Our Current Position

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Walks, Hola and a Pub!

We’ve been doing quite a few walks since the last blog. Last Saturday we went ashore at Bush Beach in Kaiarara Bay and set off on the Kaiarara bush trail. This turned out to be a bit more arduous than we had envisaged, with a lot of up and down hills, climbing over fallen trees and slipping around on the mud. It didn't help that Pat’s advice to Debi was that she wouldn’t need her hiking boots and would be fine in sandals! Wrong! She spent a lot of the first part of the walk sliding around as she tried to descend some very steep muddy slopes. After dropping down into the adjacent bay we then had a massive climb back out to eventually hit what is known as Forest Road which is a dirt track and a little easier walking. This road then seemed to go on forever, often in what seemed like completely the wrong direction. We were very poorly equipped with no map, no food and had visions of spending the night huddled in a hut somewhere. However, things eventually came right and 5.5 hours and 18k later we were safely back on X-Pat.

At least the sandals were useful for wading through the rivers
Fantastic views back to the bay once we had climbed to Forest Rd.
Sunday was spent recovering from our exertion and preparing for the remains of Cyclone Hola. We put out extra chain (a total of 70m) to make sure that we were secure, lashed down everything that we could on deck and put up our dodger to give us a bit of protection from the heavy rain. Then we waited. Monday came and the bad weather arrived exactly as forecast, with winds out in the channel rising to 45 knots. We were nicely tucked away and saw a maximum of 27 knots. Then in the afternoon it started to rain and rain and rain. We’re not sure how many mm we had but the bay turned a tea colour from all of the sediment washing down of the hills. Branches and other debris was sweeping past us as we swayed around at anchor. In the evening the wind got up again and was gusting 60 knots out in the channel. We were thankful to be hiding in the harbour.

The bay turned tea colour from the sediment

On Tuesday the wind moved around to the west and so we were a bit exposed and decided to move around to Stony Bay which was more sheltered from the west. We had a nice quiet night there after all the excitement of Hola. Debi had a swim and Pat went and did a beach clean up on a very stony beach, finding lots of micro plastics. The island here is made of volcanic debris known as breccia. The hard pieces of volcanic rock are in a matrix of softer material which is eroded by the action of the sea and leads to a very stony beach!

Andesitic Breccia at Stony Bay

X-Pat and Double Trouble at anchor in Stony Bay

From Stony Bay we moved a few miles around the corner to Warrens Bay to join friends. We had a few drinks on X-Pat on Wednesday night with Jo and Rob (Double Trouble), Karen and Mike (True Companions) and Linda and James (Sol). They are all sailing catamarans and we think we convinced them not to change to a monohull after they were all squeezed into our tiny cockpit, which got gradually chillier as the sun went down. Still it was nice to get together, before we all set off in different directions again.

On Thursday it was time to blow away the cobwebs and head off for another walk, this time with walking boots. We did the Warren’s/Bridle track which took us to some lovely waterfalls and then followed this with a walk through a lovely area known as Glenfern Sanctuary. The area was purchased by Tony Bouzaid over 20 years ago and had been extensively logged and farmed. He decided that he wanted to try to return the area to more native bush, to see the return of many of the birds and other wildlife that he remembered from his childhood. Over 10,000 trees have been planted over those 20 years and a big pest eradication programme has been undertaken which has included fencing the whole area. It’s certainly a beautiful area to walk through and very well set out for visitors to enjoy and understand a bit about the work.
Warrens Track along the river bed

Waterfall and Hiking boots
The birdlife is certainly impressive here though many of them are very elusive. In contrast to most birds here the Fantail’s are very inquisitive. If you stand still on the paths they will come very close to take a look at you. These birds are a common native in New Zealand and are one of the few forest birds to have thrived as a result of forest clearance, which has resulted in the creation of forest edge and scrub habitats which they like. 

The ever inquisitive Fantail
600 year old Kauri's
We have also seen a few Brown Teal or Pateke as they are known locally. This rare endemic duck was once widespread throughout New Zealand but is now largely confined to Great Barrier Island and the east coast of Northland between the Bay of Islands and Tutukaka. Their population decline is believed to have been due to predation from cats and dogs, the drainage of lowland habitat and the harvesting of birds prior to their protection. The population is now recovering due to conservation efforts such as those at Glenfern and is currently estimated to be between 2000-2500. What a privilege to see a pair of these ducks with a duckling!

