Our Current Position

Monday, 26 February 2018

Fumeroles, Volcanoes and Dolphins

On Tuesday (20th Feb) we hired a car and took a leisurely drive to Rotaroa, the centre of the geothermal and volcanic area on North Island. We had a look around the local park when we arrived, which is littered with hot springs and fumeroles. It’s quite weird to just see steam and sulphur emanating from a hole in the middle of the park!  Keen to see more we then headed for the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal park for a look at the geothermal features there. It’s an absolutely amazing area with hot lakes, steaming rivers and the heady smell of sulphur. Well worth a visit.

Fumerole, Wai-O-Tapu
Champagne Pool, Wai-O-Tapu
Champagne Pool, Wai-O-Tapu
Debi found us a nice old hotel in Rotarua called, Princes Gate, just next to the government gardens. The hotel was built in 1897 in Waihi,  about 150km north of it’s current location during a gold mining boom. The hotel went through a number of booms and busts in Waihi until in 1917 it was decided to move the hotel to the expanding tourist town of Rotarua. So nail by nail and board by board the hotel was dismantled and transported by horse drawn wagon to the Waihi station and then by rail to Rotaroa. Amazing effort and it is still in great condition. I suspect they may have had some bits left over though!

On Wednesday we had a typical “Debi holiday” day, where we attempted to do and see everything there was to do in the area in a single day! First we did a walk through some beautiful bushland up to the peak of Mt. Ngongotaha. At the summit we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the cellphone tower and not a lot else! The trees were too tall to see the view of Lake Rotarua. A sign at the bottom did warn of this and the walk through the trees was very rewarding with a very tropical feel and lots of information boards about the wildlife and the trees.
Rimu Tree and all it's epiphytes
Fungi everywhere
The summit of Mt. Ngongotaha
We got back to the car in the late morning and then it was off to the Whakarewarewa Maori village which was fascinating.  By the way Whakarewarewa is the short version of the name! The full name is "Te Whakarewarewatanga O Te Ope Taua A Wahiao" meaning "The gathering place for the war parties of Wahiao". These guys could certainly show the Welsh a thing or two about spelling. They apparently only have 15 consonants in their alphabet!

This is a village built on a geothermal area, where a group of Maori people have lived for over two hundred years and welcome visitors to explain the Maori culture and to show how they use the geothermal resource. They basically cook and bathe outside in the geothermal pools, but surprisingly don’t use it to heat their houses in winter. We had a traditional Hangi pie for lunch cooked in a geothermal oven. Pie for lunch is always good especially after a walk up a mountain. We saw the cultural show, took a tour and finally did a walk through the village and surrounding area. Just when Pat thought we were heading back for a rest in the hotel, it was off to the Government Gardens for another walk! The gardens were impressive and we finally got a view of Lake Rotarua. Then it was back to the hotel and a soak in the geothermally heated spa at the hotel.

Cooking sweetcorn Whakarewarewa style
Whakarewarewa Village
Bath time Whakarewarewa Village
Apparently the locals are very friendly
Relaxing at the end of a "Debi Day"
On Thursday we managed to get a late check out and headed to the Polynesian Spa across in the government gardens. The spa is beautifully set out on the shores of the lake. They channel mineral waters from two geothermal springs through a total of 28 different hot mineral pools. The pools range in temperature from around 37 degC up to 42 degC. Debi was in heaven. After an hour of being gently poached it was off back to the hotel to check out and then get breakfast. We then both had much needed trips to the hairdresser. When Pat sat down in the barbers chair the first thing the guy said was “you’ve been to the spa”. Apparently the smell of sulphur was quite strong!

Replenished with haircuts, spas and lots of culture we then headed back to Tauranga and X-Pat, picking up provisions along the way. Debi has decided that we will be going meat free for the next three weeks and so bought only vegetables. Pat’s challenge is to catch fish if he wants meat!

Back on X-Pat all was fine. The worst of Cyclone Gita missed Tauranga, with maximum winds in the marina around 30 knots. 

