We chatted for hours about mutual friends, sailing routes and technical boat issues.
On Sunday we sailed out to the north of the islands for a bit of practice with our giant blue spinnaker. As we were going to be sailing in the vicinity of infamous Whale Rock on which Captain Cook had scraped his keel, and named it Whale Rock, uncertain as to whether he had hit a whale or a rock, we marked this navigation danger with a red diamond on our electronic chart. We sorted out a problem we had been having to pull the corner of the sail out of the “snuffer” cone, and flew the giant blue jellybean-shaped sail first on port tack, then snuffed it, gybed the boat and unsnuffed it again to sail on starboard tack. The snuffer is designed to allow us to hoist the spinnaker to the top of the mast, stowed inside a long sausage-shaped tube of fabric, then release it from its tube by hoisting the bell-shaped cone at the bottom of the “sausage case”. The cone stays at the top of the mast until we are ready to “snuff” the sail. We do this by pulling the cone and thus the sausage tube down over the sail, spilling the wind out of the sail and then allowing us to lower the sail in its tube to the foredeck. It worked beautifully. Steve was disappointed that the 10 knots of wind fell to 7.5 knots, but Dorothy was thrilled to see ADAGIO sailing at 5 knots of boat speed in 7.5 knots of wind.
After showers, we joined our MAGIC DRAGON friends at an anchorage in Parakura Bay, near the point of land where the New Zealand opera diva Kiri Tikanawa has a home. Shelly came aboard and showed us how to adjust our windlasses to allow the clutch to work in order to ease the tension on the entire anchoring system. He also showed Steve how to measure the distance the alternator brackets are vibrating. The brackets have failed again, for the fourth time. The design is wrong, and we will hopefully have them re-engineered to a design that will not fail. Shelly and Jane invited us aboard MAGIC DRAGON for coffee and freshly baked chocolate cake. They built MAGIC DRAGON, designed and built all the systems, and have been cruising for almost 40 years.
The next morning “The Dragons” had departed for their nearby home port of Kerikeri. But we watched a small dinghy work its way upwind from across the bay towards ADAGIO. It was bringing our friends David and Susan Goodall from their sailing vessel IMAGINE. David had crewed for us from Nelson to Auckland, and we were happy to see him and Susan out cruising in their own boat. Soon another dinghy approached, bringing our friends John and Ella from their sailing vessel QUICK DECISION. They used to have their boat on a mooring near our house and we let them park their car in our driveway and use our beach to store their dinghy. It was wonderful to share stories and bring ourselves up to date on the goings on in the Bay of Islands over the past three and a half years. John and Ella have sailed together since the mid 1960’s. They are wonderful sources for the history of the area.
Monday morning it was time for us to make our way along the beautiful chain of islands — Urupukapuka, Okahu, Motukeikie, Moturua, Motuarohia (Roberton Island where there is an underwater snorkeling trail), then past Tapeka Point, the historic town or Russell, and into Pomare Bay. We picked up our mooring in front of our house. What a beautiful bay. Still just as we had left it, with the addition of a couple of new houses up the hill. We bailed the rain water out of the hulls of our dinghy, launched it, and I ferried Steve ashore. We had telephoned our friends Jeremy and Diana who are summering in their holiday home up the hill from our home. Their son Sam had just arrived and offered to give Steve a lift to the ferry so that Steve could walk to Alan Legge’s boat yard to get our car. Our house sitter Matt graciously ferried Steve back to ADAGIO, and came aboard for a visit. He filled us in on many of the local happenings.
Early in the morning on February 10, birds were singing in the trees ashore, across mirror calm waters. We measured one meter of water under the keel at low tide. A cruise ship was anchored between Paihia and Russell, brightly lit. Steve went to Whangarei to meet with engineers, and I did a little provisioning in Russell, and visited a few friends. It was windy when we took the dinghy ashore in the afternoon. Even more wind was forecast for the next day.
Our neighbor Diana, her son Sam and two of his chef friends came aboard for a visit and some of ADAGIO’s home made banana ice cream. In exchange, Sam gave us some of the kingfish they caught at Bird Rock. They reported seeing a lot of kingfish. It was good to know that there were some left at the end of the summer fishing season.
One day at low tide, before dawn we were awakened by the sound of our port side keel scraping on the top of our concrete mooring block. Good thing it was our port keel, the one that we damaged by hitting a rock in the Clarence River of Australia. Another good thing was that the tidal range was increasing. We had been on pins and needles hoping that all the meteorological and hydrological factors would cooperate for a peaceful hauling out of ADAGIO on schedule. The weather forecasters had been predicting the arrival of a new low pressure system from the south, bring 30 knot southerly winds. Such conditions would not be conducive to tieing ADAGIO above the concrete of the boat launch ramp at high tide and waiting several hours for the ebbing tidal waters to recede.