A Kiwi couple's cruising adventures on America's Great Loop and around the coast of New Zealand

Friday, 7 June 2013

And off we go

Charlie arrived back with the girls (and Woody) at around 10.30 on a day that was one out of the bag. The morning had been so cold that I had fired up the genset to run the heating aboard for half an hour before I got out of bed! (No shore power here yet, you see - that issue is being addressed and is another story in itself), but it turned out to be one of those superb, still, winter days. The forecast was for this to continue for the next 3 days - just the time we needed to head up the coast to Auckland, 150 nautical miles away. It was too late to leave that day, so we did some more provisioning while we had Charlie and his ute available, and hunkered down at the marina for the night after he departed. We considered visiting Phil's Place for dinner, but decided to eat aboard Loopy Kiwi instead - for nostalgic reasons as much as anything else.

The next morning dawned fine and clear, but not as cold. We unhurriedly prepped to depart and finally got underway at around 10.30. The weather was clear and the seas calm as we left the harbour and headed towards Whitianga, around 70 NM up the coast.
It was soooo good to be able to set the autopilot to a target 40 miles away knowing that you would neither run aground or run into some obstacle. The trip was mainly uneventful, with only a small stretch of uncomfortable beam sea for about an hour. However I did realise as we passed Slipper Island at about 2pm that I had not paid enough attention to the maths involved in that days travel, and that at our normal cruising speed, we would be struggling to reach our destination before dark. This was reinforced at 5pm when the sun began to fall behind the Coromandel ranges and we still had a half an hour to reach Whitianga marina. There was no other choice than to open the throttles and  make up for a little lost time but, when we did this, both engines occasionally dropped a few hundred revs briefly then recovered, I put this down to the fact that they had not had a decent "blowout" for some time. We arrived at the marina and tied up just as the darkness descended, then went ashore and dined at a local pub where we had a delightful meal and several beverages. We figured out that the last time we had been to Whitianga in a boat was 2005.

The next day was another cracker, and we decide that we would not travel so far today and head for Tryphena Harbour on Great Barrier Island to visit our son, Adam, who lives there. We got underway at 10am and figured it would be about a 3 hour trip. The forecast was good - SW winds 10 -15 knots - which would be a bit on the beam but nothing worrisome. Half an hour out, Pete's transmission dropped out, just like it did that first day out of Indiantown FL. (refer 24th March) The difference was that this time it kept recurring - 4 times in fact - and we weren't going to be on an inland waterway if it failed completely. So we anchored up and I got out the manual to see what could be done to remedy the situation. All the symptoms pointed to a fault in the connections of the electronic shift control, so I rang the local Volvo agent who confirmed that I should remove and clean the connections to the solenoids on the gearbox to see if that fixed the problem. There was also the facility to mechanically force the gearboxes into forward drive, if all else failed.

The connections were cleaned, the engines restarted, and we continued on our way on the undertaking that we would turn back if the fault recurred within an hour. As it turned out, it didn't - so we resumed our journey towards the Barrier. About halfway there, the wind picked up to around 15 knots, giving us a 3-5 foot beam seas. We rolled a bit, but it was good to test out Loopy Kiwi in typical New Zealand weather conditions, and we maintained our course on autopilot, despite the sometimes uncomfortable conditions. Even Woody, who normally hates the earth moving underneath him, showed little concern as we made our way north.

Then we reached the Colville Channel. This is the channel between Great Barrier Island and The mainland and is renowned for its treacherous waters. It is probably one of the meanest stretches of water around NZ, second only to Cook Strait, and conditions are described in the Akarana Yacht Club Cruising Guide (NZ's boating bible) thus: "The flood tide flows W and the ebb tide flows E through his passage, running at 2 to 3 knots springs and producing dangerous overfalls (ie surf) in winds above 12 knots". At the time we entered it, the wind was averaging 20 knots and gusting to 28, according to the weather station on Channel Island, in the middle of the Colville Channel. This place is a good sea test for any vessel and I have to say that I was impressed with Loopy Kiwi's performance. The beam sea was 3-5 feet, with the occasional 7, and very steep. We maintained our course on autopilot until 3 miles from the entrance to Tryphena, when I decided we would head a little further upwind to take the sea on the bow quarter, then turn for a following sea to take us into the bay. As we were heading out, my sister (Aunty Lyn) asked how LK performed in a big following sea. My response was " we will find out I a couple of minutes". As it turned out, she performed admirably, confirming what John Niemann, the sales broker, had assured us of at the time of purchase - that Silverton made a good sea boat. We anchored up in the calm of Tryphena beside the ferry wharf and spent a nice night entertaining Adam who had come down to join us.

The next day was a stunner. We departed Barrier for the "bottom end" of Waiheke Island - a very familiar stomping (and fishing) ground for us. As we passed Channel Island the weather station was telling us it was averaging 2 knots with a peak of 3 - somewhat different from yesterday!
As we neared Waiheke we could see boats everywhere, typical of a long weekend particularly with a great weather forecast. We stopped for a fish at Hook bay and picked up a blue cod and two snapper - enough for a feed for dinner. We then continued up the outside of the island to Oneroa, one of our most favourite anchorages. There were about 50 boats anchored here overnight - quite a modest number for what is generally considered the last boating weekend of the season. In the height of summer, you can get several hundred jammed into the Bay.
We spent a comfortable night and departed early for the last leg of our delivery voyage - only around 20NM. As we cruised into the harbour, I felt some regret that it was not the statue of liberty that I was so looking forward to cruising past, but the Skytower over the Casino isn't a bad substitute under the circumstances, and made me feel like Loopy Kiwi was finally home.
We arrived at our marina and onto a prearranged berth (slip), as Kindred Spirit is still on our own. We were surrounded by our friends as we showed them over our treasured possession, and there was just the right amount of envy to make all the trials and tribulations involved in bringing her home worthwhile. The next few weeks will involve making her work on our greatly reduced, and very different, shore power supply - but that is all in hand. She will then be lifted out (again) to have her bottom painted and PropSpeed applied to the running gear.

We have sold our house and by the time summer comes around we will be in our new apartment and free from the burden of owning a larger property. Loopy Kiwi will be ready and raring to go as we venture around New Zealand with our own version  of "Great Loop" cruising.

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