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

Saturday, 22 March 2014

More Kindred Spirit

Richand, KS's new owner from Wellington, sent me a video of her underway in the Marlborough sounds after her repaint. She looked so nice I thought I would post it and also use the opportunity to put my first video on the Blog.

BTW the first attempt using Windows Explorer didn't work (like the pix downloads wouldn't before) so I'm using Google Chrome this time

Here goes...
Yahoo - seems to have worked

Well sort of anyway - looks like it may have been filmed on an iPad, and I can't figure how to rotate it round (the original comes up right way up on my computer). So you'll just have to watch it lying down (or turn your screen on its side)

Monday, 3 March 2014

The last legs (episode #8)

It was overcast and drizzling a little when we said farewell to Charlie and Pauline and dropped the lines at Marsden Cove. The outgoing tide gave us an extra 2 knots as we passed the harbour entrance and Bream Bay was calm (yippee!!) The rain cleared shortly after and we had a nice run towards Kawau, with a light W and low swell. The wind picked up to around 15 knots as we passed  Bream Tail but the sea remained comfortable for a change. As we approached Cape Rodney we ran into a family of dolphins that frolicked and jumped in front of, and under, the bow of the boat for about 20 minutes before returning to whatever they were doing before we came by.
Past Cape Rodney, the wind picked up a little and swung SW so the rest of the trip was pretty much in the lee of the mainland.. By mid afternoon we had completed the five and a half hour run and were safely anchored up in Harris Bay, Kawau Island. The Bay was relatively empty on arrival, but by 5.00pm it began to fill with boats coming out for what was forecast to be a fine and calm weekend. One boat that I found quite intriguing was this large Mustang sedan, which the skipper anchored in very close to shore then began deploying a strange looking tarpaulin sling. It was lowered over the side, with a line run round the bow to the other side and then pulled up tight.

He then took his dinghy round to each side of the boat and stuffed long foam rolls between the sling and the hull, and about then it dawned on me what the contraption was for.

From the size of the window immediately above the sling, I suspect that the master stateroom is directly inside.....and someone doesn't like the sound of chine lap. A novel way to overcome the issue, but it took him about 30 minutes to set it all up and I would think it could be a bit spooky if you had to suddenly move in the middle of the night in bad weather!!??!! A bunch of other boats rafted up and had a bit of a party, but they quieted down early and we had a pleasant night.

The next day was a stunner. Clear and sunny sky and hardly a breath of wind with forecast for variable 5 knots, turning to SW15 in the afternoon. We departed at 11.30 and crossed Kawau Bay in millpond conditions although there were dozens of boats out fishing who always seemed to be in the middle of my plotted course. Just off Tiri passage we ran into a huge pod of dolphins and  a bunch of them decided to come and frolic around us, just as they had the day before.
However these ones were bigger and much more energetic doing all kinds of acrobatics for us for 20 minutes or so. They would leap out of the water directly in front of us, often in pairs, and dive cleanly back in to the water, often going sideways under the bow - and all the time we were cruising along at over 9 knots!

One dolphin in particular seemed to be the leader. He (presumption) seemed to be older and greyer than the others with a large grey stripe down his back and a very battered-looking dorsal fin. He also spent quite some time rolling on his side and watching us while we were watching him.
Of course, Woody just had to come down and take a look to see what all the fuss was about. He pranced down the sidewalk from the flybridge to the foredeck on the port side, where he normally goes to do his ablutions, as I stood and watched what transpired from the top of the stairs. Now, bear in mind that the biggest fish Woody had ever seen up till then were big snapper or kahawai, probably no bigger than 600mm (24") long. Just as he reached the bow, grandad dolphin and another big one leapt out of the water right beside him, rising about 1 metre (3ft) above the gunwhale. At the top of his leap, Grandad eyeballed Woody, who was already frozen on the spot at the sight and, as they hit the water, both dolphins slapped their tails hard down on the surface (which none of them had done before then), sending a shower of spray over the gunwhale and all over Woody. And he was off....straight up the stairs with his tail between his legs, straight between my legs, across the flybridge and down the stairs to the saloon. Ten minutes later, when the dolphins had had enough and peeled away to re join the rest of the pod, I went to look for him. He was down in the saloon, shaking like a leaf and looking miserable with a little puddle beside him where his bladder had been unable to withstand the trauma of meeting the dolphins (something he has NEVER done on the boat). It took the rest of the journey to coax him back topside but fortunately he was not so traumatised that he stopped doing his business on the "poop" deck, and was back to his normal routine by the next day.

Once through Tiri Passage, the wind swung to SW and picked up a little so we changed our original plan of staying at Rakino Island and headed for Oneroa instead. By the time we got there, the wind was up to 25 knots again, but Oneroa is well sheltered and there were already more than 200 boats in the Bay. Despite the number of boats, the bay was quiet that night with very little partying going on (around us, anyway).

