Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Bay Of Islands

2nd November 2007

We took a little sail out a few miles to Roberton Island where we took the dinghy to a jetty ashore. The jetty had "Private" written on it and so we tied-up and wandered ashore to the little cottage there. A short muscular lady strode over as we walked up her lawn and said "You can't leave yer dinghy there!". We explained that we were just coming to check with her and that we did not want to get our feet wet running up the beach. She explained that, as soon as you get one dinghy, they start arriving in droves and that the beach and area around there were private property. We talked some more about the local birdlife etc etc, and she said that since she now knew us, it was ok to leave the dinghy where it was. We promised to drop-by when we returned from our explorations for a cup of tea. After a walk up to the peak of the island where there were superb views across the Bay of Islands, we walked back to the cottage and whistled for the dog that would announce our presence. The dog was asleep but Terry heard us from the corner of her garden where she was planting and we went inside for tea. She "Ran away" from home in England when she was young doing Oceanmaster training across the Atlantic and ended up in Dominica where she worked as a divemaster. Eventually, she worked on a number of square-riggers where she met her husband and landed in NZ where she has been for the last 13 years. Her husband is a master of a sqare rigger that is doing a Pacific curcuit to Easter Island and back. He is now in Vanuatu and due home within the month. As we were leaving, she asked if we wanted to see the boat they were building. The hull was in a home-built shed/tent and was about 30-35 ft long and make from kauri planking. They had built it from the ground-up. Having built the shed and the staging around which it was to be built, they then poured the lead keel and have made everything including the bolts and brass chainplates. Much of the boat has been locally felled timber that they have cut, towed behind their dinghy and hauled ashore. The boat is beautifully built and will be finished next year when they then have the problem of hauling it down to the shoreline to launch. We have been invited to return when hubby is home and we will take up the offer.

At Anchor off Roberton Island

Roberton Island

3rd November 2007

We took Naz to Deep Bay where the hulk of the HMNZS Canterbury was awaiting execution. Hundreds and hundreds of local boats arrived and formed a great semi-circle around the great steel warship and at 15:00, explosives were detonated and the beast slid quickly and silently under the waves. It was a sad moment but the atmosphere was very party-like with everyone having a great day out. The ship will attract sea-life and divers and will be a tourist attraction. After it had sunk we decided to find an anchorage for the night, after a short sail we ended up in Urupukapuka Island.

5th November 2007

Today, we walked ashore on Urupukapuka island where we are now anchored. The scenery is a bit like a mix between the West coast and Dorset depending an which way you are looking. Very beautiful. It was nice to get the legs moving again even though the hills here are steep. We came across a couple of sheep that we thought would be a good foreground to a piccy of the boat and I made clucking noises to make one of them raise its head for the shot. In response, they wandered over and wanted petting! Back on Naz, it's raining again but the weather is set to improve tomorrow when we will go back to Russell to re-provision. We have to stay in NZ for 5 months to let the cyclone season abate before we move on. We have contacted Whangerei and had verbal confirmation of lift-out. We can re-confirm tomorrow when we are in a place that has mobile phone coverage.

7th November 2007

Later today, we will probably brave the persistent rain and go back to Opua (only about 3 miles!!) where we can join the yacht club and then use their showers. Without hot water on the boat, and with the cold conditions, we are starting to really smell!!

