Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tentative Cruising Plans

We have been grappling with the tension between travelling, time with our families, and re-establishing a home/work base back in Canada. After much debate and working through a dozen different scenarios, we have decided to continue our travels for about another 18 months. We will start a 6 week car camping trip through New Zealand in a couple of days. In April we will return to Canada and the UK to visit our families and in May I will haul out  Ladybug and repaint her bottom.

From New Zealand we plan to sail in May to Fiji and on through New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Kiribati, to the Marshall Islands , which we should reach near the end of 2013. We will spend a few months in the Marshalls, which are relatively safe from Hurricanes and then sail north via Midway Island to Prince Rupert in BC. From there we plan to return to Duncan via the Queen Charlottes and the outside of Vancouver Island. We should arrive in Duncan in late summer/early fall.

All of this is open to change, but at least we have a rough idea of what the next couple of years hold! 

Photos from our first 2 months in New Zealand

Following are some pictures from our visit to Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf plus a couple from the Whangarei area (McLeod Bay)

View from our friends Jo and Rob's window in McLeod Bay. Ladybug is anchored in the bay  in the centre of the image.

Boat sailing into Auckland, off Devonport

Mount Manaia from Jo and Rob' s home - a wonderful hike

Auckland waterfront

Sky city tower from the anchorage south of the Bay Bridge  in Auckland

In the lava tubes on Rangitoto volcanic island
Lava tubes on Rangitoto Island
Lava flow - Rangitoto Island

Pohutukawa  (Christmas) tree in flower

Hiking on Kawau Island

Weka - flightless bird on Kawau Island

Old glass at the remains of a dairy on Kawau Island (replaced as found, of course!)

Mansion House Bay, Kawau Island

View from the mansion window 

Tree ferns  towering over Chris - Kawau Island

Old  Pohutukawa Tree on Kawau Island - note the gnarly aerial roots

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Blustery Days

We set off to Great Barrier Island on Friday early in the morning (6.30am) to avoid the heavy winds expected later that afternoon. It took us a couple of hours' beating to sail away from Kawau Island and we set a GPS waypoint off Horn Rock. The wind varied from 10-15 Knots from the east with short choppy seas. Chris was busy reefing and un-reefing the main every 15 to 30 minutes until around 10.30am when it freshened up to over 20 knots. The seas were building and the rail was awash shortly thereafter. The sky was darkening to the east and we could see dense rain following. The Hauraki Gulf forecast was for 25-30K SE winds but it was definitely from the east and in our face. So we hummed and hawed for a few minutes and made a prudent decision to head for Whangarei instead. The wind was consistent and we were making 6-7 knots plus until we double reefed the main to take some pressure off the wind vane.On a beam reach with some of the jib furled we were still managing to average 5 Knots. Occasionally the sea would wash over the hood of the main hatch so we tried to stay inside the cabin with Chris timing his forays into the cockpit with care to adjust the steering vane or jib. We only saw one other sailboat during the passage, also heading up north and much faster than us. It was bigger than Ladybug, of course.

The river mouth at Whangarei was stirred up like a cauldron with mist flying everywhere, making it very hard to see the entrance buoys. We had to resort to manual steering as the ferocious wind gusts screamed down Busby Head. I yelled out the distance to the buoys as Chris wrestled with the tiller to take us safely into the harbour. We had been thinking of anchoring at Urquhart Bay near the entrance but when we saw the whitecaps in there we carried on up the channel to McLeod Bay. We located a swing mooring belonging to friends of friends using our GPS.  Chris nearly had his arms pulled out of their sockets on our first attempt to secure the mooring line as I put the gear in neutral and the wind blew Ladybug backwards. I went to lend him a hand but tumbled backwards with his weight on top. Getting up quickly I sprinted back to the cockpit and put the boat into gear. Our second attempt was successful as I kept the boat going forward to counteract the force of the wind. It was such a relief to go down below for a nice of tea and know that we were safe!