The forecast for the next day, our last for this voyage, was for light SW winds, turning E 25 in the late afternoon and getting stronger over the next 3 days. Accordingly we decided to get away early and beat the rush and the wind back to our marina (which had changed its name from Westpark to Hobsonville marina while we were away). We had a slow trip back against a strong outgoing tide and a lot of outbound traffic that we had to zigzag through. We arrived back just after midday and stayed on the boat overnight to catch up on the gossip with some of our G pier cronies. They weren't wrong with the weather forecast - by the time we left the following day to go home, it was blowing like mad and stayed like that for the next 2 weeks.

Like I said earlier in the blog. 590 NM, 87 engine hours and 7 weeks of one of the windiest summers I can recall boating in....but a pleasant and satisfying holiday all the same.

That's all for now folks...catch you next time

Sunday, 2 March 2014

New Zealand's Baby ICW (episode #7)

The weather had improved further as we headed out of Toot for Marsden Cove. There was a gentle 10 kt Southerly of top of a 1 - 1.5 metre long, lazy rolling swell. Just after departure, Carolyn suggested that we go up the Whangarei Harbour to the marina at the Town Basin. This is a waterfront area adjacent to the CBD and has undergone extensive upgrading over the past few years to become a very attractive area, with shops, restaurants and bars aplenty and easy walking access to all inner city facilities. I had visited the Basin many, many times while travelling North during my business life, but we had never taken the time to cruise the additional 12NM from the Whangarei Harbour entrance as I considered it a waste of time and fuel. However, the more I thought about it, the more I figured that if anywhere was going to be reminiscent of the ICW, it would be the trip up the harbour and into the Hatea river and Town Basin.
The trip to Bream Head was comfortable and uneventful, and we were pleasantly surprised to turn into Bream Bay and find the sea had flattened off, giving us an easy ride down to Whangarei harbour. We cruised past the oil refinery, then Marsden Cove marina, and continued up the harbour towards the Basin. Here was the first reminder of the Loop - land on both sides of the boat and a narrow dredged channel up the middle marked with buoys and poles. The main differences were that the land was a lot higher on both sides, the dredged channel was a lot deeper (30ft instead of 6) and, if you meandered out of the channel, you would not run aground  with depths of 15-20ft instead of 1-2. However, further up the river began to twist and turn and past the port it got very ICW-like, with depths down to 4.5ft in one place. Mind you, it was low, but incoming, tide so we were in no danger of being stuck aground as the full tide was predicted at 3.1 metres (10ft) that day. The clincher for comparison, though, was when we got round the last bend before the Basin and came across a Bascule bridge. This bridge was opened in May last year and is the only Bascule bridge in the Southern Hemisphere - talk about nostalgia as we went underneath!. The bridge has a vertical clearance of 7.5 metres at MHWS (Mean High Water Spring) tide so we had no trouble getting underneath without it being raised.
We were given a berth in the marina on the courtesy dock, right outside Reva's restaurant which, again, was very reminiscent of many of the smaller marinas we stayed at on the Loop. The marina had great facilities, the management went out of their way to be helpful, and there was a large Pak n Save supermarket directly across the road where we could reprovision. We had already arranged that Charlie and Pauline would come and stay with us in Whangarei - this change made it 30 minutes closer for them and since they had done 400 miles with me when we took the boat from Florida to Savannah, I knew they would have to experience NZ's "Baby ICW" for themselves.

We stayed there for 2 enjoyable nights and I felt compelled to give them a good review on Active Captain, which I have been updating since before we did the Loop. If there are any Kiwi sailors reading this who don't know what Active Captain is, go to www.activecaptain.com and check it out. It is a "tripadvisor meets the RAYC coastal cruising handbook" and is an excellent interactive resource. It is extensively used in the USA and would be of great benefit to all boaties in NZ, if it becomes as popular here as it is there. AND IT IS FREE!!!! (so use it, folks)

It was grey and overcast when we left. Charlie and Pauline had agreed to come down the NZBICW with me, so Carolyn took their car down to meet us at Marsden Cove marina. We followed the advice of the Town Basin marina management (don't cut corners on the bends - and one in particular) and found much deeper water on the way down than we found in the shallow parts on the way up. It was still right on low tide, but we never saw less than 8ft. After a very pleasant trip down harbour and as we pulled into our allocated berth at Marsden Cove, I noticed something I had previously  known about, but forgotten - this marina has a LOCK!. The Marsden Cove complex of marina and residential canal development was built entirely on land, and then opened to the sea. When they built stage 2 of the residential canal system it was far enough inland that they needed to be able to control the flow of tide from that stage, out past the marina. So they put in a weir to keep the canal at a uniform level and this, of course, necessitated a lock for the resident's boats. As far as I'm aware it is the only lock in New Zealand and, even though it can't begin to compared with ones like the Coffeeville Lock and dam or the Kentucky locks with their 80-90ft lifts (and you wouldn't get ONE 200ft barge in it let alone a bunch of them), it is still a lock and yet another element to remind us of the Great Loop in microcosm - all in l'il ole Whangarei!!

