Thoughts like this make me wonder how humans can be so naive to be wreaking so much damage to our beautiful planet – mostly led from corporate rooms and government offices, with the natural world shut out. If only some of these corporates and politicians could get out and experience the wonder and beauty of nature as I am, then perhaps they may treat our world with the respect and nurturing it deserves.
The next day, the first day of February and my first to explore the north eastern coast, I rested until late in the morning, catching up on lost sleep and waiting for the north west winds forecast to pick up in the afternoon. A couple of other boats had anchored approx 500m outside from the cove the night before and they had moved on, back to their fishing grounds north of the North Coast. By 2pm it looked like the wind had set in, so I lifted anchor and sailed out of Otau Cove heading down towards Houhora Harbour. With a beam wind I was hoping for a nice 6 knot sail down Great Exhibition Bay. The wind was a moderate breeze and Honey moved nicely through the water until off Parengarenga Harbour, where the wind veered to the north and eased. By 5pm the winds had died completely and I kicked the engine into gear for about 40 minutes until the north west picked up again and Honey and I sailed into the entrance of Houhora Harbour. With the flood tide, there was a good favourable tide taking me into the harbour, and I dropped anchor shortly after sunset behind Tokoroa Island just beyond the harbour entrance.
On my second day in Northland, I made the most of the incoming tide to motor the short distance up Houhora Harbour to the wharf at Pukenui, and topped up with diesel – I had used a whole 40 L in my trip up from Taranaki, not bad I thought considering the light winds I'd had. A trip up to the Pukenui Four Square to grab what I needed, and I headed back out the harbour, the tide now outgoing and pushing me along. I find that I am often most tired the second day after a coastal passage, so I headed as far as Houhora Bay – a lovely bay with a sandy beach and dropped anchor, staying there for the rest of the day and the following. It was a chance to relax, recharge, get out my stand up paddle board and go for an explore, and give Honey a good tidy up. There were three other boats that stayed in the bay over that time – in sharp contrast to my time down in Fiordland, they kept to themselves, I barely got a wave out of them. I had anticipated that this would be the case sailing in these waters – so many people and so many boats, that there would be little novelty in seeing Honey and me, we're just another yacht and sailor.
On Saturday 4th February I headed out from Houhora Bay, motoring with flat calm weather again, towards Cape Karikari, taking my time to try a spot of fishing around the Moturoa Islands. There were quite a few other boats fishing in the area, but I had no luck, not even a bite – not sure if there were no fish there or perhaps they didn't like the left over gristle from my steak! Without a freezer aboard Honey I can't keep squid bait for very long. On the other side of Cape Karikari, I raised the sails and drifted slowly the short distance to Matai Bay, another place recommended by Chris and Tess who had been there two weeks earlier. Matai Bay is a beautiful spot, with two sandy coves, and was quite busy with the long Waitangi weekend. Time for more exploring on the paddle board, walks along the beach, swims and relaxing enjoying the hot and sunny weather.
Sunday was more of the same – hot and sunny with very little wind. I headed out under sail, drifting from Matai Bay on towards Doubtless Bay and Mangonui. Only a very short distance it still took a few hours, with only a few knots of wind and Honey doing a speed of 2-3 knots. The day breeze picked up as I approached Mangonui, so finally as I needed to drop sail our speed had picked up to 5-6 knots. After dropping anchor just inside the harbour, it was time to try out Mangonui's famous fish and chips – renowned to be the best in New Zealand. Having the stand up paddle board has been fantastic – I have not even needed to get Honey's dinghy into the water, so off I went paddle boarding into town to have my fish and chips! Persistance was needed, there was a power cut affecting the whole of Northland due to a scrub fire under the main transmission lines, so I waited almost 2 hours for those fish and chips – I can confirm they were very good and worth the wait!