This is the fourth day of swinging around our mooring, the wind sounding like a super jet coming down on a runway during the 35 knot gusts. Our rows ashore to visit our friends Rob and Jo on the hill overlooking our boats have been challenging but great fun. Maybe it will be down to 25 knots when we return tonight! Chris is helping Rob with his building project while I catch up with emails and other internet tasks at their trailer.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hiking Again!

My six weeks in England were mostly restful, visiting my parents and sister. The typically wet and cold winter weather was hardly conducive to outings except for one Sunday when my niece drove us to a National Trust historic house. There we enjoyed a lovely ramble in the beautiful gardens and deer park.

So, back to the wilderness of New Zealand. I was overjoyed when we landed on Rangitoto Island for a hike up to the volcanic peak with a few diversions into the lava tubes. Our head lamps allowed us a closer look at the brilliant crystals embedded in the tunnel walls and prevented us from stumbling on loose rocks and roots underfoot. Surprisingly enough part of the trail wound its way through a fairly dense forest of ferns and trees, pohutukawa being the major one. Panoramic views from atop the volcano were somewhat dulled by the thick grey clouds over Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf.

The following day was sunnier and we trekked across Motutapu Island to Home Bay. This trail hugged the fences between undulating fields of golden grasses. The hilltops afforded spectacular views over the pastoral landscape of the island with cows grazing along the trail and under copses of trees. At the campground in Home Bay, the feisty north wind was whipping up the sea into surfy conditions. Most of the campers were sunbathing on the grass around the campsites but some were brave enough to venture into the water. I am gaining a new respect for New Zealanders - they obviously love the water and are not afraid of the cold. We sat a while gazing at the sea and enjoyed a picnic of crackers, aged cheddar, fresh vegetables and Cadbury's Roses.

I must confess that both hikes left my legs aching a little and I slept deeply at night.

On Kawau Island yesterday we ventured out shortly after supper and strolled along Schoolhouse Bay Road to a lookout over Dispute Cove. The trail reminded me of Vancouver Island as we trod on a springy forest floor covered in pine needles. However, the tall tree ferns and exotic bird calls were not in keeping with memories of home. A flightless bird called the weka crossed our paths many times and did not scare easily. It looks a lot like a small hen with chocolate and rust coloured feathers but it's jerky head movements are quite distinct. Our return at dusk was rewarded by sightings of half a dozen wallabies. Most were too fast and we just glimpsed a furry animal hopping into the bush. But a couple of them froze for a few moments as if we were playing statues and we made eye contact. They are about 3 feet in height, have small mouse-like faces, big eyes and ears. They are certainly not native to New Zealand and are survivors from a collection of exotic animals brought to the island by Sir George Grey in the 1860's. Sir Grey bought the island for $3,700 in 1862 and sold it in 1888 for $12,000. During his ownership he created a stately home which is currently under restoration.

This morning we hiked to the historic Georgian style Mansion House. I was most impressed by the variety of trees on the property, especially the giant Moreton Bay Fig, Bunya-Bunyas, Hoop Pine, Chilean Wine Palms, Queens Palms and Norfolk Pines. The house has period furniture and some beautiful engravings of royal paintings from the Victorian era. There were many visitors to the site today from Auckland, enjoying a picnic in the gardens or a cooked lunch from the tea house/kiosk. We treated ourselves to an ice-cream cone with Flake chocolate bits which I had brought from England - yummy!

Tomorrow morning we shall set sail to Great Barrier Island.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sailing to Kawau

The passage from Rangitoto Island to Kawau Island is only about 25 miles as the crow flies. But with a head wind, a few corners, and moderate currents, we probably sailed more than 35 miles yesterday.

Most of the boats in Islington Bay were anchored on the other side of the bay due to the wind direction, which made it easy for us to sail out the anchor. The only complication was the arrival of a large vessel-carrying barge, which arrived at the ramp just behind us as we were pulling up the anchor. They were unable to line up their ramp with the land ramp, but the captain was good at his job and avoided little Ladybug as he backed out to try again. We used the main alone to sail out the anchor, which was heavy with the thick sticky grey volcanic mud that makes this anchorage such a secure one.

