Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Years Day Sail

This lovely small wooden cutter sailed in to the anchorage late yesterday with one older man on deck. I caught these as she ghosted out this new year's morning, with hardly a whisper of wind to push her along.

The Duke's Nose is clear in the upper left corner. The bay around the corner to the right is where the DOC hut and several bach's (cottages) can be found.

She is about 30 feet long. To my eye, this is what a sailboat should look like with a jaunty sheer, bowsprit, and traditional gaff rig - lovely!

Happy New Year!

Best wishes to everyone who is reading our blog for a healthy and prosperous 2014!

On New Years eve, I rigged the little sailing dinghy and went for a voyage around the two local bays. I counted around 60 boats in the bays and more people in the 'bach's' (summer camps) that huddle under the shadow of the hill one bay over. Ironically, our friends sailing in the Bay of Islands tell me that the crowds we sought to escape did not materialize. Perhaps everyone came up here instead.

Natalie and Angelina look out toward our anchorage in Whangaroa Harbour
 After the sail, I picked up Angelina and Natalie from 'La Fiesta' while David relaxed, after scrubbing their boat's bottom, by assisting another cruiser with engine troubles. We landed on a sand beach at the head of the bay and followed a lightly used trail to a rocky lookoff.

Natalie and Angelina 

I did not bring the camera to the New Years eve celebrations that we held on the beach and then later on board Kamali'i (pictured below). All my friends from the boats around showed up and we saw in the New Year with NZ bubbly courtesy of Matthew on 'Rock and Roll Star'. Kamali'i is a Philip Rhodes design built, for the grandson of an oil baron. She was constructed to the highest standards and, being 75 feet long and weighing as many tons, is more a ship than a boat. I have a great deal of respect for the new owners who rescued her from an early retirement in California. She makes a lovely addition to any anchorage and apparently sails along very comfortably at 10 knots. Her owners, James and Sharon are also friends with our friends Rob and Jo from 'Blue Moon', so we will probably sail south together to meet Blue Moon in the Bay of Islands.

Kamali'i raising anchor. Note it takes two people on the bow to do this, using a gigantic electric windlass and a small crane (in place of a bow roller). It took 3 months of labour to prepare her lovely wooden spars and standing rigging for the Pacific crossing.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Hiking the Duke's Nose

I have been up and down the 'Nose' three times - once on my own, once with Angelina, David, and Natalie from La Fiesta, and once with Jan and Rich from Slip Away. The trail is steep and eroded and there are chains at the top to make ascending the last piece of rock face simpler. A few pictures follow.

Natalie in the lead on the steep trek to the Duke's Nose

David huffing up behind

And Angelina looking like she is out for a stroll in the park.

Chris climbing down from the Nose itself (the best views are from the top of the 'Head'

Today I climbed up again with Jan and Rich

Rich standing on the Nose with the the anchorage spread out below. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Few Boat Pictures

Ladybug is still anchored in Whangaroa where we have had a day of rain (I have newly laundered clothes to prove this) and some gusty winds that saw several boats drag and re-anchor last night.

On Christmas day, another Coast 34 - style boat (actually a custom built version called the Roberts 341) anchored next to Ladybug. Jason and Maria are about to embark on an extended voyage with their two boys Luke (9) and George (11) on "Allure of New Zealand". The boat was 27 years in the making. A previous owner built the hull and partially fitted out the interior starting in 1985 and spanning 20 years. Jason has spent a good part of the last seven years finishing off the interior with a diesel engine from a tractor, drawers and cupboards, a liner for the ceiling, and electronics and electrical systems. He has also welded up all the metalwork on the exterior and rigged her as a cutter. She is lovely inside, finished in various blonde NZ woods and teak with a very nicely built hull. Even though her original construction dates from when Ladybug was born, she was launched last year and looks brand new.

Allure of New Zealand anchored at Whangaroa

I also came across this lovely wooden schooner while on passage to Whangaroa. I believe she does day charters out of Paihia.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Great Blog

Merry Christmas everyone!