On Waitangi Day, I started out with a paddle board around the harbour, checking out the sights of Mangonui from the water. When I was at the floater outside the Mangonui Cruising Club, I saw large splashes in the middle of the harbour – perhaps a shark? Mangonui means “big shark”. To be safe, on my way back to Honey I hugged the shoreline and then crossed the harbour at its narrowest point – half way across a shark of about 3m length swam up to investigate, it looked harmless and didn't find me interesting enough to stick around. Sharks have been known to attack surfers mistaking them for seals, I hope that's not the same for stand up paddle boarders!
Doubtless Bay is known for its long sandy beaches, and when Honey and I left Mangonui that morning, we took advantage of the onshore breeze to pass along Coopers Beach, Cable Bay and Taipa Bay – all very populated bays, before heading north out of Doubtless Bay. It was another hot, sunny cloudless day up in Northland. The breeze gradually died out and by the time we reached Berghan Point, the eastern end of Doubtless Bay, the wind had died completely. On with the engine, and we motored onto Whangaroa Harbour.
Whangaroa is very interesting to approach from the north – it is a popular harbour and with the day drawing on several boats were heading back into the harbour. From the sea there is a great rock face, cliffs lining the coast,and from my angle of approach it looked as if boats were being swallowed up by the rock face as they disappeared into the harbour – the entrance, being only 0.15 miles wide was not visible until close up. We headed into the stunningly beautiful harbour, characterised by spectacular high rock formations, and dropped anchor in Waitepipi Bay where there were already dozens of boats. With large shallow and sheltered bays, it is possible to drop anchor almost anywhere in the harbour, and with a mud bottom it makes for good holding. Whangaroa is known as one of the safest harbours in New Zealand.
The next day I moved Honey to Lanes Cove in Rere Bay, just around the corner from Waitepipi, where I planned to have a quick look around and view of the waterfall before moving on up the harbour. Rere Bay was even more stunning, and I paddle boarded ashore and walked along one of the DOC tracks before I headed out on my paddle board in search of the waterfall. It was another hot sunny day with little wind. With the tide being high, a couple were also heading up in their inflatable dinghy in search of the waterfall, and as the river at the head of the bay got narrower and shallower I caught them up. We went as far as we could go, until the river was too shallow, and then meeting up with a walking track walked on leaving paddle board and dinghy by the river. The couple, Ian and Rhonda, had sailed up from Tauranga and were spending a month to sail back – their first reaction was that I was joking when I said I had sailed up from Lyttelton! We walked for about 40 minutes to the top of the saddle with no sign of any waterfall, and then back the way we came, enjoying a fresh water swim in a hole in the river above where we had left the dinghy and paddle board. We think that with the lack of any recent rain, that the waterfall had probably dried up. Ian and Rhonda have spent some time sailing around the waters that I am shortly heading to – the Bay of Islands, Great Barrier Island, Hauraki Gulf and Tauranga, and the places in between, and they invited me back to their boat that evening to share some of the great spots that I should visit. It was quite late when I left and long dark, so I headed back to Honey on my paddle board with head torch. I hadn't intended to stay the night in Lanes Cove, and had moored Honey a little too close to the shore for my liking – with the tide low she was less than a paddleboard length from the shore but still in deep enough water – but with the weather being dead calm and the tide turning, I decided to stay put for the night.
The following day, Wednesday 8th, I decided to head out from Whangaroa and look around the area outside. Gale winds were forecast for that night, so I planned to be back tucked up in Whangaroa Harbour before they hit. And Mum was due to arrive tomorrow, to spend a few days with me, exploring Whangaroa, the Cavalli Islands and hopefully doing a spot of fishing – my plan is to meet her in Whangaroa township. There was a light breeze heading in towards Taupo Bay so I headed the other direction, into Whangaihe Bay, a deep cove only a couple of miles from Whangaroa Harbour. There were a couple of unoccupied baches and no other boats in the bay, so it was a lovely peaceful afternoon relaxing in the sun before Honey and I headed back to Whangaroa, mooring up in Waitapu Bay, just around the corner from Whangaroa township and noted as a good anchorage in SW and SE conditions – perfect for the gale winds forecast.