Thursday morning, Lockdown lifted and no wind. Sitting in Port Hardy, the water was flat calm, not a catspaw disturbing the surface. The forecast was for another day of light and variable winds. I resigned myself to wait another day and had breakfast. By smoko the elastic band of frustration snapped in my brain. I dropped the mooring and was moving. The logic being it’s better to be trying to move somewhere than sitting waiting. What did it matter if it took two days to cross the Cook Strait? I was going to head up the West Coast of New Zealand.
Once out of Port Hardy all sail went up and soon we were ghosting along at three and a half knots. Stevens Island at the top of the South Island gradually dropping astern.
By four in the afternoon I could see Mount Taranaki seventy miles in the distance. Then the wind started playing tricks, exceptionally light winds and variable. It was to be another 24 hours before Mount Taranaki was abeam, but progress was being made, eighty-three miles in the first 24 hours, but not all in the right direction!
Once past Cape Egmont a southerly breeze set in, I rigged the spinnaker pole and was able to sail all night wing on wing with one reef in the main. Nicely balanced like this Micky the wind vane had an easy time steering us through the night. Saturday morning brought calms again which lasted on and off until sunset. Despite the calms we still managed to clock off ninety-nine miles noon to noon, mostly in the right direction this time.
All day Sunday we had good wind from the SE. We made a further one hundred and eight miles noon to noon. By late evening we had a front coming through with gusty winds and rough seas. Truce was down to triple reef main, staysail and 30% yankee. Not a nice night but we were making good speed for once in exactly the right direction.
By six on Monday morning I could see Cape Reinga light, flashing every twelve seconds. We were on schedule to take the favourable tide around the cape.
I remember when I first came to New Zealand taking a bus trip up to Cape Reinga. I stood at the Cape by the lighthouse and looked out to sea, where the Pacific and Tasman seas meet. There was a tremendous tidal rip clearly visible for miles out to sea. Now as I approached the Cape, I wondered how bad that tidal rip was going to be.
Just after ten on Monday Cape Reinga was abeam to starboard. The wind had switched around to the east and was against the east going tide. Steep seas mounted up, I dropped all sail and motored, Mr. Yanmar straining flat chat to make headway. After three hours of strenuous exercise we covered the last nine miles and dropped anchor in Spirits Bay.
Spirits Bay is a fair-weather anchorage. Exposed to the north and subject to swell, it would be untenable in a northerly wind or swell. The anchorage itself is close in at the east end of the beach under Hooper Point, behind a small island. It is a beautiful spot with a magnificent beach, one of the best in New Zealand. On the hillside horses are grazing. I am not going ashore as the swell is causing a surf on the beach, don’t want to get tipped out the dinghy.
Looking out from the anchorage, its open to the north and Cape Reinga is clearly visible in the distance. Directly out of the anchorage on a bearing of 288 degrees is Brisbane, quite a way off.
The steep seas off Cape Reinga caused us to move around quite violently, rocking, rolling and pitching. The books in the bookshelf decided to jump the bar and break free with seat cushions being tossed around the cabin. I have a bit of tidying up to do.
I had intended to sail around North Cape and down the east coast after rounding Cape Reinga. However, the favourable weather forecast for this trip when I set out has altered significantly. There are now SE’ly winds coming up the coast for a few days, effectively blocking my progress. This is all due to a sub-tropical low to the east of New Zealand messing things up.
Now I plan to wait in Spirits Bay for the weather to moderate and give favourable winds on the east coast before moving around, maybe setting off again at the weekend. In the meantime I will catch up on sleep and relax a while.
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