Honey

Honey

Sailing around New Zealand

Emily is sailing solo around New Zealand on her 32 foot yacht Honey, from Lyttelton south down the east coast, around the bottom of Stewart Island, up the west coast of the South and North Islands and down the east coast back to Lyttelton. The whole adventure is expected to take 3 months. This blog will provide updates as I travel (when I have mobile reception to upload).


Monday, 10 July 2017

Across Cook Strait and into the Marlborough Sounds (8th - 9th April)

Saturday 8th April was a beautiful day – sunny and with a dying southerly, and fortunately the worst of my fever had passed through the night. Matt and Laurie were heading across Cook Strait too, planning to spend some time in the Marlborough Sounds before they sailed onto Nelson, their final destination where they hoped to pick up work. Another convoy and more company on the water!

We sailed out from Royal Port Nicholson just after 9.30am, our timing planned to suit the tides across the strait and into Tory Channel. After two hours we had motored out of the harbour and turning west I unfurled the genoa, rather ragged after its battering down the Wairarapa Coast. We slowly moved past the southern Wellington coast, staying at least 3 miles offshore to skirt around the worst of the Karori Rip. We had the tide against us and the remnants of an uncomfortable sloppy 2m swell, and it was not until we were due south of Cape Terawhiti that the tide turned in our favour, shooting us across the strait at 6-7 knots. Despite the dying southerly it was still bitterly cold, and not being very well I felt a bit shakey and vulnerable out in the strait – I was pleased that Honey knew what to do, and after pointing her in the direction of Tory Channel she gamefully crossed the sea back to the South Island.

At 4.30pm I crossed over the track that Honey and I had set 3 months earlier when we had sailed to the Sounds from Lyttelton. I had completed my circumnavigation of New Zealand! Huddled in the cockpit I didn't have the energy to celebrate, instead focussing on reaching our anchorage in Tory Channel – I figured a circumnavigation probably doesn't count until safely reaching port.

King Billy I shot through Tory Channel into the Sounds just after 6pm with Honey following closely behind. With the day drawing to a close we motored through the channel, heading to Hitaua Bay where I was hoping we could pick up a club mooring, and enjoy a last peaceful night aboard, sheltered from the wake of passing ferries. It was dark when we arrived in Hitaua Bay and I picked up the mooring, with King Billy I rafting up alongside Honey. We had made it back to the South Island! After a celebratory meal with Matt and Laurie, I turned in early for my last sleep on Honey.

It was a stunning day when we woke the next morning – blue skies and calm seas, the Sounds at its best! After hugs and good-byes to Matt, Laurie and King Billy I, Honey and I were on our way by 9am. As I motored around Dieffenbach Point and the short distance to Waikawa, I reminisced on all the fantastic times that Honey and I had enjoyed over the last few months, and on our previous circumnavigation of the South Island and Stewart Island. From my time on Honey I really felt like I had grown into an accomplished sailor, she had seen me safely through all sorts of weather, and I had had some of the best experiences of my life with her. I had already decided I would put Honey up for sale when I finished my circumnavigation – I had bought her so I could do sail around New Zealand, and now that was complete I wanted her to go to someone who would take her on new and different adventures – this short run into Waikawa marked the end of an era.

Looking back at where we had come before entering Waikawa Bay
Waikawa - the end of the adventure

Mum and Kai wanted to greet me on the breakwater when I arrived. I slowed Honey to a stop in Waikawa Bay until they arrived and got into position, and then Honey and I motored into the marina enjoying the waves and cheers from my small welcoming party. I had officially completed my solo circumnavigation of New Zealand on Honey!!

Shelter from Cylone Debbie (3rd - 7th April)

Matt rapped on the cabin of Honey just before 7am, and bleary-eyed I jumped out of my bunk having had only half an hour to rest. In the light of the morning it was clear that Schaefer's Wharf had been turned into an appartment block, hence my earlier confusion. It was still raining and cold as we motored back around to Royal Port Nic, tying up to the wharf immediately in front of the yacht clubhouse. We received a wonderful welcome from a small group of club members who were outside the boat sheds and helped us tie up – Stephen took us around the yacht club basin showing us alternative places to moor and then generously offered us to have full use of his boat shed while we were there, his only condition was that if we have a party in it he gets an invite! We jumped at Stephen's offer – the boat shed was warm and had a dehumidifier running and proved to be a godsend with getting all our wet weather gear dry. After another short rest, Sands made her way down to the marina to welcome us in leaving armed with all my laundry! Royal Port Nic proved to be a great spot to stay – right in the city and a very short walk to Freyburg Pools where we could shower and use the sauna. The southerly had brought the start of winter, and after the lovely hot days till now I hadn't dressed for the conditions, and it took me a full two hours in the sauna that afternoon before I felt like a really started to warm up.

Recalling our adventures of the day before, Matt and Laurie said it was the roughest conditions they had encountered since leaving Tasmania. It was rough, although Honey and I had certainly encountered worse. We later heard that the Greenpeace boat Taitu, that was heading north to intercept a seismic blasting ship that same day, almost turned back due to the bad weather. The Wairarapa Coast didn't disappoint, having lived up to its reputation, and I was proud that Honey had charged through it all so well!

The wild weather was set to continue throughout the week easing on Friday, so it was clear we were staying put for a few days. It rained steadily over the next three days, and we made the most of being in the heart of the city frequently escaping the cold damp confines of our yachts. It was also a great opportunity to catch up with friends in Wellington – all three of us enjoyed dinner with Sands, I had a meal with Sarah and Dominique, visited Te Papa with an old school friend Annabel, and caught up with my brother Tim for brunch when he visited Wellington for work.

On Friday 6th April, I woke up with a fever and painful sore throat that worsened through the day, probably as a result of getting so cold when the southerly first arrived. We saw the first of the sun since we had arrived in Wellington, and when I surfaced from Honey complete with hat, scarf and all my warm clothes there were a couple sunbathing alongside Honey in bikini and board shorts! There was a good weather window opening for us the following day, a period of calm before the next set of fronts accompanying Cyclone Cook were due, and I hoped I would be well enough for the strait crossing. I slowly readied Honey through the afternoon, and Sands kindly ran me in to get supplies from the chemist. We had planned to go to drinks at the club that evening, but instead I retreated into Honey armed with a hot water bottle and hot toddy, to try and ward off my bug.

The Final Leg South – Napier to Wellington (31st March - 3rd April)

It was just after 9.30pm on Friday 31st March when King Billy I and Honey pulled away from the club's visitor berth. We had a fantastic send off by the Napier Sailing Club, with several club members – everyone we had met, including the Commodore, Vice Commodore and Club Manager – cheering and sounding the hooter as we cast off! Then we disappeared out of the Inner Harbour and into the black night.

Honey and I followed King Billy I as we navigated our way out of Napier Roads and then headed south east towards Cape Kidnappers. There was very little wind, just a light offshore breeze blowing as we motor sailed through the night. Once we rounded Cape Kidnappers shortly after 1am, Matt suggested that I sail Honey on a course about 1 mile to the east of King Billy I, then I could get some sleep while either Matt or Laurie stayed on watch – by staying outside of them, then they would easily spot if Honey started veering in towards the coast and could radio or call me to wake up. Great idea! I stretched my sleeps out to 30 minute intervals, and it was reassuring to see King Billy I's navigation lights a little way inshore of me each time I popped my head up.

The following morning, the 1st of April, was uneventful as we covered the miles down the east coast. It was warm with light winds, almost perfect cruising weather. Our only complaint was that the wind wasn't steady enough to consistently sail, as we switched between sailing and motor sailing. King Billy I and Honey both sailed at a similar speed, which made us well matched for a convoy passage. King Billy I is 11.5m in length so I had expected her to be faster than Honey at 9.6m, but her longer waterline is compensated by the additional weight due to her steel construction resulting in similar cruising speeds.
King Billy I under full sail

We passed Cape Turnagain at around 3pm in calm conditions, Laurie and I both commenting that we hope we don't see the cape again too soon. The winds are known to be changeable along this area of the coastline, with many ships having turned about at the cape, including Endeavour hence the name. I dropped a text to Owen and Emma on Dulcinea to see if they had already reached the Sounds, but they had driven back to Christchurch having got fed up with the southerlies, leaving Dulcinea in Tauranga – no wonder I hadn't seen them!

