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.

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