STOP OFF AT WHANGAREI

I had a nice peaceful night at Tutakaka anchorage.  A low swell coming over the reef making Truce roll gently.  I had an early start, departing before sunrise, relying on the leading lights to guide me out of the harbour entrance past the outlaying reef.  My early start was driven by the forecast of south westerly winds later in the morning that would be on the nose as we headed down the coast.

Whangarei Lifting Bridge
Whangarei Lifting Bridge

Once clear of Tutakaka we motored down the coast in rain and poor visibility until around nine when the cloud broke and the sun made an appearance.  The sea and air around us was teaming with bird life – a sea lion surfaced alongside and startled me.

By ten we were past Bream head and heading up the channel into Whangarei Harbour.  The south west wind started blowing hard but by this time we were around the corner and into the shelter of the harbour.  Once we had motored past the refinery and commercial wharfs I anchored just past the Marsden Point Marina for lunch and to await the last three hours of flood tide to take us up into Whangarei town basin.

Whangarei Town Basin, Northland
Whangarei Town Basin, Northland

After lunch, I picked up the anchor and motored the remaining twelve miles up to Whangarei.  One obstacle on the way is a bridge which must be lifted to allow passage.  A call to bridge control on VHF channel 18 produced a positive response and as we motored towards the bridge it stated to open and we passed through without missing a beat.

Once past the bridge it’s a short distance to the town basin, a great mooring spot that’s sheltered and right in the centre of town.  Just after three in the afternoon Truce was secure alongside, the sun was shining and all was well.  I am looking forward to meeting up with Ngozi again tomorrow.

HEADING SOUTH TOWARDS AUCKLAND

I awoke early this morning – because I was cold – must find out where I stowed the blankets many months ago.  It’s surprising that things can be hard to find on such a small boat.

As today is a moving day an early start was not a bad thing.  After a life restoring cup of tea I walked to the local store and bought some fresh bread and milk.  Then to the marina office to check out.  The Bay of Islands Marina is a top-quality establishment and one of the best marinas I have stopped at – anywhere.  They have good, clean, modern, facilities and a very helpful staff – thanks for making my stay enjoyable.

Shortly after checking out I was letting go of the ropes from the berth and heading around to the fuel dock to bunker some diesel.  After bunkering I caught the last of the ebb tide out into the bay.

The weather forecast was for Northerly winds but they didn’t arrive until late afternoon and then not strong enough to sail.  So, it was motoring all day.  At first we had overcast skies and intermittent rain and drizzle.  Then after lunch the sky brightened and we had a glorious afternoon.

After rolling around Cape Brett I could see the coast laid out to the horizon – excellent visibility.  The sea was alive with bird life, dolphins, sea lions and I assume plenty of fish.  We continued motoring and just after six in the evening entered Tutakaka Harbour to anchor for the night.

Tomorrow I will continue heading south and call into Whangarei on the way.  Ngozi is driving up from Auckland and we will meet up on Sunday at the town dock.  I am looking forward to that.

REST, RECUPERATION AND TIDY UP IN OPUA

Today was dedicated to clean up and chores on board Truce and taking it easy.  In beautiful calm sunny weather, I set about tidying the boat.  Stowing all the bits and bobs that I had been using on passage and stashed in the quarter berth for convenience and ease of access from the cockpit.

On the passage from Tonga we used the engine far more than usual to get through the extensive calm patches.  All the running meant that the scheduled one-hundred-and-fifty-hour oil change became due sooner than expected.  Changing the oil isn’t a job I like, it’s always messy sucking the old oil out of the dipstick hole.  With a bag full of rags, the job was accomplished and Mr Yanmar now has clean oil and a new oil filter to keep him happy for a while.

Another session at the laundry means that we have fresh bed linen and towels on board.  The last laundry session was in Honolulu and the supply of clean sheets and towels had been exhausted – laundry was definitely due.

I don’t know where the day went, time flies when your having fun, but soon it was happy hour and time for some refreshment.  I got myself cleaned up and headed down to the Opua Yacht Club – just a short walk away.  Nice to sit out on the deck overlooking the harbour as the sun goes down.  The sand-flies also enjoyed dining out on my body.