I just received a Christmas email from friends on the big aluminum sailing boat, Papillon (butterfly in French). We first met these folks in Tonga and again in New Caledonia where Erik helped us re-rig our forestay and repair our roller furler. In their email, Papillon included a link to their blog, which is both very funny and insightful. Erik and Amy cruise with their two lovely children, Audrey and Martha. Check out their blog at http://sailingawayonpapillon.blogspot.co.nz.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Hiking on Motukawanui

After swimming three times with the dolphins, I was chilled through and through, so what better way to warm up than to row ashore, lug the dinghy up the beach and walk across the biggest of the Cavalli Islands. The trail ran from the beach northeast of North Bay, climbed up through some grasslands and then followed a ridge before plunging into a forested valley. In the trees, the trail crossed a couple of small streams before rising again to another ridge with views to the north and out over several valleys that converge in the center of the island. The terrain is rugged on this trail and I cursed the trail makers for not keeping the trail high and following a single contour along the hillside.

The views into the center of the island are particularly lovely with little noise from the outside world to compete with birdsong and insect calls. The views along the ridge of the other Cavalli islands are also worth the climb.

View from the look-out looking northeast - click for larger version.

At the other end, one descends to a hut that can be reserved through the DOC office in Kirikiri. The hut enjoys views out over an expansive beach to the mainland hills. I traipsed the beaches on the inland side of the island, finding a few abalone shells scattered at the high tide mark. On the return trip, I took a side trail to a look-out at the highest point on the island before retracing my steps to the dinghy.

View looking north - click for larger version.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Swimming with Dolphins

I had the most amazing experience in the north bay of Motukawanui
Island (the largest of the Cavalli Islands). A pod of dolphins arrived
in the bay shortly after I anchored and spent the next couple of hours
swimming around the bay staying close to Sueno, a Canadian catamaran
anchored closer to the beach. I got in the water and swam with the
dolphins when they came over to visit Ladybug. These are the largest
dolphins I have seen and were quite curious, calling and whistling,
jumping and even walking backwards across the water using powerful
thrusts of their tails. There were two or three calves and the whole
pod numbered about 12. Following are some pics mainly underwater but a
few taken from water level at the surface.


Sailing to Whangaroa

I left Opua yesterday just as the tide began to ebb, coasting down the channel under jib alone to the open beach anchorage off the town of Paihia. This tourist resort has a Countdown grocery store on its outskirts that promised cheaper provisioning than the smaller stores in Russell.

Roz and Holger take a break from working on their boss Tim's boat. I kept them company for a morning, helping with sanding and scraping Tim's 99 year old wooden yacht.

It turned out to be a good long walk through the town and out the other side to the store and an even longer walk back with 2 weeks of groceries including some chicken for my slightly non-vegetarian Christmas dinner (sorry Rani - your good influence is wearing off already as far as my bachelor diet goes). I walked the row-boat end for end down the beach, loaded the groceries, and rowed back to Ladybug, stopping to chat with Paul on Trumpeter, a local cruiser whom we had seen in Fiji earlier in the season. Paul told me I was a silly sod and could have anchored much further down the coast if I had sailed around a set of islands that fill the bay. This would have put me much closer to the store. I had already noted this fact on my long walk in but we had an amiable chat anyway.

A paint-spattered Tim looks like he would perhaps prefer to own a 2008 Beneteau just at that moment!
Once the groceries were stowed, I pulled up the hook, again under jib alone, and sailed dead downwind for the north entrance to the Bay of Islands, marked by a giant shark tooth rock named 'Ninepin Rock'. A lovely schooner crossed our bows at one point and several yachts criss-crossed the bay on their way to anchorages at Kerikeri and among the islands. As I passed between the rocky coast and the shark's tooth I left all this activity behind and entered a different world, turning west and sailing along a coast of rocky cliffs capped by green rolling pastures. The wind blew steadily off the land and the lowering sun reflected off a million wavelets like so many jewels.

Mike and Marni of Picara repaint their lovely steel boat. They rebuilt this boat virtually completely over a period of several years in Sidney, BC. They are taking a break from working on other people's boats in Opua to work on their own.
While I chatted with Mike and Marni, I helped clean up Picara's propeller. They plan to coat this with a special epoxy based compound that prevents growth from sticking to it. Most of the local yachts use this.

