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).

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Cruising the Hauraki Gulf (6th - 16th March)

The weather forecast showed this wonderful weather turning in a couple of days time, so on Monday morning I was keen to be on my way to make the most of it while it lasted. I upped anchor from Oneroa before 9am, passing over the spot showing as Honey's destination on the Oracle. There were less than forty yachts anchored in the bay, the majority having departed on Sunday afternoon. With light winds and both the mainsail and headsail raised, I slowly sailed north, passing between D'Urville Rocks and Ahaaha Rocks, heading in the direction of Kawau Island. Passing outside of Tiritiri Matangi Island, and then between Kawau Island and Flat Rock, the wind dropped off and we motor sailed across Omaha Bay into Omaha Cove. After topping up the diesel tank, and anchoring in the cove, I rowed to shore, keen to walk up to the town of Leigh.

My very first memories are from when I was 3 ½ years old and sailing with my parents from Auckland to the Bay of Islands on a H28 yacht, and my absolute first memory was walking up a big hill with Mum and Dad, holding Dad's hand, and where the hill flattened at its top there was a shop where we bought a sand castle set – I had been told this was Leigh and I was keen to revisit the place of my first memory and see if it was as I remembered it. As I walked up the hill there was nothing familiar, but once I turned the final bend and saw the Leigh General Store in front of me, it was exactly as I had remembered it! The store was even painted the same blue colour and they still sold the same sand castle sets! I bought an icecream and excitedly told the shop keeper that I hadn't been here since I was 3 ½ and it was lovely to see it just the same.

The Leigh General Store, just as I had remembered it!

Honey and I stayed in Omaha Cove that night. Dad was due to join me for a long weekend from Thursday, and was keen to visit Great Barrier Island. With the weather due to turn I decided I would head to Great Barrier Island the following day so I could be tucked up on Tuesday evening before the storm was due to hit, then Dad could fly out to meet me.

I was up at first light on Tuesday morning, eager to visit the Goat Island marine reserve before I went to Great Barrier Island. Honey and I motored the short distance from Omaha Cove around Cape Rodney, anchoring on the south west side of Goat Island. Matt had recommended feeding frozen peas to the snapper who would almost eat out of your hand. Without a freezer I had no frozen peas, but armed with a bag of dried peas and mixed vegetables, I jumped into the water with snorkel mask and flippers. It wasn't long before the snapper, heaps of them and some pretty large ones, were swimming up to me and snapping their mouths at the peas – very cool! As well as snapper there were some smaller fish, terakihi I think. I didn't spot any blue cod that I was later told are so large that they attack and terrorise the crayfish!

Snapper at Goat Island

After my swim I stowed the dinghy, ate a quick breakfast and readied Honey for the day sail across to Great Barrier Island. Lifting anchor I motor sailed towards the south end of Little Barrier Island in light winds. Half way across Jellicoe Channel, the water between Little Barrier Island and the North Island, I motor sailed into the middle of a huge pod of dolphins that seemed to stretch for many miles, heralded by some spectacular acrobatics that held me captivated for several minutes! The winds were due to build from the north and shift towards the north east, and as I left the dolphins behind the winds picked up sufficiently to have a lovely beam sail across to Little Barrier Island, passing close enough to read the notices that landing is not permitted. There were a few sharks off the south east corner of the island, which I am told were most likely bronze whalers. Leaving the lee of the island the winds had picked up more and from the north east as forecast, now blowing 20 knots. A gust whipped the working gib out from the furler, leaving it flapping furiously, held up only by the halyard and at the bottom of the luff. I tried to lower the sail, but with no working autohelm I could not keep Honey facing into the wind. Turning down wind the sail lowered and dropped into the water, and with the wind filling part of the sail and the sea the remainder I still had no luck with retrieving the sail. Turning back into the wind, the gusts whipped the sail back out of the water, I raised the sail up and turned again towards the lee of Little Barrier Island, which was fortunately only just over a mile away. It was clear there was no way I could lower the sail with the wind blowing relatively strongly, and if I didn't get it down soon it would tear. Tucked in behind the lee of the island, just offshore from the 'No Landing Permitted' sign and out of the strongest of the wind, I easily dropped the gib and stowed it away, deciding to continue under motor with assistance only from the mainsail.

