I was due to meet up with family friends, Mike and Jane, for an early dinner at the local eatery, Schnappa Rock when I arrived into Tutukaka. Needless to say this was a somewhat later dinner, and so fantastic to catch up with Mike and Jane. They have a large property in the hills behind Tutukaka, of almost entirely re-generated native bush and moved there 17 years ago with a vision to support kiwis and other rare native birds to re-establish themselves in their natural habitat. Mike and Jane have worked relentlessly with their conservation effort over the years and now have several kiwi pairs in addition to pateke (brown teal) and other rare birds breeding on their property, aided by significant trapping of stoats, feral cats, rats and possums, and the construction of a small lake designed to support the ducks. Mike and Jane are also instrumental in supporting the wider effort of kiwi conservation along the Kiwi Coast in Northland. I had never been to their property and was keen to see it, and they invited me up the following morning for breakfast.
Another beautiful day followed, and I was picked up by Mike and Jane in the morning and taken up for a yummy breakfast of pancakes and fruit followed by a mini tour of their property. The bush was so lush, it was incredible that this extent of regeneration had taken place in only 17 years, and they have fantastic views across the hills and out to the sea and the Poor Knights islands. Mike had completed a beautifully crafted kayak from oregon timbers last winter, and it hadn't yet seen the water – we had decided at dinner the previous evening that there was no better time than now, and the kayak was duly taken out from indoors and mounted on the roof rack. Mike and Jane then gave me a tour of the local area – down to Wooley's Bay, Whale Bay and Matapouri. The grand launching of the kayak (or initial trial, there may be some pressure from local friends for an official launching on another date) was at Matapouri Estuary, and she proved as beautiful in the water as out – all three of us having a go, we found she glided perfectly through the water. Mike and Jane also tried out the paddle board, and then we headed off for icecreams and a swim at Whale Bay, a stunning and popular bay with the locals, being a west-facing white sandy beach. To round off a perfect day, we stopped in at the pizzeria for dinner that evening, had a drive through Ngunguru and I was treated to a bath at Mike and Jane's before being dropped back to Honey.
|Mike and Jane and the kayak!|
The next day, 22nd February, was similarly a beautiful hot and sunny day, and I was intending to move out of the marina and carry on exploring the coast. There was no-one coming into the berth Honey was occupying so I did not need to leave in the morning, and I joined Mike and Jane as they tracked two kiwis, Milo and Kicker, that had recently been released into their new habitat. The kiwis are fitted with transponders, and we were able to track the area they were now occupying. Kiwi pairs typically live in an area of 10 hectares, being very territorial birds, although this sometimes reduces to only 2 hectares. Obviously approaching the birds directly is not permitted, but we were able to confirm the valleys that both kiwis were tucked up in for the day.
I had decided I would move out to Whale Bay that afternoon, and over a coffee Mike and Jane said they were keen to come along for the short trip so they could see what was involved in sailing solo. After readying Honey and topping up both fuel and water we headed out of Tutukaka Harbour. With the wind died down to only 10 knots this was not nearly as exciting as entering the harbour two days previously. Although there was still a reasonable swell running, of about 1.5m, making for an uncomfortable passage, which unfortunately did not sit well with Jane's stomach. To minimise the wallowing in the swells, we motor sailed on to Whale Bay and dropped anchor, and Jane was only to happy to jump into the water and swim ashore (although she did appreciate coming for the ride). I was keen to visit the Poor Knights and Mike was keen to come to – fantastic, this meant I would have my own guide as well someone to assist with helming! Jane was very happy to sit this out – so we made plans for Mike to join me the next morning and we would leave from and return to Whale Bay.
|Beautiful Whale Bay|
Just before 7am the next morning, Mike arrived, swimming out to Honey and pushing his boogie board with backpack filled with a packed lunch and clothes on top! And we upped anchor and set sail for the Poor Knights Islands, heading first to Rikoriko Cave. The Poor Knights are about 13 miles off the coast and we had gentle SE winds and motor sailed towards the islands. As the winds picked up a little, we were able to sail at 4-5 knots, arriving into sheltered Marori Bay just before the majority of the commercial diving and sight-seeing boats transporting visiting tourists. The waters around the Poor Knights are deep, with risk of anchors becoming fouled, so we did not stop and drop anchor, but nosed around the edges of the bay and past Rikoriko Cave, peering into the depths in search of the fish life. Although a lovely sunny day, it was slightly cooler, and neither of us were drawn to jump into the water for a snorkel, particularly as by this stage at least six commercial boats were anchored in the bay.
|Mike and his transport out to Honey|
Mike, Honey and I set off around the south side of Aorangi Island to view the arches that pass from one side to the other of two small off-lying islands, called the Southern Arch and The Tunnel Arch. These are spectacular holes through the rock, presumably hollowed out by the sea over several millenia. Mike told me how a Maori community previously lived on the island. The Poor Knights are now a marine and nature reserve, and the terrain is very steep, the cliffs rising high above the water as well as dropping down to the depths. It certainly seemed incredible that anyone could inhabit the islands given how rugged, harsh and exposed they are and the difficulties with landing a boat. The landing point for the community was on the southern side of Aorangi, close to Southern Arch, Archway Island, which was a marginally less steep part of the island. With the winds from the SE, which during my stay in Northland has been the predominant wind direction, the sea was more rough around the south western corner of the island and we chose to pass outside both Archway and Aorangaia Islands, then sailing up the western side of both of the main islands. There were a number of other arches visible on Tawhiti Rahi Island, the northern island, and we paused outside one in Maomao Bay at the north east corner while we had our packed lunch. We then motored down the sheltered east side of the islands, back to Marori Bay, completing our circumnavigation of the Poor Knights Islands! When we headed back to the North Island, the winds had died down and we motor sailed to Whale Bay. After a great day, I bid Mike farewell as he hopped back in the water with his boogie board and pack bound for the shore. I had dropped anchor a little further out so there was less surge and fortunately no issues with the anchor dragging that night.
|The Tunnel Arch|
|The beautiful Poor Knights|
|Arch on Tawhiti Rahi Island|
The next morning, 24th February, it was time to set sail back to the Bay of Islands to meet Tim who was flying into Kerikeri the next day. I raised the mainsail and weighed anchor shortly after 10am and motor sailed out to Elizabeth Reef. It was a sunny day with very light winds, of only about 5 knots, a typical Northland day, so Honey and I kept motor sailing up the coast. The winds finally quickly picked up to a little over 15 knots from the SE when we were abeam of Whangamumu and it was a lovely short sail around Cape Brett, passing this time inside of Piercy Island, and into the Bay of Islands. Honey and I made for Oke Bay, a lovely sheltered bay south of Urupukapuka Island with a white sandy bach, dropping anchor soon after 5pm.