“Island Crawl”

Our “Island Crawl” continues  with the Poor Knights Islands yesterday and Hen and Chicken Islands today.   We started our journey south towards the Marlborough Sounds from Bay of Islands early yesterday and detoured a few miles to visit the Poor Knights Islands.  They are an iconic dive site with regular dive trips leaving from Tutukaka on the mainland some 14 miles to the west. We weren’t there to dive we wanted to see the Buller’s Shearwaters.  Poor Knights is their only known breeding ground and they have only just returned from the central Pacific where they spend the austral winter.  We weren’t disappointed, there were large flocks on the water just a few miles south of Islands.  We enjoyed a great night anchored at Smugglers Cove and outside of Whangarei Heads. It was both calm and quiet. There was a great sunrise as we steamed east to the Hen and Chickens. These islands are obviously very popular with recreational fisherman. They are only 7 miles from Whangarei Harbour entrance. There were already at least 10 boats fishing when we arrived.  The Islands are Nature Reserves. I was interested to see Taranga or Hen Island as this was, until birds were transferred to other Islands, the only place that North Island Saddleback survived.  Great to hear and see Parakeets flying overhead Araara Island.  With strong to gale force winds forecast tonight  we are heading south to find a comfortable anchorage to sit this one out.   

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Bay of Islands

I am writing from our current anchorage in Keri Keri Inlet. We came here last night ahead of (another) storm warning for the region. The anchorage is good we will get a bit of wind but that is compensated by very good holding and lack of swell. But it is looking like the storm warning might need to be downgraded as the wind has eased and the sun is shining.  Since leaving Whangarei we have spent our time in and around the Bay of Islands making the most of the occasional good weather. We have been north to Whangaroa and south as far as Whangamumu and Whangaruru. We have enjoyed some great landings, gained a deeper understanding of the local history, hiked the many DoC tracks and even started to understand how to catch snapper. We have also enjoyed sharing the time with friends that have joined us.  Our plans are to stay local until Spring. We are hopeful that the weather will allow us an opportunity to go to the Three Kings before we start our journey south.

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Update from Whangarei

We spent just over a week on the slip .. it was a busy time with numerous small jobs that had to be done (or we wanted done), a lot of it was simply fine tuning, improving or adapting systems that were already there. The anchor fairleads needed modifying slightly to ensure the chain ran smoothly, we simplified the self-furling gear on both the main and mizzen, added a couple extra drain holes on the swim deck, replaced a couple pipes that should have been done in the Philippines, put some guttering above the Pilot house doors to divert the rain water ….. with boats there is always something needing done.  The major job though was to clean the hull and apply a new or fresh coat of antifoul which we did between the frequent showers of rain.    We came off the slip and Simon headed away for a well-earned break and then Northland got hit with the heavy rain and strong winds over Queens birthday weekend.  I had to shift anchorages … the anchors simply wouldn’t hold in thick river mud. (It would appear there was a hard smooth pan below the mud that the anchor couldn’t/wouldn’t penetrate).  I anchored near Matakohe-Limestone Island in the Harbour and spent a windy night … the wind was gusting up to 58kts and sometimes it felt there was more water in the sky than there was in the ocean as it rained that heavily …. So much for the myth of the “winterless north”.    I won’t say I am enjoying a lazy time, but I am certainly having a lazy time while I wait for Simon to come back from leave. 

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We haven’t exactly just sitting around here in Whangarei … we have been using the time to do some maintenance.  For the first couple weeks we were moored at the ship yards’ jetty, but last night on the high tide they hauled us up onto the hard.    This morning the team water blasted the Hull and sanded it back.  The antifoul that was on the vessel was in reasonable condition and probably could have lasted another 12 months, but because we want to go to Fiordland later in the year we decided to clean it and put a new coat on.  Vessels are required to have a “clean hull” permit to cruise in the Fiords, it is one way to prevent the spread of unwanted aquatic organisms.    What we did discover though when we hauled it out was that a number of bolts holding the rudder in place were loose !!!!!!!!!!! whether they weren’t tightened sufficiently in the ship yard during construction or whether they have worked loose (we have done over 17,000 nautical miles  since leaving Hong Kong) we will never know.  WE will be retightening and securing them in a way that means they cannot work loose.  The thought of what might have been puts a whole new meaning on a rudderless ship … I don’t want to think about it.    We hope to go back into the water next week and when that happens we will make plans, until then we are enjoying the “winterless north” (that’s a myth), the freedom of level two and the maintenance work.   

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A nostalgic walk

A nostalgic walk. After an extended period at sea, we are enjoying the opportunity to stretch the legs. Whangarei has to be one of the best places for boat/yacht lover’s to walk.  Last night we walked down the river and discovered the old coastal scow Te Aroha. It was a sorry sight, it sunk (several times) at its moorings in 2015 while being restored. To see it brought back many memories.  It was built in 1909, reputedly from one Kauri log at Totara North, Auckland by T Lane and Sons. It entered the Cook Strait service and by all accounts did over 10,000 crossings of Cook Strait. It was sold to Capt. Tim Phipps in 1976.  That was my first encounter with her. I was a Fauna Conservation Officer for Wildlife Service in Invercargill. We had discovered Kakapo on Stewart Island in early 1976 and it was decided to build 6 x Portable Bivi’s (huts) and place them at strategic places around southern Stewart Island so we could continue the survey work year round. These huts were built by inmates at the Invercargill Borstal. The question was how to get them to Port Pegasus. I discussed this with Tim who had the Te Aroha in Bluff standing in for the Stewart Island Ferry Wairau which was out on annual survey. He agreed and we loaded the six huts one Friday night and he sailed for Port Pegasus. Bill Black from Te Anau flew down the next morning and lifted them off.  Te Aroha was later sold to Mike and Dee Pigneguy from Auckland. They advertised trips in the Hauraki Gulf on her. When we formed Heritage Expeditions in 1985 it was one of a number of vessels we chartered to offer coastal expeditions. Other destinations included Fiordland, Stewart Island and Marlborough Sounds.  It was good but sad to see her in such a sorry sight.

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