The Approach to Little Barrier Island

With one reef in the main, Honey and I motored towards the southern end of the Broken Islands, keeping north of Horn Rock which is about half way across Craddock Channel. The wind continued to build to about 25 knots from the north east, as had been forecast, and once we reached False Head I maneovred Honey around all the small islets in the approach to the Man O'War Passage which marks the entry into Port Fitzroy. The passage is very narrow, only 0.05 miles wide, which makes Port Fitzroy almost land-locked and free from any swell. With storm force easterly winds forecast, we headed for shelter in one of the bays on the eastern side – Kaiarara Bay. It has been a few weeks since I had seen Ian and Marcia on Rose of Therese, and I half expected I might see them at Great Barrier – sure enough they were anchored in Kaiarara Bay! There were already about 20 boats at anchor in the bay and we made our way around the boats to a nice sheltered position in the south east corner. I dropped the anchor and went to set it, but I couldn't get it to dig in. By the time I had pulled the anchor in and attempted to set it two more times – with each time it dragging, a chap from a neighbouring yacht rowed over to me – he explained that the mud in the harbour is very light and silty, and it would be hard to get my anchor to hold. Honey's main anchor is a delta. With the daylight fast disappearing and the strong winds forecast, I made my way to one of the moorings on the north side of the bay, resolving to change to my danforth anchor in the morning.

The wind picked up that night, gusting to over 40 knots, and Honey was buffeted from side to side. About 2am I woke up with a start – with a bang and then a chap shouting “your boat is on mine!”, and I rushed on deck. It was pitch dark, wet and windy, and my first thought was that Honey had dragged the mooring block – I am always a bit nervous picking up an unknown mooring. But it soon became clear that the other boat had fallen back onto Honey – the skipper said that he wouldn't have dragged, that he had too much scope out on his anchor, but I had my doubts. He pulled in his anchor and headed further out into the bay clear of the other boats, and I went back to bed. In the morning, he returned on his paddle board to check if he had done any damage – a skin fitting on the port side was broken, and he apologised and paddled off in the opposite direction of his boat saying he had checked the weather forecast a day or two previously and didn't believe the storm was coming! I had heard on the VHF that the front had just hit not far from where we were and the chatter was to 'brace yourself, it's a goodie', and within 5 minutes the Tasman Tempest was upon us, with heavy rain and winds whistling down the bay. The mooring I had picked up was outside the Jetty Tourist Lodge, and I called them up and they kindly allowed me to stay on the mooring a further night and assured me that it had a decent 2 Tonne block and was in survey. Honey and I hunkered down for the rest of the day to weather out the storm – the winds continued to build and reached their maximum at about 10pm that night, at 60 knots in the Colville Channel just over 10 miles away.