Friday was an early start. We left Tauranga at 6am and drove south for just over an hour to Whakatane, where we joined a boat trip out to White Island to visit New Zealand’s most active volcano. The trip out to the island took about an hour and then we had a couple of hours on the island breathing in the sulphur and viewing the old sulphur mine processing buildings. We were even issued with gas masks just in case the sulphur laden steam got too much. Fortunately we didn’t need them. After we had been on the island about fifteen minutes the heavens opened and we all got soaked. Our enthusiastic guide thought this was a good thing as she believed that the landscape looked more colourful in the rain! The rutted landscape certainly came alive with streams pouring down the hillside. It was quite weird to see steaming sulphur mounds with streams running across them. 

Apparently someone tried to anchor on an active volcano!
The main crater on White Island
Sulphur in the rain
The remains of the sulphur processing factory
Delicate operations transferring off White Island
Back on X-Pat we got things tidied up ready for departure and then headed off for a meal at Phil’s Place, a very good restaurant at the marina, which is owned by the ex AC/DC drummer, Phil Rudd.

On Saturday (24th Feb) we left our berth at Tauranga Bridge marina, refuelled and then started heading north for Slipper Island. It was another windless day and so we were motoring the whole 30 nm. The water was crystal clear and we had a fantastic encounter with a pod of about ten Long Beaked Common dolphins. They saw us from about 500m away and headed over to play in our bow wave for about ten minutes. Magical.


Long Beaked Common Dolphin (we think!)

For most of Sunday we chilled out at anchor in South Bay of Slipper Island. The snorkelling was lovely here, with about 20m of visibility. We took the dinghy to a nearby headland and snorkelled from there. We both saw some small rays and lots of bait fish, all swimming in unison. The wind was due to change to the west overnight, so we left our anchorage in the late afternoon and we are now anchored in a pretty isolated bay known as Tapuaetahi Bay, which on the east side of the Coromandel Peninsular. We had the bay to ourselves overnight. This morning Pat went off in the dinghy fishing and caught two Kahawai in fairly quick succession. Apparently we are having sushi for supper! The snorkelling here was also quite good, but the visibility was not quite as good as on Slipper island.

Later today we will be heading north again to change anchorages as the wind is expected to go SE tonight. It’s tough this!

Monday, 19 February 2018

To Leave or not to Leave?

We left the lovely Peach Grove Bay on Saturday and had another long windless day. We managed to sail for a little time with the headsail up but the rest of it (45 nm) was pure motoring. We anchored in Omapu Bay on the south side of Mayor Island at 5pm. We had attempted to go into an adjacent bay (SE Bay) which seemed more sheltered but it was quite busy in there and the weather was forecast to be light so we opted for somewhere which had a bit more space, but was a bit open.
Debi chilling in our pool

Yesterday we had a chill out day at anchor. We had intended to go ashore on Mayor Island, which is an old volcano, but Debi swam to the beach and came back to report that there were big signs saying “landing prohibited”. Many of these islands are wildlife sanctuaries and they struggle to keep invasive species at bay, so we thought we should obey the signs. So we basically swam and chilled out. Over cocktails on the deck in the evening we reflected on the fact that our boat is our home, it is on the absolute beachfront, the fantastic view can be changed at a whim and we have the biggest swimming pool in the neighbourhood! Cheers to that!

Today we were up early (0530) to leave for Tauranga. It was only a 4.5 hour trip but we had to arrive on a slack tide to avoid the horrendous currents that run through the marina when the tide is running. The journey over was so calm that the sea was like glass. We are now safely tied up in berth B61. The last time Pat was in here was with the Clipper race in 2011. The weather on that occasion was horrific and we were glad not to have  a repeat of that experience. However things are about to change.

Approaching Tauranga with Mt Manganui in the distance
Now who really needs a boat that big, let alone two!

One for my brother Pete, memories?

