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

Thursday, 27 February 2014

And further North we go (episode #5)

The forecast on the day we left for Whangaroa was for easterly winds to gradually drop over the next few days but as we left they were still blowing 15-20 and there was a 2-3 metre E swell rolling into the Bay. We spent the first hour punching into this (which did not amuse Woody at all) until we reached the "Ninepin", a tall vertical rock at the N entrance to The Bay. There is a passage between the "Pin" and the mainland and the currrent runs very strongly through it, so the sea became a washing machine for about 15 minutes - which amused Woody even less.
Once around the Pin, the sea was on our stern quarter, which made for a more comfortable ride (much to Woody's relief) although the swell remained large and we surfed down a couple of big ones as we approached the Cavalli passage inside the Cavalli Islands.
"The Cavallis" consists of 1 large and 4 small islands interspersed with numerous islets, above-water and sunken rocks,  and lies about 2NM off the mainland. The Cavalli passage runs between the islands and the mainland and provides sheltered anchorages. There are a few sunken rocks in the passage, so you need to be careful while transiting, and have good charts and/or chartplotters. The Royal Akarana Yacht Club Coastal Cruising  Handbook (NZ cruiser's "bible"), describes the Cavallis thus: "In bad weather with strong easterly winds, the Cavallis can be a fearsome sight and should be avoided". 

On the mainland, inside the passage, is Matauri Bay where the "Rainbow Warrior" was laid to rest and is now a popular dive site. For those who don't remember, or don't know, the Rainbow Warrior was a Greenpeace ship that was sunk at the wharves in Auckland in 1985 by the French Secret Service to prevent it sailing to Mururoa Atoll in protest against French Nuclear weapons tests. They made such a botch-up of the job that they killed a photographer on the boat, got identified by the local neighbourhood watch group, and two of them got arrested within hours of the bombing. The ship was raised in Auckland and towed to Matauri Bay, where she was sunk as the dive site.

The swell dropped away as we went through the passage, and out the other side (as so often is the case) it was like a different world - the wind and swell had gone NE and eased considerably which  made for a much more pleasant trip the rest of the way. Whangaroa  is a fiord like harbour with an entrance only 0.15NM  (900ft) wide at its narrowest point. The tide pours in and out with tidal streams of 2-3 knots, and even light winds can make for choppy conditions against the current. We noticed that other entering boats were hugging the N head shore and we found that when we followed their lead, the current was significantly less on that side. Once inside, Whangaroa is a sheltered, spectacular harbour. Just inside the heads in Kingfisher Lodge, a famous Big Game Fishing Lodge that is only accessible by sea. Immediately opposite is Pekapeka Bay, a large deep bay with smaller Rere Bay at its head. This is where we intended to anchor during our stay, but first we had to go to the township, and marina, to pick up the girls.
They weren't there when we arrived, so we figured we'd do a few chores, take a look round and refill with water. We were tied up to the marina's courtesy dock and there was a sign on the water tap that said the water was unsuitable to drink. We asked the dockmaster if that applied to the whole marina or just the courtesy dock and he replied that it was the whole marina. However, when you look at their website, they state that they have power and water available at the berths, so I think it was just a ploy to stop people using the water at the dock. The girls duly turned up and we ate that night at the Game Fishing Club's restaurant, and had a fine meal, before departing to anchor at Rere Bay.

Rere Bay is small and surrounded by high hills, so it is very sheltered. On the S shore is Lane's Cove which has a DOC hut that is available for rent at $163.50 per day (for up to 12 people) and is accessible by walking track from Totara North, or by sea. It was quite popular and was occupied for the three days that we were there. The bay also has a spectacular dinghy ride up the Wairakau stream at high tide to a waterfall (if there has been sufficient rain) and early signs of habitation in the area. It also has the walking track that takes you to the Lane Cove hut.

It was our intention to stay at Whangaroa for several more days, but the weather forecast was sounding a bit grim. The next day was forecast as a good one but thereafter it was to turn a bit ugly for maybe up to a week and, as lovely as it is, we didn't want to be stuck there for a week or more. So the decision was made for, once again, Charlie and I (and Woody) to take the boat back down the coast while the girls hit the road. We finished our last night with a Barbie on board.
The trip back to The Bay was the opposite of the trip up in both route and sea conditions. There was a slight ground swell, but only light winds so it made for a pleasant 4 hour trip to Opua marina, although it began to drizzle as we arrived. The next day was Waitangi day, the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the English and Native Maori people in 1840. We passed the Treaty grounds and a Navy ship as we headed towards Opua and we could see all the preparations for the celebrations. We had booked into the marina for 2 nights, with an option for a third, as it looked like it was going to stay nasty until at least then....and we were not to be disappointed

Still - more of that next time.

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