The winds and rain of the Tasman Tempest starting to set in at Kaiarara Bay

The following morning, Thursday 9th March, dawned a little brighter – raining but not as heavy, although still blowing a gale. Dad was due to arrive in the afternoon but I was unsure whether the flight would be cancelled with the wild weather. There is no public transport on Great Barrier Island, only taxis, and it was going to be very expensive to get a taxi ride from the Claris airstrip to Port Fitzroy, a much cheaper option was for Dad to get a taxi to Whangaparapara Harbour – but that meant that I had to run the gauntlet through the storm and sail Honey from Port Fitzroy to Whangaparapara. I thought I would have a sheltered run down to the Broken Islands, but once I had cleared the Junction Islands the full force of the winds would be on Honey's nose while I covered the approx 3.5 miles to Whangaparapara. Dad was relieved when I said I would attempt the passage, and I readied Honey with storm gib on deck and danforth anchor in place of Honey's delta. The rain lifted, and just before 2.00pm I dropped the mooring and motored out of Port Fitzroy and south towards the Broken Islands. The hills provided good shelter, and I raised the fully reefed main just before my approach to Flat Island, and then raised the storm gib after I had cleared Rangiahua Channel which separates Flat Island from Great Barrier. Passing the Junction Islands, the weather didn't look as wild as I had thought, as I motorsailed towards Whangaparapara Harbour. Until I had covered the first mile, and then the force of the winds and the waves hit, stopping Honey in her tracks – my speed dropped to less than a knot and in the wrong direction as the 3 metre waves broke over Honey! It took over 1.5 hours for me to coax Honey the short distance into Whangaparapara Harbour, tacking back and forth, making only a few hundred metres good for every 2 mile zig and zag. I tracked my progress against the Pigeons, a small group of rocks surrounded by white water about 2 miles off Great Barrier, and was relieved when they were finally behind me. Once I cleared Whangara Island and within half a mile of the coast I was back into relative shelter, and now sodden wet made my way up the harbour towards the jetty outside Whangaparapara. Dad's flight had just landed, and the taxi delivered him to the jetty where I picked him up in Honey, dropping anchor just beyond the jetty. Dad arrived looking very tired, and when I asked him what he wanted to do he said just rest and sleep – with the weather so bad at least we weren't missing out on much. After a meal on board, we turned in for an early night.

After a lazy relaxing morning at anchor on Honey, I moved her alongside the jetty to fill up the water tank and then Dad and I took a short stroll through the very quiet village – I hadn't been ashore since Leigh and I was keen to stretch my legs. It was raining lightly, but before we got back to Honey it started pouring down, and we waited out the rain in the shelter next to the jetty, which was also filled with second hand books much to Dad's delight. Braving the rain we set out back towards Port Fitzroy, prepared for the winds and waves with three reefs in the main and the storm gib. When we left Whangaparapara Harbour, we found the wild weather had subsided, with winds of no more than 30 knots and waves down to about 1.5m. As Honey was under-powered with the sail set-up and we had only a short distance to cover, we motor sailed in the rain retracing my path from the previous day. The rain was heavy, but once we were past the Broken Islands, the heavens completely opened up. I put on a cap to stop the water streaming through my eyes, and Dad said he had never seen such heavy rain in his life. Two minutes later, the rain doubled in strength, just incredible! We entered into Port Fitzroy with the rain still pelting down, being buffeted by the occasional 50 knot plus gust, and made our way into Rarowharo Bay, where the Port Fitzroy village is located. We tucked into Warren's Bay behind Coigne Island, dropping anchor not far from two boats on moorings, taking care to ensure there was enough scope with the gale force winds forecast that night, but not so much that Honey would risk colliding with the moored boats. Making the most of the rain, I showered in the cockpit, the rain being heavy enough to wash away the suds! We had intended to go ashore and have dinner at the Port Fitzroy Boat Club, which we'd heard had great food, but with it so wet we opted to stay on board.

The winds whistled through the bay that night, with Honey being jostled back and forth. Fortunately Dad slept through most of the weather, and I got up at midnight when the winds were at their worst to sit on watch perched in the companionway under the shelter of the dodger. Honey held fast and swung very close to one of the moored yachts, to within a boat length. After about 2 hours when the winds eased, I crept back into my bunk for the remainder of the night.

The winds had eased to 25 knots with only light rain by morning, and with a pretty good forecast for that day – winds from the north east easing to 20 knots. The weather was forecast to whip up again the following day - Sunday, and Dad needed to be back in Auckland by mid afternoon to catch his flight home. Rather than risk a long day's sail in storm force winds the following day, we decided to sail off in the afternoon across the gulf to Kawau Island. Dad had brought a replacement autohelm drive with him and he wired on the plug whilst I put the working gib back on Honey's furler. Two of the kiwi slides had been torn off, so to avoid having a repeat of the gib pulling out of the furler track I would need to maintain two turns of the sail on the roller. I nosed Honey up to the Port Fitzroy wharf so that Dad could jump ashore and grab some supplies from the store, and then shortly before 1pm we headed off back through the Man O'War passage towards Kawau.

