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.

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