Tayrona’s Return to Opua, NZ

KeyDolphin
Author: Pete
Location: Northeast coast of New Zealand

 

Before shoving off north, Miranda and I took our favorite mooring for a few days to get some work done on the boat.  We ended up blowing off our to-do list to spend time with our Kiwi friends Bruce, Linda, Mel, and Nico, locals of Beach Haven.  Bruce and Linda have an amazing house overlooking the water, complete with a boathouse and dock.  We met them in our last couple of months around Auckland and have gotten together here and there when we’re in the neighborhood (read: moored out in front of their house).  They took us out to a burgeoning taproom with local beer, we met up at a weekend farmers market, and went out to lunch.  One night they even had us stay in their gorgeous house when we miscalculated the tides and Dinghy was stuck in the mud.  It’s been fun to be around long enough to connect with interesting people.  The flip side is that it’s sad to start saying goodbye to said interesting friends.  On our last eventing in Beach Haven, we took Dinghy over to their boat shed for “an afternoon glass of wine and some snacks on the wharf,” turned into many glasses of wine, turned into delivery pizza, turned into trading our sailboat for Bruce’s country home in north New Zealand.  Yup, these are those kind of good buddies and a perfect day was had by all.  In the early morning we rode the tide one last time under the Harbor Bride and out of Auckland with heavy hearts and and slightly aching heads.

DSC_9249

IMG_2748

IMG_2747

IMG_2740

IMG_2744-Edit

The winds were light as we left the city astern.  We motorsailed to Omaha Bay our first day, then made for Whangarei the next. Miranda and I anchored Tayrona off Marsden Cove and went out to dinner with our friends on Georgia.  We were all so involved in catching up from the last couple of months’ activity that we didn’t realize that we’d likely not be seeing them again after that evening.  Back aboard Tayrona later in the evening I stood on the transom and watched the birds play in the flood lights of the shipyard.  Their feathers lit up in orange under the sodium lamps as they caught insects, but they disappeared from view as they flew outside the light’s beam.  The birds disappearing and quickly reappearing was an oddly comforting sight after saying goodbye to good friends.

P1010967

DSC_9260

DSC_9267

DSC_9272

 

The next morning we rounded Whangarei Heads and continued on our journey north, this time with much more favorable winds.  It was a long sail up to Whangamumu Harbor, but in twenty knots of wind with full canvas up we scooted right along.  It felt great to be stretching our sails after several weeks in Auckland.  

DSC_9279

DSC_9290

DSC_9292

When the sun was high overhead, a pod of dolphins swooped in to ride Tayrona’s bow wake.  They ended up staying around the boat for two hours, jumping, cavorting, and carrying on.  They’d take off for a few minutes, then chase the boat down, surfing along in the following seas.  When they’d approach from the starboard, their spray caught the sunlight and lit up in rainbows.  It was like an eight year old girl’s dream- dolphins and rainbows.  I kept looking around for a boy band to show up riding unicorns.   

DSC_9425

DSC_9311

DSC_9405

stitch 1

DSC_9469

DSC_9489

DSC_9498

DSC_9601

DSC_9769

DSC_9802

Over the past two years I’ve developed a special technique to capture underwater images.

DSC_9369
G0040528

stitch 4

G0040535

G0040541

Sometimes the dolphins would zoom by the boat in a silver streak.  They’re blowing bubbles out of the top of their head as they swim, leaving a trail like smoke off a stunt plane.  I thought it might be dolphin flatulence.

G0070559

G0050548

G0100599

G0110657

After a night in secluded Whangamumu, we ran again under accommodating winds up to Cape Brett.  We squeezed between the headlands and Motukokaku Island, the seas tumultuous from waves reflecting off the sheer bluffs.  It can be difficult to see the sides of the pass with the sails eased out on a run.  Sort of like driving your car with newspapers stuck to the windshield.  We came around the point and jibed the mainsail, fighting some current to make it through the pass and feeling like real sailors with our fancy maneuvering.  Then we were back in the sheltered waters of the Bay of Islands.  The wind was still ripping at twenty knots as we raced into Opua- the place where our whole New Zealand adventure started and will soon come to an end.