Despite the volcanic nature of Rangitoto, the waters around it are shallow and we had to take care with our navigation as we sailed downwind out of the bay and rounded the island. The waters between Rangitoto and Auckland are also thin and we were rarely in more than 40 feet. I would guess that two things account for this - the gradual slope of the volcano, whose sides run out in a gentle plane and a thick layer of sedimentary soil from the mainland. We made good use of our little navigation netbook computer, running OpenCPN with the recently updated New Zealand raster charts. Rani watched our 'progress' on the chart and called out warnings and adjustments to me at the helm.

To port, we had clear views of Auckland's skyline, with Devenport and its lovely sand beach in the foreground. As we rounded the south side of Rangitoto, a white and red striped lighthouse perched on jagged black rock was our guide to starboard. A northeast wind of 12-15 knots meant that we would be beating our way up to Kawau into a moderately rough one meter sea. Ladybug is not at her best in these conditions, but we tucked two reefs in the main, unfurled the full jib, and lashed the helm in place, leaving her to make her way towards the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. There were a few sailboats out but most were heading in the other direction, so we did not feel obliged to 'race'.

Near Gulf Harbour on the peninsula, we put in a tack and beat toward Tiritiri Matangi island. On this tack we noticed a large yacht flying the Maltese flag beating up from Auckland on the opposite tack. The big yacht was pointing at least 10 degrees closer to the wind than Ladybug and hardly seemed to notice the short steep seas. Swallowing our envy, we passed just behind her and tacked to follow her through the channel between Tiritiri and the mainland. The current in the channel was flooding and setting us back and to port and we barely cleared the evil looking reefs on the end of the Whangaparaoa Pensinsula.

Once past the peninsula we were able to crack off the wind a few degrees and another 8 miles saw us weaving through the maze of little islands and reefs that guard the south approaches to Kawau Island. I pointed out to Rani where, in the 1920's the voyage of the Teddy had ended on a reef off Challenger Island. Erling Tambs and his wife and two very small children - a newborn girl and a toddler boy had swum ashore through the surf after their engineless sailboat was swept onto the rocks by a strong current. Here is a short quote from their book - "The Cruise of the Teddy". The wind had died out and a current had swept Teddy onto the point despite attempts to row the boat clear using a sweep:

"Now we were close against it. We felt the lift of the surge:
cold breaths of a moisture-laden atmosphere chilled us. My
heart shrank within me: Teddy's end was near.

We struck the first time. I felt how the rocks crunched beneath
our keel. Teddy heeled over hard, then, righting herself was
lifted again and carried onward, past the point, right into
the breakers..."

Enough said - I do recommend this book if you can get your hands on a copy - my copy is from the Mariner's Library published by Grafton Books.

One more tack and we ran into the mouth of Bon Accord harbour, where we turned on the engine, dropping the hook in peaceful Schoolhouse Bay in time for supper.

Auckland stay

Rani arrived a week ago in Auckland where I met her downtown at the ferry terminal/bus station. Earlier that day I had moved Ladybug from the anchorage near the Bay bridge into Pier 21 marina. This small marina is adjacent to the downtown and I was lucky to secure a slip whose owner was away for a few days.

In the following days, while Rani recovered from the 35 hour trip from the UK, we explored Auckland and re-provisioned for the voyage north to Whangerei. We visited the Auckland art gallery and museum - both of which I would highly recommend to visitors. The museum has a particularly impressive Maori/Polynesian floor with thousands of artifacts, masses of detailed information, and two large reconstructed houses. Entry is by donation to both facilities.

