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

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

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