In the late afternoon as we were part way between Cape Turnagain and Castle Point the north west winds suddenly picked up with gusts of over 30 knots. I hurriedly furled in the genoa and reefed down the main. Struggling on the deck as waves crashed over Honey, I sat with my legs straddling the bow fighting to secure the inner forestay behind the main forestay. Once it was in place I unstowed the storm gib and raised it on the inner forestay and settled back down in the cockpit to enjoy a slightly faster sail. The winds were far from constant though, and before long I switched the storm gib for the stay sail so that Honey maintained a good 5 knots of speed.

After we had passed Castlepoint, I let Matt and Laurie know that I was going to catch a few winks of sleep asking that they could keep watch. From 11pm I got a good 4 hours of sleep, stretching my naps out to 1 hour intervals, and I woke almost fully refreshed soon after 3am. I was a little confused when I woke between one of my naps and found the time earlier than when I had last woken up, until I realised my phone had automatically adjusted for the end of daylight saving! The wind had died down, and I'd started the engine at 1.30am, on low revs to charge the battery and keep Honey moving at 4 knots – we were not in a rush as it was forecast for gale force winds South of Cape Palliser easing through the day, and we planned to pass the cape in the late afternoon once the winds had died down. By 3.30am Honey's speed had dropped to 3 knots. King Billy I was a mile inshore of Honey and was still making good ground, and bringing the engine up to full cruising revs I turned Honey in towards the shore off Honeycomb so we could pick up the same wind. The wind continued to vary in strength and I steered Honey further inshore to escape the choppy seas.

It was just before 5am when the north west came away again, and this time with a lot more force, rising from about 15 knots up to 40 knots in a matter of seconds. So much for the 15 knots northerly that was forecast north of Cape Palliser! Being overpowered I dropped the staysail, as the winds continued to build, gusting over 50 knots. Although I was less than 5 miles off the coast the seas were now very rough – it was all I could do to lash down the staysail, there wasn't enough warning to get the stormgib ready. I had been in a hurry to furl up the genoa the day before when the north west had first hit, and it wasn't furled tightly enough – in no time the strong winds had started working sections of sail loose and a good part of the genoa was flapping furiously making a terrible racket. There was nothing I could do about it, with the winds as strong as they were and the inner forestay secured immediately behind the furler. I made the decision to head to Stony Bay, about 15 miles distant – John had mentioned it as a bay that local fishermen sometimes shelter in when it's a strong northwester. I needed to sort the genoa out before it fully unravelled and shredded itself in the Cook Strait, and to ready Honey with the stormgib. Honey inched slowly towards Stony Bay at about 3 knots, under motor and with the main fully reefed. The wind was driving the waves in sheets that were mostly passing right over Honey, although I was hit by a few stinging waves. Meanwhile King Billy I had hove to – this wasn't an option for me with no headsail raised – and Matt was sorting out an engine problem. It was just before midday when Honey and I reached Stony Bay, dropping the anchor about 50m offshore from the rocks. It was still windy in Stony Bay, but only about 35 knots and being so close to shore there were no waves. Shortly after I arrived the Westpac helicopter flew into the bay circling around Honey before landing, and a group of divers in a fishing boat came over to check if I was ok. I was keen for some assistance with the genoa, and two of the divers jumped in the water and swam over to Honey while I dropped the ladder over the side – it was too windy for the boat to come alongside. With three of us we managed to work the genoa off the furler and rewind it up nice and tightly, making short work of what would have possibly taken hours by myself. The divers had rescued a kayaker who was blown offshore that morning, and advised that they had heard that the winds were now starting to ease at Cape Palliser. (I later found out that the Westpac helicopter was there as a diver from a different group had been washed out to sea and sadly drowned).

I readied Honey for the last push to Wellington, knowing that we were very limited in the time that we could stay in Stony Bay. The forecast was for a change to southerly of 25 knots over night, and then rising to 40 knots the following day as Cyclone Debbie approached. I was really relieved when I saw King Billy I approaching Stony Bay, having sorted a temporary fix for the engine, and also dropping anchor to regather themselves before facing Cook Strait. We agreed that our plan was to make to Cape Palliser and fast, before the southerly hit, as we didn't want to revert to our back-up plan. The forecast with gale southerlies would have driven us back up the coast, past Cape Turnagain, but we wouldn't have made it to Napier before gale northerlies would push us south, followed by gale south easterlies, storm northwesterlies and gale south westerlies!! Our back up plan was to head as far out to sea as possible and 'hove to' to weather out the tail end of the cyclone, not something we wanted to contemplate.

We up anchored and headed out of Stony Bay, both Honey and King Billy I with fully reefed main and storm gib – we weren't prepared to take any chances! With a hot northwest blowing off the land we made good time, but started our engines at the sight of ominous dark clouds rapidly approaching from the south. Watching the clouds approach as we neared Cape Palliser lighthouse I wondered if we were going to make it in time – I urged Honey on “Come On Honey!” then turning to see the sillouette behind me “Come on King Billy!”
The approach to Cape Palliser

Honey and I were 4 miles due south of Cape Palliser when the southerly front hit just before 7pm, and King Billy I was about a mile behind. The winds were about 25 knots and coming almost from due west. We motor sailed south into the weather to put some distance between us and Cape Palliser, tacking back towards Wellington after about 1.5 hours once there was a good 8 miles separation from the land, and by 10pm we were happy that we had well and truly rounded Cape Palliser. I turned off Honey's engine as the winds veered to come from the south, pleased that we wouldn't need to resort to our undesired back up plan. The rain that had come with the southerly front had fully set in, and it was a cold and miserable final stretch to Wellington Harbour. We had passed through the entrance of the harbour when the Aratere that was approaching from behind called me up to confirm our intentions prior to passing to port. I was pleased the ferry captain was keeping a look-out for yachts, and assume he must have heard our chatter on the VHF as he called up 'Sailing Vessel Honey'. Rounding Point Halswell, King Billy I followed Honey as we headed into Lambton Harbour with plans to tie up outside Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club. Matt and Laurie had never sailed into Wellington, but Honey and I had been here on her delivery south soon after I bought her, so I was confident I knew where to go. But with the driving rain, glare of the city lights and a lack of navigation lights within Lambton Harbour, I was flummoxed on where to head, made all the more difficult by an appartment block that appeared in the middle of the harbour! Unable to confidently maneuvre into the yacht club basin, we headed around to Chaffers Marina and slipped quietly into two vacant marina berths to wait out the rest of the night.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Short Hop from Gisborne to Napier, and the weather wait (27th - 31st March)

The next morning I walked past the Cook Monument to a look out in the Titirangi Domain to see what the weather was doing outside of the harbour – very calm in Poverty Bay but there looked to be a light wind outside. Readying Honey I planned to leave about midday which would have me arrive into Napier soon after first light the next day. When I called the Napier Sailing Club to enquire about a berth, they advised I could tie up behind another yacht that a couple had recently sailed down from Tauranga, I figured it would likely be Owen and Emma on Dulcinea. I cast off shortly after midday and we motored out down the channel and across Poverty Bay past Young Nicks Head, named after the surgeon's boy who had first sighted the New Zealand coastline from the mast of the Endeavour. It was a light 10 knots that slowly built up to 15 knots as we approached Table Cape and I switched off Honey's engine. Looking across towards Mahia Peninsula there was the occasional lightning flash, and the weather appeared dark and ominous to the south, although the forecast was for light variable winds through the night. I expected that once the north east died out I would need to motor across Hawke Bay into Napier.

View from Titirangi Domain across Poverty Bay
Sailing past Table Cape
The winds died out before we rounded Portland Island, the clouds lifted and I could make out the glow of Napier on the horizon as we started across Hawke Bay in the late evening. Before midnight the winds blew up to over 15 knots from the south – this was unexpected and made for a good sail across the bay. The visibility reduced although the rain stayed away, as Honey crossed the bay under full sail and well heeled over. As we approached Napier, there were several ships at anchor in the bay, which I kept an eye on via the radar until it was light enough to make them out in the gloom. Sailing north of the Pania Reef, I then turned Honey south towards Napier Harbour and we motored into the Inner Harbour, tying up behind a steel yacht at the visitors berth at Napier Sailing Club shortly before 9am.

Honey, tied up outside the Napier Sailing Club
When I had left Gisborne it had looked like there may be a weather window to carry on south to Wellington, but this weather window had closed up so after I signed into the club I relaxed and curled up on Honey for a good snooze. Popping my head out of the cabin in the early afternoon, I met Matt and Laurie from King Billy I, the yacht that was moored in front of Honey. They had sailed King Billy I from Tasmania up the eastern coast of Australia and across the Tasman Sea to Northland, and like me were now heading south. They had been in Napier for a few days already, waiting for a weather window to open for the passage down the Wairarapa Coast, and had hoped to leave today. With the weather window now gone they resigned themselves to stay put and invited me to join them for dinner aboard King Billy I. It was lovely to meet Matt and Laurie and we had a fantastic evening aboard talking about the sailing adventures we had had.

