Saturday, February 22, 2014

Limestone Island

Limestone Island is well named - for it is almost entirely made of Limestone. Once the site of a quarry, it is now managed by the municipality of Whangarei with support from a local cement company. There is a caretaker on the island and much work has been down to restore native vegetation, stabilize historic structures, and provide paths and signage. While I was ashore visiting, a tour boat arrived and 20 or 30 visitors rambled around the ruins and walked the paths that circle the island.

I anchored off one of the quarries and rowed ashore, landing on the beach under Victorian ruins of the manager's house. The quarry here is small by modern standards and I am glad that the mainland provided a more suitable place for a quarry early in the last century, preserving this little island for visiting boaters and tourists. Following are pictures I took while walking around the island.

The edge of the quarry reflected in an excavated hollow - now a thriving
 pond. The broad leaved plant is flax, which was once cultivated here and grows all over the island

I like the edgy textures of the rock contrasting with the soft bushes above.

Panorama from the quarry looking toward Whangarei. Onerahi is to the right. A derrick at the water edge was used to load the limestone on barges.

Manager's house. This was abandoned after a decade and the residence moved to the mainland quarry operation. It was re-roofed and occupied in the 1950's by a family who mined limestone here for fertilizer.

House as it would have appeared in the late 19th century. What a difference a roof makes!

Walk to the cement works and lime kilns on the other side of the island. Shipwreck beach lies just past the flax plant.

Iron from the wreck of the Victoria - a coastal scow wrecked here more than 100 years ago.

More great textures and colours (with saturation increased for effect)

Lime kilns used in cement manufacture appear to be in good condition

I love the echo between the curve of the vine and that of the brick arch

The structure of some of the columns is laid bare by the weather making interesting patterns

View back to McLeod Bay with old cement wharf to left

A Maori Pa (hill fort) looks out over the new cement plant on the mainland shore. These wooden survey marks are common in NZ.

Returning along the central ridge - Onerahi to the left. An airport covers the flat top of the hill just out of the frame.

Leaving Limestone Island.

Just half a jib and making 5-6 knots in 20 knots of south wind.

Shopping Triathlon

Living on board an ocean going sailboat at a mooring and going to 'work' every morning is loses some of its novelty after the first few weeks. It feels slightly wrong to stay in one place on a boat that is used to seeing different pastures every week or two. So, rather than do the sensible thing and cadge a ride into Whangarei to do my grocery shopping, I decided to take Ladybug out for a little exercise and sail up the river. The rains had finally let off by early Saturday morning but a thick mist hung over the mountains and the other side of the estuary was but a faint outline.

A tiny breeze filled in around 8 am, so I peeled off the sodden sail cover and hoisted the full main. Of course the wind then went elsewhere, so I made breakfast and waited 'sailing' at the mooring. Around 9, I gave up and turned on the engine, dropped the mooring line and motored past a steel schooner which had just arrived in the bay.

The navigation at the mouth of McLeod Bay is tricky - a sandbar fills much of the bay and then, if you head straight for the channel, another one lies in wait in what looks like perfectly clear water. I checked the chart and ran between the two bars, passing a succession of small fishing boats out for their weekend session.

A very faint waft of SW wind filled in and I optimistically unfurled the jib, but the breeze when elsewhere and half an hour later I resorted to the engine, which got a good run on the trip up to Onerahi. I had intended to anchor further upstream, but the anchorage off Limestone Island looked interesting, especially when a scan with the binoculars revealed it was a DOC park.

The second leg of the triathlon was a row across the river, being pulled gently upstream by the tide. I hauled out Ladybug on a rocky shelf just above the tide line and tied her off to a post. Hoisting a a backpack full of shopping bags and consulting a sketch I had drawn of the roads into central Onerahi, I began the third leg of my triathlon, walking the mile or two up the hill to the town. Much of Onerahi is populated by native (Mauri) - the first place in New Zealand where I have walked through such a community. I was reminded of the south sea islands we had visited when I passed yards full of several families exuberantly sharing a meal on the front lawn and spreading out into the street.

