Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas at Great Barrier Island

I am anchored in lovely Wairahi Bay on Great Barrier Island. My friends, Mike and Karen, on 'Chapter 2' are anchored nearby and we are spending Christmas here together.

The passage from the North Island of New Zealand was slow but mostly pleasant. The wind died down around 1 am and swung into the SE and I tacked slowly out to the island, putting in a couple of extra tacks to avoid one end of Little Barrier Island. A 3/4 moon helped light the way and later when it set, my wake kicked up alarmingly bright jets of phosphorescence. Overnight sailing on your own is made difficult by the temptation to sleep. I took short naps starting around 5 am with the alarm clock set to wake me every 15-20 minutes. It was a good thing I did keep a watch as a freighter inbound for Auckland passed within 1/2 a mile of us around 2 am.

I dropped the hook first in Kiwiriki Bay around 8 am, having first looked into all but one of the inlets of Port Fitzroy for my friends on 'Chapter 2'. We had provisionally agreed to meet here for Christmas, but I had not received a confirmation from them and my last email to them had mentioned I would likely stay in McCleod's Bay. However, after I anchored, I tried a call on the VHF and they answered right away. They were anchored around less than a kilometer away, just out of sight of my casual reconnaissance. I pulled up the hook and slipped around the corner to Wairahi Bay.

Later that day I rowed ashore and hiked up the hill following a cow path. The trail came out on a 4WD road, which led to pastures on the south side of the island looking back towards Little Barrier Island. Much of the land here is over-grazed, with poor sandy soil that erodes easily when stripped of its natural vegetation. Several hundred acres of pasture appeared to support only a few cattle. I walked along the rugged south coast - fringed by sea cliffs, pebble beaches, and dotted with crimson flowering 'Christmas Trees'. The coastal trail ended at a pebble beach where a lone kayaker was camped, presumably enjoying a reclusive Christmas. He answered my greetings with a "How are you going?" (a common New Zealand greeting) and disappeared immediately into his tent. I found another road leading up from the beach that, by pure luck, led directly back to the pasture above my dinghy landing.

The rain began the next day as the remains of cyclone Evan passed overhead, My re-caulking job on the genoa track began to leak worse than it had before I made the repair and so far I have gone through 3 towels trying to stem the flow. Hopefully the rain will abate on Boxing Day and I can locate and caulk the leaks.

Christmas Eve was blustery and wet, but I prepared a dinner of Chicken and vegetable crepes, herbed rice, and a Greek salad which I shared with Mike and Karen. Today - Christmas Day - I spent most of the day on board 'Chapter 2', first enjoying champagne and smoked salmon for breakfast and later roast lamb and all the trimmings for dinner, topped off with a light repast of cheeses and port in the evening. In between all the fine dining, we watched a movie and discussed our plans for the next few years. I wish Rani could have been here to share this wonderful day, although she would not have been impressed by how far I have fallen off the wagon as a vegetarian!

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