The next morning, 29th March, I was up early and saw Ashleigh, one of the club members, who was heading off to work and asked if I'd like to borrow her car for the day – I jumped at the offer, knowing that Matt and Laurie were starting to get a little stir crazy and would be keen to join me for a ticky tour around the Napier area. It was a drizzly day and we drove along the road towards Cape Kidnappers, parking outside the motor camp at Clifton. The rain had lifted around the cape and we wandered along the beach towards the gannet colony, stopping for a picnic lunch in the sunshine. With an incoming tide we didn't get too far before we turned back enjoying a swim in the surf before we drove back to Napier.

We were on weather watch, checking the weather several times each day, looking at various forecasting models and weather maps, to see if we could find an opening to sail south. John, a fellow solo sailor who worked at the club, was a valuable source of information, happily passing on his local knowledge and assessment of the forecast. His advice was to use the isobars and not to pay too much attention to the Metservice forecasts. There was a possible small gap in the weather in a few days time, and his assessment was that he would take it if he had a boat that needed delivering but would think twice if he was cruising. It looked like we could be here for another week or so.

Thursday was spent in and around the yacht club, sorting out Honey, fuel, my washing and going for a wander through Ahuriri, the area of Napier around the Inner Harbour. Matt, Laurie and I invited Ashleigh to join us for a BBQ in the evening, and after dinner we sat outside the club enjoying the last of the summer evening's rays while Ashleigh raced off to her Boat Masters course.

View from Ahuriri across to the yacht club with Honey and King Billy I
Ashleigh offered her car to us to use again on Friday, and after Matt had dropped Ashleigh off at work we headed out of Napier inland in search of some hot springs that Laurie had spotted in a visitor pamphlet. The springs were in Kaweka Forest Park, and we got to within 10km of them when we came upon a ford in flood. A couple of French tourists braved the ford in their 4WD but we decided we didn't want to risk getting stuck in Ashleigh's car, instead turning around and opting for a short walk through Balls Clearing Reserve before heading back towards Napier stopping for lunch on the way.

We checked the weather again once we were back from our road trip and it looked like a weather window had appeared, provided we left that evening! We reviewed our respective passage plans and the various models and concluded that yes, it did look like we had an opening, although we were a little concerned about what would be in store for us when we entered the Cook sea area. Laurie was keen to get underway and I was too, although Matt was hesitant. There was a flurry of activity as we readied our boats to go – Matt and Laurie to Wellington, and I would head straight to Tory Channel and the Sounds. Before we left, I wavered after checking the forecast again and looking at the long crossing from Cape Palliser to Tory Channel in what was expected to be rough weather. When Matt and Laurie suggested I go in convoy with them to Wellington, I decided that would be the better plan. All sorted – Honey and I would leave this evening!

Around East Cape - Tauranga to Gisborne (23rd - 26th March)

Jo and I were up in good time on Thursday 23rd March. With Jo having sorted my washing and dropping the boys off at school well before classes started, we headed back to Honey stocking up on provisions on the way. Ian and Rhonda had already arrived at the marina and they set to work to help me get away on time – Ian taking my jerry cans and gas bottles to be filled and Rhonda and Jo packing down my paddle board, filling up the tanks and changing the working gib for the genoa, whilst I stowed washing and provisions and finished readying Honey. Although I am sailing solo, I have been lucky to have a lot of people support me in making it happen! After hugs and farewells Honey and I left the marina just before 11am, making our exit out of the harbour before the strength of the incoming tide set in. It was a lovely afternoon of sailing, with 15 knots of westerly that gradually eased to about 10 knots as I passed Motiti Island and the Astrolabe Reef. There are buoys marking out a section of water around the Astrolabe, presumably marking the site of the Rena wreck. As I passed the reef a helicopter flew out of the west and hovered over Honey for a couple of minutes, most likely taking a break from the monotony of what was proving to be a fruitless search for the lost skipper of the little speed boat.
White Island in the far distance, with a plume of smoke

Sunset with approach of the front

The forecast was for a change to 15 knots of NE that evening before it was expected to switch back to the NW in the morning, and I headed Honey in a north easterly direction to ensure I was well north of White Island before the wind change. The front came through just before sunset with winds from the ENE picking up to 20 knots with sloppy seas – cruising into head winds again, arghh! With winds with a larger easterly component than I would have liked and on a tight reach from port, I was almost making a beeline for the Volkner Rocks. I started Honey's engine to keep my heading up and by midnight I had passed about 2 miles north of Volkner Rocks. Although it was a dark night, I could make out the columns of rock stretching ominously out of the water, followed soon after by the sillouette of White Island. By 1.30am I had put a safe distance of water between Honey and White Island heading towards Cape Runaway, although by then seasickness had kicked in – the only time I had been sick since my sail to Taranaki. The 0533 forecast came through and had changed – now predicting SE 25 knots with rough sea in Portland for the following day when I would be sailing down the east coast. (It had been previously forecast to be 15 knots of easterly, and the change surprised me as I could see no evidence of it on the weather map). However the east coast is not a pleasant place to be in strong SE winds and there is nowhere to hide, and given I was already seasick I made the decision to sit the weather out and shelter in the Bay of Plenty. The forecast for the Bay of Plenty was still for a change to the north west, and there are few places to shelter from a northwest in the eastern part of the bay. I made for Omaio Bay, which is roughly half way between Opotoki and Cape Runaway, about 4 hours sail in the wrong direction. It looked to offer protection from the north west as well as all easterly and southerly sector winds, and I tucked in behind Motunui Island in heavy drizzle just before midday. After some food and water (which I kept down) and a nap I felt ready to move on. The forecast for Portland was back to 15 knots of easterly for Saturday – perhaps one of the Metservice meteorologists had earlier made an error. I tidied up Honey and decided to have a good rest before an early start the following morning. As I was hopping into my bunk shortly after sunset the winds shifted to the west, the only direction that the bay could offer me no protection – putting out a bit more scope on the anchor and setting the anchor alarm, I resolved to sleep as best I could until the alarm sounded.

Despite a slightly sloppy night on anchor I slept well, and it was the alarm on my phone that woke me (not the anchor alarm), and Honey and I were on our way by 4am. The winds were light and following and it was not long before dawn arrived. Making good time, we rounded Cape Runaway entering the Portland sea area - it was a beautiful bright morning and with the tide also running in our favour, we covered the miles. The winds gradually died out and we motored from Lottin Point, passing Matakaoa Point at the northern end of Hicks Bay at about 1pm. The forecast easterly came through shortly after, and it was a long motor sail on the wind with the tide now against us, covering the stretch towards East Cape. A large pod of dolphins helped pass the time. They sometimes disappeared when I popped down into the cabin, but when I came back on deck and called to let them know I was there, they returned to their acrobatics and bow wake riding around Honey. It was great to have the company, and they stuck with us until we were due north of East Island!

Rounding Cape Runaway
Hicks Bay
The northern coast of East Cape

In my passage plan I had planned to pass East Cape before sunset, and just before 6pm I passed south through the latitude of East Cape, on the outside of East Island. I had passed solo around my fourth and last cape that marked the outer corner of New Zealand!! This felt more special than the previous three – my journey east was over and now I only needed to head south south west for a couple of hundred miles or so and I would have completed my circumnavigation! I jumped a jig in the cockpit and then settled down for a beer to celebrate.

East Cape rounded!

Night fell quickly and the winds picked up, veering to the ENE. I pulled in a reef, and then a second and a third, and my speed held a steady 6-7 knots, as a I passed the twinkling lights in the bays down the east coast. By midnight I had passed Tokomaru Bay and two hours later I was offshore of Tolaga Bay. It was a lovely sail and I was surprised at how fast Honey was moving as it didn't seem too windy or choppy. We altered course to pass inside of the Ariel Bank, and I lay down for a few 20 minute stints with my alarm sounding when I needed to check on our course. I woke up with a start just after 7am with daylight entering the cabin – in my sleepy haze I hadn't set the alarm properly and had slept for more than an hour! We were less than 5 miles from the entrance to Poverty Bay where there was more heavy sea traffic, lucky I woke up when I did. In the light I could see the winds were almost 25 knots and I had a 3m following swell with a 2m cross swell – very lumpy seas – Honey was riding them so well I hadn't realised what we were sailing through. The winds died out as we turned into Poverty Bay, and we motored the last distance into the bay and along the channel towards the breakwater, mooring up in the inner Kaiti Basin just after 10am.

