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, 20 February 2017

Time with Mum in Whangaroa (9th - 13th February)

The forecast gale winds were a non-event. I heard the front hit in the early hours of the morning but there was more rain than wind, not even warranting getting up to check on Honey. It may have been stronger outside the harbour but Whangaroa is very sheltered. With a heavy drizzle settled in for most of the day, I spent the time catching up on odd jobs around the boat, tidying up and I finally got the inflatable out from storage ready for Mum to arrive.

Soon after 6pm Mum arrived into Whangaroa! I had moved Honey so she was anchored off of Whangaroa township and took the inflatable ashore when she pulled up. Mum was super keen to do some fishing while she was here, and we headed into the sport fishing club and got some tips on where to go to catch snapper, the main advice being the best time to catch is at the change of light – dawn and dusk. We went for a short walk, and a short drive to Kaio in search of bait, and back to the fishing club for dinner before heading back to Honey for the night.

We'd had no luck with finding anywhere open in the evening so had no bait, and in the morning we headed back into Kaio to stock up on food and bait. After a leisurely breakfast we then headed out of the harbour nosing into some of the stunning bays on our way. It was flat calm in the harbour but as we headed out the wind was still blowing 15-20 knots outside of the heads – so we raised the sails and headed for Stephenson Island, anchoring on the north west side in the lee of the wind, close to Cone Island. Another yacht was anchored in the bay and they were fishing, so after we'd had our lunch we pulled up anchor and drifted around the rocks and Mum fished. With the wind dying out and the afternoon moving on, we headed back into Whangaroa Harbour for a brief dinner before dusk – then it was time for more fishing at the heads. We lost the light very quickly and it was dark when we came back into the harbour and anchored in Ranfurly Bay, just inside the entrance.

The next day, Saturday, was a fantastic day – a little mist when we woke up, early to catch the dawn fishing, but otherwise it was shaping up to be a lovely sunny day. A little after 6.30am we had lifted anchor and were headed back to the harbour entrance – along with half of Whangaroa – there were small and large fishing boats, blokes crammed into tin dinghys, all working in a line motoring slowly between Kingfish Point and South Head with their fishing rods out – it was quite a sight and experience. We moved in with Honey, the only yacht, and followed suit, Mum with her rod out, and me working to dodge the other boats and their long lines trailing behind. We saw others catching fish – some kingfish, and I saw one snapper being hauled in – and Mum carried on with her run of catching snapper. With the day lightening, the boats gradually disappeared, as we did too when the bait had run out, anchoring back off Whangaroa township.

We had breakfast anchored outside Whangaroa township, accompanied with live music – a very talented man was strumming his guitar and singing on the water's edge, the sound carrying across perfectly with the calm morning. Once the local shop had opened and we had restocked up on bait, an ice-cream and more tips on how to catch the big fish (as it turned out the fishermen this morning were all fishing for kingfish, we weren't in the best place for snapper so probably were the source of some amusement to those who saw us!), we headed back out on Honey, out of the harbour and east towards the Cavalli Islands. The wind picked up and we had a lovely sail past Flat Island and onto the northern Cavallis, anchoring in a calm little nook on the south side of Panaki Island. After relaxing in the gorgeous sunshine, we went ashore onto Panaki Island, in search of a walk to the top that was noted in the cruising guide. I have a copy of the Royal Akarana Yacht Club – Coastal Cruising Handbook, Millenium Edition, so it was printed some 17 years ago. There was no sign of any walk, perhaps long overgrown, and we didn't feel like bushwacking in our jandals, so we motored in the dinghy across to the north side of Motukawanui Island (Big Cavalli), about 2/3 of a mile distant where we could see there was a walk. It was a beautiful sandy beach, and we pulled the dinghy up and walked along the track, a mowed walking strip stretching up the hill. The views were fantastic at the top – it was such a clear sunny day, and the views stretched from Cape Karikari through to Bay of Islands, we thought as far as Cape Brett. Once we'd motored back to the dinghy, we nosed Honey through the small passage between Big Cavalli and Haraweka Island to try some more fishing, not staying long due to the discomfort from the swell, and we motored back past Panaki Island to Hamaruru Island, a relatively sheltered spot more comfortable for fishing. Mum caught more snapper, her tally now at 28, mine at 0, but then I put down the line and caught a decent sized trevalli. The sun was starting to lower in the sky, the days being notably shorter up in the far north than in the South Island, and we sailed Honey back towards Whangaparoa Harbour. The wind died down as we approached Flat Island with the setting sun, and with the full moon raising from the sea behind us, we motored back into the harbour. We dropped anchor in Waitepipi Bay, among of a city of lights from all the boats moored around us, filleted the trevalli and fell soundly asleep – a wonderful full day out on the water!