One thing I used to do when I lived a more regulated life was to try to see something unusual and noteworthy each day on my trips back and forth to work. I thought of this on the walk into town and found my noteworthy items in a graveyard. Several graves were in the form of the most beautiful sculptures. One sandstone carving depicted a mother lovingly embracing her boy child - echoes of Madonna and Christ - over the grave of a boy who had died as a teenager.

I picked up some sticky black tape to make a temporary fix to the hatch drip and filled a small cart at the New World, being careful to buy only as much as I wanted to carry back down the hill. The humidity was high and it was sunny and about 28 degrees as I sweated my way back to the dinghy. The waterfront was now full of swimmers and picnicking Maori families. A big fellow swimming off where I had hauled up the dinghy offered to help me put her back in the water, and despite a shoreline of sharp rocks climbed out of the water and lifted in one end of the boat. The kindness of strangers can make life so much easier - it had been a real struggle to get the boat out onto the ledge and the tide had gone out since then.

It rained heavily last night, and the new sticky tape was given a good test. With any luck the hatch will remain water tight until I replace or re-seal it. Today I plan to visit Limestone Island. I will bring a camera and post something on this later.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Wet Times in Port Fitzroy

We have had two days of rainy weather - the first very windy also and the second very wet. I managed a quick walk ashore on the first day, hiking the Warrens Track to some small but pretty waterfalls. This can be done as a round trip using the road to Port Fitzroy from the campground. I approached the falls from above (the route from the village of Port Fitzroy) and missed the round trip aspect of this, which requires that you walk down the stream bed for a ways before finding the trail again. So I walked in again the other way from the campground so as to see the whole loop. A recommended hike if you want something less strenuous than the typical Great Barrier tracks that always seem to climb serious hills

I did not think to lower our solar panels despite the gale force winds forecast. The wind was so gusty where I was hiding under the lee of a high hill that one gust broke the plastic clip I use to suspend a panel. Another gust actually bent the aluminum cross bar that secures the panel to the stanchion rail. I bent it back today, so no harm done, but next time I will bring the panels down and tie them off.

The rain yesterday was impressive and filled the dinghy to the brim. I baled her out around 11 pm and then noted the leak I had been chasing for a while had made its appearance again - dribbling water into one of our clothes closets. We had noted this problem on only one or two other occasions and always after the fact. This time I was able to watch things in action and learned by removing ceiling panels and trim that the leak is the same one I have on my list to fix in the seal around the hatch acrylic lens that is over the passage to the v-berth. The hatches on Ladybug are are good quality (but probably original) Lewmar Ocean Series and the seal has dried out on one. I will see if I can re-bed this before I leave Ladybug. If not, it will be a tape and tarp solution until we get back.

Today the rain and mist cleared and I did a wash to make use of the fresh water. I also hiked to what I thought by its name would be an easy track - the Old Lady Track. Well because of the rain, the streams it crossed required nimble feet and some cunning to stay dry and upright. It also climbed a goodly hill and I took the easy way out on the return trip and walked down the lovely winding road back to Fitzroy.

Panorama from Lookout Rock over Port Fitzroy

Port Fitzroy harbour. Ladybug is just out of sight to the left.

Lovely lush vegetation -  I can see why, with all the rain they get here!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hike to Hirakimata

Hirakimata as the Maoris call it or Mt Hobson by its English name is the highest peak on Great Barrier Island. A nice day hike can be had from the anchorage in Kairara Bay by landing at Bush Beach and walking in to the Kaiarara Hut and thence up to the Kauri Dams.

Tree Ferns and Tea Trees dominate the lower elevations

Remains of a Kauri Dam. The rivers were dammed to make it easier to transport logs to the sea. The logs filled the dammed pools and were released when there was plenty of water. The resulting cascade was apparently terrifying to behold.

Historical photo of this dam

From the dams you proceed up endless flights of beautifully built stairs until you reach a small viewing platform at the top.

View out over the bays of Port Fitzroy with Little Barrier Island in the distance. Ladybug is somewhere in the center bay.

Wider panorama shows the lush green estuary lands on the other side of the island. There are also impressive beaches on this side. 

This time of year is the season for cicadas to make a real din. I suspect they are mating. The noise is almost deafening in places - a shrill pitched chirp combined with clacking multiplied thousands of times.


