Monday, April 27, 2009

Weathering a Blow

April 25, 2009--When we anchored back in Kiwiriki Bay, we put out plenty of chain and used our new Anchor Buddy, which weighs 40 pounds and is made of a zinc alloy. It hangs on the last 40 feet (or so) and keeps the anchor chain low to the bottom so that the chance of dragging the anchor is greatly reduced. We were glad that we took the time to anchor well because that afternoon the winds began to pick up. By early evening the winds were steady at 25 knots, and by the time we went to bed at 11 o'clock, the winds were around 30 to 35 knots and gusting to 40 knots. The wind blew that way all night long, and many times the boat was heeled over enough to have things slide around. When we looked out the windows at the waves, it looked like whitecaps all around us, but we could see that the bio luminescence caused the waves to look whiter than they really were. In the morning the winds had died down to around 25 knots again, so we were a bit more comfortable. The anchor held tight all night long, which was a good thing as we did not want a repeat of our anchor drag at Kenutu Island in Tonga.

We have been on board the boat for almost five days now, but we have enjoyed reading books and taking care of those pesky little jobs. The weather isn't good enough to tackle any big jobs, which is good because we are both tired of projects.

Around 10 o'clock this morning we pulled the anchor, which was buried completely in the mud, and motored over to Port Fitzroy. This is the only place in this area to pick up some vegetables, bread, etc. We anchored over a rocky bottom and went ashore to see the sights. The sights consisted of the dock, a Burger Bar, the post office, a small grocery store, and the Visitors' Information Centre. The woman at the information centre was very friendly and helpful. She told us that in the summer, there could be as many as 900 to 1,000 boats around the island. Boy were we glad that we came after the regular season. The Port Fitzroy Boating Club was not open for lunch, we went to the Burger Bar where we enjoyed delicious hamburgers, fries, and cokes.

After pulling the anchor, we decided to move to the north coves so that Steve could do a little fishing and where we would be ready to cross back to Whangarei in the morning. We anchored in Bradshaw Cove, and Steve fished for a bit, but it was shallow so he was catching only small Snapper. The wind had now shifted to the northeast, and that made the anchorage more tenuous. We looked at the chart and decided to move over to Karaka Bay. This bay gave us protection from the northeast to the southeast. There was a very small group of buildings on shore and all were privately owned, so we just sat in the cockpit and enjoyed the late afternoon scenery. We then put the dinghy on board and prepared the boat for the crossing in the morning.

Thursday morning we left our anchorage at 6:30 with a triple-reefed main and headed directly west to Whangarei. The forecast didn't sound too bad, and we had winds around 15 knots and slight seas--at least at first. The weather began to deteriorate as the morning went on. We put the third reef in the main and pulled in some headsail to slow us down a bit. We were surfing down the backs of the waves and decided that it was safer to slow her down. Rain showers passed over us several times, and at one point a wave on our starboard side broke right over the boat.

The forecast for the Whangarei area was forecast to be pretty nasty by late afternoon, so we pushed as hard as we safely could to get to Marsden Cove Marina. We approached the channel to Whangarei Bay around one o'clock. The channel shallows, and the winds were gusting around Bream Head, so we got some nasty conditions for awhile. We were not even sure that we wanted to pull into Marsden Cove Marina in 30 to 35 knots of wind--again! We did get a call on the radio telling us we could pull up to the end of C Dock and stay there for the night. I rigged all the lines and fenders, and we made the entrance just fine despite a few gusts. We could see that the dock was completely empty, which was good for us, so we pulled up to the dock and let the wind blow us right up against it. Luckily, there were cleats on the dock--most docks here have rings, which makes it much harder to tie off the boat quickly. We got her all secure and then went below to get out of the lousy weather.

We then went to check in and get set up for our stay here at Marsden Cove Marina. We plan to be here until a good weather window opens up, and because the Customs officials are located here, it will make checking out that much easier.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Great Barrier Island

April 20-2009--On Friday morning we left Auckland headed for an anchorage for that evening. A few hours out we had such nice winds that we decided to go ahead and sail to Great Barrier Island, especially since the weather was forecast to get worse over the next few days. Everything was going fine, and we were making pretty good time. Unfortunately, about half way to the island the winds shifted and were right on our nose, which meant that we had to tack up to the island, and we didn't have enough time for that. We had to decide whether to turn around and go back to find an anchorage for the night or motorsail. We chose to motorsail, which made it possible for us to head up closer on the wind. Actually, this gave the engine a good workout, and it ran smoothly the whole way.