We had a lovely sail across to Kawau Island under full sail, with the winds blowing 15-20 knots from the north east. The rain stopped just before we left, and for the first time in days we even had patches of blue overhead. Dad had recharged from the rest he'd had over the last two days, and he was up sailing with me in the cockpit, tinkering with the wind pilot and dropping a fishing line to troll for fish. Dad caught five very large kawhai, and I caught one, all of which we threw back over board once we had landed them. Rounding the northern end of Kawau Island, we sailed down to Bon Accord Harbour and I dropped Dad off on the jetty outside the Kawau Boating Club at about 7.30pm, in time for last orders for dinner. After I had set Honey's anchor not far from the jetty, I paddle boarded ashore and caught up with Dad who had met and struck up a conversation with Don and Margie, two solo sailors living aboard their boats that were also anchored a little beyond the jetty. After we had tucked into our dinner – snapper and chips, yum! - and chatted with David the manager and a few other locals, we headed back to Honey – me on the paddle board and Dad with Don and Margie in Don's dinghy.

Dad and one of his large kawhai

The following morning, Sunday 12th March, we set off in good time at 9am, with a fairly terrible forecast – 40 knots of NE, changing 50 knots W at midday, and easing to 25 knots SW by the evening, and with heavy rain. Elliott had offered to pick up Dad to take him to the airport in the afternoon, and our plan A was to sail to Half Moon Bay Marina up the Tamaki River and be met there. With the bad weather, I had several back-up plans: plan B to sail to Waiheke Island where Dad could catch the ferry, plan C to Gulf Harbour Marina, plan D to Mahurangi Harbour and if the weather was really bad plan E was to make to Sandspit only about six miles from where we were anchored. There was a good 35 knots of NE blowing when we left Bon Accord Harbour, with the main sail fully reefed and the working gib partially furled – enough wind for a good fast sail and not so much that we needed to consider plan E. Skirting Martello Rock we sailed through the rain down the Inner Channel west of Moturekareka Island and then turning to pass north of Motuora Island towards the Whangaparoa Passage, passing inside of Tiritiri Matangi Island shortly before midday having averaged 6 knots. The wind eased, rain lifted and the sea flattened and once we were past Tiritiri Matangi I fully unfurled the gib (bar the two turns left on the furler) and we needed to start the engine to maintain even 5 knots. About 2 miles south of Whangaparoa Peninsula en route to the Rangitoto Channel, it became clear that we were passing through the calm before the storm. Menacing black clouds approached us at pace from the west, and I had time to only ease the gib sheet before we were belted by 60 knot winds accompanied by teeming rain – the sting in the tail of the Tasman Tempest! I sent Dad into the cabin to wait out the worst of the weather with the washboards and hatch shut, whilst I struggled to furl in the hugely over-powered gib. I was not sailing with the autohelm as I didn't want to risk it getting waterlogged – I would need it for my long overnight passages on the journey south – and it was proving very problematic to steer Honey into the wind and furl in the gib at the same time. I couldn't uncleat the furling line to wrap it around the winch, as that would fully unfurl the gib and with the two broken kiwi slides tear it clean out of the furler. Fighting against the wind which by now had eased to 50 knots, I pulled the line with one wrap around the winch and Dad poked his head out of the cabin suggesting that with the front past he could steer Honey while I furl in the gib. This made for quick work in furling up the gib, and I made a mental note to in future leave some turns of the furling line on the winch before I cleat it off. I turned Honey to head for the Rakino Passage knowing that we would struggle to make any headway towards the west in these winds, and Dad sat at the tiller while I went on deck to untangle the very large birdsnest that the wind had turned the two gib sheets into. With the winds now only blowing a gale, we partially unfurled the gib and sailed through the Rakino Passage and into the shelter behind Motutapu Island. It was just on 2pm and we judged that we would have sufficient time to make it to Half Moon Bay Marina, although with the spring low tide we would need to pass north of Brown Island before we turned into the Tamaki River mouth. The westerly was still whipping down the Motukorea Channel and as we passed Browns Island the depth gauge warned that we had very little clearance between Honey's keel and the ground, but we made it without further mishap into the Tamaki River, and on up to Half Moon Bay. Dad had been growing more anxious and irritable as the day had worn on, probably with concern about making his flight and his pending return to reality, and I called up the marina security to assist me with berthing Honey in the winds while Dad got himself packed and ready to leave. Safely berthed, Elliott arrived shortly afterwards to take Dad to the airport and returned to the marina to have a good look over Honey – and also exchange sailing stories! I had my first night away from Honey since I set off from the Sounds – no sooner had Elliott left when Pete and Charlie (who was celebrating his 7th birthday) arrived to take me back to their house in St Helliers where I enjoyed one of Fi's lovely home cooked meals!

