Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Time to Say Goodbye

13th June 2019

Well folks today is the day. Yes it’s  time to leave New Zealand and head north for the tropics again.
It’s a cracker of a day here and the forecast looks great. We hope to stop at North Minerva Reef for a few days along the way before continuing on to Fiji.

We've had an absolute blast here with all our new found cruising friends and the all the friendly locals we’ve met along the way. The jury is still out on weather we will be returning here at the end of the season. Time will tell.
Last night's farewell dinner with most of the 17 boats that are leaving with us today

So to all our NZ friends, thanks for having us in your wonderful country and we hope our paths cross again sometime soon.

Time to hit the road.

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Time to go Cruising : Island Hopping in the Hauraki Gulf

May 2019

Once again a year had flashed by and it was time for GWTW to get her bottom painted again. There had been much debate as to which haul out yard  as there are quite a few here to choose from, but the winner was Port Whangarei Marine Centre. This was mainly due to the size of the travel lift, it’s really big, and the fact that the tarmac area where we would be parked was cement rather than just  loose gravel, which makes the decks really dirty. The haul out went very smoothly. The guys in the yard are excellent at what they do.

Ten days later with all our jobs finished we were back in the water looking very spic and span. After a few days of provisioning we headed back down the river and some 68 miles south to the Hauraki Gulf area, just a stones throw from Auckland. We’d heard excellent reports from other cruisers about this area and were looking forward to checking it out and most of all being out on the anchor once again.

The logging industry is big in NZ
With the promise of decent westerlies  for the first few hours to push us along we rolled out the jib and sailed comfortably in flat water . Then just as was promised by the Met Service, the wind died and south westerlies took their place, meaning we had to fire up the engine to punch into the wind and waves. Not a big deal really.

Kawau Island

Sunrise at Kawau Island

Our first stop was at the Island of Kawau, and with the wind really honking we tucked up close inshore at Harris Bay. We were well protected here and  from our snug spot you would never have known what the blustery conditions  were like outside. 

After two nights here we moved around to beautiful Mansion House Bay. As the name suggests the bay is named after the gorgeous 1800’s stately home and gardens that adorn the waterfront.

Originally the residence of the island’s copper mine superintendent, both the island and the home were purchased by Sir George Grey, a former governor in 1862. He expanded  and remodeled the home and  planted extensive gardens which included many exotic and native species of trees as well as introducing quite a exotic number of animals. These included  Weka, Zebras, Monkeys as well as Wallabies, Kookaburras and Peacocks, the later three are still found roaming the grounds of the house and the island.

Ornate Piano

Mansion House is now under the guardianship of the Dept. of Conservation and is open to the public for tours. The fee is a mere $4 and it is  thoroughly worth every cent, The home’s interior, completed with fully furnished period décor, is absolutely sensational to walk through.

Sir George Grey
The island has many well defined hiking trails and though we didn’t manage them all we did do a couple, one being out to the old coppermine. It was a nice way to see the island, though most of the island is out of bounds, being privately owned. But never the less a good stretch of the legs for a  couple of hours there and back, through pine forests and cool fern filled valleys.
While on the island we also stopped by the friendly Kawau Boating Club for a long lunch one day. It was a tad chilly and after the meal we trotted inside to finish our vinos in front of the pot belly fire. It was a real hardship to tear ourselves away from the warmth, but eventually we had to as the staff looked like they were packing it in for the day.

Rakino and Waiheke Islands

Moving further south in the Haruaki Gulf our next stop was at beautiful Woody bay on Rakino Island for a couple of days. We thought we had the place to ourselves until Saturday rocked around and we we joined by 27 other boats. We couldn’t believe that we never heard a peep from any of the other boats for the next two days. Come Sunday arvo one by one they all went back to wherever they’d come from and once again we owned the sea bed. And that's just the way we like it.

A little bit like Tuscany on Rakino

Our new Code Zero sail

Lavish Holiday home on Waiheke

From Rakino we had a nice sail in light air across to Waiheke Island. The northern end of this little gem is home to many wealthy Aucklanders. Well, you couldn’t really call these dwellings homes as such, they’re  more like modern day mansions the exception being that most are actually just holiday homes. 

And another one with an olive grove

The rest of the island is far more down to earth and modest. We took the coastal track past many of these substantial properties and were absolutely gob smacked. They must be owned by the New Zealand equivalent of the Vanderbilt's we reckon.Catching the local bus is a great way to see the interior of the island. And for us, anchoring in Rocky bay on the island’s south side presented us the opportunity to do so. There are a couple of small towns dotted along the route with funky cafes, wine bars, restaurants and shops. It’s a quite the  tourist island with many B&B’s and a host of winery's offering cellar tastings and upmarket estate dining options. Serviced by ferries from Auckland every hour or so, if you are a nine to five landlubber it’s a great  place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the big smoke.