The marina in Kaiti Basin

Kaiti Basin forms part of the mouth of the Turanganui River, with a breakwater splitting it and the rest of the commercial harbour from the river. There were another couple on their fishing boat moored alongside – they had just completed a 3 month circumnavigation of New Zealand the day before, and we traded stories of our adventures! Talk also turned to the weather, and the unpredicability of the winds – the locals do not pay much heed to the Metservice forecasts, as the Portland sea area covers such a large area of coastline and the forecasts generally do not correlate well to the winds in and around Gisborne. After a shower at the Tatapouri Sports Fishing Club and a nap, I had a wander along the road back down towards the harbour entrance, past where timber was being loaded onto ships, and onto the Cook Monument, marking the spot where Cook first landed in New Zealand in 1769. This first landing was accompanied by skirmishes between the crew and the local Maori, and Cook left unable to to restock on provisions hence naming it Poverty Bay. After dinner at the fishing club, I turned into bed early to ensure I was refreshed before sailing the next short hop down to Napier.

Cook Monument

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The Coromandel Coast (17th – 22nd March)

The forecast for Friday 17th March was more of the same – building to 20 knots from the SE and easing again in the evening. As I was heading towards the Mercury Islands to the south east, this meant another day of sailing head on into the wind, not the preferred conditions for cruising! I was up early, hoping to catch some snapper at the turn of the light (sunrise), at a secret spot that Elliott had told me about towards the entrance of the harbour. I didn't have much bait, only one squid that had been spat out by one of the kawahi that Dad had caught a few days earlier, and as Honey drifted over the secret fishing grounds I dropped the fishing line and caught a snapper on the first drop! It wasn't a big one, but it just made the 30cm size limit and it had eaten my one squid, so it would need to do for the very tasty breakfast I had in mind. I pulled into Taylors Bay, filleted cooked and ate the fish and readied Honey for the sail down to the Mercury Islands.

Honey and I sailed out of Tryphena leaving just before 9am and south away from Great Barrier Island into the Colville Channel. The winds were blowing at 20 knots from the SE, and on a tight reach we headed towards Port Charles at the end of the Cormandel Peninsula. With 2m seas we bashed our way across the Colville Channel, and when we were about two thirds of the way across the winds veered more towards the east just as they had the previous day. This meant that by maintaining a tight reach we were able to adjust our heading towards the Hole in the Wall, the passage that separates the Mercury Islands from the Coromandel main land, and avoid a series of monotonous tacks to reach Great Mercury Island. Leaving the Colville Channel behind and Cuvier Island several miles to the east, we sailed down the north east of the Coromandel coast, tacking in towards White Beach as the seas eased in the lee of the Mercury Islands. White Beach as its name suggests is a long white sandy beach, and I dropped anchor about 200m offshore at about 4.45pm, happy to have reached my first stop in the Coromandel!

Sunset on my first evening in the Mercury Islands

Saturday morning dawned a beautiful calm and hot sunny day, although the wind was forecast to pick up to about 15 knots from the SW around midday. I jumped onto my paddle board to go ashore to explore what I could of the island, paddling through crystal clear waters, so clear that I could easily see Honey's anchor about 5-6m below the surface! Walking to the north end of the beach, I then made my way along the gravel road past Parapara Bay and on up the hill towards Huruhi Harbour, the only real all weather anchorage in the Mercury Islands. Great Mercury Island is a private island, owned by Michael Fay and David Richwhite, which is now pest free. The owners received DOC funding to rid pests from the island, and as a result it has been opened up to to public access, with the exception of the forestry and working farm areas. The island is beautiful, with a mix of hills, steep white cliffs and wonderful rock formations. Keeping my eye on Honey from a distance, I made my way back down to the beach and for a swim to cool off. No sooner had I paddle boarded back to Honey, when the wind blew up to 20 knots from the SW. Being on a lee shore, I quickly hauled up the anchor and headed out of White Beach to go around the top of the island in search of shelter on the west side. The waters around the Mercury Islands are dotted with rocks and reefs, and with the winds very gusty and a forecast for a later change to the SE I decided not to risk picking my way through the rocks to enter Coralie Bay, instead opting to return back the way I had just come, dropping anchor in one of the northern bays to have lunch. The bay had a rocky bottom and was not a suitable overnight anchorage, and soon after 4pm I upped anchor and headed back towards White Beach, planning to anchor in Huruhi Harbour. It appeared that everyone had that idea, and as I sailed past I could see yachts and fishing boats amassed at the entrance to harbour. Instead I made my way to the south end of White Beach, in a quiet spot away from any other boats and settled on a spot to the east of Pukekoromiko Point, which provided shelter from the brunt of the SW winds. Within half an hour a dozen other boats had anchored either side of me, so I figured I had picked a suitable spot to anchor for the night!

White Beach

View into Huhuri Harbour

Interesting rocks on Great Mercury Island

View into Rocky Bay on the west side of the island

After a relaxing morning aboard Honey, I upped anchor and headed in towards Huruhi Harbour. The forecast was for a change to light northerly winds in the evening, and most of the boats had vacated the harbour, presumably heading back to their permanent moorings on the Coromandel mainland with the end of the weekend approaching. Owen and Emma from Dulcinea (who I had met in Opua) were in the harbour, and I set Honey's anchor between them and the very expensive luxury accommodation that lines the western edge of the harbour entrance. Owen and Emma were making their way towards Tauranga, and like me were hoping for a good weather window to sail south to the Sounds. They were planning to head to Tauranga in one hop leaving early the next morning, whilst I was keen to take my time and explore a bit of the coastline. I spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing, swimming, exploring the inner shallow part of the harbour, and chasing stingrays on my paddle board!

Huhuri Harbour

I heard Dulcinea up anchor early the next morning, and after some guests were whisked away from their accommodation by helicopter, I too upped anchor sailing past Peachgrove Bay before heading south to the Hole in the Wall. Sailing just inside of Old Man Rock, it was a gentle 10 knots until I passed Needle Rock and the south west picked up to 20 knots running out of Mercury Bay. I considered stopping at Hot Water Beach to soak in the hot springs, but it was high tide and the springs can only be found two hours either side of low tide. With a westerly swell running and little shelter I wasn't planning on anchoring at Hot Water Beach overnight, so I carried on down the coast a few miles to Tapuaetahi Bay, or Boat Harbour. This is a lovely small sheltered cove with a stunning view out to the Aldermen Islands due east, and tucking in behind a reef I was able to escape the dying westerly swell.

Sunrise in Boat Harbour

Honey moored in Boat Harbour

After a lovely restful night I was up early paddle boarding to shore to take photos of the stunning sunrise behind the Aldermen Islands. Two other boats had joined Honey in the bay overnight and left soon after I went ashore onto the beautiful golden sand beach lined with pohutukawas. Once I'd finished breakfast, Honey and I were also away, heading to our last stop before Tauranga – Mayor Island. The winds picked up to about 20 knots from the SW as we left the bay shortly before 10.30am, making for a fast sail with speeds averaging almost 7 knots as I passed both Shoe Island and Slipper Island. The winds eased to less than 15 knots as I approached Mayor Island and when I was 10 miles north west of the island I picked up a mayday. The fishing boat, Matariki II, had a spotter plane in the air and had located an upturned vessel two miles south of South East Bay on Mayor Island – there were several large boats in the bay and the pilot was trying unsuccessfully at that stage, to raise the alarm for a surface search and rescue mission. As I approached Mayor Island I could see helicopters and a few large fishing boats enter the search area, and there was a mass of activity by the time I rounded the southern part of the island and entered into South East Bay in the early evening. Soon after I dropped anchor, the upturned vessel, just a small speed boat, was towed into the bay by one of the fishing boats, and I sat on Honey's bowsprit with beer in hand to watch the little boat get turned back upright. After much shouting and cheers from the neighbouring boats, the speed boat was uprighted on the second attempt, the water was bailed out and it was tied up next to the fishing boat that had rescued it. The arrival of a team from Coastguard and a helicopter hovering overhead to inspect the small boat made for a bit more excitement before night fell and the day quietened.