I stayed with Pete and Fi for two nights – very comfortable and lovely to catch up with them, and so good to be warm and dry and to have all my washing done, although it did seem strange away from my swaying cocoon aboard Honey. Late morning on the Monday I did pop down to the marina – to complete my berth registration and start tidying up and drying out Honey after all the days Dad and I had spent traipsing in and out of her in the rain. And in the evening I took my first Uber ride across town to visit Rich, Flo and Sally in Ponsonby, and enjoyed another home cooked meal!

On Tuesday 14th March, Pete dropped me off early to Honey armed with some of Fi's baking – ginger crunch, good for seasickness! Once I had finished tidying and cleaning up, Honey and I headed out of the marina shortly after 9am, back towards Kawau Island so that I could have a better explore of the place. It was a clear sunny day, blowing 15 knots from the south west, and we re-traced our path from the two days prior but this time sailing through the Rangitoto Channel to the west of Rangitoto Island. It was a lovely day on the water under full sail, passing through the Inner Channel on route to Bon Accord Harbour, where I dropped anchor in Harris Bay opposite the Kawau Boating Club. Margie motored over in her dinghy to say hello soon after I arrived, but she couldn't linger as she was needed at the boating club where there was to be an attempt to get rid of ghosts that were said to be haunting the place – I never did hear how successful this was! A host of other yachts and power boats dropped anchor around Honey, and Paul on one of the boats motored over and invited me for drinks with them. I duly accepted and after I'd finished my dinner joined them for a fantastic evening aboard – they were a big group of friends who worked for Air New Zealand, and this was their annual regatta in the gulf comprising a boating and fishing weekend. After drinks and freshly caught snapper bites, out came the guitars and boating play lists and we had sing-a-longs well into the night!

Wednesday dawned a beautiful warm sunny day, with a strong breeze blowing from the south. After a relaxing morning aboard Honey, waving good-bye as most of the Air New Zealand crowd departed, I set off on my paddleboard to Mansion House Bay. There are several walking tracks on the island, although a number of these were closed whilst DoC was assessing the stability of the ageing pines on the island. I wandered along one of the open tracks that dropped down to the old disused copper mine, with the remains of the coppermine engine house standing out along the shore – this was used unsuccessfully in the 1850s to pump sea water from the copper mines that were mostly below sea level. After a good stretch of the legs, walking back to Mansion House via Dispute Cove and Ladys Bay, I paddled back to Honey and readied her for the sail the following day across the gulf and back to Great Barrier Island.

The view along the Mansion House Bay jetty

The remains of the coppermine engine house

The view south from Kawau with the coppermine and surrounding islands

Mansion House

The forecast for Thursday was for 20 knots from the SE, easing to 15 knots in the evening, which meant I would be sailing into the wind. Honey and I set off shortly after 8.30am, out from Bon Accord Harbour and south around Kawau Island passing through Rosario Channel. The wind was coming almost directly from the east and was straight on the nose until I had passed Challenger Island and then Flat Rock. I then set the headsail and sailed in a ENE direction towards Great Barrier Island, pleased to be averaging 5 knots. With the wind direction, I was unable to sail Honey directly towards Tryphena Harbour, where I was intending to anchor overnight, steering instead in towards Blind Bay. After a few tacks and by this point becoming a little weary with the head on seas, we passed Amodeo Rocks and made our way into Tryphena, dropping the pick in one of the eastern bays in the harbour just before 6pm.

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't be written any better. Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!
    pool deck Wellington