 With the weather about to take a turn for the worst we made a bee line  across to the Corramandel Peninsular to seek refuge for the next five days. The forecast was for 45 knot winds clocking through every direction. We had time to pick out the eyes of a few anchorages before we settled on Squadron Bay in  Te Kouma Harbour. This place was bullet proof. Enclosed by high hills on all sides, no matter what mother nature through at us we new we’d be safe and we were. With 200ft of chain out we didn’t budge.   Two other boats joined us for the big blow  but there was plenty of room for all. The cows on the hills were very nonplussed about the whole weather event, I guess unlike us, they were used to it.

Sadly, that weather blew away our chances of sailing up to Great Barrier Island which was the main reason for making the cruise down to this area. But that’s life. The other reason that Great Barrier got canned was that we discovered a leak from one of our underwater lights which meant that we’d have to haul out again asap to fix the leak.

Is this how we fuel up in NZ??

 It wasn’t life threatening but really needed attention.  So we headed back to Whangarei and hauled at Marsden Cove on their you –beuat new hydraulic trailer. It only took a few hours to fix but we were glad we did. Nothing like piece of mind.

It was a short little TIKI tour of just a few of the Gulf’s Islands but one that we really enjoyed.

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Friday, June 7, 2019

Exploring south and west of Auckland
March & April 2019

The birthday Boy

Our second road trip took us south towards the big smoke of Auckland and beyond. We celebrated Liam’s 68th birthday with friends Sylvia and Tom from S/V Cinnabar here in Whangarei and then we hit the road.  
Stop numero uno was at the oil refinery at Marsden Cove, just an hour’s drive from town. Usually that sort of thing wouldn’t excite us but it was a fabulous facility with excellent exhibits and informative videos. Well worth the stop we decided. 

From here we took the off the beaten path roads following the eastern shore south. Up hill and down dale the roads snaked through the beautiful countryside.  
Some of the views were  along the way were quite jaw dropping.

Mark & Liam  belting out a few tunes

After staying a few nights with retired cruisers Mark and Amanda from Balvenie, we took off to the Coromandal Peninsular and the town of Thames.
We found a great air b&b for a couple of days and explored the area, walking the trails of the Karangahake Gorge and ruins of some early 1800’s gold mines and yep, fitted in another round of golf.

After staying a few nights with retired cruisers Mark and Amanda from Balvenie, we took off to the Coromandal Peninsular and the town of Thames. We found a great air b&b for a couple of days and explored the area, walking the trails of the Karangahake Gorge and ruins of some early 1800’s gold mines and yep, fitted in another round of golf.

A couple of classic cars we spotted

Continuing south to the seaside city of Tauranga  we caught up and stayed the night with one of Liam’s former business acquaintances, Bruce and wife Maureen. After a nice meal out we girls went to bed early but the boys being boys stayed up late and woke up a bit dusty Sunday morning.
From the east coast we hightailed it cross country to west coast to visit the Waitomo Caves. Under the green hills of Waitomo lies a labyrinth of caves, sink holes and underground rivers. Now these aren’t just any old caves, they have become famous because of the thousands of glowworm colonies found deep inside the cave system. I’m talking over 100 ft underground. 

Stalactites tights in the caves
Sadly none of my glowworm photos came out so you’ll have to take it from me that it looked like a starry night down there. While in the area we also took a  side trip to the Mangapohue natural bridge, a 17m high limestone arch which used to be part larger cave system and  also stopped at the Marokopa Falls
Next morning we were Hamilton bound by way of the Te Awamutu golf course, where we managed to squeeze in another nine holes. After a night in Hamilton it was back to Auckland  where we took the opportunity to check out the Auckland fish market for a tasty lunch, before visiting the excellent exhibitions in the Maritime Museum. 

One of the best exhibits focused on the life of Sir Peter Blake, a true legend in world sailing. Over several decades he successfully competed in round-the-world races and was the driving force behind several Americas Cup challenges, including New Zealand's’  1995 victory in San Diego. Coincidentally, we were actually there to catch some of the action, quite a thrill really. 

Tragically, Sir Peter was murdered by intruders in December, 2001 while on an expedition up the Amazon river.With our road trip over we  headed back up to GWTW in Whangarei.

While it was great to be back on board with familiar surroundings, it was also terrific to take in some of the many fantastic sights the north island of New Zealand has to offer. And also experience first hand the wonderful hospitality of the locals. Without this time ashore our visit to Kiwi land would certainly have been less than complete.

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Friday, May 17, 2019

The Social and Scenic  sides of New Zealand
8th December 2018 to March 2019

The Town Basin marina is a very social place to say the least. More that half the boats here have crossed the Pacific and as you know, we cruisers will take any excuse to get together.