We found Auckland to be a delightful city with pedestrian shopping areas, many small parks, and a well thought out waterfront that blends working industrial areas with public spaces, restaurants, and walk-ways. On Saturday, we were walking through an area of grain silos on the waterfront where we came across a crowd of people sitting on blankets and in folding chairs. It turns out that each week a movie is projected for free on one of the grain silos - this week's screening was "Top Guns".

We also did some work on the boat including fitting a new head (toilet). The old one had a difficult to fix leak and a cracked pump housing. Replacement parts for the housing and a service kit would have come to nearly $700, so I opted for a new $250 Jabsco head. Few projects on a boat are straight forward. Because the new toilet has a different shaped base with different spaces between the bolt holes, this required me to redrill the stainless steel support plate. (This plate raises the head above the waterline, making an anti-siphon valve unnecessary). Stainless steel is very hard and hence difficult to drill. I was completely unsuccessful in doing this with my own drill and bits. Borrowing my neighbors drill and two sets of bits from other boaters was equally unsuccessful. Fortunately, our marina neighbor, Grant (whom I met out on Great Barrier Island) knew of a local machine shop and convinced one of the workers to let us use their drill press. The holes were still difficult to make, even with a large, slow speed drill press, sharp bits, and cutting oil!

We left Auckland a few days ago to visit Rangitoto and Kawau Islands en route to Great Barrier Island.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Some notes on sailing in the Auckland area

If you end up here, one of the best places to go on your way in and out of Auckland itself is Islington Bay on Rangitoto Island. The bay does get a lot of ferry wash, and it is best to anchor quite far in and on the west side to avoid rolling.

The other popular nearby island is Waiheke where I visited only two of the dozen or more anchorages. It is a populated island, being so close to Auckland and is served by a (very) high speed ferry. I stayed at Putiki Bay on the south side where there is an extensive anchorage outside the mooring fields. There is a funky community of house boats and live-aboards in an arm of this bay and apparently a good grocery store, which I failed to find on my walk around the area.

The other bay I visited on Waiheke was Man o' War Bay, which is on the east side of the island. This is wilder and there is a good hike up a very steep hill to a field filled with huge boulders, apparently dropped here during an eruption of a nearby volcano. Some of these rocks are massive - Stonehenge sized - and it would have really sucked to be having a picnic in that particular field on that particular day! The views from this area (called Stony Hill) are very lovely. You look out over turquoise waters of a bay filled with little islands, each having its idyllic looking sandy beach.

Sailing into Auckland, as I did yesterday, can be a challenge. It was a Sunday and every fisherman in the area was out anchored in the various channels between the islands. As a single-hander, I had my work cut out for me, dodging little anchored boats, and trying to stay out of the way of high speed catamaran ferries. The wash from these ferries and the large pleasure launches throws the wind out of your sails. Still I persevered and sailed right up Auckland's harbour past the container piers and right under the Bay Bridge.

On this passage, just about everyone overtook me, not just because Ladybug is slow and her bottom fouled, but because New Zealander sailors seem to use their motors even when under full sail. I was quite surprised by this at first, but after bouncing around at the harbour entrance in the repeated washes of a half dozen ferries, I can see why the locals hurry on past this point.

As I sailed up the main harbour, one the old New Zealand defenders of the America's Cup came past with its sails poorly trimmed and a paying tourist at the helm. She was concentrating like mad, but looked like she was having the time of her life. The boat was made of carbon fiber - all black except where she was plastered in advertising. The New Zealanders are rightly proud of their racing success and there is a whole exhibit devoted to the Americas Cup at the maritime museum downtown.

The wind came around directly in front of me as I reached the Bay Bridge, forcing me to beat through under the main span, narrowly missing the north column. Tacking Ladybug with her inner forestay can be a pain in a high wind and after a mile or so of tacking up the river, I gave up and sailed back down to anchor just to the south west of the bridge.

