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).

Friday, 7 April 2017

Sailing South to Waiheke Island (2nd - 5th March)

I was up before dawn on Thursday 2nd March, aiming to get as far as Whangarei Heads, and weighed anchor as the sun was beginning to brighten the sky. I had raised the mainsail while I was still anchored, and it was flat calm so I motored out towards Cape Brett picking my way through Albert Channel, the piece of water between the mainland and Urupukapuka Island. There were several other boats heading out at first light, some yachts heading in the same direction as me and Honey, and a number of fishing boats. We passed between Piercy Island and Cape Brett, and Honey and I farewelled the beautiful Bay of Islands.

A light southerly was blowing along the east coast and I unfurled the genoa and sailed slowly, at about 3-4 knots – first in a south east tack towards the Poor Knights, which turned easterly as the wind backed towards the south east, and then tacking south. The wind slackened when I was offshore from Whangamumu, and I motor sailed until the wind quickly picked up to almost 15 knots off Home Point north of Bland Bay. The wind was now from the south east, and as we passed offshore of Rimariki Island, the island east of Mimiwhangata Bay where I had stayed the previous week, it backed further to the east south east which made for a good run down towards Tutukaka. When I was offshore from Sandy Bay, I received a call from Mike and Jane to say that they had spotted Honey and another yacht from a high point on their property. A Young 88 that had left the Bay of Islands just behind me, and had followed a similar path, was about 200m in front – she passed close by but I couldn't make out her name as it was obscured due to the heel of the boat, both of us on a port tack and the Young 88 on my port side. The wind veered back towards the south east as I sailed the last stretch towards Tutukaka. As it was well into the afternoon, and I still had some distance to go, I furled in the headsail and motored directly into the wind for a mile to clear North Gable – this was a quicker option than tacking out towards the east. Once I was sure I had sufficient sea room to clear the three Gables north of Tutukaka Harbour, I unfurled the headsail and steered a southerly course, past Tutukaka Harbour entrance and south into new territory for me and Honey, sailing across Ngunguru Bay. The wind was veering further towards the south, now south south east, and when we were most of the way across the bay, again, I furled the headsail and motored directly into the wind to clear Taiharuru Head at the south end of Nguguru Bay. Once I was confident that I would be on a tight reach to Bream Islands, about a mile north of Bream Head, again I unfurled the headsail and steered a course to pass inshore of the Bream Islands sailing close in towards Ocean Beach. It was a beautiful evening and I caught the last of the sun's rays as I passed between the end of Ocean Beach and Bream Islands. Passing under Bream Head, the sun had set and the daylight was fading fast. I had started motoring when I reached the Bream Islands, keen to get to an anchorage before it was pitch dark.
Sunset behind Ocean Beach
With both the tide and wind behind me, and motoring, I was making more than 7 knots, and covered the distance to Busby Head at the entrance of Whangarei Harbour in less than half an hour. I had been aiming to anchor in McLeods Bay, which I had been told is beautiful, but as it was now completely dark, I opted for Urquhart Bay, the first bay tucked in from the entrance behind Home Point. As I rounded Busby Head, there was a dazzle of lights – from Marsden Point refinery and a maze of navigation lights. Turning in at a starboard marker, I dropped sails and motored into Urquhart Bay, in search of a spot to drop anchor for the night. Most of the yachts anchored for the night were in more than 11m depth of water – that would mean a lot of anchor chain to manually haul in when I set off the next morning. I could just make out a line of boats without their anchor light on, presumably on permanent moorings, and keeping one anchored boat between me and the moored boats to help ensure I didn't get tangled in any mooring lines, I motored towards shore seeking shallower water. Having found my spot, I dropped anchor and with it set I switched off the engine. No sooner had I done this when I heard a 'bump-bump' against the hull, towards the stern at the starboard side. Shining my headtorch over the side I found I had backed over a mooring, exactly what I had been trying to avoid! It was stuck there – the mooring line passing under Honey so that the buoy was wanting to move to the port side of Honey. I tried pulling in some of the mooring line to see if the buoy would jump free – this didn't work. Calling Tim for some advice, he suggested that I check if it was wrapped around the propellor – I could check this by rotating the shaft behind the engine by hand while it was in neutral – fortunately this was still rotating freely. Then I would need to do what I can to move the buoy from under Honey – it was caught close to the prop, between the rudder and keel – perhaps pushing it under the water or even weighting it down. As it was getting late by now, I figured the quickest thing would be to get into the water and pull the buoy to the other side of Honey – I didn't want to spend hours sorting this out, being keen to have dinner and get to bed. Putting the paddle board over the side as a platform, and grabbing my grapple hook to wrestle the buoy away from Honey, I jumped into the water and dived under Honey holding the mooring buoy. It pulled me up short, not wanting to be dragged under the water, and I came up with a bang against Honey's hull, wrapped in the mooring line, the line from my grapple hook and the line holding the paddle board. I tried two more times, wanting to be rid of this cursed buoy, but in the pitch black I had no way of knowing which way was up or down, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get the buoy far enough below the water. I reached up for my head torch, not a waterproof one so of little use for this exercise, but I did notice a few little fish watching my antics with curiosity. As this clearly wasn't going to work, I moved onto the next option – weighting down the buoy. Digging out my spare anchor and chain from the cockpit locker, and a long rope, I tied these to the mooring buoy and lowered them into the water, and gradually the mooring buoy sunk beneath the water. With the mooring buoy almost 2 metres below the surface and the prop moving freely, I was satisfied that I could now have dinner and get to bed. I would check that all was free before I moved off in the morning.

