At four on Thursday morning I slipped the mooring and motored quietly out of Port Taranaki. Not a breath of wind disturbed the sea, all was very still. Once clear of the breakwaters I increased the engine power and headed north towards Cape Reinga, almost three hundred miles distant. The forecast was for a few hours of light winds before a ten to fifteen knot S’Wly set in.
The lights of New Plymouth receded into the distance. The sun rose and still no wind. We motored on, rolling easily to the long W’ly swell. All morning we motored, the wind still on its way.
At midday I could still see Mount Taranaki astern, over seventy five miles away. This reminds me of the first time I flew into New Zealand. I was sitting on the starboard side of the plane, as we descended to approach Auckland I saw what appeared to be Mount Fuji poking up above the clouds. Later I discovered that what I saw was Mount Taranaki a distance of around one hundred and forty nautical miles away. Mount Taranaki was the first land I saw in New Zealand.
At six in the evening the sea started to ripple and the first signs of wind were showing. Forty five minutes later we had enough wind to sail, yankee, staysail and a single reef in the main. (I usually have at least one reef in the main at night in case we have squalls). The wind held all night with the occasional large black rain cloud passing by giving more wind, less wind and some rain. Progress was good, averaging five and a half knots until seven in the morning when the wind got switched off again.
The wind teased us all day Friday. Three times we motored due to lack of wind but at other times had a nice breeze. We managed to knock off one hundred and twenty nine miles for the day until midnight so good progress north.
Early Saturday started with rain clouds and squalls. These eased later and the wind blew from the south. With poled out yankee to port and both staysail and mail out to starboard we made some spectacular runs of over seven knots. Alas, this didn’t last more than a couple of hours and we were back to motoring again. By this time we were approaching Cape Reinga and with a gusty wind were able to motor-sail around the Cape, a good distance off to avoid the overfalls.
I don’t totally understand the best tactics for rounding Cape Reinga with regard to the tidal stream. Some advocate rounding at a distance to avoid the worst of the stream and to keep out of the overfalls. Others favour working close in to the cape and taking the tide through. One day I hope to discuss this with a fisherman and get the good information. Today there was a yacht ahead of me taking the same offshore route as Truce, there was also a German yacht who waited for the tide and came around close in to the coast. Both ways work but one must be better than the other.
At one thirty in the afternoon we were anchored in Spirits Bay having doubled Cape Reinga. Finally, Mr. Yanmar got to rest and I settled back to enjoy the beautiful scenery in peace and quiet. The trip up from New Plymouth had been good, the wind lighter than forecast and absent at times but with the use of the engine in calm patches we had averaged a good speed. Sailing on the New Zealand coast is rarely constant, changes in the sea, swell and wind are to be expected.
Spirits Bay is tucked away behind Hooper Point. The anchorage is exposed to the North and West but Hooper Point shelters the anchorage from the easterly swell. Care is needed not to get too close to Hooper Point as a very strong tidal stream swirls around the point. The forecast is for light winds so Spirits Bay anchorage is good for the night. If there is any wind forecast Spirits Bay is not a place you really want to be, sitting exposed on the top edge of New Zealand. But it is a magical place to be in good weather, like sitting on top of the world.