Anchoring under sail is a challenge I really enjoy and I am trying to get in lots of practice before Rani comes back to provide the voice of reason. In this case, she would have been quite justified, for the anchorage in question is a small area of reasonable depth almost entirely enclosed by shoal water, a small island, a prohibited anchorage pipeline area, and a mooring field. There was only one other boat with a crew on board to witness my entry. I came in under main alone and left the sail up but loose as I dropped the hook. Unfortunately I did not allow for a 1-2 knot current which sent me off in the opposite direction from the wind. The anchor sure dug in well with the full force of a mainsail drawing in 15 knots of wind! I tried to look like I had meant to anchor that way and I must have fooled the other boaters, because they came over later to ask me for information about mooring here, assuming I was a local.

The anchorage is close to downtown and today I risked leaving Ladybug on her own and walked into the city to scope out the marina where I will stay when I meet Rani in a couple of days.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Climbing Rangitoto Volcano

Rangitoto erupted in the first half of the 19th century, in what must have been a spectacular show for nearby Auckland. Sketches of the island from the 1840's show a 3 peaked black volcanic mass rising from fields of jagged volcanic rocks with only a thin scattering of brambles and bushes. The wife of a surveyor who made the ascent at this time described how her boots were ruined by the jagged rocks and her dress (of merino wool) torn to ribbons as they scrambled to the summit. It took them 3 hours of hard work and I am amazed they did it in this time, as even today with a good road, it took me more than half that.

The way to the summit from the anchorage at Islington Bay uses roads that I suspect were built by the defence forces prior to and during World War II. This island was a major part of the Auckland defenses, with an observation tower built at the top of the volcano at enormous expense (30,000+ British pounds in the 1930's). I can easily see the difficulty of getting materials to this point before the days of large transport helicopters. This post was established to direct gun batteries on nearby islands, but was used only for a year, after which it was moved to a more accessible location on Rangitoto. Other World War II building on the island included a mine storage depot (the waters nearby were mined to prevent foreign ships from entering Auckland harbour) and a substantial wharf and ramp, built by the American forces, which I used today to land my dinghy.

Rangitoto was also a summer vacation spot for many local New Zealanders who could lease a 'tent' site on public land for 4 pounds per annum. These so-called tents eventually grew roofs and walls and became bungalows. Most were built in the 1930's after which there was a moratorium on new permits as the government phased out construction of private dwellings on the public land. Some of the 'Baches', as the New Zealanders call their small summer cottages, are still occupied (under the terms of a life-time lease allowed in 1957) and the foundations of many are visible in the undergrowth around Islington Bay.

Getting back to the hike. the path follows roads through fields of magma and scattered rock. The vegetation that covers this island looks incongruous, for it is lush and green. Closer inspection shows that the smaller plants are all varieties with great ability to store water over long periods, having waxy, thick leaves. Even what looks at first like a grass or rush has thick blades that are closer in construction to aloe.

I left early and the Pohutakara trees glowed red in the morning light, bird song filled the air, and when I stopped I could hear the hum of insects in the background. A path off the main road climbs up through the forest to a series of lava tubes. The volcanic scree was covered here in mosses and the increasingly hot sun, tempered by the canopy.

At the lava tubes I met up with a young couple from Switzerland who were living in Auckland, studying English. They had come over for the day on the ferry, which makes several runs each day from Auckland. We explored the lava tubes together and then hiked the rest of the way to the summit. The view out over the crater is impressive, despite the vegetation, being nearly 200 feet deep and 700 wide. A trail winds around its circumference and at the summit there were viewing platforms. There were also many tourists from Auckland, including large contingents of Chinese exchange students.

The path down follows a well constructed board walk back to the road. The Dept of Conservation have done a fine job here as in all their other sites I have visited.

If you do this hike, I would suggest that early morning or later in the afternoon would be best to avoid the reflected heat from all the lava. Taking in the lava tubes on the way up and using the boardwalk to descend make sense, if you are coming from Islington Bay.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Good People

So far the New Zealanders I have met on the water and land have been delightful.