I was woken at about 3am the next morning with another 'bump-bump', in the same place, towards the stern on the starboard side. Shining my headtorch over the side I saw there was another buoy – it appeared to be tied to the first buoy but I hadn't seen it earlier. The line was pulled tight to the first buoy so it didn't look to pose a concern with wrapping itself around the propellor, and I slept as best as I could for the rest of the night, with a constant 'bump-bump' until the wind shifted slightly at about 6am and Honey moved away from the buoys. When I was up in the morning I could see in the daylight that the mooring buoy was certainly no longer stuck to Honey. There was also a row of moorings without any boats on them along the waterline, close to where I had dropped the anchor – it looks like I was very lucky not to foul with any of the mooring lines, either around my anchor or the propellor. Retrieving my spare anchor and chain, I upped anchor motoring out of Urquhart Bay, heading for the Hauraki Gulf, determined that I would make sure to drop my anchor in the daylight from now on – with the days shortening this would mean a smaller sailing window each progressive day.

The tide was running against me as I exited the entrance to Whangarei Harbour, motoring with both the mainsail and genoa raised. With the daylight I had, I planned to sail to Kawau Island and if sun hours permitted I would go a little further into the entrance of the Mahurangi Harbour. It was a beautiful sunny day, with the wind forecast to be variable with north east of 10 knots, turning to south west of 15 knots in the Hauraki Gulf in the afternoon. There was very little wind as I motor sailed across Bream Bay towards Bream Tail and Cape Rodney, what wind there was being from the south west and then moving to the north east. Each time I switched off the engine the wind would die off and my speed quickly dropped to less than 2 knots, so I was resigned to motoring. It was a long straight run to Cape Rodney, with no interesting places to stop along the way, although beautiful views out beyond Sail Rock and the Hen and Chicken Islands, to Little Barrier and Great Barrier Islands, the Moko Hinau Islands in the far distance, and the large headland of the Coromandel Peninsula coming into striking view. Passing both Bream Tail and Cape Rodney, we motored across Omaha Bay towards Takatu Point, and then negotiated North Channel, which separates the north side of Kawau from the Mainland, passing between Maori Rock and Fairchild Reef. The tide was running with me and I quickly passed the northern bays on Kawau, all flat calm. I was about to drop the mainsail as I approached Bon Accord Harbour, and the south west suddenly arrived at over 20 knots. Wanting to make the most of this wind, I chose to keep going – at this rate we could make the Whangaparoa Peninsula before dusk. Honey was on a starboard tack, and we negotiated South Channel, on the south side of Kawau, passing between Martello Rock and Motuketekete Island on our left and Beehive Island and Passage Reef on our right. Being a Friday evening, there were now many boats coming out onto the harbour – yachts making their way to Kawau, and boats of all sizes fishing – more than 10 boats at any one time within a nautical mile radius of Honey. I was on the tiller, and with the low-footed genoa fully unfurled I had a limited view of the boats I was approaching. Although I was on starboard tack, so had right-of-way over moving boats, there were several boats on anchor and I did not want to blindly sail on hoping everyone else would get out of my way. The wind continued to strengthen and when I was past Motuora Island I partially furled in the genoa, both to reduce the power in the sail and to give me a better view forward. Closing in on Whangaparoa Peninsula, I furled in the genoa completely, making for Army Bay, on the north side of Whangaparoa towards the eastern end, that was a recommended anchorage in south west winds – I had my doubts as it is completely open to the west. As I approached Army Bay, with white caps coming straight across the bay it was clearly too exposed and we turned west towards Waiau Bay, which definitely had good protection from the south west winds. Arriving at Waiau Bay as the sun was just setting, I anchored in a good sheltered position well clear of any mooring buoys.