DSC_9288

DSC_9814

GOPR0661

GOPR0666

DSC_9822

 

Whangling Down the New Zealand Coast

KEYWHANGA
Author:  Pete
Location:  Whangaruru to Whangarei, New Zealand

 

With friends to see and holiday festivities to rev up, we decided to leave the Bay of Islands and get a few more miles under our keels, working our way south towards Auckland through the comical sounding ports of Whangaruru, Whangamumu, and Whangarei.  Rounded Cape Brett under the lighthouse and inside Motukokako Island with its iconic arch.  Apparently some yahoo sailed though it once, but we though it unwise and opted against it.

DSC_7092

DSC_7086

DSC_7095

DSC_7161

DSC_7178

 

Cruising the coast has been a pleasant change of pace from big open water passages.  There’s more free time to play guitar, learn to splice line, and make new friends.  Our finny mate below is likely a Bronze Whaler interested in the chum slicks off of the fishing boats no doubt.  Sky-blackening flocks of gulls and turns show up for the slurry banquet as well.

DSC_7281

DSC_7253

DSC_7259-2

G0023851

DSC_7279

DSC_7227

 

Craggy coastline makes for an impressive sail heading south.  A narrow channel leads out of the tumultuous sea to the protected harbor of Whangamumu where the ruins of an old whaling station lay waiting to be explored.  The old rusting boiler and cement vats where they processed the blubber are slowly being consumed by the brush.  The station was used on and off right up into the 1940’s.  Strange to think at that rendered whale fat was still being burned in lamps at the same time that Oppenheimer was splitting atoms for nuclear energy in Los Alamos.  Miranda and I also have been taking advantage of the well marked hiking trails abound in the area much to the chagrin of our atrophied legs.

DSC_7188

P1160346

GOPR3818

GOPR3809

GOPR3799

P1160360

P1160354

 

Whangaruru is the next big protected bay south.  Lots of campers enjoying the calm bay.  There’s a rain of plunging gannets.  Gannets and boobies are very similar, making up the Sulidae family.  So in a strange way, it rains boobies here.

GOPR3878

GOPR3844

DSC_7232

DSC_7200

DSC_7207

 

Pulled into Whangarei Heads and spent a few days on anchor hiking the bulbous green hills before making our way south into the Hauraki Gulf.

DSC_7345

DSC_7328

DSC_7285

DSC_7300

 

Bay of Islands, New Zealand

DSC_6914
Author:  Pete
Location:  Bay of Islands, New Zealand

You’d think things would’ve quieted down after the rally when all the rowdy sailers dispersed, but Opua was just starting up.  We got a few things done on the boat that needed work, hoisted our newly refurbished jib, and started planning our time in New Zealand.  So many bays and islands in the Bay of Islands (imagine that!); it’s almost impossible to see everything without staying a season up here.

DSC_6754

DSC_6760

boimap

DSC_6928

GOPR3669

DSC_7012

 

We hitched a ride to Kawakawa, a tiny town down the road from Opua.  Apparently it was an old stomping ground of Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who lived in the tiny town for twenty-five years until his death in 2000.  He must have had some bladder issues, as his lasting legacy to the community were some fabulous public toilets in his signature style.  He even asked that the vegetation dug up for the construction be planted on the roof.  Brilliantly eccentric mind indeed.  After ‘visiting’ the landmark we nosed around Kawakawa and found almost nothing else there of interest.  Makes me wonder what Hunderwasser saw in the village.  Maybe just a blank canvas to work on.  We were markedly less successful catching a ride back and ended up hot-footing the twelve kilometers back to Opua.  It ended up being a lovely evening walk on a railroad grade turned bike path, which toddled over streams and through green pastured hills.  Even made some friends with the locals.

DSC_6765

DSC_6790

DSC_6781

DSC_6772

DSC_6798

DSC_6800

MirCow

 

When all the necessary projects were done and we felt confident that neglecting the unnecessary ones wouldn’t endanger the boat, we pulled anchor and got out of dodge.  Though we consulted weather predictions before we left, the three nautical-mile passage downriver to the next little town of Russel happily left little time to find ourselves besot by raging storms.

DSC_6988

 

Russel, formerly Kororareka, has come full circle.  The town’s original name in Maori means ‘Sweet Blue Penguin’, but received the handle “Hell Hole of the Pacific” in the 1800’s due to the debaucherous whalers who took leave and excessive liberties there while ashore.  It’s ‘Russel’  now, and despite a touch of an identity crisis, it’s pretty much quaint and touristy, drawing crowds like zoo-going ice cream slurpers around the Sweet Blue Penguin exhibit.  We even saw some penguins on the way which should’ve cued me in on the water temperature.  But more about that later.