We arrived at Great Barrier around 5 o'clock in the afternoon and came through Man-of-War Pass. This pass is only about 300 to 400 feet across, but it is plenty deep. The pass opens up into a large bay, and from this bay you can enter several lovely smaller bays and drop the anchor. We decided to anchor in a very small bay just off Kiwiriki Bay for the evening. It was so lovely, and the whole area reminds us very much of the Pacific Northwest except for the absence of large evergreen trees.

The next morning we headed back out the pass and dropped the anchor in one of the outside bays so that Steve could fish for Red Snapper. While he did that, I worked on downloading pictures to the computer. He caught seven very nice Snapper and one Trevally. We decided to eat Snapper for dinner, save the Trevally for the next night, and freeze the rest of the Snapper for later. When we returned, we anchored in Kiwiriki Bay, which is listed as the prettiest bay on the island. Unfortunately, several boats joined us later in the day and were quite noisy, but we still enjoyed a lovely evening.

We spent the next day at the anchorage because it rained off and on all day. The forecast was for 40-50 knots of wind in a couple of days so today we decided to move to Wairahi Bay, which is a bit more protected. When we got there, we discovered that six other boats had the same idea, so we returned to Kiwiriki Bay and simply anchored a bit farther in to get more protection. We are protected on three sides, and the anchor is well set so we will be fine.

The weather will keep us here for a few days--not that we are complaining, but we hope to return to Whangarei on Thursday or Friday. As usual, it will all depend on the weather.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Out and About in Auckland

April 16, 2009--I know that I just posted a blog yesterday; however, we decided to do some sightseeing today and had some pictures to share.

We started the day by going out to Mission Bay to Kelly Tarleton's Encounter and Underwater World. The aquarium is located in old stormwater and sewage holding tanks. A transparent tunnel runs along the center of the aquarium, through which you travel on a conveyor belt, with the fish, including sharks and stingrays, swimming around and above you.

The best part, however, was the Antarctic Encounter. This includes a walk through replica of Scott's 1911 Antarctic hut, and a ride on a Snow Cat through a frozen environmen where a colony of King and Gentoo penguins lives.
By noon we were ready for lunch so we took the bus back to the downtown area and walked to the Sky Tower. This is the spire that shows up in our pictures of Auckland. It is a complex that has a 24-hour casio, restaurants, bars, cafes, and a hotel. At the top of the spire is a revolving restaurant so we decided to eat lunch there. Lunch was excellent (we both had lamb), and we had a wonderful 360-degree view of Auckland so we were able to take some wonderful pictures.

One can pay money to walk (tethered) around the top of the tower on a metal grated walk, or you can be hooked to a harness and dropped some 200 meters to land on a target on the sidewalk. We both declined. The observation floor had plexiglass panels in the floor so that you could look down to the street, and the elevator even had a panel in the floor so that you could watch the floors passing below you. If you look closely in the center of the picture at the right, you will see a woman hanging in a harness.

After lunch we stopped at the grocery store and a few stores to pick up some last minute items for the boat. We then returned to the boat to shower and get ready for dinner with Chris and Jamie. They picked us up around 5;30 and we went to Swashbucklers for dinner. It was a lovely evening, and we enjoyed catching up with them.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kawau Island to Auckland

April 15, 2009—We moved over to the main bay on Kawau Island on Friday, April 10, and found a nice spot in Schoolhouse Bay. This was the beginning of a four-day Easter weekend, so things were a bit crowded. We dropped the anchor and were setting it, when the shifter linkage slipped, and, therefore, the boat was not responding to my commands for forward and reverse. We were securely anchored, however, so we cut the engine and then Steve went to work on the problem and in no time had everything fixed.

We took the dinghy across the bay to the Kawau Island Yacht Club because we had heard that they had delicious burgers. We each ordered a venison burger, which came with BBQ sauce (more like catsup), sliced beets, onions, lettuce, and mayo. It was as delicious as we had heard, and it was an enjoyable lunch in an interesting place. A couple was working there, and the man had taught rugby in several places on the U.S. east coast.

Next we went to the Mansion House at the mouth of the Bay, which was rebuilt from an earlier structure by Sir George Grey, a former governor of NZ, who purchased the island in 1862. We really enjoy going through these old homes and looking at the furnishings and accessories.

We returned to the boat to just enjoy the late afternoon and were treated to a lovely sunset. We watched the Regatta from our boat since we had decided not to participate. I think that we both just wanted to take more time to relax and not do much of anything. Racing can be a lot of work!

The next morning we headed to shore and took the walking trail over to the other side of the island where we walked along the shoreline, and since the tide was going out, we were able to find some fresh oysters for dinner. We then arrived at the Kawau Island Copper Mine, or I should say the remains of it. There was an old smokestack still standing and a rusted boiler in front of the main entrance. We were able to go into another entrance, but the shaft was closed off by iron bars. We completed the circle route and returned to our dinghy just as it started to rain. That evening we enjoyed a delightful dinner of shrimp and oyster chowder.