The following morning, Saturday 4th March, and Honey and I were away at dawn – we were due at Waiheke Island to meet Naomi and Viki this morning! It was a calm and sunny morning as we motored out towards the pass between Whangaparoa Peninsula and Tiritiri Matangi Island, passing several boats and kayakers fishing in the first light of the morning. A very light south westerly was blowing in the gulf, and with both mainsail raised and genoa unfurled, we motor sailed towards Rakino Channel. The wind gradually picked up and when we were about a mile or two north of Rakino Channel, I cut the engine and we sailed onto Waiheke Island, entering Oneroa Bay shortly after 11am.

Oneroa Bay was crowded, being a sunny summer's weekend day and there were over a hundred boats already moored in the bay. I located a spot that looked suitable to drop the anchor – close to a catamaran on one side and a sloop on the other. Once the anchor was set and I was satisfied that there was marginally enough swing room, I went ashore and caught up with Viki and Naomi who had arrived at the same time I had entered the bay. They had found a good spot for lunch while I was readying to come ashore, and it was fantastic to catch up with them both! We celebrated that Honey and I had now completely circumnavigated New Zealand – with about three quarters of that solo. (Once I return to the Marlborough Sounds my solo circumnavigation will be complete). After a lovely long lunch, we returned to Honey. I had been concerned about the distance separating Honey from the keel boat to her starboard, and to my surprise another yacht was now anchored between this and Honey, with clearly insufficient swing room, and there were now approaching two hundred boats in the bay.

We spent the rest of the afternoon catching up, having a swim, and cracking open a bottle of champagne to toast my and Honey's circumnavigation. When Viki had suggested meeting in Oneroa I had jumped at her suggestion – Honey's GPS, the one I name “the Oracle” as she always knows where we are, our heading and speed, is set with the destination of Oneroa and I have not changed this since I have had Honey. While I was sailing around the South Island and Stewart Island, the destination of Oneroa was showing up to 500 and 600 miles distant – I didn't know where it was, but I knew it was up at Honey's old stomping grounds, and I had promised I would take her back there. So we were back in waters familiar to Honey! Naomi and Viki cooked a lovely dinner on Honey, insisting I sit back and not do a thing, under the light of “Luci”, solar powered inflatable lights that Viki had brought, fantastic for boats or any outdoors activity.

The following morning Viki and Naomi helped me change the genoa for a working gib – a smaller sail that has been converted with kiwi slides to fit into the furler. The working gib has a high angled foot so is better suited to sailing the relatively crowded waters of the Hauraki Gulf, where I figured good visibility is essential. With gib installed, we sat down to enjoy a beer – “Number One”, the beer of New Caledonia that we had enjoyed when we were there last year, and I had saved for when Viki and Naomi joined me and Honey. We ran out of time to go for a sail, and headed ashore for lunch before Viki and Naomi were due to leave and make their way back to the airport. Once I farewelled them both, I headed back down to the beach and caught up with Julie, my mother-in-law and her partner Geoff, who were travelling in their motor home around the North Island, and had caught the ferry over to Waiheke Island for the afternoon. We headed out to Honey and had a good catch up, basking in the warmth in the cockpit, Julie and I both jumping into the water to cool off. With the afternoon passing, Julie and Geoff needed to catch their return ferry, and after our farewells they made their way to the bus while I set off to top up my provisions. What a wonderful social weekend this had been!
Viki and Naomi sorting out the working gib with me
Relaxing with Number 1 beers

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