Sailing around New Zealand

Emily is sailing solo around New Zealand on her 32 foot yacht Honey, from Lyttelton south down the east coast, around the bottom of Stewart Island, up the west coast of the South and North Islands and down the east coast back to Lyttelton. The whole adventure is expected to take 3 months. This blog will provide updates as I travel (when I have mobile reception to upload).

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Cruising Around Northland (13th - 20th February)

With the winds blowing at 25 knots from the northwest, it was an ideal forecast for a quick afternoon sail down to the Bay of Islands. Once I was back on Honey, I stowed away the dinghy and got ready to sail, moving on quickly as the tide was on its way out and I had dropped anchor close in to get Mum safely to shore. While I was in the harbour, I pulled up the main, putting in one reef for good measure, and motor sailed out beyond the entrance. The forecast was for rough seas, and there were a few large charter fishing boats outside of the harbour sheltering around Stephenson Island but no yachts. I unfurled the genoa, leaving some furled up to minimise the sail size, and sailed out towards Stephenson Island before altering course towards the north end of Flat Island and north of the Cavalli Islands. It was beautiful weather – a sunny warm day with a fresh breeze blowing and a bit of a sea, just the stuff that Honey is made for! We had a lovely time, Honey averaging about 7 knots from Stephenson Island to north of the Cavallis, maximum speed I noticed on the GPS was 10.6 knots!! The Cavalli Passage has a least depth of 2.3m, and with a low spring tide when I was due to pass, coupled with rough seas and a 1-2 m swell, I needed to pass around the outside of the islands. Once I was clear of Taheke Rock, we veered down towards the Needles and Cape Wiwiki and Ninepin Island at the entrance to the Bay of Islands. The winds dropped off as I sailed into the Bay of Islands, making for Urupukapuka Island and I dropped anchor in sheltered Otiao Bay. It had taken less than 5 hours to sail from Whangaroa.

                                          Passing north of the Cavalli Islands

                                          Approach into the Bay of Islands

The forecast for the following day, 14th February, was for rain, so I made a booking for a berth at Opua Marina for that night – also a chance to shower, do the laundry and top up Honey's water while I waited for the rain to pass. But the rain didn't come – so Honey and I spent the day nosing into a few of the bays on Urupukapuka Island, and I stitched up the zip on the dodger (to connnect the rain shelter between the dodger and bimini, that had been torn off at Port Hardy) in preparation for the rain. Then it was a nice gentle sail towards Opua, via Te Rawhiti Inlet, with the wind easing off and dying as I passed Waitangi and Russell. By the time I arrived in Opua, the marina office was shut as was the laundry. But fortunately Owen and Emma from Dulcinea, one of the neighbouring yachts, popped over to say hello, helped me tie up Honey, filled me in on what and where everything was in the marina, and lent me their gate card so I could access the marina shower. Owen and Emma saw I was flying the Pelorus Boating Club pennant – they are also members of Pelorus Boating Club, also from Christchurch and had recently returned from sailing in the Pacific. While in Opua, we sorted out Tim's booking to come up and visit me – he's flying into the Bay of Islands towards the end of February! So I decided I would head further south beforehand and then return to the Bay of Islands so we can explore it together.

One thing I was keen to do while I was in the Bay of Islands was to visit Kerikeri – then I could get to a supermarket to re-provision and see the movie “Lion”. Chris was involved in the production of the movie, I had read and loved the book and I was keen to see Lion while it was still on the big screen. But Kerikeri is some distance from the water and many miles from the closest marina, although it is possible to get to Kerikeri Basin by sailing through Kerikeri Inlet and up the river, and tying up only a few kilometres from the town centre. There are private pole moorings up the river and some of the owners will accommodate boats that venture upstream. The river is however very shallow, only 0.1m depth on the chart in some places (this is the height at the lowest astronomical tide), so with Honey drawing approximately 1.8m (and the tidal range of 1.65m) I would need to make my way there right on the top of the tide. High tide was 11.35am so no time for doing my laundry, I needed to be in the Pickmere Channel in Kerikeri Inlet, the access to the river, no later than 11am to be entering on a rising tide.