                                          Mum on Panaki Island, with Honey anchored in the bay and Big Cavalli behind
                                          The northern Cavallis, Honey anchored in the bay off the right hand island
                                          View towards Flat Island, Stephenson Island behind and Cape Karikari in the far distance
                                          View towards the Bay of Islands

We had a relaxing start on Sunday morning, having decided we'd done enough fishing for now, choosing instead to stay put on Honey, reading and taking note of some of the large boats including a superyacht from Bikini, Marshall Islands in the bay, named Triton, we figured a statement on the nuclear testing done by the Americans which has rendered Bikini uninhabitable. Late in the morning some light drizzle set in and we stayed put until the middle of the afternoon, after we'd had our delicious homemade fish and chips and the drizzle had lifted, nosing out of Whangaroa Harbour and then back into Lanes Cove in Ruru Bay. We went ashore for a stretch of the legs, seeing that this cove like many others we have been to, is noted as a 'Kiwi Zone', and there are many stoat traps that have been set. I wasn't sure if I would know a kiwi call if I heard one, and we found DoC recordings of both female and male North Island kiwi on line – I had heard a distinct and different bird call on my first night in Whangaroa which I hadn't been able to place, which now I am sure was the female kiwi.

The next day Mum and I set off in the morning, back to shore and on the walking track up to the Duke's Nose (or the Pope's Nose as we had been incorrectly referring to!) This is a lovely short and rather steep walk to the top of the prominent rock feature behind Lanes Cove – with magnificent views down to the boats below, around the harbour and beyond. Access to the very top of the Duke's Nose is via a steep rock face with a rope secured to its face. After I scrambled up and down, we walked back to Honey and headed back into Whangaroa township, the dinghy trailing behind as it had since I had picked up Mum. It was rather gusty, with the weather that day a north west of 25 knots, and the dinghy flipped in a gust – whilst annoying, especially retrieving the seat that had fallen out, at least this was a reminder that I would need to stow the dinghy before I left for the Bay of Islands. Unfortunately it was time for Mum to leave – I had not been sucessful in persuading her to stay on – and we made it ashore in the dinghy through the gusts and whitecaps, with both Mum and her pack dry. One last icecream at the store and I waved Mum good-bye as she drove back to the airport and I headed back out to Honey.
                                          Climbing down the rock face at the Duke's Nose
                                          View from the Duke's Nose - looking east
                                          View from the Duke's Nose into Waitepipi Bay

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Lazy Summer in the Far North (1st - 8th February)

After a brief sleep, I had a shower (solar shower, raising it up off the deck with a spare halyard) cracked open a can of beer and cooked up some dinner and felt much refreshed. I sat and reflected on my journey over the last four days. Lots of people ask what it's like to be out on the ocean surrounded by the sea and beyond sight of land, do I get bored? Well, I never get bored. When the weather is fair, I have heaps of time to think. And when I am out there mostly I am present to how small and insignificant I am, not even a speck on this great blue planet of ours. And vulnerable and exposed – the sea was calm and benign on my trip north, but it can change and with little notice, and if I fell overboard it wouldn't matter how calm it was, I would be a goner. So a healthy respect for the sea is so important. I also feel very privileged and lucky to be out on a part of the world that few people see, and seeing our beautiful coastline from an angle that only boaties can see.

Thoughts like this make me wonder how humans can be so naive to be wreaking so much damage to our beautiful planet – mostly led from corporate rooms and government offices, with the natural world shut out. If only some of these corporates and politicians could get out and experience the wonder and beauty of nature as I am, then perhaps they may treat our world with the respect and nurturing it deserves.

The next day, the first day of February and my first to explore the north eastern coast, I rested until late in the morning, catching up on lost sleep and waiting for the north west winds forecast to pick up in the afternoon. A couple of other boats had anchored approx 500m outside from the cove the night before and they had moved on, back to their fishing grounds north of the North Coast. By 2pm it looked like the wind had set in, so I lifted anchor and sailed out of Otau Cove heading down towards Houhora Harbour. With a beam wind I was hoping for a nice 6 knot sail down Great Exhibition Bay. The wind was a moderate breeze and Honey moved nicely through the water until off Parengarenga Harbour, where the wind veered to the north and eased. By 5pm the winds had died completely and I kicked the engine into gear for about 40 minutes until the north west picked up again and Honey and I sailed into the entrance of Houhora Harbour. With the flood tide, there was a good favourable tide taking me into the harbour, and I dropped anchor shortly after sunset behind Tokoroa Island just beyond the harbour entrance.

