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).

Saturday, 8 July 2017

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

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