Passage to New Zealand
The passage to New Zealand can by the roughest in all the Pacific, and you should assume that you’ll get clobbered at least once during the passage. Low pressure areas which originate in the Coral Sea or around Tasmania, dominate the weather scene. The high pressure cells, or anti-cyclones are unstable and dissipate rapidly. There are different weather systems at different altitudes, so occasionally a low will drop down to the surface seemingly out of nowhere. The weather systems usually change every two to seven days. As one sails further south usually south of 30 degrees you lose the trades and enter an area of calms, squalls and variable winds.
After all the hype (and dreading on my part!) and many hours of listening to constant weather talk, we had mid-morning Halloween and left in the early afternoon of October 31, 2010. It took us 6 days and 23 hours, 1000 miles with winds ranging from 0 knots to 35 knots but mostly in the 20 knot range. All in all quite a reasonable sail but we did motor when the wind was down so as not to linger around so the next low moving across did not have a chance to catch up to us.
We were still 400 miles out when I was sitting in the cockpit having a relaxing moment when all of a sudden a plane appeared in front of us very close to the water, I initially thought that it was a commercial jet going to crash into the Pacific! But after it passed us, I got a call on the radio from New Zealand customs asking us a bunch of questions. It was kind of fun to talk to somebody else in the middle of the ocean.
We ate and ate on the passage (even popcorn for breakfast one day) and I had the kids making peanut butter cookie dough as we were motoring onto the Q dock to use up the rest of the eggs, so when we arrived, there wasn’t much for the authorities to confiscate. They took my fresh ginger and garlic, some lima beans that we were using for math, and a seed pod that we had on the boat since the Caribbean that was given to us by Morris and Sue on Strider (sorry guys)!! The officials were very polite, prompt and courteous. We arrived on the dock at 1330 and we were out in the anchorage by 1430. We arrived in Opua in awe that we were actually here. We did it and without getting really clobbered.
The change in weather has been extreme for us. The water temperature when we left Tonga was 30 degrees Celsius. When we arrived in Opua, the water temperature was 17 degrees Celsius! The air temperature in the evenings and early mornings has been as low as 16 degrees Celsius. We are wearing hats and fleece pants and jackets inside the boat. However, each day it is getting warmer as we slowly approach the Southern Hemisphere’s summer.
We were somewhat disappointed by what Opua had to offer. Basically it was a large marina with a lot of marine based service stores and overpriced chandleries. There is one small general store, one fish and chip restaurant, and the Opua Cruising Club and that is about it. Two bright spots about our stay in Opua. First, a man living up on the hill was giving after school bone carving lessons everyday from 3:00 to 5:00. Our kids went for one whole week and made some very cool necklaces and Ryan made a wood carved sword. The other great thing was that all our kid boat cruising friends were in Opua and we had a lot of fun hanging out with them. Most of the kid boats we know are now buying cars, finishing their cruise in Opua and selling their boats. We will miss you all!!!
The closest town to Opua is Pahia. We tried to bike there and I would not recommend it. It was up and down constantly and no real shoulder to bike on with lots of traffic zooming by at high speeds. Luckily for me, we saw our friend Julie on Artemo who just bought a car in downtown Pahia. My folding bike just fit in the trunk so Cari and I got a drive back to Opua while poor Chris had to bike back hauling Cari’s trail-a-bike up and down the huge hills.
There is no public transit in Opua. The marina does offer a shuttle back and forth for a fee. There doesn’t appear to be any taxi’s either. There is a nice trail along the waterfront if you have time to walk it takes about 2 hours each way. We hung out in Opua for about 2 weeks going back and forth with the boat to Russell and Pahia a few times.
Russell, Bay of Islands
Russell was a very cute historic town, loaded with cafes, gift shops, B and B’s and the infamous to cruisers Russell Radio. Believe it or not, it was once known as the hellhole of the Pacific. In the early 19th century the Ngapuhi tribe permitted it to become the first European settlement. It quickly became a magnet for ruffians such as fleeing convicts, whalers and drunken sailors. Charles Darwin described it in 1835 as “full of the refuse of society”. It certainly is a calm and pleasant place now a days!
Paihia, Bay of Islands (get out the gold card!)
Paihia is a very cute, touristy town where all the action happens: jet boat rentals, para sailing; parachuting; helicopter tours, boat and dinner cruisers etc but whoa; we are still in ridiculously overpriced territory. Here is one example: I bought a pair of Sketchers in American Samoa for $20.00 USD; the EXACT same pair in the Paihia shoe store was $180.00 NZ! Atrocious!
One very fun thing we did in Paihia was spending the day at Action World for Maya’s birthday (on sv Kamaya). The kids and adults had a hoot playing mini golf and hanging on the various contraptions. There was the trapeze, trampolines, highwires, climbing wall, ladders and more but Ryan’s favourite was the highwire jousting!! But kudos of the day went to Tim on Kamaya for his display of athletics as he demonstrated on the high trapeze (and all the other apparatus’)!
Waitangi is just over the bridge from Pahia. It is known as the birthplace of New Zealand. It was here that the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed between Maori chiefs and the British Crown, establishing British sovereignty (or not depending on if you read the Maori version or the English version). It was signed by 45 of the chiefs present that day, and by several hundred more chiefs in the months to come. The interpretation of this treaty is still a point of conflict today – The Maori interpretation was, “The shadow of the land goes to the Queen, the substance remains with us.” Not everyone felt that was the correct meaning.
We visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. The Treaty House is where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. The house, with its gardens and beautiful lawn running down to the bay, is preserved as a memorial and museum. Across the lawn is the whare runanga (meeting house). There are beautiful carvings throughout the house and this is where the Culture Show took place that we took in one night. The show was about the arrival of Kupe, the first Maori chief to discover New Zealand through to present day. There was lots of dancing, singing and old style warrior tongue lashing. It was a powerful theatrical performance that we all enjoyed.
Also on the grounds is the 35 metre waka taua (war canoe) Ngatokimatawharorua. It was built from gigantic kauri logs and is a site to behold.
November 22, 2010 - Opua to Kerikeri - 12.5 nm
We have left Opua for the last time! Our plan now is to continue North up the west coast and at some point in the next two weeks sail the 500 miles down the east coast to Nelson on the northern tip of the South Island.
Kerikeri is surrounded by fertile agricultural land and is famous for its oranges. They also produce kiwi fruit (but don’t call them kiwis unless you want to offend Kiwis!) vegetables and increasingly wine. There are three vineyards and we have been enjoying the white wine of the region!
We anchored out in the Kerikeri Inlet and took the dingy for a 4 mile workout down the river along which is monster homes overlooking the water. We enjoyed walking around town, the kids did a double take when they saw a Subway so we indulged them and went there for lunch. We found a skateboard park, a library and a park, so this has been one of the kids favourite places so far.
There are lots of historical sites in Kerikeri as well. The Stone Store is very prevalent here, right on the Kerikeri River it is the oldest stone building (1836) in New Zealand. It’s full of the type of goods that used to be bartered in the store, including muskets and Hudson Bay blankets as well as diaries and other missionary relics. (I knew we shouldn’t have gotten rid of our blankets!)
Next to the Stone Store is the Mission House which was built in 1822. It’s the country’s oldest wooden building and contains some original fittings and chattels.
Across the river is Rewa’s Village a mock-up of a pre European Maori village.
Up the hill behind the Stone Store is a historical walk which lead to Kororipo Pa, the fortress of famous Ngaphui chief Hongi Hika. Huge war parties led by Hika once departed from here terrorizing much of the North Island.
We finally got organized and took out our cockpit enclosures and Chris got our cockpit propane fireplace working after years of disuse. (Last time was in the Chespeake in November 2008!) Now we can have a toasty meal after the sun goes down and sit out in our cockpit. It has made our living space just that much bigger (and cosier) and we absolutely love it.
November 24, 2010 Kerikeri to Cavali Islands --21.32nm
The Cavali Islands are only 1 miles off the coast, however, they still feel very remote and are very beautifully rugged. We came here with our friends on Kamaya but other than that we had the whole area to ourselves. The water is crystal clear and we all tried to go for a quick swim albeit wearing wetsuits. Chris and Tim went spearfishing and caught 4 fish. There is a beach here and the whole area is very unspoiled. While the kids played on the beach, we went for a beautiful hike where the views were spectacular. The Cavali Islands Group is part of the Bay of Islands Maritime Park. From the top of the hill, we could see the spot where the Rainbow Warrior was sunk as there was a boat at the dive site.
As most people probably remember, the Greenpeace vessel The Rainbow Warrior was bombed on 10 July 1985 in Auckland Harbour killing a man. It was getting ready to head to the Tuomotus to protest against French nuclear testing. It turned out that the French government was behind the bombing! Incroyable!. Anyway, they moved the vessel to Northland and now it is a dive site.
We celebrated US Thanksgiving with our friends on Kamaya, the kids put on a Thanksgiving play about the pilgrims coming to North America which was really good. We hung out on the beach collected periwinkles to try for dinner and thought we heard some kiwi birds!
Nov. 26, 2010 Cavalli Islands to Whangaroa Harbour – 21.32 nm
Whangaroa Harbour is suppose to be the most protected harbour in the North, we entered through a small entrance which then opened up to a many different anchorage heading off in all directions. One could stay here for months in the quiet and calm, breathing in the fresh air. It was so tranquil. The little village calls themselves “The Marlin Capital of NZ” and it seems like it as the village had a very small store, a gamefish club and a hotel/bar called the Marlin Hotel/ Restaurant and that was about it.
There was a great hike up to St. Paul’s Rock, even Cari managed to scramble up to the top where we had awesome views in all directions. We also happened to be there at the same time as an Antique Car Show was happening. My Dad would have loved to have seen these babies.
We checked out a few different anchorages then decided to go back near the entrance before we headed north and Kamaya was heading South to Auckland to sell their boat (sniff! sniff!). As we were motoring, we noticed an abnormal amount of smoke coming out of the starboard engine, it was also making a clacking sound. After some inspection, Chris determined it was the fuel injectors. We decided we couldn’t go on. The ironic thing is we tried to get them cleaned in Opua but the mechanics never had time so we decided we would do it in Nelson, alas we didn’t make it. So, back to Opua for us!!!
However before we left, we did another great hike. This one is called the Duke’s Nose as it did look like that from the ground. It was a real scramble up to the top using chains to help you climb up the rock for quite a ways.
Nov. 29, 2010 Whangaroa Harbour to Opua – 40.46nm
There wasn’t a breath of wind so unfortunately, we had to motor the whole way back, I was just really hoping the injectors on the port side would hold out until our arrival. On the way we were accompanied by some dolphins and we caught a fish so we definitely made the right decision!