9th November 2007

We are still waiting for decent weather to get to Whangerai. We went out to Russell again yesterday, anchored and went into town in the morning. We are still on a hunt for a mooring bouy since the last one we checked out would have only had a 1.8 metre depth at spring lows. We went to the information centre who told us to go to the Russell Radio building. Apparently, this is was the real Russell Radio that Des the 80-year-old used to work for. There is a certain animosity between the real Russell Radio and Des since Des went solo and pinched half their business - I have noticed that Des has started calling himself "Russell Radio Offshore Communications" following what has probably been some strong words. The chap at Russell Radio was very pleasant but moorings are like hens-teeth here and he couldn't help. Russell is pleasant and surrounded by ancient history since it was the first capital of NZ. Most of the history would have been remembered by your grandparents. There is a proud cannon displayed, but the sign said taht it was actually just a bit of ballast that was in a ship that arrived, there is a hand-operated crane proudly used in 1850 and other historical artefacts and tools that look like they have come from a corner of your garage. In the afternoon, we returned to Naz and scurried off to the other side of the bay where sensible people were going to avoid the 50 knot gusts that were forecast. We are looking the half-mile across to where we were and are glad we made the move, the water is nice and calm here compared to the white water over there. We have taken the engine off the dinghy which has spent some time acting as a pennant as the gusts find their way around the hillside behind which we are sheltered. Some mad fools were out in the bay earlier with sails up but they were quickly blown downwind out of sight.

Russell Yacht Club and Ferry To Pahia

Land ahoy!

28th October 2008


I got up this morning to good news, we were sailing and in the right direction! During the evening the wind had backed allowing us to steer towards Opua and not the north tip of New Zealand.

It was a beautiful morning but in the distance we could see a very dark bank of clouds luckily it looked like it was going to miss us. Pete was concerned at the dramatic wind change and decided to stay up for a few hours to monitor the situation as the wind was increasing.

I downloaded our emails and our friends Don & Barbi on Lutana II had emailed us to say that at 3am that morning they had been hit out of the blue by 47 knots of wind with no warning. Fortune has smiled on us and we were only getting 20+ knots as we were on the perimeter of the front.

Significant Rise in Barometric Pressure over 24 hours!

GPS Tells us 100 Miles to Opua Waypoint. The computer is locked in its cubby hole with rags to stop it jumping across the room.

We still had two reefs in the main (we always do at night) and I suggested to Pete that maybe we should get more sail out as we only had just over hundred miles to go, Pete said no as the conditions weren’t stable, he was right! The wind continued to increase and eventually levelled off at 30+ knots but although it was windy and the seas rough it was on the beam and landfall looked possible for tomorrow.

The problem with long passages is that it gets very tempting to push the boat harder to get to your destination, especially on this crossing when the longer you are out the more your chances are of getting caught in nasty conditions. I must admit I was desperate to get the crossing over and done with as soon as possible as we had known boats to get stuck in gale force headwinds with only a hundred miles to go and not being able to make it in.

Well Reefed And a Load of Spray

Later on in the morning Pete eventually decided that even though there was a bit of a blow going on it was unlikely to increase anymore and retired to bed to get some well-earned rest.

It is lovely to watch the sea birds sweeping over the waves like fighter pilots and out of nowhere I saw an albatross! It flew right by Nadezhda and played with the other sea birds, it was a huge bird with extremely long wings and glided effortlessly just above the breaking waves, magical.

29th October 2007


Overnight the winds eased and we sailed gently towards our destination. At 06:30am as the sun rose I saw New Zealand in the distance, Land Ahoy! I was so excited as we had made it and it was highly unlikely that we wouldn’t make it in today, but I never said it out loud as I didn’t want to jinx us.


It was a beautiful day as the wind came around aft of the beam at 15 knots and the sun shone on one of those glorious slightly nippy spring days. The entrance to the bay of islands could well be situated in the West Country as there are black rock cliffs topped by stands of trees and rolling grassland. Absolutely beautiful - you can't beat the UK for some of the best sailing and NZ promises to offer the same or better!


Pete isn’t an emotional person but he admitted to feeling choked when we sailed into the Bay of Islands I think it was the relief of getting the passage over & done with but also the scenery as it is very reminiscent of sailing in the UK.


The Police came out to check us and left us alone as we had send advance notification as well as checking in by VHF.

We cruised along beautifully will full sail and headsail poled out to windward and as we turned up the channel towards Opua, the wind funnelled around behind us so we did not have to drop the pole. We could not have had a finer or more pleasant entrance to anywhere.