Wind picking up off Slipper Island

Coastguard towing the small speedboat

The small speed boat was towed out of the bay by Coastguard soon after sunrise the next day. Nobody had been found in or around the speed boat, and the authorities at this point were unsure who the boat belonged to or how many people were aboard. Needless to say there were frequent messages via VHF that day (and the following days) to be vigilant and keep watch for any sign of a person in the water in the area south east of Mayor Island. When I sailed south from Mayor Island shortly before 9.30am there were several helicopters in search mode, but I saw nothing of interest as I made my way towards Tauranga. There was a gentle 15 knot SW blowing which died out as Mount Maunganui, a prominent landmark in the approach to Tauranga, came into stark view. I had let Ian and Rhonda (who I had met in Whangaroa) know that I was arriving into Tauranga and they sailed out to meet me in Adijo, and escort me into their harbour! Honey and I motor sailed into the harbour behind Adijo, taking care to follow the channel and not cut across the middle and get stranded on the mud flats as some boats have done. Ian and Rhonda had kindly arranged a berth for Honey for the night at Tauranga Marina, and with Honey safely moored and locked up, I joined them for some nibbles and then to watch the start of the Wednesday night yacht racing at the Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club. It was the last Wednesday night race of the summer season and there was a good turn-out, which Ian and Rhonda said was the norm for this active club. That night I was staying with Jo and Rich near Te Puke and on their way home Ian and Rhonda dropped me at Paengaroa where I was met by Jo who took me back to the farm house and her three rowdy boys! After dinner, the boys going to bed and a catch up with Jo, I checked the weather forecast before bed to see if there was likely to be a gap in the weather to set sail for Gisborne within the next few days. The only gap I could see was for the next day, leaving by 10.30am so as not to fight the incoming tide, and if I didn't take it I may be stuck for the next 10 days! My tentative plan to stay a few days with Jo was out the window, as we hurried to bed with plans for an early start the next morning.

Adijo sailing towards me in approach to Mt Maunganui and Tauranga

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Cruising the Hauraki Gulf (6th - 16th March)

The weather forecast showed this wonderful weather turning in a couple of days time, so on Monday morning I was keen to be on my way to make the most of it while it lasted. I upped anchor from Oneroa before 9am, passing over the spot showing as Honey's destination on the Oracle. There were less than forty yachts anchored in the bay, the majority having departed on Sunday afternoon. With light winds and both the mainsail and headsail raised, I slowly sailed north, passing between D'Urville Rocks and Ahaaha Rocks, heading in the direction of Kawau Island. Passing outside of Tiritiri Matangi Island, and then between Kawau Island and Flat Rock, the wind dropped off and we motor sailed across Omaha Bay into Omaha Cove. After topping up the diesel tank, and anchoring in the cove, I rowed to shore, keen to walk up to the town of Leigh.

My very first memories are from when I was 3 ½ years old and sailing with my parents from Auckland to the Bay of Islands on a H28 yacht, and my absolute first memory was walking up a big hill with Mum and Dad, holding Dad's hand, and where the hill flattened at its top there was a shop where we bought a sand castle set – I had been told this was Leigh and I was keen to revisit the place of my first memory and see if it was as I remembered it. As I walked up the hill there was nothing familiar, but once I turned the final bend and saw the Leigh General Store in front of me, it was exactly as I had remembered it! The store was even painted the same blue colour and they still sold the same sand castle sets! I bought an icecream and excitedly told the shop keeper that I hadn't been here since I was 3 ½ and it was lovely to see it just the same.

The Leigh General Store, just as I had remembered it!

Honey and I stayed in Omaha Cove that night. Dad was due to join me for a long weekend from Thursday, and was keen to visit Great Barrier Island. With the weather due to turn I decided I would head to Great Barrier Island the following day so I could be tucked up on Tuesday evening before the storm was due to hit, then Dad could fly out to meet me.

I was up at first light on Tuesday morning, eager to visit the Goat Island marine reserve before I went to Great Barrier Island. Honey and I motored the short distance from Omaha Cove around Cape Rodney, anchoring on the south west side of Goat Island. Matt had recommended feeding frozen peas to the snapper who would almost eat out of your hand. Without a freezer I had no frozen peas, but armed with a bag of dried peas and mixed vegetables, I jumped into the water with snorkel mask and flippers. It wasn't long before the snapper, heaps of them and some pretty large ones, were swimming up to me and snapping their mouths at the peas – very cool! As well as snapper there were some smaller fish, terakihi I think. I didn't spot any blue cod that I was later told are so large that they attack and terrorise the crayfish!

Snapper at Goat Island

After my swim I stowed the dinghy, ate a quick breakfast and readied Honey for the day sail across to Great Barrier Island. Lifting anchor I motor sailed towards the south end of Little Barrier Island in light winds. Half way across Jellicoe Channel, the water between Little Barrier Island and the North Island, I motor sailed into the middle of a huge pod of dolphins that seemed to stretch for many miles, heralded by some spectacular acrobatics that held me captivated for several minutes! The winds were due to build from the north and shift towards the north east, and as I left the dolphins behind the winds picked up sufficiently to have a lovely beam sail across to Little Barrier Island, passing close enough to read the notices that landing is not permitted. There were a few sharks off the south east corner of the island, which I am told were most likely bronze whalers. Leaving the lee of the island the winds had picked up more and from the north east as forecast, now blowing 20 knots. A gust whipped the working gib out from the furler, leaving it flapping furiously, held up only by the halyard and at the bottom of the luff. I tried to lower the sail, but with no working autohelm I could not keep Honey facing into the wind. Turning down wind the sail lowered and dropped into the water, and with the wind filling part of the sail and the sea the remainder I still had no luck with retrieving the sail. Turning back into the wind, the gusts whipped the sail back out of the water, I raised the sail up and turned again towards the lee of Little Barrier Island, which was fortunately only just over a mile away. It was clear there was no way I could lower the sail with the wind blowing relatively strongly, and if I didn't get it down soon it would tear. Tucked in behind the lee of the island, just offshore from the 'No Landing Permitted' sign and out of the strongest of the wind, I easily dropped the gib and stowed it away, deciding to continue under motor with assistance only from the mainsail.

The Approach to Little Barrier Island

With one reef in the main, Honey and I motored towards the southern end of the Broken Islands, keeping north of Horn Rock which is about half way across Craddock Channel. The wind continued to build to about 25 knots from the north east, as had been forecast, and once we reached False Head I maneovred Honey around all the small islets in the approach to the Man O'War Passage which marks the entry into Port Fitzroy. The passage is very narrow, only 0.05 miles wide, which makes Port Fitzroy almost land-locked and free from any swell. With storm force easterly winds forecast, we headed for shelter in one of the bays on the eastern side – Kaiarara Bay. It has been a few weeks since I had seen Ian and Marcia on Rose of Therese, and I half expected I might see them at Great Barrier – sure enough they were anchored in Kaiarara Bay! There were already about 20 boats at anchor in the bay and we made our way around the boats to a nice sheltered position in the south east corner. I dropped the anchor and went to set it, but I couldn't get it to dig in. By the time I had pulled the anchor in and attempted to set it two more times – with each time it dragging, a chap from a neighbouring yacht rowed over to me – he explained that the mud in the harbour is very light and silty, and it would be hard to get my anchor to hold. Honey's main anchor is a delta. With the daylight fast disappearing and the strong winds forecast, I made my way to one of the moorings on the north side of the bay, resolving to change to my danforth anchor in the morning.

The wind picked up that night, gusting to over 40 knots, and Honey was buffeted from side to side. About 2am I woke up with a start – with a bang and then a chap shouting “your boat is on mine!”, and I rushed on deck. It was pitch dark, wet and windy, and my first thought was that Honey had dragged the mooring block – I am always a bit nervous picking up an unknown mooring. But it soon became clear that the other boat had fallen back onto Honey – the skipper said that he wouldn't have dragged, that he had too much scope out on his anchor, but I had my doubts. He pulled in his anchor and headed further out into the bay clear of the other boats, and I went back to bed. In the morning, he returned on his paddle board to check if he had done any damage – a skin fitting on the port side was broken, and he apologised and paddled off in the opposite direction of his boat saying he had checked the weather forecast a day or two previously and didn't believe the storm was coming! I had heard on the VHF that the front had just hit not far from where we were and the chatter was to 'brace yourself, it's a goodie', and within 5 minutes the Tasman Tempest was upon us, with heavy rain and winds whistling down the bay. The mooring I had picked up was outside the Jetty Tourist Lodge, and I called them up and they kindly allowed me to stay on the mooring a further night and assured me that it had a decent 2 Tonne block and was in survey. Honey and I hunkered down for the rest of the day to weather out the storm – the winds continued to build and reached their maximum at about 10pm that night, at 60 knots in the Colville Channel just over 10 miles away.

