I am on watch as we coast down to the entrance to the Bay of Islands. It is 0430, Venus is rising to port and the lighthouses wink at me to starboard. I think we timed it just right :) We should see the land clearly at sunrise.
We turned on the engine for 5 hours yesterday as the wind lay down completely and the sea became glossy calm. Ladybug had 43 miles to run but as Trish on "Gulf Harbour Radio" likes to put it, we could see the barn door. It seemed a shame after all those quiet days and the lovely sailing breeze we had enjoyed during the last few days.
Maybe God was listening to my thoughts because at 2130 a light WSW breeze began to rustle the mainsail. We switched off the engine and were soon tacking up towards the north cape. It was slow going with a knot or more of current against us but the seas were almost flat.
We sailed all night, using the radar and frequent visual scans of the horizon to avoid running into any fishing boats or cargo ships. The stars and partial moon were guiding our way. I could see the legendary Maori "sail of Tainui", the Southern Cross and the Magellan nebulae quite clearly. Despite the chilly temperature in the cockpit I sat out there for a long time enjoying this last night of our cruise.
At sunrise we were almost at the entrance to the Bay of Islands and Cape Wiwiki glowed like a welcome beacon. Lots of little birds were flying around, fishing and swimming close to Ladybug. A ketch flying its full set of sails was tacking up from Cape Brett and another sailboat was motor-sailing from the east. The spinner dolphins did not show up despite my messages.
Chris woke up to enjoy the scenery unfolding as another day was born. It was wonderful to see the grassy hillsides and trees standing to attention on top of one cliff. We could smell the sweetness of the land! We had arrived!
Sadly, the wind deserted us shortly thereafter. We enjoyed a hot tea, called NZ Maritime Radio to revise our ETA and motored the remaining 12 miles into Opua. There were dozens of boats ranging from jetskis to 50 footers fishing in the bay, so we had to weave our way carefully in the narrow parts of the channel.
As we approached the quarantine dock, a couple of women shouted and waved madly from the marina club house. They were our friends Anne from "Charisma" and Deb from "Buena Vista", calling "Welcome to New Zealand!". That cry was echoed many times as other people saw us go by. What a wonderful feeling! We had truly made it to New Zealand!