On my second day in Northland, I made the most of the incoming tide to motor the short distance up Houhora Harbour to the wharf at Pukenui, and topped up with diesel – I had used a whole 40 L in my trip up from Taranaki, not bad I thought considering the light winds I'd had. A trip up to the Pukenui Four Square to grab what I needed, and I headed back out the harbour, the tide now outgoing and pushing me along. I find that I am often most tired the second day after a coastal passage, so I headed as far as Houhora Bay – a lovely bay with a sandy beach and dropped anchor, staying there for the rest of the day and the following. It was a chance to relax, recharge, get out my stand up paddle board and go for an explore, and give Honey a good tidy up. There were three other boats that stayed in the bay over that time – in sharp contrast to my time down in Fiordland, they kept to themselves, I barely got a wave out of them. I had anticipated that this would be the case sailing in these waters – so many people and so many boats, that there would be little novelty in seeing Honey and me, we're just another yacht and sailor.
                               Houhora Bay
On Saturday 4th February I headed out from Houhora Bay, motoring with flat calm weather again, towards Cape Karikari, taking my time to try a spot of fishing around the Moturoa Islands. There were quite a few other boats fishing in the area, but I had no luck, not even a bite – not sure if there were no fish there or perhaps they didn't like the left over gristle from my steak! Without a freezer aboard Honey I can't keep squid bait for very long. On the other side of Cape Karikari, I raised the sails and drifted slowly the short distance to Matai Bay, another place recommended by Chris and Tess who had been there two weeks earlier. Matai Bay is a beautiful spot, with two sandy coves, and was quite busy with the long Waitangi weekend. Time for more exploring on the paddle board, walks along the beach, swims and relaxing enjoying the hot and sunny weather.

                                          Honey in Matai Bay

Sunday was more of the same – hot and sunny with very little wind. I headed out under sail, drifting from Matai Bay on towards Doubtless Bay and Mangonui. Only a very short distance it still took a few hours, with only a few knots of wind and Honey doing a speed of 2-3 knots. The day breeze picked up as I approached Mangonui, so finally as I needed to drop sail our speed had picked up to 5-6 knots. After dropping anchor just inside the harbour, it was time to try out Mangonui's famous fish and chips – renowned to be the best in New Zealand. Having the stand up paddle board has been fantastic – I have not even needed to get Honey's dinghy into the water, so off I went paddle boarding into town to have my fish and chips! Persistance was needed, there was a power cut affecting the whole of Northland due to a scrub fire under the main transmission lines, so I waited almost 2 hours for those fish and chips – I can confirm they were very good and worth the wait!

                                          Mangonui Harbour - with fish and chip shop visible along shoreline

On Waitangi Day, I started out with a paddle board around the harbour, checking out the sights of Mangonui from the water. When I was at the floater outside the Mangonui Cruising Club, I saw large splashes in the middle of the harbour – perhaps a shark? Mangonui means “big shark”. To be safe, on my way back to Honey I hugged the shoreline and then crossed the harbour at its narrowest point – half way across a shark of about 3m length swam up to investigate, it looked harmless and didn't find me interesting enough to stick around. Sharks have been known to attack surfers mistaking them for seals, I hope that's not the same for stand up paddle boarders!

                                          Historic Mangonui

Doubtless Bay is known for its long sandy beaches, and when Honey and I left Mangonui that morning, we took advantage of the onshore breeze to pass along Coopers Beach, Cable Bay and Taipa Bay – all very populated bays, before heading north out of Doubtless Bay. It was another hot, sunny cloudless day up in Northland. The breeze gradually died out and by the time we reached Berghan Point, the eastern end of Doubtless Bay, the wind had died completely. On with the engine, and we motored onto Whangaroa Harbour.

                                          Cone Rock and interesting coastline on way to Whangaroa

Whangaroa is very interesting to approach from the north – it is a popular harbour and with the day drawing on several boats were heading back into the harbour. From the sea there is a great rock face, cliffs lining the coast,and from my angle of approach it looked as if boats were being swallowed up by the rock face as they disappeared into the harbour – the entrance, being only 0.15 miles wide was not visible until close up. We headed into the stunningly beautiful harbour, characterised by spectacular high rock formations, and dropped anchor in Waitepipi Bay where there were already dozens of boats. With large shallow and sheltered bays, it is possible to drop anchor almost anywhere in the harbour, and with a mud bottom it makes for good holding. Whangaroa is known as one of the safest harbours in New Zealand.