We arrived at the Customs dock at 14:00 and had our lines taken by Don and Barbie on Lutana II who had beaten us in by a couple of hours. Then came the Immigration lady and her forms, followed by the MAF guy and his plastic sacks to take all our vegetables, and anything else that he fancied, and check out the inside of our tent. He was followed by the dog handler and her sniffer-dog who was followed by someone else who poked and squeezed into every nook and cranny and I am sure, with all this going on, there was someone else milling around inside as well but it was too crowded to tell.


Actually they shouldn’t have taken our lines as they had already been cleared, they really shouldn’t have been anywhere near Nadezhda.

Pete suffered from paranoia as we approached Opua, I was desperate to get on the VHF to call our mates up to say hello but Pete said “I would prefer it if you didn’t as Customs may think that it’s a coded message to drug runners” how funny! I can understand it a bit as “Hello, how are you” could be decoded as “We have the drugs and people in the bilges, bring loads of money”.


After a clean bill of health, we moved the 50 yards to a berth in the marina where we remain at the moment.

We splashed out on Monday night and went to a restaurant for supper and toasted our arrival with a bottle of bubbly before getting back to a full 12 hour sleep.


We had a lovely night and also caught up with “Essence” they had been hit by the same conditions as Lutana II but they were hit carrying a full sails, apparently an experienced crew member was on watch when the winds hit. According to Stewart there was a lot of swearing and shouting to get the sails down.

30th October 2007


Yesterday, Don and Barbie hired a car and we went with them and Tricky (Richard) and Jane from "Lionheart" to Pahia where we did some touristy looking around, had lunch, went to the supermarket (to replace the stuff that MAF took) and visited the home of Des who runs Russell Radio SSB and VHF. Des is eighty years old and lives high up on a hill overlooking the bay of islands. His house has aerials galore strung above it and he spends 12 hours a day 365 days a year running an SSB Net and VHF service. The SSB net serves as a weather forecast and check-in and the VHF service allows approaching yachts to register their arrival. Des can also offer advice about what, where and how to do anything in the bay of islands and elsewhere in Northlands. He has SSB and VHF in his car and campervan as well so that he is never out of touch. His rig at home is good enough to reach 50 degrees North and he has spoken to people going to Alaska.

We will probably move off the marina tomorrow (Thursday) as we need to get all our land-based jobs completed today. This includes loads of washing and a visit to the chandlers so that I can get bits to start off refurbishment. Then we will head off to anchor somewhere - probably Russell to start off with and then the rest of the bay of Islands. We don't need to hurry here as we think that we will eventually base ourselves at Opua after a refit at Whangerai. Derek and Anthea on "Sukanuk" have met a local man who has a spare mooring across at Russell. He keeps his boat on one and is willing to rent the other for NZ$40 per month. We have asked Derek to snap up the offer for a six month period starting now so we don't miss the opportunity. The moorings are fully inspected each year and even if we only use it for one month whilst we are touring by car, it will have paid for itself many times over when compared to marina fees.

We hope to get ourselves set up with a mobile phone soon and the rates to England are not too pricey so will be able to contact. Also, Opua and other areas in Northland have an internet WIFI service that we have signed up for (NZ$30 per month) and so we should be much more contactable.

We will move down to Whangerai before the last week in November and haul out before December so that Naz is on the hard before Fliss flies back to England. We will try to get set up with a car there as well so that I can use it to take her to the airport. Apparently, cars here are very cheap, we expect to pay about the equivalent of £700 for a fairly decent one.
1st November 2007

We left Opua for Matuawhai Bay today once Nadezhda was settled we walked into Russell there we took a ferry to Pahia to get a SIM card for the phone. It actually works and we can now start organising lift-out and other services. Russell is the old capital of NZ and is a very picturesque painted clapboard town by the waterside. We visited the museum and learned a bit about the history although, as with much of NZ, there is not much history to tell.

Tonga to New Zealand - Via Minerva Reef

20th October 2007


When we got up this morning and poked our heads out the cockpit it really wasn’t good news, torrential rain and headwinds, Pete said to me “do you really want to head off into this …. we can always wait another day” as the real window for departure was in two days time.