The winds and rain of the Tasman Tempest starting to set in at Kaiarara Bay

The following morning, Thursday 9th March, dawned a little brighter – raining but not as heavy, although still blowing a gale. Dad was due to arrive in the afternoon but I was unsure whether the flight would be cancelled with the wild weather. There is no public transport on Great Barrier Island, only taxis, and it was going to be very expensive to get a taxi ride from the Claris airstrip to Port Fitzroy, a much cheaper option was for Dad to get a taxi to Whangaparapara Harbour – but that meant that I had to run the gauntlet through the storm and sail Honey from Port Fitzroy to Whangaparapara. I thought I would have a sheltered run down to the Broken Islands, but once I had cleared the Junction Islands the full force of the winds would be on Honey's nose while I covered the approx 3.5 miles to Whangaparapara. Dad was relieved when I said I would attempt the passage, and I readied Honey with storm gib on deck and danforth anchor in place of Honey's delta. The rain lifted, and just before 2.00pm I dropped the mooring and motored out of Port Fitzroy and south towards the Broken Islands. The hills provided good shelter, and I raised the fully reefed main just before my approach to Flat Island, and then raised the storm gib after I had cleared Rangiahua Channel which separates Flat Island from Great Barrier. Passing the Junction Islands, the weather didn't look as wild as I had thought, as I motorsailed towards Whangaparapara Harbour. Until I had covered the first mile, and then the force of the winds and the waves hit, stopping Honey in her tracks – my speed dropped to less than a knot and in the wrong direction as the 3 metre waves broke over Honey! It took over 1.5 hours for me to coax Honey the short distance into Whangaparapara Harbour, tacking back and forth, making only a few hundred metres good for every 2 mile zig and zag. I tracked my progress against the Pigeons, a small group of rocks surrounded by white water about 2 miles off Great Barrier, and was relieved when they were finally behind me. Once I cleared Whangara Island and within half a mile of the coast I was back into relative shelter, and now sodden wet made my way up the harbour towards the jetty outside Whangaparapara. Dad's flight had just landed, and the taxi delivered him to the jetty where I picked him up in Honey, dropping anchor just beyond the jetty. Dad arrived looking very tired, and when I asked him what he wanted to do he said just rest and sleep – with the weather so bad at least we weren't missing out on much. After a meal on board, we turned in for an early night.

After a lazy relaxing morning at anchor on Honey, I moved her alongside the jetty to fill up the water tank and then Dad and I took a short stroll through the very quiet village – I hadn't been ashore since Leigh and I was keen to stretch my legs. It was raining lightly, but before we got back to Honey it started pouring down, and we waited out the rain in the shelter next to the jetty, which was also filled with second hand books much to Dad's delight. Braving the rain we set out back towards Port Fitzroy, prepared for the winds and waves with three reefs in the main and the storm gib. When we left Whangaparapara Harbour, we found the wild weather had subsided, with winds of no more than 30 knots and waves down to about 1.5m. As Honey was under-powered with the sail set-up and we had only a short distance to cover, we motor sailed in the rain retracing my path from the previous day. The rain was heavy, but once we were past the Broken Islands, the heavens completely opened up. I put on a cap to stop the water streaming through my eyes, and Dad said he had never seen such heavy rain in his life. Two minutes later, the rain doubled in strength, just incredible! We entered into Port Fitzroy with the rain still pelting down, being buffeted by the occasional 50 knot plus gust, and made our way into Rarowharo Bay, where the Port Fitzroy village is located. We tucked into Warren's Bay behind Coigne Island, dropping anchor not far from two boats on moorings, taking care to ensure there was enough scope with the gale force winds forecast that night, but not so much that Honey would risk colliding with the moored boats. Making the most of the rain, I showered in the cockpit, the rain being heavy enough to wash away the suds! We had intended to go ashore and have dinner at the Port Fitzroy Boat Club, which we'd heard had great food, but with it so wet we opted to stay on board.

The winds whistled through the bay that night, with Honey being jostled back and forth. Fortunately Dad slept through most of the weather, and I got up at midnight when the winds were at their worst to sit on watch perched in the companionway under the shelter of the dodger. Honey held fast and swung very close to one of the moored yachts, to within a boat length. After about 2 hours when the winds eased, I crept back into my bunk for the remainder of the night.

The winds had eased to 25 knots with only light rain by morning, and with a pretty good forecast for that day – winds from the north east easing to 20 knots. The weather was forecast to whip up again the following day - Sunday, and Dad needed to be back in Auckland by mid afternoon to catch his flight home. Rather than risk a long day's sail in storm force winds the following day, we decided to sail off in the afternoon across the gulf to Kawau Island. Dad had brought a replacement autohelm drive with him and he wired on the plug whilst I put the working gib back on Honey's furler. Two of the kiwi slides had been torn off, so to avoid having a repeat of the gib pulling out of the furler track I would need to maintain two turns of the sail on the roller. I nosed Honey up to the Port Fitzroy wharf so that Dad could jump ashore and grab some supplies from the store, and then shortly before 1pm we headed off back through the Man O'War passage towards Kawau.

We had a lovely sail across to Kawau Island under full sail, with the winds blowing 15-20 knots from the north east. The rain stopped just before we left, and for the first time in days we even had patches of blue overhead. Dad had recharged from the rest he'd had over the last two days, and he was up sailing with me in the cockpit, tinkering with the wind pilot and dropping a fishing line to troll for fish. Dad caught five very large kawhai, and I caught one, all of which we threw back over board once we had landed them. Rounding the northern end of Kawau Island, we sailed down to Bon Accord Harbour and I dropped Dad off on the jetty outside the Kawau Boating Club at about 7.30pm, in time for last orders for dinner. After I had set Honey's anchor not far from the jetty, I paddle boarded ashore and caught up with Dad who had met and struck up a conversation with Don and Margie, two solo sailors living aboard their boats that were also anchored a little beyond the jetty. After we had tucked into our dinner – snapper and chips, yum! - and chatted with David the manager and a few other locals, we headed back to Honey – me on the paddle board and Dad with Don and Margie in Don's dinghy.

Dad and one of his large kawhai

The following morning, Sunday 12th March, we set off in good time at 9am, with a fairly terrible forecast – 40 knots of NE, changing 50 knots W at midday, and easing to 25 knots SW by the evening, and with heavy rain. Elliott had offered to pick up Dad to take him to the airport in the afternoon, and our plan A was to sail to Half Moon Bay Marina up the Tamaki River and be met there. With the bad weather, I had several back-up plans: plan B to sail to Waiheke Island where Dad could catch the ferry, plan C to Gulf Harbour Marina, plan D to Mahurangi Harbour and if the weather was really bad plan E was to make to Sandspit only about six miles from where we were anchored. There was a good 35 knots of NE blowing when we left Bon Accord Harbour, with the main sail fully reefed and the working gib partially furled – enough wind for a good fast sail and not so much that we needed to consider plan E. Skirting Martello Rock we sailed through the rain down the Inner Channel west of Moturekareka Island and then turning to pass north of Motuora Island towards the Whangaparoa Passage, passing inside of Tiritiri Matangi Island shortly before midday having averaged 6 knots. The wind eased, rain lifted and the sea flattened and once we were past Tiritiri Matangi I fully unfurled the gib (bar the two turns left on the furler) and we needed to start the engine to maintain even 5 knots. About 2 miles south of Whangaparoa Peninsula en route to the Rangitoto Channel, it became clear that we were passing through the calm before the storm. Menacing black clouds approached us at pace from the west, and I had time to only ease the gib sheet before we were belted by 60 knot winds accompanied by teeming rain – the sting in the tail of the Tasman Tempest! I sent Dad into the cabin to wait out the worst of the weather with the washboards and hatch shut, whilst I struggled to furl in the hugely over-powered gib. I was not sailing with the autohelm as I didn't want to risk it getting waterlogged – I would need it for my long overnight passages on the journey south – and it was proving very problematic to steer Honey into the wind and furl in the gib at the same time. I couldn't uncleat the furling line to wrap it around the winch, as that would fully unfurl the gib and with the two broken kiwi slides tear it clean out of the furler. Fighting against the wind which by now had eased to 50 knots, I pulled the line with one wrap around the winch and Dad poked his head out of the cabin suggesting that with the front past he could steer Honey while I furl in the gib. This made for quick work in furling up the gib, and I made a mental note to in future leave some turns of the furling line on the winch before I cleat it off. I turned Honey to head for the Rakino Passage knowing that we would struggle to make any headway towards the west in these winds, and Dad sat at the tiller while I went on deck to untangle the very large birdsnest that the wind had turned the two gib sheets into. With the winds now only blowing a gale, we partially unfurled the gib and sailed through the Rakino Passage and into the shelter behind Motutapu Island. It was just on 2pm and we judged that we would have sufficient time to make it to Half Moon Bay Marina, although with the spring low tide we would need to pass north of Brown Island before we turned into the Tamaki River mouth. The westerly was still whipping down the Motukorea Channel and as we passed Browns Island the depth gauge warned that we had very little clearance between Honey's keel and the ground, but we made it without further mishap into the Tamaki River, and on up to Half Moon Bay. Dad had been growing more anxious and irritable as the day had worn on, probably with concern about making his flight and his pending return to reality, and I called up the marina security to assist me with berthing Honey in the winds while Dad got himself packed and ready to leave. Safely berthed, Elliott arrived shortly afterwards to take Dad to the airport and returned to the marina to have a good look over Honey – and also exchange sailing stories! I had my first night away from Honey since I set off from the Sounds – no sooner had Elliott left when Pete and Charlie (who was celebrating his 7th birthday) arrived to take me back to their house in St Helliers where I enjoyed one of Fi's lovely home cooked meals!