I was back on-board Truce in the early evening as I plan to sail south tomorrow.  I checked the weather, tides and put a course on the chart, with a list of available stops and shelters on the way.  Not sure yet where I will go tomorrow.  I am heading south down the coast towards Auckland, first I need to get around Cape Brett and then have an idea I may stop in Whangarei.  We shall see tomorrow how it plays out.

BAY OF ISLANDS

What a beautiful sleep, I set my alarm for six but the phone battery expired overnight, the alarm didn’t and I awoke  at seven.  Outside the sun was just coming up and it was a beautiful calm morning, such a contrast to the wet windy evening before.  Shortly after my first fresh cup of coffee the Customs man arrived and handed me a bunch of paperwork to complete – say he would return.

The customs formalities were very straightforward – followed shortly after by the bio security inspection.  As I don’t have a fridge on board it was simple as there are no meats or vegetables on board.  After an inspection of the boat and stores the biosecurity man handed me my clearance and the inward formalities were complete.

Next, I motored into the Bay of Island marina and was allocated a guest berth.  Once we were tied up I went to check into the marina where the friendly staff gave me a welcome bag with goodies, a small bottle of rum and useful information. 

Today I just chilled out and didn’t do much.  I went for a decent coffee, visited the local grocery store and got fresh provisions, caught up on my emails, had a wonderful ten-minute shower, did some laundry and the day just flew by.  In the evening, I went to the Opua Cruising Club for a couple of beers to wash down the excellent fish and chips.  

I am sure I will sleep well again tonight.

ARRIVED NEW ZEALAND

The wind overnight was not as strong as forecast so in was a little slower than anticipated, I really wanted to make some miles and reduce the time in the strong winds closer to the Bay of Islands.  It turned out fine the wind picked up in the morning and I had a good thirty knots from the north west to blow me down to New Zealand.  I sailed with the storm staysail and a small jib at an easy six knots with Micky the wind-vane in charge as usual.  What a marvellous friend Mickey has been, keeping us on course in even the lightest winds and never complaining.

We rounded Cape Wiwiki and the outlaying Tikitiki Rock at four in the afternoon in gusty rain squalls.  A rough welcome but one that I relished.  It seemed fitting end to the voyage.  Soon we were motoring up the veronica passage to Opua where we berthed alongside the customs dock just after six in the evening.

A couple of boats came in after me, both New Zealand boats coming back from Fiji.  We all sat at the customs wharf overnight waiting for customs and biosecurity clearance in the morning.  It’s not possible to go ashore until customs clearance has been obtained but I was happy to stay on board and relax.   Now that truce was safely tied up and the voyage finished I had an extra tot of rum, reflected on the voyage and had a good chat to Ngozi now we are in phone range again.  I will sleep in the forward cabin this evening and luxuriate in the extra bed space.

ENGINE OFF AND SAILING AGAIN

No wind this last twenty-four hours and the engine has been running constantly.  The diesel bunker is getting low now so I was grateful when the wind finally showed up just after noon.  Since then we have been sailing nicely straight down the track to Opua in beautify weather.

In anticipation of the big blow this evening and tomorrow morning I have hanked on the storm staysail.  A no nonsense robust little thing, built like a brick outhouse.  I hope it’s not needed but better to rig it now than be fighting with it in the dark on a pitching deck and a howling wind.

This morning I saw another yacht ahead and to Starboard.  They are now astern, I can just see the tip of their mast showing above the horizon.  They may catch up later as I usually ease off at dusk so I can rest easy during the night.  They are on the same course as me to Opua so we may meet up at the customs dock.

During my morning walk around the boat I noticed a few small squid that had come on board during the night.  This seems to validate my theory about flying squid.  They were perfect eating size, I wish I had got to them when they were still fresh.  The bird life is back again this afternoon, they came back with the wind.  Good to have company but the albatross has not been back.

DAY 13 ONWARD FROM TONGA

This morning the wind finally died at ten, just ripples on the water.  We now have a huge spreading calm patch to get through before picking up the strong north westerly winds that will take us the final step to Opua.

The Yanmar engine has been running since the wind left us. Maybe it will be running for the next day as well – if the diesel lasts out.  So, we are making slow progress and now expect to arrive on Wednesday morning instead of Tuesday night.