My latest acquaintances are Richard and Charlotte on the lovely motor yacht D'Urville. We had a spontaneous potluck on board their roomy 70 foot boat last night complete with two types of bubbly, and too much red wine. Richard and Charlotte are neighbors at the Pier 21 marina of Grant, Sebastian, and Lisa, whom I met out at Great Barrier Island just after Christmas. They were spending the holidays there on Lisa's boat, 'Bama Breeze'. Grant and his son Sebastian also live on board a boat in the same marina in central Auckland. I first met them while sailing the Walker Bay, because young Sebastian has the same type of dinghy and sailing rig. He is an excellent sailor and soundly whipped me in a race around the bay. Perhaps feeling sorry for me, Grant and Lisa invited me on board, offered me a drink, and sent me home with a freshly caught Kingfish fillet for supper. Since then we have had meals on board both boats and they have helped me line up a berth for Ladybug so I can meet Rani in a few days.

Another couple on a Beneteau 42 named George and Liz were also remarkably generous and helpful. I mentioned a few posts ago meeting them while hiking on Great Barrier Island. Well they sailed over to the bay I was anchored in after the hike and invited me to come into town (Port Fitzroy) with them on their boat the next day to do some shopping and refill our water jugs. Later they gathered clams and oysters and we had a fresh seafood potluck on Ladybug. They were both very helpful in suggestions about anchoring and cruising in the area as well as getting work done in Whangerei, where George comes from.

Other people I have met only briefly have offered me a place to stay if I visit Tauranga or the Coromandel. This after talking to them for maybe 10 minutes, telling them about our trip to New Zealand. I cannot think of too many places I have cruised where this would happen.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Kawau Island

Ladybug has been anchored in Bon Accord Bay on Kawau Island for the past few days. A strong south westerly wind will keep us here for another day, when the winds are predicted to swing into the north and help us to reach Auckland. Mike and Karen on 'Chapter 2' left this morning bound for Whangerei, where they have arranged to leave the boat while touring New Zealand by car.

Kawau Island was named by the Maori for the handsome white and black cormorant that nests here. The cormorant is a symbol of strength and leadership in Maori culture. The island was home to two distinct Maori groups and was the scene of intense fighting and competition over a type of small spotted shark that was harvested in the waters around the island and could be dried for year long sustenance. Maori sites on the island can be identified by being sited on points with cleared areas and earth works for defence.

The first whites to settle here established a sheep farm in the 1830s, but soon after manganese and then copper deposits were uncovered. The copper was found when people noticed a blue stain on the cliffs in one bay and the rocks in that area still show blue stains (copper oxide I think) where copper is leaching out of the rock. The copper mine shafts were dug under the ocean and a huge steam driven pump house erected to keep the ocean out. The sandstone pump house with its elegant Victorian brick chimney is still standing more than 150 years after it was built. The copper mine only operated for about 10 years in total, but resulted in various settlements totalling 300 people spread over half a dozen coves. A smelter was built across from where I am anchored because the ore was too dangerous to ship abroad due to its high sulfur content which could result in spontaneous combustion.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) owns and runs much of the southwest portion of the island and has developed an excellent network of trails. I have spent three enjoyable days poking around this end of the island, trying out new trails each day.

In the 1860s, Sir George Grey, governor of New Zealand bought the island as a retreat. He extended the copper mine manager's house turning it into an elaborate Victorian mansion. DOC is restoring this property and I went through the house, much of which is still open to the public during this work. The museum contains some original furniture (all rosewood) including several elaborate Victorian pieces with huge lion's claw feet. The panelling in the rooms is Kauri wood, stained red with ox blood. It is not a cozy house with its towering ceilings, dark furniture, and blood stained walls.

Governor Grey brought in exotic species of animals and plants in an effort to find foreign species that would do well in the area's mild climate. This had a predictably devastating effect on the local flora and fauna, but has left an interesting mix of local and foreign trees and plants as well as a few unusual animals.