We have spent a few hours preparing X-Pat for Cyclone Gita. Thankfully we are only going to catch the edge of it, but winds are still forecast to hit 40 knots in the marina. The marina is not particularly well protected from the north and of course the winds are forecast to come from the north. There are a lot of big boats around us and when the tide starts running out against a 40 knot wind, the boats and pontoons are going to turn into a roller coaster ride. We just have to hope that neither us nor anyone else comes loose during the few hours when it is expected to be at it’s worse. We have taken the decision to be safe and leave X-Pat in the marina whilst we journey inland for a few days to visit Rotaroa. Hopefully she will be fine.

Forecasted position of cyclone Gita on Tuesday afternoon

All tied up with every line that we have

Friday, 16 February 2018

Escape from Alcatraz (well Gulf Harbour Marina)

Yes the weather finally improved and after a five nights at Gulf Harbour marina we left on our journey south bound for Waiheke Island on 12th February. We had a lovely sail on a beam reach for a few hours before the wind died as we approached the Rakino Channel. So the sails came down and the engine came on and we motored around to Putiki Bay on the south side of Waiheke to rendezvous with our friends Jo and Rob onboard Double Trouble. A pleasant and not entirely alcohol free evening was had by all!

Then of course came the 13th when it rained and rained and rained. So we spent the day on board X-Pat, surfing the internet, fixing things and surfing the internet again! 

13th of February View
Thankfully it dried up for Valentines day and we managed to escape to the shore. We got ashore reasonably early and caught a bus to go and buy a bus pass. Yes that’s right! There is only one place on the island where you can buy a one day bus pass, so we went there. Then armed  with our bus pass we walked back to Oneroa! Hmmm not sure of the logic there. Then Pat had a sugar low and managed to find the best ice cream in the world, Mandarin and Thai Basil flavour! Debi, who had decided she didn’t need an ice-cream because she was still trying to fit into those shorts, couldn’t resist and had to have a Lemon Shortcake and Basil ice-cream. It’s a good job we walked there so that we had some calories in the bank.

The Dinghy ride to the vineyard

Then full of ice-cream we caught the bus to Stonyridge vineyard for a bit of wine tasting and a mixed platter lunch (that’ll help the shorts!). We weren’t over impressed with the place which was expensive, pretentious and the wines were not that impressive. So we then walked next door to Te Motu vineyard which was much more relaxed but not much cheaper. We had a nice tasting session there and bought a couple of bottles as souvenirs. Then on the way back to the bus stop we found a brewery … well we had to. I can recommend the pale ale!

Sampling the red stuff

Lunch at Stony Ridge

Then finally we used our bus pass! We had a pleasant journey along the south coast and Debi managed to identify the exact moment when to press the bell to stop the bus for Shelly Beach. Then it was just a minor challenge to launch the dinghy and get back to X-Pat. All was OK as Debi was driving ….

Unbelievably the next day we got up and sailed to the Coromandel Peninsular (20 nm). We had originally planned to go to Coromandel Harbour, but then decided to head for an island to the north called Motukahaua. We found a lovely little sheltered bay with just one other tiny sail boat in it. The guy, who was onboard alone, seemed to be very keen to make friends but Pat was being grumpy but polite. The guy disappeared off for a few hours and came back bearing a snapper which he said was excess to his requirements and gave it to us. Pat gracefully accepted and then successfully filleted it, before getting in trouble for not inviting the friendly guy for a beer. Just trying to have a dry night!

At anchor on Motukahaua Island

Motukahaua Island
So that brings us to today, when we set off early before snapper guy was up and motored for 40 nm to Great Mercury Island. There was absolutely no wind but thankfully the tide was with us. Rounding Cape Colville we left the Hauraki Gulf and entered the Bay of Plenty.  We are now anchored in a beautiful bay called Peach Grove Bay. We had a nice snorkel this afternoon. Visibility was quite good though there were a few horrible cold patches, one of which we had managed to anchor in.

Cape Colville, our entry to the Bay of Plenty

Pat went off to the beach to do a beach clean. There was a bit of surf and he managed to fill the dinghy with water on approach but did better leaving! The beach was only 100m long but he picked up 52 pieces of polystyrene. Why this stuff is allowed to be used anywhere near the ocean is a complete mystery!