                                          Approach to Whangaroa Harbour

The next day I moved Honey to Lanes Cove in Rere Bay, just around the corner from Waitepipi, where I planned to have a quick look around and view of the waterfall before moving on up the harbour. Rere Bay was even more stunning, and I paddle boarded ashore and walked along one of the DOC tracks before I headed out on my paddle board in search of the waterfall. It was another hot sunny day with little wind. With the tide being high, a couple were also heading up in their inflatable dinghy in search of the waterfall, and as the river at the head of the bay got narrower and shallower I caught them up. We went as far as we could go, until the river was too shallow, and then meeting up with a walking track walked on leaving paddle board and dinghy by the river. The couple, Ian and Rhonda, had sailed up from Tauranga and were spending a month to sail back – their first reaction was that I was joking when I said I had sailed up from Lyttelton! We walked for about 40 minutes to the top of the saddle with no sign of any waterfall, and then back the way we came, enjoying a fresh water swim in a hole in the river above where we had left the dinghy and paddle board. We think that with the lack of any recent rain, that the waterfall had probably dried up. Ian and Rhonda have spent some time sailing around the waters that I am shortly heading to – the Bay of Islands, Great Barrier Island, Hauraki Gulf and Tauranga, and the places in between, and they invited me back to their boat that evening to share some of the great spots that I should visit. It was quite late when I left and long dark, so I headed back to Honey on my paddle board with head torch. I hadn't intended to stay the night in Lanes Cove, and had moored Honey a little too close to the shore for my liking – with the tide low she was less than a paddleboard length from the shore but still in deep enough water – but with the weather being dead calm and the tide turning, I decided to stay put for the night.

                                          Morning mist in Waitepipi Bay

                                         Approach to Rere Bay

                                          Lanes Cove in Rere Bay - Honey on left

The following day, Wednesday 8th, I decided to head out from Whangaroa and look around the area outside. Gale winds were forecast for that night, so I planned to be back tucked up in Whangaroa Harbour before they hit. And Mum was due to arrive tomorrow, to spend a few days with me, exploring Whangaroa, the Cavalli Islands and hopefully doing a spot of fishing – my plan is to meet her in Whangaroa township. There was a light breeze heading in towards Taupo Bay so I headed the other direction, into Whangaihe Bay, a deep cove only a couple of miles from Whangaroa Harbour. There were a couple of unoccupied baches and no other boats in the bay, so it was a lovely peaceful afternoon relaxing in the sun before Honey and I headed back to Whangaroa, mooring up in Waitapu Bay, just around the corner from Whangaroa township and noted as a good anchorage in SW and SE conditions – perfect for the gale winds forecast.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Up the West Coast and around the Capes (28th - 31st January)

It was a beautiful and calm morning on Saturday 28th January, which made for an easy exit from the pole berth, removing all my ropes as I went. There were several pleasure fishing boats heading out to make the most of the lovely day, and as I struck straight out from Taranaki motoring in a straight line for Cape Reinga for the first 10 miles I had company on the water – fishermen trolling alongside at the same speed as Honey.

As I cruised out from Taranaki, I reflected on the similarities with my departure from Milford Sound four years ago... Just like in Fiordland, the folk at Taranaki were so welcoming and seemed to bend over backwards to assist me – there were few yachties that stopped into Taranaki each year, normally when repairs were required. When I had arrived into Taranaki, I was told that the weather was uncharacteristically windy – 10 metre waves on the Sunday two days before I arrived which had washed a several hundred tonne wave buoy onto the rocky beack within the port (similarities with the fishermen in Stewart Island who had said the “weather was broken” when I arrived), and now as when I left Milford there was a large high forming and a forecast of settled weather with light southerlies to take me up the coast. And I also had a mountain to watch as it disappeared beyond the horizon – not Mitre Peak but Mt Egmont/Taranaki – I was 10 hours out of Taranaki before Mt Taranaki finally disappeared from view.
Motoring out from Taranaki

Three hours out from Taranaki and the forecast south west wind picked up to a pleasant 15 knots so I could switch off the engine and settle into a very pleasant day of sailing. With my intended straight line to Cape Reinga, I was going to be at least 50 miles off shore, which Maritime Radio had said would push the limits of their VHF coverage, so if needs be I would make my scheduled calls using the satellite phone. As I was heading out from Taranaki, I checked the distances if I altered my heading to stick to within 35 miles of land – it would take me only about 1-2 hours longer, and with guaranteed VHF coverage I would easily be able to make my scheduled calls and get weather updates, without costly calls via the sat phone. And so I altered my heading to due north.