Honey and I left Opua at 9am and motored towards Kerikeri Inlet – it was a very calm morning, with heavy rain on the forecast for later that day. We made good timing, passing through Kent Passage on the west side of Moturoa Island, and on into Kerikeri Inlet. Light rain started setting in, and I was only in the start of the Pickmere Channel when my depth alarm started (this alarm beeps whenever there is less than 0.5m of water below Honey's keel). The alarm beeped on and off the whole way into Kerikeri Basin, sometimes showing 0.0m under the keel, which was a bit disconcerting. I had found that occasionally the depth gauge didn't read correctly, so I hoped that was the case although there were a couple of moments when I thought I could feel Honey touching the mud bottom. Pickmere Channel is well marked, but from the Kerikeri Junction where there is a fork – one way through Waipapa Stream and the other up the Kerikeri River – there were few port and starboard markers. We made it up right to the historic Stone Store in the heart of the Kerikeri Basin without getting stuck – whew! The river was a little deeper in the basin, and there were several yachts moored nearby, so I took up a pole mooring in front of one large yacht and close to the wharf. It didn't show quite enough depth, but I figured given the large yacht behind that perhaps the depth gauge was not reading correctly and in any case it would probably be ok if Honey settled slightly into the mud in the river. The rain started pouring down so I was pleased I had done my stitching to zip up the rain shelter. There has been a drought in Northland so many would have been pleased to see the rain, although I couldn't help wish that it was falling in Christchurch where the Port Hills fire was by now raging out of control.
                                          The Stone Store, Kerikeri Basin

In the mid afternoon I headed to shore in the inflatable, and as I left I noticed that Honey had a very low waterline, perhaps she was sitting on the bottom. The Stone Store was open, the oldest standing stone building in New Zealand, and I popped in to have a look. It had previously operated as a post office and all-goods store, and now displays and sells all sorts of old Kiwiana goods, and even has a genuine old-time smell about it, a great place to poke around in! When I came out about half an hour later, Honey had certainly grounded herself with a clear list towards the starboard side. There was still almost 2 hours left until the bottom of the tide, so she wasn't in the best spot. But there was nothing I could do about that now, and with all the skin fittings on the port side and wash boards in (so no concern about flooding), there was nothing I could do. I left Honey and walked on through the rain into Kerikeri to watch Lion – it is a fantastic film and great to take my mind off Honey who would have carried on tilting in my absence (although I didn't quite relax into the film for half an hour until low tide had passed). After the film, a quick bite to eat and re-provisioning, I returned to Honey – she was back floating with no sign of her previous grounding. It was pitch dark and still raining heavily by this time, and I decided the best option would be to stay put rather than try to exit the river and risk a worse grounding at night.

The next morning I woke as expected at about 5am, on the next ebbing tide with Honey grounded and again slightly tilting onto her starboard side. As I lay there, Honey carried tilting, bit by bit – not a very comfortable feeling! Every little additional movement to starboard felt like a lot, and I even got up to tie a little plumb line onto the inside of the washboard so I could see that it wasn't as significant as it felt. Lying in my berth on the port side, suddenly 'boing!' and Honey righted herself settling back upright into the mud. The tide was still ebbing, and depending on where I moved Honey was starting to settle either starboard or port side – I moved myself to the starboard side so she would settle that way as before and read my book to distract me – a much better feeling as the tide started to come back in and Honey re-righted herself! A couple of hours later and a knock on Honey's hull, one of the locals, Keith came to tell me that this pole berth was very shallow and had caught a number of boaties out – he advised the wharf alongside the Stone Store has plenty of water if I was staying longer. I was keen to get underway, not just to escape being grounded but to head further south. I extracted some of Keith's local knowledge to ensure I didn't stray into the shallow parts of the river – generally staying close to the boats and the pole berths is best. (I also thought that means I am close to a pole if I did end up grounding and needed to winch Honey out!) At 11am I headed off with the last of the rising tide and cleared out of the Kerikeri Basin without any further hitch.