I haven’t seen much bird life today.  I think the birds like some wind to play with, just like us sailors.  In the distance I saw another boat this morning, don’t know what it was, not a big ship or yacht so maybe a fishing boat.  The first boat I have seen since departing Minerva Reef on the 15th.

When making pasta last night one of my gas bottle ran out.  One that I had refilled in San Francisco back in June.  Amazing how long these gas bottles last, must be the best value fuel out there.

My food stock is getting low now, at least the stuff I want to eat.  My diet for the next days until port will be boring pasta, noodles, cereal and the occasional tin of something.

Last night we changed clocks to Summer time in New Zealand.  To celebrate this occasion, I am having an extra tot of Mount Gay Rum for sundowners this evening – I still have two fresh limes from Nuku’alofa.

10,000 MILES WITH TRUCE

Banging to windward all last night and today on starboard tack.  Getting to New Zealand is a battle, every mile must be won.  I am not complaining – some are still in the north waiting for a break in the weather and one yachtsman is sheltering at Raoul Island.

The daybreak this morning was beautiful and the day is sparkling but the wind is cool from the south west.  I am seeing more birdlife today, this morning we were visited by an albatross.  The bird circled a couple of times before flying alongside, looking us over with the beady eye of the ancient mariner.  What majestic animals.

This morning I was completing our voyage records and discovered that today Truce and I have just completed 10,000 miles together today.  We did 2,700 plus miles last year between Canoe Cove and Glacier Bay in Alaska.  This year we have done over 7,200 miles across the Pacific, from Canada to New Zealand.  I would say we know each other quite well although I still have much to learn.

Now less than 300 miles to Opua.  But we still have a calm patch and a gale to get through.  The maximum forecast winds for Tuesday have just increased from thirty-nine to forty-two knots.  Oh boy – I don’t fancy that.  I will hank on the storm staysail tomorrow.

WORKING TO GET SOUTH

It’s a good job I made muffins yesterday – it would never have happened today, conditions are far too boisterous.  The day started out with a rain squall and front just after midnight.  Then a strong south west wind and swell set in and we have been using it all day make our way south the best we can.  Our starboard bow is in the weather for a change, pushing aside the SW swells and sending a deluge of spray all over the boat.

We are still looking at an ETA into Opua on Tuesday.  Hopefully just ahead of the thirty-nine knot winds that are forecast.

I was thinking about the motion on board Truce today and realise she is very light compared to when we started the voyage up in Canoe Cove.  Then we had on board provisions for six months and the weight of cases of soft drinks, beer, drinking water bottles, tinned and bottles provisions – a great weight.  The fuel levels are now quite low and water is about half full – no wonder the movement is lively.

ENOUGH WEST – TURNING SOUTH TO NEW ZEALAND

I haven’t posted a log for a couple of days.  I didn’t have much to say, Truce and I have been beating to the west to get around a am nasty patch of weather above New Zealand.  Same slog day after day.  After three days, we have gained enough distance to start turning to the south and hopefully benefiting from favourable winds on the last part of the voyage.

Of course, now that we have gained our westing the wind has disappeared completely and we are in an area of high pressure.  It looks like we will be motoring for twenty-four hours until we are clear and into a breeze.  I have my fingers crossed that the autopilot, engine and everything holds together until we reach the wind.

The yachts that I met along the way at Tonga and Minerva Reef are still waiting for a weather window to depart to NZ.  That is a good safe tactic if you have the time and provides an enjoyable quick trip in good weather.

I intend to clear through customs in Opua, Bay of Islands.  It’s the closest customs port if arriving from the north and once cleared in I can take a sail down the coast to Auckland.  It will be so good to be back on the spectacular NZ coats again with its snug safe anchorages.

At late afternoon we were six hundred miles from Opua.  If the last part of the voyage goes to plan we will be arriving there on the 26th September.

It seems I budgeted my beer stock just right.  I have sufficient to last until Auckland and an emergency reserve in case of delays or bad weather on the way.  One advantage of the cooler weather is also cooler sea water, beer laid in the bilge is nice and cool to drink now.

The last of my fresh Tonga vegetables has been consumed – only some onions and limes remain.  These will also be gone before we land in Opua, not allowed to bring such stuff into New Zealand.