DSC_6990

DSC_6995

DSC_6841

DSC_6847

DSC_6848

 

Thanksgiving stretched out for a few days like a fat and happy cat in front of a fire.  Miranda and I made a small, pseudo-Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday and had a beautiful evening to ourselves on the boat watching the sunset.  On Friday it was Thanksgiving back home, so we spend the day calling friends and family.  Saturday we had plans with friends on a couple other boats to have a proper Thanksgiving dinner, so we descended with the crew from Georgia and Pau Hana on the unsuspecting Second Wind and feasted.  Staggered around Russel for a scenic tour to walk off our distended bellies.  Ended up laying in the grass.

DSC_7000

DSC_7010

GOPR3741

GOPR3749

GOPR3748

GOPR3736

 

Motorsailed another three miles to Robertson Island, also called Motuarohia.  I always wondered how anthropologists knew where and when early peoples moved around.  Apparently New Zealand was populated not from Australia or even Fiji, but from Tahiti!  The connection can be seen in the native languages which are pretty similar.  The names of all the islands here start with ‘motu’, which means island in Maori and also in Tahitian!  Same with va’a and waka which is canoe in Tahitian and Maori, respectively; the k and the glottal stop make the pronunciations very similar and both starting sound taking on more of an f-sound.  Tracing these language similarities is one of the means for mapping the flow of human migration.  Pretty neat.  We hiked around Motuarohia, up to a pa site, a primitive fortification to ward of sieging neighbors.  Not much was left of the site, but the view was excellent.

DSC_6915

DSC_6894

DSC_6911

Red shows migration 30,000 years ago; green 3,000; maroon 2,000; and dark blue 1,000 years ago.

P1160319

 

Speaking of primitive, rock oysters are everywhere down here.  They cling to almost all rocky seashore you’ll find.  Following as the locals do, we pried a few off and brought them home for dinner!  I was just hamming it up with the faces; they were slurp-risingly good!  Enough butter, lemon, and parmesan make even the most repugnant bivalve delectable! 

P1160335

DSC_6934

DSC_6938

DSC_6942

PeteEAt

 

I broke out the heavy suits, hoods, gloves and went to check out the underwater flora and fauna.  Lots of kelp, shellfish, and rocks.  Reaching down to pick up a cockle shell out of pile, I was startled to see a large monochromatic iris dilate to look at me.  The octopus poofed out his skin to make it look spiky and changed from brown to orange.  It did the job, and I backed off.  In an hour of snorkeling I had seen five of them.  I love calamari and liked octopus when I’ve had it before, but I can’t bring myself to catch (read: impale on a harpoon) any of them.  I’ve read accounts of them sneaking out of their tanks in captivity to eat fish in other tanks at night, then pop back into their tank and look innocently out in the morning.  There’s also account of them ripping the stinging tentacles off jellyfish and using them to hunt their own prey.  Don’t just take my word for it, check out Inky’s story.  That kind of smarts deserves a pass.  Plus they’re scary looking.

GOPR3705

GOPR3731

GOPR3722

 

The cold water and warming summer air make for some great fog banks in the mornings.  As we sailed three more miles over to Urupukapuka we ran the radar looking for other boats in the mist.  Fabulous hiking and a great name?  What’s not to like about Urupukapuka?

DSC_6956

DSC_6954

P1160332

P1160325

P1160329

 

Another thing to love is the scallop beds!  In an hour of free diving I gathered a dozen scallops and five green-lipped mussels.  They lie in shallow depressions on the bottom with a light covering of silt for camouflage.  It’s not too hard to see and pick them up, but they are wilily and open and close rapidly to jump out of your hand and then can actually swim away from you with jets of water!  Cleaning them isn’t difficult, though it’s off-putting to have the ones awaiting shucking start clapping and spitting water out of the bucket.  “Let me out!”  Alas, ’twas not to be.  There was ‘streaky bacon’ in the fridge, waiting to be wrapped around the scallops like an octopus tentacle around an unsuspecting wader’s ankle.  Into the oven with ye!

GOPR3701

GOPR3758

GOPR3770-3

GOPR3761

DSC_7020

DSC_7040

DSC_7036

DSC_7053

 

We’re out of the Bay of Islands to run down the coast towards Whangarei as soon as we stop feeling like beached whales and can stand again!

GOPR3672