Another year rolled around and Annie celebrated her 60th birthday with friends, champagne and  even a brass band playing happy birthday.
 Celebration with Bonaire, Cinnabar and Balvenie

Happy hour on Wednesday evenings always draws a good crowd as does the ladies lunch on Thursdays, another very popular event. It’s so nice to get out and jabber with the girls without the men folk hanging around.

At the concert with Illia & Tom
 Saturday mornings the covered canopy bridge just up stream from the marina hosts an artisan craft market and on selected nights the bridge is transformed into an  large outdoor restaurant with a variety of vendors selling made-to- order meals from all over the world. My favourite was the Turkish stall.

The  Fleetwood Mac band

Many of the pubs around town put on regular quiz nights and live bands.The Fleetwood Mac cover band “Landslide” was a real hit up at the Butter Factory.  

Music in the park right on our doorstep was another great weekend free concert with brass bands, youth orchestras and Scottish pipe bands making regular appearances. So there was no excuse  not to get out and about

They put on a couple of shows at the marina and they were pretty damn good.

We became  quite fond of having a round of golf with with a couple of other cruisers pretty much once a week. I would go as far as saying our games have improved but we can sure  manage to hit the old *#%k shots without a problem.  Four courses were close by and they all offered heavily discounted prices on Sundays, Mondays and Fridays, so you can guess which days we always played. 
We also organized a bridal shower for Bernice from Sea Flair who was flying back to her native South Africa to marry Grant, the man of her dreams.

Bernice was all smiles

Much of the attraction of coming to NZ is to have work done on the boat and  getting out and about to explore the country by car.  By March we’d pretty much ticked off the boat chore list so it was time to hit the road and see the sights. Friends on Where 11 and Y2K were kind enough to let us borrow their cars so that we could do a bit of the North Island.

Scratching the surface with a little Tiki Touring

Over the course of a week we took in the best of the northern part of the island. Our journey took us up the coast to the Bay of Islands town of  Keri Keri. It was time for a lunch break so we headed out to the 1832 Georgian style “Stone Store”.

Over the years  the sandstone building has played many roles including as a boy’s school, a trading post, barracks and a library. 

These days it’s a quaint gift shop surrounded by lovely gardens and a trendy café.
From here it was on to the seaside village of Mangonui  for the night and to taste test the famous fish and chips the town is renowned for. 
 It was a big serve with a great setting so that scored a tick in the box. Having thrown the golf clubs in on the off chance that we spot a nice course during the trip, we  were pleased to be able to get a tee time at the ever so friendly Whangaroa Country Club.

Heading inland across the island we stopped in Kaitaia on the west coast for a couple of nights. We'd been told that driving up to Cape Reinga and  along Ninety Mile Beach was not so practical in a car such as ours as the beach could only be accessed at low tide and that you really should not attempt it in anything but a four wheel drive. So we splurged and booked ourselves on a bus tour for the day. It was a good move. 

Our ride across the dunes
 There are plenty of tours ranging in prices and they all include lunch and pretty much are identical in all other respects. We chose to book with Harrison's  who provided door to door pick ups. The drive along Ninety Mile beach was great. We never realised how vast the sand flats were, until we'd driven them.

The Snapper Bonanza fishing tournament was in full swing that day and literally hundreds of eager anglers lined the beach hoping to snare the catch of the day, in weight and take home a purse worth $30,000.
Now that's a lot of dosh in anyone's book for catching one fish.

As we continued our run up to the cape we stopped for a bit of fun at some massive sand dunes, where of course we partook in the local pastime of dune surfing.Climbing up the dunes  with board in tow was a feat in itself. Flying back down the dunes with the wind in your hair was something else. Liam was grinning like the proverbial by the time he got to the bottom.
And off he goes

Yee-Ha !
My turn too

Moving on there was plenty of jaw dropping  vistas as we made our way north to the top of New Zealand.. This is  the point where the mighty Pacific Ocean comes head to head with the often ferocious Tasman Sea. 

From our vantage point high above  the lighthouse you could actually see the waves crashing into each other. It was an awesome sight, especially for us who spend 90% of our lives on the sea.

At the very top of New Zealand

Cape Regina Lighthouse

It's a long way to anywhere from here

The Waipoua Forest was on our way south  to our next destination of Dargerville  so we stopped off to take the Tane Mahuta Walk and pay our respects to Tane Mahuta, the two thousand year old  "Lord of the Forest”, the largest living Kauri tree in the country. Quite a sight really.
The trunk girth is 13.77m, trunk height is 17.68m while the overall height of the tree is a staggering 51.2m.

From Dargerville the road took us back east through picturesque farmland and green rolling hills dotted with sheep and cattle. 

We stopped again for another round of golf at Sherwood Park  and from there it was just a stone’s throw back into Whangarei.

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