Next stop was the Kerikeri Cruising Club where I finally did my laundry. My plan for the afternoon was to head to Whangamumu, a few miles south of Cape Brett, although I knew I would be running short of daylight – Deep Water Cove still in the Bay of Islands and a few miles before Cape Brett was my back-up plan. Heading out from Doves Bay, I made directly for Cape Brett, skirting around Slains Castle and the Brothers. The wind in the bay was a steady 15-18 knot northerly breeze and with full sail, Honey moved along nicely at 5.5 knots. It was still lightly raining and there was a swell of about 1.5 m running – I hadn't deflated and stowed my inflatable dinghy which was trailing along behind, so I decided to make for DeepWater Cove. My back-up autohelm also gave up working at this point, clearly not happy with getting wet, and I hadn't yet attempted to resurrect the main autohelm, so I was back on the tiller. When I arrived into Deep Water Cove, which as it name suggests has deep water, there were already two other yachts anchored. I wasn't happy with my proximity to one of the other yachts anchored and wanted to be sure I slept well after my previous unsettled night of grounding, and it was on my third set of the anchor and in rather deep water with all the anchor chain out that I was comfortable that I would not need to get up in the night to check on the anchor. Honey does not have an electric windlass, so after I had manually hauled in the anchor and 40m of anchor chain twice, my dinner certainly hit the spot and I did sleep soundly that night.
                                          Deep Water Cover - with Honey anchored out deep

The 17th February dawned with rather heavy rain which eased mid morning. Before stowing the inflatable I went ashore and followed the DOC walking track up the hill that heads towards Cape Brett. There was significant bush cover and I only got small glimpses back towards the Bay of Islands and down the east coast in the direction I was going to be sailing. By the time I got back to the water, the rain had cleared, clouds lifted and the sun was drying out Honey – time to set sail for Whangamumu. The winds were very light and I raised the main sail and motored out towards Cape Brett and the Hole in the Rock, passing outside of Piercy Island so I could take in the view. There were quite a few other boats out, and Honey and I motor sailed close to the coastline with its steep cliffs. About a mile south of Cape Brett, I cut the engine and with the headsail raised we slowly sailed towards Whangamumu with a very light following breeze. The breeze falled away completely and we motored into the inner part of Whangamumu Harbour and dropped anchor. It was now a beautiful hot and sunny day. I had planned to stop only briefly in Whangamumu before heading south to Whangaruru but it seemed to lovely to rush away. I paddle boarded to shore where there are remains of an old whaling station, with photographs displaying how the station appeared in its heyday. It always amazes me how quickly the bush takes over with the large old boiler, wharf blocks and concrete vats being the only part of the whaling station that were still largely intact. I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on Honey, swimming, paddle boarding and following some of the stingrays (they are quite incredible how with one ripple of their wings they can scoot away at great speed when I get too close) and walking around some of the tracks. I caught up with the sailor from the neighbouring yacht from the previous night in Deep Water Cove (who said he had been quite comfortable about where I was anchored on my first set), and we noted a pohutukawa tree that had fallen over and resprouted roots half way up the tree. Almost every beach in Northland is lined with pohutukawas, incredibly beautiful and resilient that seem to be able to reach their roots to find the smallest amount of soil to grow into such large trees.
                                         Piercy Island (Hole in the Rock) and the Dog
Beautiful Whangamumu Harbour
The next day I headed off late in the morning to Whangaruru Harbour, less than ten miles south of Whangamumu. It was another lovely sunny and relatively calm day with only a few knots of breeze from the east, and I alternated between motor sailing and slowly sailing/drifting towards the harbour. The wind picked up as we rounded Pararaunui Point into Whangaruru, and I anchored Honey offshore from Teparapara Bay on the east side of the harbour, and after doing a few jobs on Honey I spent the rest of the afternoon stretched out in the sun reading my book!