I didn't see a single other boat on my first day after I had left the Taranaki fishermen behind, until close to sunset when I sailed into the vicinity of where a number of fishing boats were working – probably the fishing fleet from Kawhia or Raglan that were out tuna fishing. There were several lights of fishing boats around me with their anchor lights on, and the wind had died out completely so at 11pm I also turned in for a few hours sleep with my anchor light on. The fishing boats probably had their sea anchors out, but I left Honey to drift with mainsail flapping in the swell so I got out to check every hour to be sure I was not going to drift into any fishing boat. By 5am I decided to get on my way again, and with no wind I fired up the engine and carried on heading due north. The forecast had now eased to variable 10 knots, so I was concerned at this rate that it may be a motoring trip and I could run low on fuel.
Sunset, with a fishing boat just visible on the horizon

My second morning was a very pleasant one, albeit glassy calm as I motored up the west coast. As I approached offshore Manukau, I started picking up several of the calls on VHF channel 16. It was Auckland /Northland Anniversary weekend, and with beautiful weather there were obviously a lot of boats out and about around Auckland. Although I didn't see any being 20 miles offshore, Maritime Radio seemed to have a very busy day responding to multiple 'Mayday' and 'Panpan' calls.

By 12.30pm the wind started to fill in and I switched off the engine to settle into an afternoon of relaxed sailing. The wind gradually picked up to about 15 knots from the south west and the heads of Manukau which had been visible in the distance disappeared and more of the western coastline took its place. By 5pm I had closed to within 15 miles of the shoreline, and altered my course to 330 degrees (true) to follow the line of the coast. When the sun set I was directly off Kaipara Harbour, and the wide opening to the harbour was clearly visible out to sea. The winds eased after sunset but they didn't die out completely, so I was able to sail on through the night at about 4 knots, with the glow of Auckland disappearing behind me and the glow of Dargaville brightening to starboard. I had seen no boats or ships since I had left the fishing fleet behind after the previous night, so I was confident to stretch my sleeps out to 30 minutes in between popping my head up to check on my whereabouts and that no other boats were around. Around 4am my new (replacement) autohelm gave up working – I thought perhaps the battery voltage had dropped too low, so I started the engine and motor sailed for an hour. With the autohelm still not working I got out my trusty back-up, the ST1000, which was able to work easily in these calm conditions, cut the engine at 5am and sailed at about 3 knots in dying winds. The wind had completely died out by 7am, so I switched the engine back on and motored up the coast.

It was getting noticeably warmer each day as I headed north – Taranaki is at approx 39 degrees latitude and I had now passed 36 degrees latitude – and although the winds were from the same direction I had fewer layers on in the evenings and night. A lot of people have asked what I do when I'm out sailing for days on end. Unlike my sail from Port Hardy to Taranaki, this was an easy relaxed sail up the coast, so I had plenty of time on my hands – Honey did most of the work with me just checking and monitoring progress and sails as needed. I spent a lot of time reading, and for a whole day I didn't need to get up onto the deck to attend to anything (I am able to reef the main from the cockpit and with a furling headsail I can also operate this from the cockpit, but invariably something gets tangled necessitating getting out onto the deck). My world existed between Honey's cabin and cockpit, and the beautiful sea and sky views around. With the settled weather, came beautiful starry nights and the hint of a new moon that disappeared soon after sunset. The Milky Way and its clouds of stars were fully visible and I saw many shooting stars – when I was looking I could see these about every 5 minutes – just stunning! I didn't put out my fishing rod – in hindsight, I probably should have done this when I was close to the fishing fleet – instead choosing to enjoy the sailing and weather and relax.

By 1pm on the third day out from Taranaki, I was off the coast from Hokianga Harbour and had Tauroa Point in view. Tauroa Point is at the south end of Ninety Mile Beach, and marks the edge of Ahipara Bay which is the only place on the west coast that I could consider stopping in at. The remainder of the harbours on the west coast are all bar harbours, requiring local knowledge (and local guidance to enter) and are notoriously dangerous. The wind picked up to about 10 knots from the south and I cut the engine with the sails set to gull-wing (the main out one side and the genoa out the other), as I closed into Tauroa Point. There is a 0.5 knot current that sets to the north west off Tauroa Point and as I got closer, to within 4 miles of the coast, this current added noticeably to Honey's speed. At 7pm I passed Tauroa Point and Ninety Mile Beach opened up. There is very little to see of Ninety Mile Beach and the coastline from out at sea – the coast is very low lying with the odd, presumably sand hill, visible. I changed my heading to 320 degrees true, to ensure I stayed about 12 miles off the coast, and sailed until about 2am taking little catnaps, and my speed gradually reducing as the wind died again.
Tauroa Point with Ahipara settlement and the sand hills beind

I was keen to round Cape Maria van Diemen and Cape Reinga at first light – both so I could actually see this beautiful bit of our coastline at sunrise, and also to round before the tidal currents run at their maximum (which is 2.5-3 knots, and is against the direction we are heading). With the wind dying, I started the engine and motored towards Cape Maria van Diemen, the lights of both capes clearly visible. The night was so calm – I passed inside of Pandora Banks – no breaking sea in sight and with very little swell I think I could have passed right over Pandora Banks with no mishap althought I obviously didn't want to risk it. (Pandora Banks have a depth of 6m and the sea often breaks, with recommendations to pass at least 2 miles to the west of the bank in adverse weather). The sea was glassy calm and with the starlit night it was beautiful – the stars reflected in the sea so it was starry all around – it felt like Honey and I were sailing through the universe – magic!!