Kaka - native brown parrot eating insects.

Same kaka. Sorry for the quality of pics - these were the best of about 50 shots if you can believe that.

Coming down I took the gentler route via the South Fork track - longer and still heaps of stairs, but most of the stairs are over quickly (by the time you reach the hut that lies at the head of the valley) The trail then follows the rim of an ancient volcano before joining Forest Road and returning to the Kaiarara hut.

I have been working on re-bedding windows on Ladybug. It takes about three hours for each window and I did the hike today because my hands were so sore from doing two yesterday. I finished another one just after sunset tonight. Only 8 to go.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Picture of Kairara Bay

I have not put up any pictures in a while, so here is one of a tiny Ladybug anchored in Kairara Bay taken from the road into Port Fitzroy. Note the lovely big tree fern to the right. There are several cottages and a few full time off-grid homes on this stretch of road, just outside the park boundary.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sailing to Great Barrier Island

Non-boaters probably don't appreciate how much of a transition it is from living on board in one place to going off for even a short cruise. On the mooring Ladybug had accumulated a spectacular growth of slime, barnacles, and thousands upon thousands of tiny shrimp, presumably feeding on the slime. I was in the water for about an hour on Saturday and made only a modest dent in the accumulation. I did manage to bring into the cockpit, attached to my wet suit and hoody, enough tiny wriggling shrimp to feed a small family.

In addition to the boat's unpreparedness to go anywhere, I had also settled into a shore-oriented routine and it took an hour or two to stow and organize the things that would otherwise go bouncing on the passage. I now have a fine collection of abalone shells, Fiji bowls and a cannibal fork that all have to find places, plus a lovely glass fishing float ornament that otherwise swings alarmingly in your face on passage.

By 9 am on Sunday I had the boat squared away, the dinghy hoisted on deck, and the navigation computer hooked up to its puck GPS. 'Chapter 2' who had been anchored beside me for the night had left earlier to run up the river to Whangarei on the last of the flood and 'La Fiesta' had just departed for Opua, where David and Angelina return to jobs and Natalie to school. I slipped the mooring and hoisted full sail. The last of the flood was still running in the main channel and a 10 knot breeze kicked up a small chop.

The river mouth at Whangarei Heads is often an area of ugly sharp seas. 'Chapter 2' had reported close spaced 3 meter seas when they arrived the day before. Today things were more benign with the usual crowd of fishing 'tinnies' (open aluminum power boats) anchored or drifting in the fairway. The channel here is dredged and takes a dog leg to avoid shoals off Marsden Point. The oil refinery, while a relatively clean operation, permeated the air with fumes and I wondered how the fishermen could stand it for hours on end.

The wind was dead against us but it was near high tide, and a large 3 meter tide at that, so I was able to extend Ladybug's tacks, sailing right over what would normally be 2 meter deep banks at Calliope Bay. Around 10:30, as predicted in the tables, the tide altered and began to run out and we were just able to lay a line down the banks of Marsden Point, clearing the last of the anchored fishing skiffs.

We sailed all the way across shallow Bream Bay on one tack, from Bream Head to Bream Tail and then tacked out toward Sail Rock - which looks more like a giant shark tooth from the land side. The great sand beaches of Bream Bay stretched for miles to starboard, the low land in stark contrast to steep volcanic islands to seaward.

The wind veered into the NE and I brought Ladybug onto port tack, set the wind vane steering and  headed for Little Barrier Island, which we reached almost 8 hours later at sunset. An hour later the wind vanished and with about 8 miles to go I put on the diesel and furled the jib, setting a way point for the entrance to Man of War passage. The approaches to the south end of Port Fitzroy are well charted but require careful navigation between the scattered islands and rocks. I would never have dared this on a dark night without the chart software and excellent recent raster charts. Even so, I decided not to attempt the very narrow last gap into Port Fitzroy, but dropped the hook in Red Cliff Bay just after midnight. The bay was completely still, lit only by the firefly lights of a dozen anchored boats and the flashing beacons of a fish farm. 

Today I will explore this bay and hopefully locate a fresh water stream to top up our water.