I stayed with Pete and Fi for two nights – very comfortable and lovely to catch up with them, and so good to be warm and dry and to have all my washing done, although it did seem strange away from my swaying cocoon aboard Honey. Late morning on the Monday I did pop down to the marina – to complete my berth registration and start tidying up and drying out Honey after all the days Dad and I had spent traipsing in and out of her in the rain. And in the evening I took my first Uber ride across town to visit Rich, Flo and Sally in Ponsonby, and enjoyed another home cooked meal!

On Tuesday 14th March, Pete dropped me off early to Honey armed with some of Fi's baking – ginger crunch, good for seasickness! Once I had finished tidying and cleaning up, Honey and I headed out of the marina shortly after 9am, back towards Kawau Island so that I could have a better explore of the place. It was a clear sunny day, blowing 15 knots from the south west, and we re-traced our path from the two days prior but this time sailing through the Rangitoto Channel to the west of Rangitoto Island. It was a lovely day on the water under full sail, passing through the Inner Channel on route to Bon Accord Harbour, where I dropped anchor in Harris Bay opposite the Kawau Boating Club. Margie motored over in her dinghy to say hello soon after I arrived, but she couldn't linger as she was needed at the boating club where there was to be an attempt to get rid of ghosts that were said to be haunting the place – I never did hear how successful this was! A host of other yachts and power boats dropped anchor around Honey, and Paul on one of the boats motored over and invited me for drinks with them. I duly accepted and after I'd finished my dinner joined them for a fantastic evening aboard – they were a big group of friends who worked for Air New Zealand, and this was their annual regatta in the gulf comprising a boating and fishing weekend. After drinks and freshly caught snapper bites, out came the guitars and boating play lists and we had sing-a-longs well into the night!

Wednesday dawned a beautiful warm sunny day, with a strong breeze blowing from the south. After a relaxing morning aboard Honey, waving good-bye as most of the Air New Zealand crowd departed, I set off on my paddleboard to Mansion House Bay. There are several walking tracks on the island, although a number of these were closed whilst DoC was assessing the stability of the ageing pines on the island. I wandered along one of the open tracks that dropped down to the old disused copper mine, with the remains of the coppermine engine house standing out along the shore – this was used unsuccessfully in the 1850s to pump sea water from the copper mines that were mostly below sea level. After a good stretch of the legs, walking back to Mansion House via Dispute Cove and Ladys Bay, I paddled back to Honey and readied her for the sail the following day across the gulf and back to Great Barrier Island.

The view along the Mansion House Bay jetty

The remains of the coppermine engine house

The view south from Kawau with the coppermine and surrounding islands

Mansion House

The forecast for Thursday was for 20 knots from the SE, easing to 15 knots in the evening, which meant I would be sailing into the wind. Honey and I set off shortly after 8.30am, out from Bon Accord Harbour and south around Kawau Island passing through Rosario Channel. The wind was coming almost directly from the east and was straight on the nose until I had passed Challenger Island and then Flat Rock. I then set the headsail and sailed in a ENE direction towards Great Barrier Island, pleased to be averaging 5 knots. With the wind direction, I was unable to sail Honey directly towards Tryphena Harbour, where I was intending to anchor overnight, steering instead in towards Blind Bay. After a few tacks and by this point becoming a little weary with the head on seas, we passed Amodeo Rocks and made our way into Tryphena, dropping the pick in one of the eastern bays in the harbour just before 6pm.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Sailing South to Waiheke Island (2nd - 5th March)

I was up before dawn on Thursday 2nd March, aiming to get as far as Whangarei Heads, and weighed anchor as the sun was beginning to brighten the sky. I had raised the mainsail while I was still anchored, and it was flat calm so I motored out towards Cape Brett picking my way through Albert Channel, the piece of water between the mainland and Urupukapuka Island. There were several other boats heading out at first light, some yachts heading in the same direction as me and Honey, and a number of fishing boats. We passed between Piercy Island and Cape Brett, and Honey and I farewelled the beautiful Bay of Islands.

A light southerly was blowing along the east coast and I unfurled the genoa and sailed slowly, at about 3-4 knots – first in a south east tack towards the Poor Knights, which turned easterly as the wind backed towards the south east, and then tacking south. The wind slackened when I was offshore from Whangamumu, and I motor sailed until the wind quickly picked up to almost 15 knots off Home Point north of Bland Bay. The wind was now from the south east, and as we passed offshore of Rimariki Island, the island east of Mimiwhangata Bay where I had stayed the previous week, it backed further to the east south east which made for a good run down towards Tutukaka. When I was offshore from Sandy Bay, I received a call from Mike and Jane to say that they had spotted Honey and another yacht from a high point on their property. A Young 88 that had left the Bay of Islands just behind me, and had followed a similar path, was about 200m in front – she passed close by but I couldn't make out her name as it was obscured due to the heel of the boat, both of us on a port tack and the Young 88 on my port side. The wind veered back towards the south east as I sailed the last stretch towards Tutukaka. As it was well into the afternoon, and I still had some distance to go, I furled in the headsail and motored directly into the wind for a mile to clear North Gable – this was a quicker option than tacking out towards the east. Once I was sure I had sufficient sea room to clear the three Gables north of Tutukaka Harbour, I unfurled the headsail and steered a southerly course, past Tutukaka Harbour entrance and south into new territory for me and Honey, sailing across Ngunguru Bay. The wind was veering further towards the south, now south south east, and when we were most of the way across the bay, again, I furled the headsail and motored directly into the wind to clear Taiharuru Head at the south end of Nguguru Bay. Once I was confident that I would be on a tight reach to Bream Islands, about a mile north of Bream Head, again I unfurled the headsail and steered a course to pass inshore of the Bream Islands sailing close in towards Ocean Beach. It was a beautiful evening and I caught the last of the sun's rays as I passed between the end of Ocean Beach and Bream Islands. Passing under Bream Head, the sun had set and the daylight was fading fast. I had started motoring when I reached the Bream Islands, keen to get to an anchorage before it was pitch dark.
 