Before arriving on the island, Grey had traveled extensively in South Africa and Australia. He brought in dozens of types of animals from these continents including 5 types of wallabies (small kangaroos), zebras (which he reportedly used to pull his carriage), deer, peacocks (from India), and monkeys. The zebras did not fare well due to the cold, the deer are now all gone, the monkeys did too well, were judged a pest, and were destroyed. The peacocks are still there and 4 out of the 5 wallaby varieties are still present. I had the pleasure of seeing two wallabies when returning from my walk yesterday around dusk.

The island is also home to two flightless birds - the Kiwi, which is nocturnal, but whose call can be heard at night in my bay, and the Weka, a bird of similar size and colour to the Kiwi, but with a shorter beak. The Weka is omnivorous and will eat just about anything. Active during the day, these birds are a common site, although rare on the mainland where they fall prey to cats and dogs.

The forests of the island are covered in huge pine trees - an introduced species that dominates the canopy. These trees are big - as big as the large rain forest trees on Canada's west coast. I measured one of the typical larger trees at 25 feet in circumference. I would estimate their heights at over 100 feet. Imagine my surprise when counting the rings on some of the fallen trees, to find they were only 45 to 70 years old! A local boater told me that they typically harvest these trees commercially at 25 years.

Tomorrow I hope to sail south to Tirititi Matangi - another nature reserve island, and then on to the volcanic cone of Rangitoto, which I hope to climb before I meet Rani in Auckland on the 16th.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Double rainbow

One of the advantages of living on the water is that I have seen a lot more rainbows than when I lived inland. As I write this, the bow behind Ladybug arcs over a wooded headland framing a small flotilla of local boats on moorings and the fields and suburbs of Auckland.

Yesterday, I sailed Ladybug across the Hauraki Gulf, leaving Great Barrier Island after an early breakfast. The anchorage had filled up the previous afternoon until I was able to count more than 60 motor yachts and sailboats. Still, I was able to hoist the anchor and dodge out through the fleet under jib. My immediate neighbors on 'Elysium' were enjoying a coffee on the flying bridge of their motor cruiser. They were floating almost over my anchor, so close that I quipped to them that I would have a coffee with cream and sugar, please, as I worked the windlass. Later, I passed them fishing off Motohaku island, as I beat slowly out of Port Abercrombie.

Great Barrier Island protects Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf from the full brunt of the Pacific, but the waters of the gulf can still be quite rough. It is about 50 miles across from the island to Auckland and I reckoned that I would stop that night at Rakino Island, which lies about 10 miles out of Auckland. I had some company on the passage, for several vacationers were already returning after New Year's Day to their berths in and about the big city. I recognized several of the boats with whom I had shared anchorages over the holiday week. Strangely most of the sailboats were motoring and sailing, despite a fair wind that was moving Ladybug along at a pleasant 4 knots.

In the afternoon, the wind and swell began to build and swing behind us into the north. We were soon rolling along at 5-6 knots and I switched over from the autopilot to the more powerful wind vane. A lighter more racy boat that had been gaining on us fell back as the bigger swells slowed her down, shaking the wind out of her sails. I poled out the jib opposite the main, for we were nearly running before the wind, and Ladybug picked up her skirts and settled into a rollicking downwind dance.

In the middle of the afternoon, I put out a call on VHF to Mike and Karen on 'Chapter 2' on the off chance they were still in the area. They answered right away and told me that they were anchored close by on the south side of the Whangaparoa Peninsula. They invited me for dinner, so I altered course 30 degrees and took down the pole (first rule of single-handed cruising is never turn down a dinner invitation!). The wind was building and I quickly pulled in a reef in the main. While Ladybug charged along at 6 - 7 knots, I hurried below to start a lentil/carrot soup for supper, using a good dollop of Rani's pre-made curry spice mixture. Less than two hours later I dropped anchor in Okoromai Bay after a 48 mile crossing - tired and ready for a relaxing evening with my friends.