Decision was taken to stay put and watch how the day panned out, if the sky cleared and the wind backed and it was before 2pm we would leave, if not we would wait another day or two, it would be a shame as we would have to bypass Minerva Reef.

As the morning progressed the skies cleared and the wind moved slightly to the East so at midday Pete and I decided to make a run for it.

Essence had already left at 11am and went through the Eastern passage hoping that it would give them a better angle on the wind, Pete and I decided to take the short cut through the West pass.

Typical really, because as soon as we approached the narrow pass through the reef the sky clouded over and it started to rain. Thank god for GPS and the leading markers on a small island guiding the way out.

As we were making our way through the pass a Humpback whale broached only 25 feet away from Nadezhda I turned round and said to “Pete isn’t that a sign of good luck”. Pete was most concerned that the whale would become landlocked and confused and wouldn’t be able to find its way out, I’m sure it’ll be fine.

A few hours later we sail straight into strong winds, 25-30+ knots of headwinds and rough seas why do we always get a pounding? We pondered running back to Nuka’alofa but at 3:30pm there was no way we would make it back in daylight, we also considered hoving-to but we decided it was best to just keep going with seriously reefed sails.

A very uncomfortable night and not much sleep had by either of us.

We now know that the whale was heading for sanctuary!

21st October 2007

The winds eventually moderated last night and came more from the east the next problem we have is that we have been experiencing up to 2 knots of unfavourable current that is taking us NW and means that our current track will miss Minerva.

We heard on the SSB that Essence hove-to for 5 hours last night and another boat turned back, mad dogs and English men as we carried on.

22nd October 2007

The wind backed further East and the current subsided so we made a good track to Minerva and arrived at 13:00.

North Minerva is absolutely spectacular for the fact that there is no land above the high-water line! We have the cyans and brown/greens of the reef ahead of us with the waves crashing across the far side. Apart from that, there is nothing except the sight of breakers elsewhere on the reef fringe. The water is calm here and we are anchored in about 13 metres of water.

It’s coral lagoon 3 miles in diameter and its bizarre to think that all around you is ocean, Tonga is 240 miles away and New Zealand is 800 miles, amazing. The inside of the sunken reef is as quiet as a millpond.

We are really pleased to have had the opportunity to stop as really is a lonely isolated spot.

We are the only boat here at the moment and that's what we wanted for our arrival. "Essence" left Nuku'alofa about an hour ahead of us and will be arriving in about another 2-3 hours.

Minerva Reef Video

23rd October 2007

After a good nights sleep and a proper meal (we have been living on cheese sandwiches due to rough seas making cooking difficult) we upped our anchor at 10am.

Essence also left today and they took a more Southerly route. They are now beating us and must be about 40 miles ahead by now.

The winds are extremely variable one minute we a bobbing along at 4 knots and the next minute it’s time to reef. After about 5 sail changes we both decided that we would keep the main sail with two reefs in and just reef the headsail if and when the wind picked up.

24th October 2007

We are following the forecasts (which have been bloody useless so far) and are now taking the rhum line to Opua with 524 miles to our waypoint. The grib files show that we should be ok with a return of Easterlies a day before we arrive. However, the Grib files have not been much use so far since conditions are very different to predictions. When we left Minerva, Bob McDavitt said:

"For those of you in TONGA, now's the time to up anchor and head south... finally some highs moving along 30S latitude again. Probably still too much swell to go on Monday and a Tuesday departure will be better for anyone who gets queasy at the start of such as trip. Sure you can pop into Minerva if you like on the way... please arrange to be gone from there before 30 October if you want to avoid headwinds on the way to NZ.

The rest of this weeks weathergram will be written and sent on Monday--- It's a holiday weekend in NZ and I'll be driving Wellington to Auckland during the remainder of today. "

.........and so we thought that we had a really good window for the hop to NZ.............until we received his report just as we had departed......................