Sunset behind Ocean Beach
With both the tide and wind behind me, and motoring, I was making more than 7 knots, and covered the distance to Busby Head at the entrance of Whangarei Harbour in less than half an hour. I had been aiming to anchor in McLeods Bay, which I had been told is beautiful, but as it was now completely dark, I opted for Urquhart Bay, the first bay tucked in from the entrance behind Home Point. As I rounded Busby Head, there was a dazzle of lights – from Marsden Point refinery and a maze of navigation lights. Turning in at a starboard marker, I dropped sails and motored into Urquhart Bay, in search of a spot to drop anchor for the night. Most of the yachts anchored for the night were in more than 11m depth of water – that would mean a lot of anchor chain to manually haul in when I set off the next morning. I could just make out a line of boats without their anchor light on, presumably on permanent moorings, and keeping one anchored boat between me and the moored boats to help ensure I didn't get tangled in any mooring lines, I motored towards shore seeking shallower water. Having found my spot, I dropped anchor and with it set I switched off the engine. No sooner had I done this when I heard a 'bump-bump' against the hull, towards the stern at the starboard side. Shining my headtorch over the side I found I had backed over a mooring, exactly what I had been trying to avoid! It was stuck there – the mooring line passing under Honey so that the buoy was wanting to move to the port side of Honey. I tried pulling in some of the mooring line to see if the buoy would jump free – this didn't work. Calling Tim for some advice, he suggested that I check if it was wrapped around the propellor – I could check this by rotating the shaft behind the engine by hand while it was in neutral – fortunately this was still rotating freely. Then I would need to do what I can to move the buoy from under Honey – it was caught close to the prop, between the rudder and keel – perhaps pushing it under the water or even weighting it down. As it was getting late by now, I figured the quickest thing would be to get into the water and pull the buoy to the other side of Honey – I didn't want to spend hours sorting this out, being keen to have dinner and get to bed. Putting the paddle board over the side as a platform, and grabbing my grapple hook to wrestle the buoy away from Honey, I jumped into the water and dived under Honey holding the mooring buoy. It pulled me up short, not wanting to be dragged under the water, and I came up with a bang against Honey's hull, wrapped in the mooring line, the line from my grapple hook and the line holding the paddle board. I tried two more times, wanting to be rid of this cursed buoy, but in the pitch black I had no way of knowing which way was up or down, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get the buoy far enough below the water. I reached up for my head torch, not a waterproof one so of little use for this exercise, but I did notice a few little fish watching my antics with curiosity. As this clearly wasn't going to work, I moved onto the next option – weighting down the buoy. Digging out my spare anchor and chain from the cockpit locker, and a long rope, I tied these to the mooring buoy and lowered them into the water, and gradually the mooring buoy sunk beneath the water. With the mooring buoy almost 2 metres below the surface and the prop moving freely, I was satisfied that I could now have dinner and get to bed. I would check that all was free before I moved off in the morning.

I was woken at about 3am the next morning with another 'bump-bump', in the same place, towards the stern on the starboard side. Shining my headtorch over the side I saw there was another buoy – it appeared to be tied to the first buoy but I hadn't seen it earlier. The line was pulled tight to the first buoy so it didn't look to pose a concern with wrapping itself around the propellor, and I slept as best as I could for the rest of the night, with a constant 'bump-bump' until the wind shifted slightly at about 6am and Honey moved away from the buoys. When I was up in the morning I could see in the daylight that the mooring buoy was certainly no longer stuck to Honey. There was also a row of moorings without any boats on them along the waterline, close to where I had dropped the anchor – it looks like I was very lucky not to foul with any of the mooring lines, either around my anchor or the propellor. Retrieving my spare anchor and chain, I upped anchor motoring out of Urquhart Bay, heading for the Hauraki Gulf, determined that I would make sure to drop my anchor in the daylight from now on – with the days shortening this would mean a smaller sailing window each progressive day.

The tide was running against me as I exited the entrance to Whangarei Harbour, motoring with both the mainsail and genoa raised. With the daylight I had, I planned to sail to Kawau Island and if sun hours permitted I would go a little further into the entrance of the Mahurangi Harbour. It was a beautiful sunny day, with the wind forecast to be variable with north east of 10 knots, turning to south west of 15 knots in the Hauraki Gulf in the afternoon. There was very little wind as I motor sailed across Bream Bay towards Bream Tail and Cape Rodney, what wind there was being from the south west and then moving to the north east. Each time I switched off the engine the wind would die off and my speed quickly dropped to less than 2 knots, so I was resigned to motoring. It was a long straight run to Cape Rodney, with no interesting places to stop along the way, although beautiful views out beyond Sail Rock and the Hen and Chicken Islands, to Little Barrier and Great Barrier Islands, the Moko Hinau Islands in the far distance, and the large headland of the Coromandel Peninsula coming into striking view. Passing both Bream Tail and Cape Rodney, we motored across Omaha Bay towards Takatu Point, and then negotiated North Channel, which separates the north side of Kawau from the Mainland, passing between Maori Rock and Fairchild Reef. The tide was running with me and I quickly passed the northern bays on Kawau, all flat calm. I was about to drop the mainsail as I approached Bon Accord Harbour, and the south west suddenly arrived at over 20 knots. Wanting to make the most of this wind, I chose to keep going – at this rate we could make the Whangaparoa Peninsula before dusk. Honey was on a starboard tack, and we negotiated South Channel, on the south side of Kawau, passing between Martello Rock and Motuketekete Island on our left and Beehive Island and Passage Reef on our right. Being a Friday evening, there were now many boats coming out onto the harbour – yachts making their way to Kawau, and boats of all sizes fishing – more than 10 boats at any one time within a nautical mile radius of Honey. I was on the tiller, and with the low-footed genoa fully unfurled I had a limited view of the boats I was approaching. Although I was on starboard tack, so had right-of-way over moving boats, there were several boats on anchor and I did not want to blindly sail on hoping everyone else would get out of my way. The wind continued to strengthen and when I was past Motuora Island I partially furled in the genoa, both to reduce the power in the sail and to give me a better view forward. Closing in on Whangaparoa Peninsula, I furled in the genoa completely, making for Army Bay, on the north side of Whangaparoa towards the eastern end, that was a recommended anchorage in south west winds – I had my doubts as it is completely open to the west. As I approached Army Bay, with white caps coming straight across the bay it was clearly too exposed and we turned west towards Waiau Bay, which definitely had good protection from the south west winds. Arriving at Waiau Bay as the sun was just setting, I anchored in a good sheltered position well clear of any mooring buoys.

The following morning, Saturday 4th March, and Honey and I were away at dawn – we were due at Waiheke Island to meet Naomi and Viki this morning! It was a calm and sunny morning as we motored out towards the pass between Whangaparoa Peninsula and Tiritiri Matangi Island, passing several boats and kayakers fishing in the first light of the morning. A very light south westerly was blowing in the gulf, and with both mainsail raised and genoa unfurled, we motor sailed towards Rakino Channel. The wind gradually picked up and when we were about a mile or two north of Rakino Channel, I cut the engine and we sailed onto Waiheke Island, entering Oneroa Bay shortly after 11am.

Oneroa Bay was crowded, being a sunny summer's weekend day and there were over a hundred boats already moored in the bay. I located a spot that looked suitable to drop the anchor – close to a catamaran on one side and a sloop on the other. Once the anchor was set and I was satisfied that there was marginally enough swing room, I went ashore and caught up with Viki and Naomi who had arrived at the same time I had entered the bay. They had found a good spot for lunch while I was readying to come ashore, and it was fantastic to catch up with them both! We celebrated that Honey and I had now completely circumnavigated New Zealand – with about three quarters of that solo. (Once I return to the Marlborough Sounds my solo circumnavigation will be complete). After a lovely long lunch, we returned to Honey. I had been concerned about the distance separating Honey from the keel boat to her starboard, and to my surprise another yacht was now anchored between this and Honey, with clearly insufficient swing room, and there were now approaching two hundred boats in the bay.

We spent the rest of the afternoon catching up, having a swim, and cracking open a bottle of champagne to toast my and Honey's circumnavigation. When Viki had suggested meeting in Oneroa I had jumped at her suggestion – Honey's GPS, the one I name “the Oracle” as she always knows where we are, our heading and speed, is set with the destination of Oneroa and I have not changed this since I have had Honey. While I was sailing around the South Island and Stewart Island, the destination of Oneroa was showing up to 500 and 600 miles distant – I didn't know where it was, but I knew it was up at Honey's old stomping grounds, and I had promised I would take her back there. So we were back in waters familiar to Honey! Naomi and Viki cooked a lovely dinner on Honey, insisting I sit back and not do a thing, under the light of “Luci”, solar powered inflatable lights that Viki had brought, fantastic for boats or any outdoors activity.

The following morning Viki and Naomi helped me change the genoa for a working gib – a smaller sail that has been converted with kiwi slides to fit into the furler. The working gib has a high angled foot so is better suited to sailing the relatively crowded waters of the Hauraki Gulf, where I figured good visibility is essential. With gib installed, we sat down to enjoy a beer – “Number One”, the beer of New Caledonia that we had enjoyed when we were there last year, and I had saved for when Viki and Naomi joined me and Honey. We ran out of time to go for a sail, and headed ashore for lunch before Viki and Naomi were due to leave and make their way back to the airport. Once I farewelled them both, I headed back down to the beach and caught up with Julie, my mother-in-law and her partner Geoff, who were travelling in their motor home around the North Island, and had caught the ferry over to Waiheke Island for the afternoon. We headed out to Honey and had a good catch up, basking in the warmth in the cockpit, Julie and I both jumping into the water to cool off. With the afternoon passing, Julie and Geoff needed to catch their return ferry, and after our farewells they made their way to the bus while I set off to top up my provisions. What a wonderful social weekend this had been!
 
Viki and Naomi sorting out the working gib with me
Relaxing with Number 1 beers