The weather forecast was looking good for our trip across Bream Bay the following day, and for the last legs of out voyage home, but you can read about them in the next and last instalment.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Heading home (episode #6)

The third day option at the Opua marina was a good idea, as the wind howled and the rain came in buckets for that long. Still, we discovered the Opua Cruising Club restaurant had excellent meals - we dined there with Charlie and Pauline the first night, and bought takeaways from them the second. They don't allow dogs in the clubhouse and Woody complained bitterly when we left him home alone the first night, hence the takeaways on the second. The celebrations at Waitangi were rather spoilt by the weather, which is a bit of a change from them being spoilt by local activists looking for trouble (and usually finding it). The third day it rained and rained and rained, but then cleared the following day and the wind dropped to a breeze and were forecast as "variable" for the rest of the day. By now we had been out almost a month and we figured we had better start heading home as the trip back could take a bit of time considering the flukey weather. The Bay and east coast were still experiencing big E swells as a hangover from the storm and, even with the winds tending to the W as they were forecast to go for the next week or so, it takes a while for the seas to come down. In fact it was blowing SW as we departed and heading for Cape Brett (note that we actually BYPASSED Omakiwi Cove!) and anchored for the night in Urupukakpuka Bay. From there, we could look out towards Cape Brett through the narrow Albert Channel and we could see large swells breaking on the shoreline outside, although we were quite sheltered and calm where we were anchored. Several boats attempted to leave The Bay, but soon turned and scuttled back in when they saw what was confronting them out there. We had no further problems with holding in  Urupuk this time, even though the wind became a little gusty in the evening, but this was the day that the sailing catamaran dragged its 35kg anchor as I mentioned in a previous posting. In fact, I found out later, that their anchor eventually dragged into rocks and wedged, and they finished up losing it and 60 metres of chain.

Overnight the wind picked up to a 25-35 knot SW, which woke me at 1.00am, so I got up to check our position, which was all OK. The wind persisted till the morning, the upside of which was that it was likely to bring the E swell down a bit, which it had. We got underway just before midday, as the wind was forecast as SW 10 -15, we had an easy run to Cape Brett. However, once we got round Cape Brett the wind was more like 25 -35 which, with the residual swell, made for a lumpy, bow quarter sea. Around the other side of Cape Brett is a small sheltered harbour, Whangamumu (not to be confused with Whangaruru, as Charlie so often was). It is the site of an old whaling station and is apparently very picturesque and inaccessible by land. All the times we have travelled to The Bay, we have wanted to stop over there on the way home, but EVERY time we have passed, the weather has disallowed us to do so, and this time was no exception. Next time, however, we WILL do it! Instead, we continued the 3 hour journey to Whangaruru and this time anchored on the W side of the harbour,in Ohawini Bay.
The wind remained blustery that day, but eased overnight to a 15 knot Southerly by morning. When we departed, the wind, on top of a SE swell of 1-2 metres, still gave us a bouncy ride although not as bad as the previous day. Our next stop was Tutukaka, affectionately referred to as "Toot" (you will notice that Kiwi's have a tendency to abbreviate the longer Maori names, and some of the English ones. I guess we're just a bit lazy). Toot is one of our favourite stopovers and we always stay at the marina there at least once on the way to, or from, The Bay. It is a small harbour with a narrow rocky entrance which can be an exciting ride entering in a large E swell. Fortunately by the time we arrived, the swell was only moderate, and we had an easy passage into the harbour. Tutukaka marina is home to a Game Fishing Club and is the Base for a number of dive companies that operate to the Poor Knights Islands, one of NZ's premier dive spots that was rated one of the top 10 in the world by Jacques Cousteau. It is a series of ancient volcanoes that lie around 15NM off the coast and about 22NM NE of Toot. It was made a Marine Reserve in 1981, and the boundary extends 800 metres around the entire group - landing is not permitted on the islands. 

Because of these activities, Toot has well developed facilities with a number of restaurants and bars, an international hotel with boutique shops, and well equipped general store, as well as the expected dive and fishing gear stores. Cheryl, one of Carolyn's friends who lives (relatively) nearby visited us, and we ate at the Game Club restaurant that night. The weather seemed to be improving the further south we travelled and the next day was planned for a small 2 hour trip to Marsden Cove before the big crossing of Bream Bay the day after. But that can wait till next time....