Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ladybug's Third New Zealand Christmas Cruise

First let me wish you a very happy and prosperous new year in 2015!

It is hard to believe that this is the third Christmas season I have spent on board Ladybug in New Zealand. The only sad part is that Rani is in the UK again this year, so we were apart again for Christmas. I am lucky to have good friends to share the season with. Just over a week ago I left Whangarei. The last days prior to departure were jam packed with selling a few items that we can't carry home and looking over two larger steel boats for my friend Randall who is planning a back to back circumnavigation of the Americas and Antarctica (see his Figure 8 Voyage site).

On Saturday evening, I drifted down the river with the last light at the start of the ebb, dropping the anchor off One Tree Point near Marsden Cove. I was up early to catch the next ebb tide and ghosted down the channel past the big refinery and wood product docks. My departure was marred by a run-in with a tug that was assisting a container ship to enter the channel. The tug took a run at Ladybug, its operators gesturing and yelling, even though we had moved out of the channel to let the ship pass. I was surprised and shaken by this aggressive and very unprofessional action. The bow wave from the tug Takahiwai almost came into Ladybug's cockpit and I came damn close to striking a channel buoy that I was near when the incident occurred. I called the tug on VHF but she declined to respond so I have reported this to Maritime New Zealand. I have had to deal with heavy commercial traffic and tugs in several countries and never seen anything like this before!

Fortunately the day improved and the wind filled in for a nice run up to Tutukaka. I met Melody off the entrance to the harbour and we sailed in together, anchoring under sail near Annie Hill's Fantail. All three boats share supper on board Melody. Over drinks we agreed to sail north for Miniwhangata Bay.

Melody sailed into Tutukaka
The next morning around 6 am I woke up with a fuzzy head to the sound of Melody hoisted her anchor chain as Fantail ghosted past Ladybug.

Fantail ghosting out of Tutukaka
We sailed in company to Minwhangata, a delightful anchorage off a long striped sandy beach that displays mosaics of shells at low tide. We spent the afternoon walking along the beach and among the hills of the peninsula.

Melody en route to Miniwhangata

Fantail sails into the anchorage at Miniwhangata

Melody anchoring under sail.

We spent the evening on Annie's little junk rigged boat, sharing drinks and supper and talking about the usual things that cruisers and 'boaties' in general talk about - boats, and sailing, and how to live a good life. At one point, I recall that we had a lengthy and heated debate over the difference between contentment and happiness.

Roz and Holger on board Fantail

Annie and Roz below on Fantail
We left Miniwhangata the next morning and sailed north toward Whangaroa. We broke our passage at the Cavalli islands where we anchored in Papatara Bay on the big island of Motukawanui. The wind was aft all day, so I sailed most of the way with winged out jib in order to keep all the sails filled and pulling.

Ladybug coasting north to Whangaroa, wing and wing.
Motukawanui island has stunning hiking trails and we had an early morning climb along the Ridge Trail to the highest point on the island. You can see an earlier post from my last visit here for panorama pictures from this point.

From the Cavalli Islands we cruised north again with 15 knot easterly tailwinds and a rolling swell. Again I used the pole and Ladybug really kicked up her heels and enjoyed spirited sailing in occasional rain showers, maintaining 6-7 knots for long stretches. We arrived through the narrow entrance into Whangaroa with tall standing waves kicked up by the out-coming tide against wind. The cliche of calling this a boiling cauldron would not be far off and it was very exciting to sail through these waves while negotiating the entrance running almost straight downwind.

Ladybug and Melody spent Christmas in Whangaroa, visiting different anchorages, eating too much and attempting to walk it all off before returning south to the Bay of Islands where I am preparing for the delivery trip south.

Ladybug at a nice angle of heel beating into harbour. Photo by Annie Hill.

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