Saturday, December 8, 2012

Whangamumu and Tutukaka

Ladybug departed Opua yesterday after a brief stop to re-water at the fuel dock. As we left, 'Picara' with Mike and Marnie on board pulled in to the quarantine wharf. I believe 'Picara' is the last of our friends in the 'third fleet' to arrive safely in New Zealand from Tonga. 'Legacy', 'Beau Soleil', and 'Gato Go' had come in a day or two earlier. It was good to see them and say hello, though only for a minute, as no one is allowed on the quarantine dock except new arrivals from offshore.

The heavy winds had departed when the low moved off to the southeast and only a few dark clouds remained to remind me of the rather unpleasant few days we had just gone through. Ladybug motored down the Veronica Channel on the last of the ebb and we hoisted sail off Russell, where a very light westerly wind was blowing onshore. As we sailed through the Bay of Islands, the wind remained light and shifty, making progress slow. But I did not mind in the least.

The scenery in the Bay of Islands is stunning - picture some of the best hill walking in England combined with ocean views, sandy beaches, and precipitous drop-offs. I am really looking forward to exploring this area with Rani. Because much of it is in nature reserves, it is both protected and accessible. Hiking trails ring many islands and there are ridge walks out to the points.

An ex-America's cup boat, now under day charter, motored out of Opua behind us. She put up her massive sails and was fast gaining on us when the wind died. She got tired of the slow progress and motored past. We came up next on a robust steel ketch, painted Ladybug-red, jigging along under jib and mizzen. Flying more sail, we were soon past her and entering Albert Channel, bound for Cape Brett. I was sorely tempted to stop for a day in one of the many sheltered coves amongst these islands, but Whangerei beckoned and I hoped to catch the last day of a sale on camping gear in town on Tuesday.

The open ocean swell sets into the mouth of Albert channel and bounces around, after reflecting off cliffs, blow holes, and sea caves. We made slow progress until the wind shifted into the north and allowed us to harden in the sheets and beat directly for the cape. I decided to pass close by Cape Brett, inside of two off-lying islands. The lighthouse and buildings at the cape hang precariously to the sides of a very steep hill. The light itself has a short tower with a large light perched on top. It was this welcoming beacon we had watched for hours during the night of our approach to New Zealand.

The wind died out past the cape and after bouncing around for an hour, I decided to call it a day and motored into Whangamumu harbour. This is a lovely almost landlocked harbour with the ruins of a 1930's whaling station. The hills are full of bird song and inviting paths criss-cross open fields. I had been told this is a popular place with local cruisers, but it must still be early in the season, for there were only a couple of boats here when I dropped the hook.

When the wind re-appears, I plan to head south another 25 or 30 miles to the delightfully named Tutukaka harbour, which has a marina and good anchorages, about half way to Whangerei harbour.

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