The Brown Teal or Pateke with duckling

The view from Sunset Rock at Glenfern Sanctuary. X-Pat is at anchor in the distance

After all that walking it was time for refreshment and so we headed off to the Boat Club which overlooks Port Fitzroy. Having been on a fish and vegetable diet for the last three weeks, Pat was encouraged to see “Pie of the Day” at the top of the menu which he duly ordered. It turned out to be fish pie!  With the exception of buying some milk and cheese in Port Fitzroy we haven’t had to shop since our last major provisioning trip which was done in Tauranga, three weeks ago. Debi has done a great job on the planning and cooking front and we have now been meat free for three weeks! Supplies are beginning to get low now though, so a major shop is planned in the next few days.

Yesterday we left the shelter of Port Fitzroy Harbour and started heading back south again. There was very little wind and so we motor sailed down to Whangaparapara which is another lovely sheltered natural harbour, nestled into the hills. We anchored in the ominously named Graveyard Bay. Despite the name we had a very quiet night, Pat was up early and had a great view of the night sky, with Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and Pluto all visible. we have also been visited here by Blue Penguins which are a common native here. They are the smallest penguin and have been swimming around X-Pat calling to each other. We suspect that they have been nesting on the nearby beach or in the scrubland behind the beach. The water is clear enough to be able to see them ‘flying’ underwater, which is spectacular to watch.

We had planned another walk today but the weather has deteriorated and so we have been reduced to doing a trip to the recycling facility on the wharf and a sort walk up the road. 

Friday, 9 March 2018

Great Barrier Island

We have now made it to the beautiful Great Barrier Island and we are going to be here for a while!

We left Huruchi Harbour on Great Mercury Island on Monday on yet another windless day. We do seem to pick our days. We motor sailed the 25nm to Tryphena on the south west side of Great Barrier Island and found ourselves a nice anchorage. The next day we moved around to Puriri Bay to get an improved internet signal (always a priority) and just chilled out there. Pat spent the morning servicing all of the winches, so that they are all nicely greased and sounding good.

On Wednesday we decided we should get ashore and explore. We set off in quite changeable weather with a bit of rain. It was high tide when we went ashore and so we tied the dinghy so far up the beach that it was tied up to  road sign! Then we set off up the road and carried on walking up and up and up. The weather cleared and so we just kept walking and ended up across the other side of the island at Medlands Beach. This is a beautiful beach on the east side of the island, but there is nothing there. No shops, not even coffee shop. So we had a nice walk along the beach and then turned around and came back again. On the way back we spotted a Kaka. This is a large and very noisy forest parrot which is fairly common in New Zealand but is not found anywhere else. Their total population is believed to be around 10,000 birds and they are classified as a threatened species due to loss of habitat. Unfortunately the one we saw didn’t hang around long enough to have its photo taken. 

On the road to Medlands

Medlands Bay
Medlands Beach - not a coffee shop in sight!

Back in Puriri Bay after 13km

By the time we had walked back to Puriri Bay we had walked 13km. The legs were in shock until we found a genuine Irish pub run by an Irish family. The pub is called the Currach and is thoroughly recommended. We met our cruising friends Jo and Rob, from Double Trouble and Mike and Karen from True Companion there and had a fine time sampling the local ales and the guinness. I suspect we may be visiting again!

Happiness after a long walk
It was so warm that Pat's pint was just evaporating!
Then it was back to the dinghy and the realisation that the tide had now gone out and the sea was a very long way from the dinghy. We can just about carry our dinghy plus outboard motor between the two of us, but it is not easy, especially after multiple pints. Thankfully the sun had not yet set, as trying that in the dark would not have been funny. 

That's a long way to carry the dinghy
Back on X-Pat we decided it was time for a nightcap and movie time, which has become a regular feature at around 8pm each night. We have downloaded a lot of TV series from Netflix and are working our way through them. We are currently enjoying Wallander, a swedish detective series.

On Thursday Pat woke with a mild headache and managed to swim it off fairly quickly. We have some more bad weather on its was over the next few days and so we have decided to accelerate our trip north and hide in the Port Fitzroy area which is a lovely sheltered harbour. So we hauled anchor and departed in some very dubious weather.  There were some horrible squally showers on the way north but we passed through a lovely area of little wooded islands and then through the narrow Man O’War Passage to enter Port Fitzroy harbour.

Heading north through the islands

Approaching the very narrow Man O'War Passage into Port Fitzroy
Last night we anchored in Smokehouse Bay, which was very peaceful. It was so still and the sky so clear that Pat attempted to photograph the stars. However, despite the stillness the boat was still moving too much to get any good shots. This morning Pat went exploring in the dinghy and found a wonderful area that was set up for cruisers many years ago and has been gradually added to. The place is fantastic. It has freshwater there with showers and a bath. You can heat the water by lighting a wood fire. There is a book exchange library, a smokehouse where you can smoke your fish and a BBQ. There is even a sink for doing your laundry, complete with a mangle! We must go back.