The following morning, Sunday 19th February, was slightly drizzling to start but this soon burned off into another beautiful day. I had sailed past Bland Bay the previous day, and was keen to see what it looked like from the other perspective, from land. There is a narrow isthmus that separates Whangaruru from Bland Bay, and I paddle boarded down the harbour to Tuparehuia Bay and walked through the motor camp to the beautiful beach of Bland Bay on the other side. A group from the Navy had set up camp for two weeks of training, they certainly get to stay in some lovely spots! After I had paddled back to Honey and had a quick swim, I was keen to see if I could resurrect either or preferably both of the autohelms. I'd opened up my back up autohelm to ensure it was fully dried out the day before and I put this back together, and checked over the connections for the main autohelm. The main autohelm controller was working again, so quite possibly it was a voltage issue I had encountered on the trip north, but the drive was now not working properly. I upped anchor and motor sailed out towards Mimiwhangata Bay, about 5 miles out from the harbour in the south eastern corner of Whangaruru Bay, so that I could test out the autohelms while we were on the move. Unfortunately neither worked adequately – the main autohelm drive would turn to port but would not turn to starboard (later I found that the drive's motor had burnt out), and the back up autohelm would not operate on automatic mode. This meant I would be sitting at the tiller until I could resolve the problem – which is fine for short distances, but not ideal for overnight passages.

After I dropped anchor in Mimiwhangata, the chap from the neighbouring boat, Rose of Therese, came over to say hello and invite me to dinner with his partner. They introduced themselves as Ian and Marcia, and we had stayed at several of the same anchorages – Whangamumu two nights previously, I had spoken to Ian briefly at Deep Water Cove, and we had been moored in the same bay in Whangaroa Harbour. They were curious about my story sailing solo, and we spent the evening trading stories and talking about some of the fantastic places we have visited. Ian and Marcia are both very keen to visit Dusky Sound, which is still my absolute favourite place, and they were dead jealous of my trip there, but they have also spent time in Anchorage, Alaska, a place on my bucket list.

I had contemplated sailing to Great Barrier Island the following day, but had been advised that if there was any southerly component in the forecast 20 knot easterly winds then it would be too tight on the nose to be able to sail. The forecast had seesawed between south-east and easterly winds, and being at least 60 miles distant it would be a long day to reach the island even if the winds were favourable. Plus I would only have a day or two there before I would need to sail back up to the Bay of Islands to meet Tim. I decided to instead head the short distance down to Tutukaka, a wise decision given the winds did in fact blow from the south east, such that it was almost too tight on the nose to sail to Tutukaka. I left Mimiwhangata just after 1pm, expecting to be tucked up in Tutukaka less than 15 miles south soon after 3.30pm. There was a reasonable 2m swell running and a rather messy sea, with the swell coming from both the south east and north east. And with the wind at about 15 knots from the ESE it made for a slow and bumpy sail south. The wind gradually picked up to 20-25 knots and veered to the SE, and I reefed in the sails so Honey sat better. Whilst the wind strength was helping to drive Honey, the wind direction was not idea, and it was almost 6pm by the time I was outside of Tutukaka Harbour. This was my first time entering into Tutukaka Harbour (actually my second time I later found out, having been here aged 3 ½) and I had not realised what a hair-raising approach it is. The entrance is 0.1 mile wide between Tutukaka Head and Red Rocks, with the remainder of the approach all rocks. With the swell building to about 3m in the shallow waters at the entrance, more than 20 knots of easterly wind and the sun lowering to the west in the direction I was heading, all I could make out was a wall of white water where the entrance should be. I contemplated making for what was shown on the chart as the entrance or turning back to find another anchorage, but decided to wait for another boat to enter and follow them through, now motoring and circling Honey out beyond the harbour entrance. Another yacht was approaching so I did not need to wait long, and followed them through avoiding all the rocks. Needless to say it was a nerve racking entrance – real brown underpants stuff – and I had a swig of whiskey once Honey was tied up safely in a berth in the marina!

1 comment:

  1. I subscribed to your blog back when you did the South Island so these new ones starting appearing in my inbox and I've been really enjoying following you on your trip around the North Island! I live in the Bay of Plenty now so keen to see what that's like from your perspective :-)