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

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....

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