X-Pat at anchor in Smokehouse Bay

The house for smoking your fish

I knew we didn't need a washing machine on the boat

This morning we moved across the harbour and are now anchored in Kaiarara Bay, which is very well protected from the wind from just about any direction. This is just as well as there is a big blow forecast from the SE for this evening and then yet another ex cyclone (Hola) is heading our way early next week. We have decided to ride this one out on anchor as we are a very long way from any marinas out here. Tomorrow is forecasted to be windy but fine so we are going to do a long bush walk through the hills here.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

A Casual Cruise Northwards

The last week has been very relaxed. The wind has been SE to NE to E at 20 knots or more and so we have been cautious about how far we sail as the seas have been getting quite rough. From Tapuaetahi we had a fairly boisterous sail up to Cook’s Bay within Great Mercury Bay. We had a full main and most of the headsail out and were somewhat overpowered. Our track reflects our rather erratic course as we were bearing away during the strong gusts. Cook’s Bay turned out to be quite a rolly anchorage as the big swell came in from the east, but it was ok for one night and we managed to pour the wine without spilling it and watch a nice sunset. 

Sundowners in a rolly Cook's bay
Despite what appear to be calm conditions it was quite rolly
On Tuesday we headed across Great Mercury Bay to Matapaua Bay to shelter from a NE change and to get away from the rolly conditions. This was a short but unpleasant trip in heavy drizzle. Whilst we found shelter from the wind the rolling just continued. With rain for most of the day we did a few jobs inside.

On Wednesday we escaped Matapaua and motored north to Peach Grove Bay on the south end of Great Mercury island. The wind was on the nose and the seas were fairly messy, so it wasn’t a particularly enjoyable trip, but we wanted to get away from the rolling. We had visited this lovely little bay on the way south and were happy to return. Whilst the bay provided good shelter from the strong NE winds it was still rolly! That was three nights in a row! At least the rain stopped and Pat dug out the water maker and made about 100 litres of freshwater. 

So on Thursday off we went again in search of a calm anchorage a finally found it just around the corner in Huruchi Harbour on the west coast of Great Mercury Bay. We had a short but nice downwind sail, with just the headsail up. On the way Pat spotted a headland that definitely needs to be renamed. Islands and headlands are often named after what they look like, Slipper and Shoe Islands being two examples. However, often they don’t look anything like their names. Pat decided that we should call this headland Victoria Point, as this definitely looks like a Victorian woman, with her cat! We anchored at the south end of the bay, which has turned out to be nice and sheltered with very little rolling around. We like this anchorage so much that we are still here and it’s now Sunday. 

Victorian woman with her cat. The cat takes a bit of imagination!
Debi has been keeping fit by swimming to the beach, running up and down the beach and doing Tae Kwon Do patterns on the beach. Then she swims back. Pat has been exhausted just watching, though he has managed to do quite a bit of snorkelling. The rocks on the nearby headland are covered in large weed which provides fantastic cover for a lot of fish. The local population of Pied Shags seem to know this and spend most of their day roosting in a tree which overhangs the sea. It seems that about two hours after the tide changes the birds become active and all leave the roost to go fishing along the coast. They spend about 1-2 hours fishing then it’s back to their favourite tree. 

Pied Shags chilling out after a few hours fishing in Huruchi Harbour

Not to be outdone by the Pied Shags, Pat has been trying to emulate their lifestyle and so went off in the dinghy to catch supper. He wasn’t quite as efficient as the shags but did come back with two nice Snapper. Unfortunately one of the snapper decided to get revenge and managed to puncture the floor of the dinghy with the spines on it’s back. So what started off as a quick fishing trip turned into a day of cleaning and preparing fish and repairing the dinghy!

Snapper for supper
Yesterday Debi did her exercise routine again and continued to practice her french, having mastered spanish! Pat is not sure where she thinks we are sailing next, but she seems to have her eye on Europe! She also made delicious blueberry hot cakes for breakfast! Thank you Paul and Anna for the recipe. This was followed by a fish soup for lunch and fried snapper in a lemon and honey sauce for supper! We even had pod of dolphins come and visit the bay at sunset last night.

Stormy Skies
We had intended to leave today (Sunday) for Great Barrier Island, but a quick check on the weather observation stations revealed that it was blowing 30 knots and gusting 38 knots on our route. We are in no hurry, so instead we will have another day of chilling out. Pat has been watching what he thinks is a Swamp Harrier hunting along the coastline. It turns out that New Zealand has very few raptors and the swamp harrier is the most common. It’s quite impressive soaring above the hills. The other entertainment has been the Australasian Gannets. They really are superb to watch and when they spot a fish they hit the water like a missile, which is quite alarming when they decide to do it within 20m of the dinghy that you’re sitting in!

Maybe tomorrow we will make tracks towards Great barrier Island.

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...