I had left Paihia around 2pm and was concerned I would not reach a safe anchorage before dusk at my sedate pace, so I hoisted a reefed main and was soon bowling along at 6-7 knots, the wind building and turning into the south west. I passed only one other boat - a small but speedy coastal cruiser hugging the cliffy shore for shelter heading for the Bay of Islands. A little further on I began to pass through rafts of sea birds resting on the water as Ladybug drew abreast of the Cavalli islands.

Panorama as we leave the Bay of Islands - click for a bigger image.

Shortly before 7pm, I furled in the jib and dropped the hook using the mainsail to coast into a small indentation on the Purerua Peninsula known as Orokaraka Bay. This bay is well sheltered by the cliffs of the peninsula and has stunning views of the Cavalli islands, which form a protecting ring to the north and east.

Without Rani's helping hand I have had to resort to unusual strategies when I need assistance on the helm.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Urupukapuka Pictures

I have had a few hikes on Urupukapuka island in the last 2 days. This is a large island that was once home to hundreds of Maori. There are archaeological sites all over the island including deep storage pits for the sweet potatoes they once grew here and Pa forts, guarded by defensive ditches. The oldest site dates from about 1340 but most have been built upon several times over the 600+ years of occupation. The island has trails all around its coast and the terrain is extremely rugged particularly on the north and east sides with drop offs of a few hundred feet.

Dotterel feeding on the beach. These little pipers nest here also.

Pohutukawa blossoms. The Tui birds and insects love these flowers that bloom around Christmas time. These trees are also referred to as Christmas Trees.

There is quite a large flock of sheep at the east end of the island. The wharf in this bay is used by passenger ferries who bring tourists daily. There was a restaurant here but it appears to be shut down.

DOC maintains the island and I met a warden who was patrolling with his terrier rat/mice dog. The island is pest free now, but they have had 4 incidents of introduced pests in the last few years. The terriers they use are crosses that are good ratters but also amenable to training, since the dogs and their trainers are involved in both public relation and extermination exercises. Apparently they have done genetic testing to determine that the rodents on the island have all come from the nearby mainland probably swimming over via the 'Stepping Stone' islands. Norway rats can swim kilometers and there are only a few hundred meters between these islands. DOC also maintains a network of baited rodent traps. Other rodents, such as mice, have likely stowed away in tents and come ashore at the campground on the east end of the island.

Panorama looking east. There is a Pa hill fort site to the right and the campground is on the left

"Rock and Roll Star "- a Baba 40 sailboat liesat anchor in a bay on the northwest end of the island. It's owner, Matthew and I explored this end of the island together.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pictures from Russell, Home Port, and Roberton Island

I am finally getting around to posting a few pictures from our first week in New Zealand. Some of these are from Russell where we spent the first weekend visiting with Roz and Holger who make their home here on board Melody when they are not at their farm near Whangarei Heads, 'Home Port'. Others are from Home Port and the last few are from Roberton Island in the Bay of Islands where Ladybug is currently anchored. 

Holger discusses rigging issues with Chris 

This is the policeman's house in Russell. It is a historic home, built around 1860. The giant Moreton Bay fig tree was also planted around this time.

Cruise ships visit the Bay of Islands, anchoring off Pahia

View out over Russell to where our boat is anchored 

Hedgehogs are a frequent sight in New Zealand

This Tui is enjoying the nectar in flax plant flowers.

Chris taking a leek in Roz's garden at Home Port. Actually she gave us 2 leeks to take home.

Roz has looked after cows ever since she arrived as a girl in New Zealand from Australia. Samson and Delilah are her latest.

We visited briefly with Jo and Rob in Mcleod Bay Their health center and B&B is nearing completion and should open next year.

There is an underwater trail as well as one to the look off at Roberton Island. Jan and Rich from 'Slip Away' climbed the look off trail with me. 

Panorama from Roberton Island look off.

The look off has spectacular views in all directions

Matthew from 'Rock and Roll Star' arrived at the top shortly after us.

The island is rich in wildlife including parrots, oyster catchers, and bees.