Mid way through writing this I stopped for supper. We had a Mexican evening and Debi cooked chicken chilli nachos! The conversation went along the lines of 

P: “this is very nice dear, but isn’t it unusual to have olives in a mexican dish?” 
D: “ there aren’t any olives in it”
P: “ well what are these then?”
D: “ Jalepenos?”
P: “ ooohhh, aaahhh yep that’s what they are!”
P: “ pass the red wine …”

Tomorrow we are heading south again with a broad plan to be at Tauranga Bridge Marina by Monday, ahead of Cyclone Gita which is due to hit on Tuesday. We are beginning to feel that the weather always wins!

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Weather, weather, weather ....

It’s supposed to be summer here but you wouldn’t believe it looking at the weather. The story for the last ten days has really been one of dashing between locations between the storms and taking advantage of the odd good day to do some walks.

We ended up staying in Tutukaka two days longer than originally planned. On our last day there, the lighthouse which we had visited a few days before recorded wind gusts of 52 knots! We may have been bored but we were glad to have been in the marina. 

We finally left on the 2nd February and made a dash for Urquhart Bay which is opposite the Marsden Point port and oil terminal. Despite what you may think it was quite a nice anchorage, which was just as well as we were then stuck there for three days waiting on strong winds passing through again. We even had to resort to playing scrabble!

We finally departed Urquhart’s Bay on the 5th and made a dash for the beautiful island of Kawau. Of course there was no wind at all for the journey and so we ended up motoring the whole 43 nm. This was a nice trip with lots of petrels and shearwaters flying around us a lots of blue penguins in the water. 

Urquhart Bay

Sunset over the oil terminal at Marsden Point
We anchored in North Cove, Kawau, which was nice and sheltered. However the peace was soon shattered by a bunch of kids on a school trip, learning to sail and kayak. To be fair I think the teachers were louder than the kids and it was very entertaining watching them all sailing for the first time. 

A moment of calm in North Cove, Kawau Island

The next day (Tuesday) we motored around to the next bay known as Bon Accord Harbour and anchored initially in Mansion House Bay. The island was once a busy copper mining settlement. The old engine house down on the shore was very reminiscent of those in Cornwall. The island was also home to Sir George Grey who bought the island when he was serving his second term of Governor of New Zealand. He planted hundreds of different plants and trees in the Mansion House valley. The flora and fauna today is therefore quite exotic. We had a good walk up the hill and down to the copper mine. We thought we had seen our first Tui, a bird that has had a beer named after it! Unfortunately it turned out to be a New Zealand pigeon. 
New Zealand or Cornwall?

A young copper miner

Tis Copper!

The Engine House
Mansion House Bay
The Mansion House

A New Zealand Pigeon, not a Tui!
On the 7th we departed Kawau for Gulf Harbour marina. We then had a busy day cleaning the boat and then got the ferry into Auckland city to pick up a hire car. We then got all our provisioning done, including topping up the Tui beer! That should keep us in good shape for the next three weeks.

On the 8th we picked up friends Linda and Sam, from the airport. They had just flown in from the USA. The idea was for them to spend a few days sailing with us, but the weather was so appalling that we had to abandon that idea. We had a nice but windy walk on Thursday afternoon, followed by tea and cake! In the evening we all met up with friends, Mark and Cherise, who had climbed to Everest Base camp with us last year. It was nice to see them again.

Linda, Sam and Debi on a windy walk

Glad not to be out there

Yesterday we drove into Auckland, dropped the car off and went to the maritime museum in the afternoon to hide from the rain! They had some big boats there!

Black Magic - winner of the America's Cup 1995
Linda and Sam have left us today to head south, hopefully towards better weather. We are going to sit still for another day or so until things at least dry up a bit and then continue south.

Friendly Fiji

After a burst of activity early on, it has been a pretty chilled out week. We left Buca Bay on Sunday, motoring out through the reef into...