By 6am I was off the coast from Cape Maria van Diemen and I cut the engine and drifted with the favourable tide, waiting for the sun to rise. It was a beautiful sunrise over this spectacular part of our country, and I proceeded to motor around both Cape Maria van Dieman and Cape Reinga, staying about 3-4 miles offshore to avoid the worst of the tidal eddies given the tide had now turned and was running against us. The Three Kings Islands were visible in the distance off to the port side, and I was tempted to turn tracks and head out there for an explore until the tides changed. The Three Kings are about 30 miles off the coast from Cape Reinga, so just getting there and back was about 12 hours motoring, which would mean it would be dark when I got back to the northern coast – I decided to push on around the northern coast. The breaking seas of Columbia Banks and Cape Reinga lighthouse with the glints of tourists vehicles visiting, were clearly visible as I went past, as was the beautiful rugged coastline. The sea was still glassy calm with slight eddies, and I watched as birds and flying fish flew just above the sea. It was early in the day and becoming very hot. Wow, it really felt like I had made it into the sub-tropics!
 Dawn off Cape Maria van Diemen and Cape Reinga (light of Cape Reinga visible)
 Sunrise offshore of Cape Maria van Diemen
 Start of a beautiful sunny day off Cape Reinga
 Cape Reinga and the Columbia Banks
 Cape Reinga
 The Northern Coastline
 Past Cape Reinga
Heading towards Spirits Bay

I motored at about 3.5 knots, the tide against us, in towards Spirits Bay – a bay that Chris and Tess had visited two weeks prior and recommended it as being worth a stop at. The cruising guide recommended anchoring in a small cove between Panache Islet and Hooper Point, at the north eastern end of the beach at Spirits Bay. Honey and I made our way past the swells that were breaking on the rocks either side of the entrance to the bay, and we dropped the pick inside the beautiful little cove. This gave me an opportunity to have a quick swim, a tidy up and a spot of lunch before heading on again. Spirits Bay seems like a popular destination, and there were people walking along the hills, swimming off the beach and someone fishing off Panache Islet (that is accessible by foot at low tide).

 Spirits Bay

There was still no wind, so Honey and I made our way out of Spirits Bay and along the remainder of the northern coast under motor. We passed Tom Bowling Bay and with the rumble of the engine I was starting to nod off to sleep – I decided we wouldn't go much further today, just around North Cape. There is a little cove just inside of North Cape that sounded like a lovely place to stop. There were a few fishing boats as I approached North Cape and rounded Murimoto Island – a small island that is connected to the north island at low tide and has the North Cape lighthouse on it. Otou Cove had noone else in it, and I motored in and dropped the pick in a rather exposed but with the conditions a very calm anchorage. I had rounded all the northern capes and had made it to the top of the eastern coast of the North Island – very satisfying!

The northern coast - North Cape in the foreground, then Hooper Point and Cape Reinga in the far distance
Otou Cove

Friday, 3 February 2017

Stopover for Repairs in Taranaki (24-27 January)

When I arrived at Port Taranaki my body was spent, I was absolutely exhausted – a combination of no sleep, seasickness so lack of food and fluids in my body and coming down from an adrenaline ride. I got out of my wet clothes and collapsed on my slightly damp bed for a few hours. Honey had come through a spot of wild weather and it showed – things had been jolted out of their storage spots (anything that was not stowed properly was scattered throughout the cabin), and water was sloshing about in the bilge and on the floor. It looked like both an earthquake and a flood had passed through her – poor Honey!

After a short sleep and taking in some rehydrating solution, I set about starting to dry out and clean up Honey. Where to start? At Port Taranaki, visitors pick up a swing mooring so I could not get all my damp gear to land easily – damp squabs and clothes ended up in the cockpit to dry. There was water throughout all the bilge so I started with the compartments under my bed (fortunately the bed itself was not too damp). It was slow going as I was so tired and when things are removed out from their storage locations, it doesn't leave a lot of room to move about on the boat. I also needed to get the crack in Honey's deck sorted, and started making enquiries for a boat builder or fibre glass repairer. The crack had been caused by the tension on the inner forestay which was attached to a fixing on the deck and not secured to a bulkhead behind it as it should have been.

