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.

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