North to Mercury Islands, New Zealand

Author:  Pete
Location: Mercury Islands, New Zealand


We dropped our Beach Haven mooring in the morning and rode the tide out of Auckland amidst the hum of morning ferry traffic and belch of container ships.  The seas remained flat even out of the harbor, sheltered from the swell by Waiheke Island.  As usual, the wind blew from the exact direction we intended to go, but it was a beautiful day to work on our withered line handling skills so we spent the afternoon tacking upwind.  An agreeable fifteen knot breeze blew and Tayrona stretched her hydrodynamic legs and rumpled wings happily.  As the crow flies it’s only twenty five miles to Ponui Island, but with all the tacking it felt like fifty.  Our tribute seemed to please the wind gods who rewarded us with a still evening, a mirror anchorage, and a blazing sunset.


Merc Isl. Map




Weighing anchor early the next morning we sailed twenty five miles to Port Jackson on north end of the Coromandel Peninsula.  We ripped along easily on a perfect beam reach and even picked up a good sized kingfish on the way.  There’s nothing like being back in blue water after a stint ashore.†





Pulled into Port Jackson’s wide bay and anchored in the lee of the land with a brawny-looking commercial fishing boat.  I landed the dinghy on the long beach and ran the path through the rolling hills along the coast.  Well, it was intended to be a run; at times it was more like a plod.  I used to run like the wind, but now it’s more like broken wind.  Fried fish tacos with our “kingy” for dinner was reason enough to not wander too far inland.







Light winds barely stirred the seas the next day and we were forced to motor the twenty five miles to the Mercury Islands.  Great Mercury is stunning, with clear water, sandy beaches, and steep silvery cliffs.




We were greeted by dolphins who swam around Tayrona.  They must’ve been excited to see us because as soon as we donned jumped off the transom in snorkel gear they started copulating under the boat.  It’s got to be tough when your partner is slipperier than a oiled beachball and you have neither hands nor gravity to work with.  Apparently they do it in the midst their companions as often a third dolphin will help hold the female in position on the bottom but we didn’t see that happen.  No dolphin threesomes for us.  🙁




After our voyeuristic snorkeling session we took a hike up to a promontory on the island that afforded sweeping views of eastern shore’s sheer cliffs.  The next day we explored the rocky protrusions that stuck up out of the heather-covered hills.  The place conjured up battle scenes from Lord of the Rings and left me wanting for my sword and leather boots.  Later we stumbled into an archeological excavation of a Maori village site just over the hill from our anchorage and I wanted for my fedora and bullwhip.  That night another gorgeous sunset left us wanting for nothing.











† I love this intro paragraph from Moby Dick.  It always comes to mind when I’m going back to sea after some time landlubbering ashore.  Makes me wish people still wore top hats so I could methodically knock them off of peoples’ heads!

“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off-then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.” 

-Herman Melville. “Moby Dick”


  1. Greg   •  

    1) Dolphin porn, eh? Sorry it’s come to that.

    2) Some great photos. I always like the ones where you guys have managed to hike/slog through some forest/jungle/swamp to get to the highest vantage point and take a picture of Tayrona waiting dutifully in the bay/harbor, but this one was extra cool. I look forward to the the one where you’ve scaled the Alps and take a picture of Tayrona chilling in Lake Lucerne. I also liked the one of Miranda walking on the beach.

    3) Moby Dick is the worst F$%*ing book ever written, first-paragraph aside. I threw my copy all over the place and then burned it after I read it in high school, just to punish the book as much as it had punished me.

    4) I really hope for your sake that they don’t wear top hats in Switzerland.

    • Pete Gorkiewicz   •     Author

      1) After a long time at sea, it’s easy to see where sailors got the mermaid stories…

      2) They both put up with a lot of my crap. Tayrona waits dutifully while we leave her to galavant ashore, and Miranda laughs dutifully at my bad jokes. Still working on a plan to get the boat to Lake Lucerne…

      3) Really? I liked Moby Dick! If I ever lose a leg I’m going to drill holes all over my boat’s deck so I can stand in high seas.

      4) We’ve already ordered our Tyrolean hats for Switzerland. Traditional headwear is obligatory every second Thursday of the month.

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