"After three weeks of windy westerlies a HIGH is finally expected to move onto central NZ this week. It should intensify to 1030+ by this weekend and that will make for a strong to gale force squash zone on its northern side between northland and New Caleconia/Fiji/Tonga from Thursday until something like Tuesday 30 Oct.

Tonga to NZ. If you have left on Monday or are leaving Tuesday and do not stop at Minerva you should miss the strong easterlies near 22S on Wednesday and have just a day or so of squash zone near 33S on your way to NZ . The window then closes and really doesn't open again in Tonga until the squash zone weakens mid-next-week. "

Well, the "Squash Zone" intensified today and we have had some interesting weather. I am hoping that not too many yachts took his original advice because they are going to be in for a few days of gale conditions as they make their way South. We know that Tony on "Checkmate" (and two novice crew) is already suffering just past Minerva but the only way out is to keep pounding South.

We have hopefully left the rubbish behind and are ploughing on as quickly as possible to make sure it does not overtake us.

We recorded a constant 35 knots, plus gusts. It was getting silly, it seemed as though there were three or four comedy clowns to windward throwing buckets of water into the cockpit. From inside, it looked like one of those old black and white b-rated movies of storms at sea with silly amounts of salty spray being chucked around.

The wind abated at around 23:00 and we eagerly resorted to a more upright position with deep reefs still intact and engine on.


It seems that wherever we go we get strong winds and rough seas. I was amazed at the sea state and that we weren’t experiencing bigger waves but they started to really build up later on in the day.

It’s been ok and we have been in worse conditions but we worry about Nadezhda, she has been going for such a long time and has carried us through some rough winds & seas it is unnerving when the waves hit pushing us over. When we get to NZ Nadezhda is going to get a full refurbishment and a complete health check.

Noodles for dinner tonight as it’s impossible to make a proper meal as each time a wave hits we lean right over on our side.

When we finally sailed out of the trough the winds just died, complete madness, hero to zero in a few minutes.

26th October 2007

We have 8 kts of wind from the SSE at the moment and the seas are calm were motor sailing close-hauled into it at about 5.5 knots. The outlook is that the breeze will go a bit more Southerly tomorrow and stay light before turning more Easterly to North Easterly and increasing to 15-20kts on Sunday. So, we look like we will be motoring towards Opua until the wind becomes favourable on Sunday. With 5 knots motoring, and (hopefully) a decent breeze on Sunday, we should be in Opua by end of play Sunday or the early hours of Monday.

It is sunny here today but with a decidedly chilly nip in the air. I am really surprised at how the weather has cooled as we have tracked slowly South, I don't think we will be going for a dip when we get there! However, the cool is refreshing and will allow us to get out and do a lot more once we arrive. We are looking forward to getting some exercise and stretching our legs without melting from heat exhaustion.

The passage is now a matter of motor and boredom - just the way we like it except it will be nice to turn the engine off when we get the opportunity. However, we are certainly not purists and it will stay running as long as it is helping to get us along. Otherwise, there is little left to report apart from the fact that we are back to proper food after our little play with the elements a couple of days ago. Full English Breakfast for lunch today - yum, yum! The same is due tomorrow-in order to finish up the eggs and bacon before NZ MAF confiscate them.


Anyone who reads our blogs knows that our shower room is our cockpit, which is open to the elements. After 2 days of getting soaking wet and having dreadlocks for hair we decided to brave the “Chilly” air and have a shower, Pete went first and said it wasn’t that cold, the goose bumps and the blue’ish coloured skin had me warming up some water in the kettle for mine.

Pete & I seriously need to buy some clothes for NZ. I couldn’t help but laugh when Pete got his evening attire on; three quarter length trousers light weight in beige, black socks and a new pair of really white trainers, he looked so funny! We both cracked up and he refused to let me take a picture, lets hope we don’t get boarded by customs tonight as he’ll be refused a visa on grounds that he has committed a crime against fashion.

A beautiful clear night tonight with a full moon and not a cloud in the sky, utterly perfect!