On Sunday morning we left Kawau and went to Tiritiri Matangi Island. This island is predator free and is home to many endangered native birds. Unfortunately, the weather was not good enough for us to dinghy ashore to walk around the island. We did, however, anchor just a short way out and fished for red snapper. We caught about a dozen (Steve caught most of them); however, only six were big enough to keep. Cleaning these fish is not easy because of their spines, so Steve was very happy to have only six to clean.

We left Tiritiri Matangi and found ourselves pounding right into the wind and waves. We decided to find a closer anchorage for the night, and when we spotted a bunch of masts at the north end of Motutapu Island, we diverted to head that way. We dropped anchor just off Billy Goat Point among about 50 other boats--the Kiwis do an amazing job of cramming many more boats than we thought possible into an anchorage. We ended up enjoying a very pleasant evening there.

On Monday morning we headed in to Auckland. There were small fishing boats all over the place because of the holidays. We were reminded of our entrance to San Francisco Bay on Labor Day weekend. We arrived at West Haven Marina at 11 o’clock and easily found our slip. Unfortunately, in the middle of Steve’s turn, the current and wind took us past it, so we had to turn around in the fairway and make another run at it—that was exciting. This time we pulled in with no problem and got the boat secured.

Tuesday found us tracking down boat supplies. We checked our EPIRB (locator beacon) and found that the battery was dead even though it supposedly good through November of this year. There were only a few other things that we needed as well as some groceries, so we got that done in the morning, and then I did laundry in the afternoon.

Steve took off to downtown this morning while I stayed to do one more load of laundry. It is amazing that it took me three and a half hours to do two loads of laundry. Tomorrow we plan to do some sightseeing, and tomorrow night we will have dinner with Chris and Jamie from sv Morning Light. It will be good to see them again and catch up on their latest adventures. We plan to leave Auckland on Friday morning to find an anchorage close by.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Out Sailing Again

April 9, 2009--We finally pulled out of Riverside Drive Marina on Monday around 2:40 p.m. It was a busy morning running our last few errands and then returning the car to the car lot. Steve was amazed that all he had to do was go in and get the check. There were no forms to sign and no one to contact regarding the sale. We could have sold the car privately for more money; however, the hassles were not worth it to us.

We left the marina taking John from sv Scarlett O'Hara with us. He and Renee had sailed down from up north to meet us at the mouth of the river, and along the way they lost their engine and had to sail in and anchor at one o'clock in the morning. John had taken the dinghy up to our marina to look for a fuel pump. The marine store did not have any, but Steve did, so we headed back down to Uquharts Cove to anchor for the night. John worked most of that night but could not get the engine running, and because a gale was forecast to begin late that afternoon Scarlett got into a slip at Marsden Cove Marina just across the bay. As there was nothing else we could do to help, we left in the morning to sail to Kawau Island.

Our sail was on the beam and down wind with winds between 10 and 15 knots--a lovely sailing day but a bit rolly. We arrived at North Bay and picked up a mooring ball in front of Lin and Larry Pardey's home. We put the boat in order, launched the dinghy, and went ashore to join them for Happy Hour. Darren and Melinda from sv Mischief were there, as well as a local named Dave. They had been working on rebuilding the sea wall with Larry for several days, and it was hard, muddy work. We all enjoyed wine and hors d'oeuvres, and then Steve and I stayed for dinner. It was a beautiful evening, and their property has a lovely view of the bay.

We spent Wednesday on the boat reading books and relaxing--it was wonderful! I baked some Snickerdoodles in the afternoon, and we took them ashore around 3 p.m. At this time the guys were trying to hoist 500 kilogram bags filled with rock so that they could dump them behind the sea wall for drainage. They were using lines and pullies, and it was quite a feat. As they moved along the wall, they had to get more creative, and Steve really enjoyed helping to working out a system. I helped by relaying information to Larry, who was running the windlass to control the lines. When they got to the 800 kilogram bag, things became too difficult, so they quit and enjoyed beer and cookies. We returned to the boat to have dinner and enjoy some more reading.

The weather has been unsettled. We have had gusts of wind up to 30 knots and rain squalls come through regularly, but our mooring is quite secure. Tomorrow the weather should settle down, and we will move down to the larger cove and anchor there. On Saturday there is a Regatta that we plan to participate in. Then on Sunday we plan to head down to Auckland where we have a slip reserved for Monday.

I plan to post blogs more regularly now that we are on the move again and I have more interesting things to write about.

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