After a pre-prepared hot dinner (savoury mince – thanks Di!) and a good sleep, I woke up feeling a lot better, half human again! I contacted the commodore of the New Plymouth Yacht Club – Jason – who was fantastic. He arranged for an assessment of the crack to the deck for the following morning and offered to assist with anything else I needed including to pick me up and take me ashore to get fuel if required. I chose to stay on board Honey that day and focus on getting her cleaned and tidied up. It was a wet afternoon, which made it difficult as I couldn't put anything outside to dry and was continually moving cupboard loads of stuff around the cabin. I systematically went through all the cupboards – drying out and restowing everything and checking all bulkheads to be sure there was no other damage. On Tim's suggestion I even removed the in built cabinet in the bathroom so that I could check on the bulkhead below the mast (most of the bulkheads are covered with timber panelling or fibreglass moulding, so checking the bulkheads involves looking behind the cupboards with a torch). By the end of the day Honey was looking a lot better and I was satisfied that there was no other structural damage, only the crack to the deck – whew!

View from Honey's mooring - Mt Egmont/Taranaki
Jason and Nigel (who manufactures surf boards and does a lot of the fibreglass repairs for the yacht club) came out to Honey the next morning. They were surprised at how tidy Honey was after the weather we had come through (the last two days of cleaning up had made a difference). Nigel concluded that Honey is very well built – the crack in the deck was solely due to the poor fixing of the inner forestay, and she was not structurally compromised. He proposed a small fibreglass repair to stop the crack from getting any larger and keep her watertight – a small job that he would do in the next day or two when it was forecast to be calmer.

Then I got a ride to shore, a much needed shower and Jason drove me to get diesel and to the laundromat so I could deal to all my wet clothes and towels. Jason also arranged a short-term marina berth for Honey with the marina manager, and a few of the guys at the yacht club to assist with getting Honey into the berth. I enjoyed a stretch of the legs, checked out New Plymouth, gathered a few provisions and walked the Coastal Pathway back to the port. When I arrived back at the port at 4pm, Jason had arranged for Nigel to complete the fibreglass repair the next day and had gathered three others to assist with berthing Honey – Jonathan on board with me, Allan at the marina and Jason and Ben in one of the club rescue boats. I didn't think we needed this number to berth Honey, but we certainly did! It was blowing a good 20 knots in the port, with a bit of a chop and I wanted to berth stern first into the pile mooring and there were no ropes in place to pick up. Honey does not have great steerage in reverse and the wind kept taking the bow around and off course, but after quite a number of attempts I got Honey into the berth and we got ropes in place to secure her there. That evening I caught up with Jason and his partner and a mate for a drink at the local sportfishing club – a very well patronised and welcoming club, it looked to be a busy night but they said it was quieter than usual.

The next day I finished the rest of Honey's clean up, Nigel did a great job with completing the fibreglass repair, and I walked to town to pick up some equipment and final provisions before getting underway again. As a temporary measure, if I needed to raise the storm gib I had decided that I would attach this just behind the main forestay with the furling jib – the attachment at the stem had a space to do this. Nigel suggested I call in to see Craddy who could provide me with advice on the inner forestay fixing. Craddy was well worth a visit – he is a character who has grown up on the sea, fishing, skippering and now runs a chartering business – he has a lot of stories, a 'man-cave' as he called it with all his sea-faring memorabilia on display (jaws from sharks he has caught, pictures and photos, nets, floats, etc) and a heap of local knowledge.

With both Honey and I recovered from our previous leg, it was time to set off again, and with the weather looking favourable – and light winds which would be a nice change – I made plans to leave first light the next morning.

Rough Ride to Taranaki (23-24 January)

Monday 23rd January dawned bright, sunny and relatively calm, only 7 knots of south west blowing at Stephens. The forecast was for 25 knots of south west in the east, easing to 15 knots this afternoon and south west 25 knots in the west – a perfect forecast for the short sail up to Taranki!

As I motored out of Port Hardy and into the swell of about 5m from the north west that was running outside, I hoped for more wind than what was there currently – otherwise it would make for a slow and sloppy run as I was losing the wind at the bottom of the swells. The wind gradually picked up, I cut the engine and settled into a lovely day of sailing. A beautiful sunny day with Stephens and D'Urville Island disappearing in my wake. The wind picked up a little more so that the autohelm was struggling, and I sat at the tiller, hand steering, enjoying every minute – this was bliss! The wind continued to pick up so I had both hands on the tiller, pulling it up towards my chin – fantastic! With the winds forecast to reduce I was keen to make the most of the wind while it was here, so chose not to reef down. I was covering the ground averaging about 6.5 knots which is pretty fast for Honey. At this rate it would be a good speedy run up to Taranaki.

During the afternoon the winds continued to pick up, and Honey was getting over-powered – even with the tiller up by my chin she was rounding up into the wind. So I finally partially furled in the genoa and put a reef in the main, and she rode a lot better. But the winds continued to pick up, and soon I needed to put in a second reef and then a third reef. Honey was skidding along, at up to 8 knots, even with very little sail up. This was fun, but a bit rougher than I was expecting and certainly a lot more than the forecast – it must be about to let up soon.

