03-March 2011

Tauranga to Great Barrier Island - 105.5nm

This will be our last overnight sail for a while. Thank goodness! We spent a few days in the south anchorage called Tryphena Harbour, then motored the 15 miles over to an anchorage called Smoke House Bay. We were accompanied by these huge dolphins that we haven't seen before. It was very calm and we could actually hear them talking to the other dolphins. Smoke House Bay is cool because a previous cruiser set up on shore a bath house, with a smoke fired water heater,somebody has collected the wood, there are 3 saws hanging by the smokehouse, just pick one up, cut a piece off, throw it in the oven, fill the tub and voila, you have a nice hot bath. There are also picnic tables, shower, smoke house for your fresh caught fish, right by the small beach, plus a few swings for the kids. We all had showers but the kids miss having a bath so much that Cari insisted on having one.

From Smokehouse Bay we had a beautiful down wind sail to Waiheki Island, 12 miles away from Auckland. This is a popular spot as the ferry comes here from Auckland and there are lots of olive groves and pricey vineyards to take a tour.

March 6, 2011 –Waiheke Bay to Auckland, NZ

The sail over was a tad dicey. We knew the weather was going to turn so we had the alarm set for first light at 0630. Well we were a couple of hours too late. I awoke in a start at 0600 with the wind howling and the boat shuddering, a full blown gale blowing directly into the harbour. We raised the anchor and left but the seas were rough and it was a very bouncy ride. Fortunately, the weather calmed down and cleared up just as we were getting close to the big city.

We decided to stay at the Viaduct Marina. This is not really a cruisers marina, there are no toilets, no showers, no laundry, no book exchange!! But it is located right downtown within walking distance to everything.

We are moored right behind the huge 60 foot ORMA trimaran Team Vodafone who sits mastless at the moment.

Team Vodafone was racing in the harbour reaching at well over twenty knots when something went very wrong. With a loud 'bang' one of the cap shroud terminations gave way. Everyone instantly knew they had serious trouble on their hands. The mast itself fell somewhat gently as the strain was taken up by the remaining stays which gave up under the increased pressure, in some places ripping the fittings from the deck. With the mast overboard and loose rigging flapping there was little that could be done, but cut away the rig and get the boat, crew and rigging to safety. Here is a youtube video of the whole sorry thing:

Plus we are in a prime location to watch all the action of the AC45 catamaran race boats. The AC45 catamaran prototype is a scaled down version of the AC72, which will be sailed in the next America’s Cup in 2013 in San Francisco. The boats get put in the water by crane because of the wing sail (like a plane wing, not a regular main sail!) so it does not go up or down. Once in the water, the boats are manoeuvred by a dingy until they get out into the harbour.

If you would like to read more about these interesting boats go to http://yachtpals.com/americas-cup-9300 and check out our friend Ruth's (sv Kamaya) articles.

We are very excited to be in Auckland, New Zealand – the city of sails! We have family coming to visit for the rest of the month and we are looking forward to seeing everyone. Our first set of visitors is Gramps and Nana from Victoria. We haven't seen them in three years and we had a very special time with them here in Auckland. (We have to be eternally thankful to them for bringing us 95 pounds of school books in their luggage!)

Auckland is a fantastic city, there was so much to do so we did not have to venture very far. There were festivals to check out such as the Pacifica Festival and the Auckland Arts Festival. Of course we toured around to all the different communities to check out what their eateries had to offer: Pizza in Mission Bay, the chocolatier and French Market in Parnell, the fish market right by the Viaduct and gelato and a really good greek restaurant in Devonport.

We did as well show Gramps and Nana a touch of what the cruising life is like. We took the boat out to Waiheke Island, an island about 12 miles from Auckland in the Hauraki Gulf. The weather cooperated and we had a fine motor over to the island. We had a chance to tour around the island on the public buses, spend some time at the beach and did a wine tour at Stony Ridge Vineyards. Nana taught Cari how to play solitaire with real cards!

On our way back to Auckland we had a chance to test our code zero sail which Quantam South Africa agreed had not been cut right and we had warranty work done on it in Opua and.................. turns out that we WERE able to roll it up and roll it out with ease. We tried about 4 times and twice it didn’t roll perfectly but I would say it is now useable and about 80% better than it was.

The America’s Cup AC45’s were out and about on the Waitemata Harbour, these sleek vessels go 20-25knots in not much wind, one minute they were far away, the next second they were right in front of us, it was so cool to watch them and we got some fantastic pics:

Gramps and Nana's last day with us was my Mom's and brothers first day in Auckland. We were all able to spend the day together. We decided to go up the sky tower for their lovely (but not cheap) buffet lunch. Unfortunatley it started to rain but we still had a fantastic view from the top. It amazes me that people do these types of things but some activities on offer at the sky tower is called a sky walk where you walk around the edge of the sky tower's pergola while wearing a full body harness attached to overhead safety lines - no thank you!!! The other activity if one choses is to do the sky jump where you fall backwards off the top. We did see a woman do it and it did look heart-stopping.

We had to say goodbye to Gramps and Nana after our wonderful lunch - we had such an amazing visit and it was so much fun, although we were totally spoiled rotten! Thank for visiting us - until next time!