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.


Erling Tambs said...

Hi I am the Grandson of Erling Tambs :-) Nice to see he is mentioned. Just read his book again and I have plotted The Cruise of the Teddy in Google Maps recently said...

Hi, please could we have a chat by email about your grandfather 's book? My email address is below