But the winds and the seas continued to build, and the wind veered to the west. Water was being whipped off the top of the waves, and I now had 5-6m breaking waves to contend with. I was steering Honey half sailing, half falling down the waves, and every minute or two, one would break and dump on top of Honey and me, filling the cockpit with water until it quickly drained away. I figured it was approximately 40 knots westerly that I was sailing through. The forecast was now saying south west 20 knots, but that certainly wasn't the weather conditions where I was! It was about this time that I started to get seasick – I normally pride myself on having good sealegs and very rarely feel seasick – but the roughness and perhaps a bit of nerves proved too much, and although I had barely eaten since I left Port Hardy every time I went down into the cabin I got sick!

With the winds being too much for the autohelm, whenever I left the cockpit I would simply let go of the tiller and Honey being quite balanced would do a reasonable job of steering through the weather. As despite the forecast, there was no indication that the winds would let up, and perhaps they would build further, I decided to put up the storm gib before it was dark. With the forecast for relatively light winds, I had the storm gib stowed below, so it took some effort and time to get it up – I was not going to open the forward hatch with the waves being dumped on Honey, so tethered to the jack lines, holding on tightly to the storm gib and Honey I fought to the bow and then to get the storm gib onto the inner forestay and raised – eventually I had the storm gib up and the genoa furled away. The winds were not abating, in fact had picked up a little more, so I dropped the main and sailed on with the storm gib only.

With only the storm gib up I was making headway north, but I needed to be heading north north west to clear Cape Egmont – the winds were too strong for Honey to make any way in a westerly direction with only the storm gib up. I contacted Maritime Radio for my regular scheduled call and they confirmed that winds were still forecast to be south west 20 knots – I advised that I was encountering rough weather, at least 40 knots westerly, and agreed to maintain 2 hourly scheduled check-ins until this abated. (On scheduled calls, or trip reports, updates provided include the position – latitude and longitude, speed and heading. These are great because they provide comfort that others know roughly where you are, and also in the unlikely event of it being required then the search area is tightened. With the small 6m catamaran recently sailed by a man and his young daughter from Kawhia bound to the Bay of Islands (but actually to Australia), there were obviously no trip report updates so the authorities could not undertake a meaningful search).

I was closing in on the coast of the South Taranaki Bight, so I needed to either make headway in a westerly direction or go for plan B - turn about and head back south to Cook Strait which was forecast for variable 10 knots of wind. I did not want to be pushed onto a lee shore – later the Taranaki marina manager advised that a sailor recently making a delivery to Taranaki had disregarded local advice to keep out from Cape Egmont and had never made it – sailing too close to a lee shore with a strong westerly he had drowned. I raised the main (with 3 reefs) and started inching towards the west. I was now taking the waves side on, Honey falling off them and waves still breaking over the top. Night had fallen so it was harder to judge when a breaking wave was going to hit. To be sure I would clear the coast around Cape Egmont, I started the engine and headed in a north west direction into the waves, motoring towards the Maui platform that although 20 miles distant was lit up and clearly visible. After 2 hours I was happy that I had made sufficient headway west and would safely clear Cape Egmont, so I cut the engine and carried on sailing with the reefed main and storm gib.

By midnight the winds had abated, and it was back to good sailing with the amount of sail I had up. I passed Maui off my port side and the lights on the coast associated with the gas production clearly visible to starboard. I was still seasick despite having nothing in my stomach, and was soaked through from the several gallons of seawater that I had been showered with so far on the trip. At 4am I passed Cape Egmont, made my regular scheduled call to Maritime Radio, and with the winds still easing advised my next update would be at 8am when I was scheduled to arrive into Port Taranaki. I started the engine – to charge the batteries so I could use the autohelm, and to keep my speed up. With the seasickness, I was feeling weak and did not feel like doing a sail change in the dark.

As the new day dawned I reflected on the interesting and eventful leg I had just done – I was feeling pretty happy on the whole – Honey had done well, the only issues had been the weather that was not as forecast and my seasickness. This certainly was a better leg than the shakedown from Lyttelton. The swell was easing and the wind had by now dropped to about 15 knots. Time to put away the storm gib and get back to full sail. It was when I was pulling down the storm gib that I noticed the large crack on the deck where the inner forestay connects – oh no, Honey had not come through unscathed! At that point my thoughts turned to what a bad leg this has been – funny how my judgement of how good a sail has been seems to be solely on Honey's condition or breakages!

Shortly after 8am I arrived into the Port Taranaki harbour limit, entered the harbour and pulled up a mooring – I had arrived at my first North Island destination!