Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cape Bream!

Arrived! Safely! In Whangarei! After a fairly relaxing trip….of course rounding Cape Bream, Neptune had to stick his head up and have a look about….then threw 20 knots into our face and raised the seas…but we persevered and made our way up the channel with 1.2 feet under the keel at one point and found the town basin! Hot showers, good friends and happy hour was our reward!

More to follow……

Hole in the rock!

....famous tourist destination.....

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Don't you just love those Maori names? Whangamumu! Wish I knew what it meant…..probably something like "sheltered bay on East coast".

Anyway, we finally got out of Opua…what a relief! As much as we liked it there after the long passages, it was definitely past time to move on. So we crawled out of bed at the crack of 8….another sleepless night for me…I sometimes wish I had a switch in my head that could turn the brain off at bedtime! Set switch to off, had all day to figure out the weather, the tides, plot the course, wonder what the new sails will be like, how about that cracked shoe at the base of the mast, need new jib sheets,
what else was on that list…no, time to rest now…..shut the brain off! But it does not work that way, so they invented coffee! Greatest drug in the world…well, ok, maybe there are a couple of better ones, depending on the circumstances but this one manages to get me moving in the morning. Linda is up and about brewing it and getting us organized, as excited as a kid at christmas…we get to go somewhere new!

Not far, we planned about a 25 mile day or about 5 hours at our rate. The weather forecast is good and the sea is calm, long rolling swells as we clear the Bay of Islands to round Cape Brett. Not enough to sail but we have the new main up and we motor sail through the tour boats hovering around the dolphins like moths to a lantern and around the famous 'hole in the rock' on Motukokako or Piercey Island and turn South for the first time in four months! We did shut the engine down briefly and roll
out the new jib. What a difference! These new sails are going to be fabulous.

But we have arrived already, the entrance to the anchorage is somewhere in that shoreline….supposedly recognizable by an inverted V of green grass….ah there it is! In around the dogleg and a beautiful sheltered bay, open only slightly to the North, awaits! Only a couple other sailboats but by the time the sun goes down, about two dozen other boats, mostly small sport fishing boats will drop their anchors for the night. The wind has died completely and we rock gently to the Pacific swell.

Linda goes all out and produces a spicy lamb curry in the pressure cooker. A couple of glasses of wine and its time to find that switch again….now where was it…behind the ear?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

90 mile beach

Te Oneroa A Tohe!


The Maori believe that when you die, your soul travels along Te Oneroa A Tohe, the beautiful white sand of the Ninety Mile beach facing the Tasman Sea. The spirituality of the place is tangible. At Spirits Bay, it is believed that the spirit travels through an 800-year-old Pohutukawa tree, down its roots beneath the ocean and emerges 55 kilometers offshore at Manawatawhi or Three Kings Islands where it bids the most final of farewells to Aotearoa (New Zealand), before travelling to Hawaiki, the legendary ancestral home of the Maori.

We raced along this beach at highway speed on a Sand Safaris Tour bus! The driver, a local Maori with a great voice, sang to us as he careened along the beach, giant sand dunes to the right and the receding tide line to the left. His songs were songs of greeting and welcome and also of love. Love for anyone who has recently left this world to make the long journey of the spirit.

At the northernmost end of the beach where we turned inland again, the bus stopped briefly so we could climb the mountains of sand and slide down them on toboggans. It seemed a fitting counterpoise to the magic in the air.

At the very top of New Zealand is Cape Reinga, where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet on a shallow bank. The waves here can stand very high when conditions are right. This is where we found ourselves this afternoon after a two-hour drive from the Bay of Islands.

Ok, this cruising life is rough! Meals to prepare, dishes to wash, bottoms to scrub….so we took a couple of days off and drove up to the top end of New Zealand! We booked into a little 'shoe box' (apologies to the real 'shoe box') in a motorhome campground but on discovering that it did not have Sky Satellite TV, we immediately upgraded to the cottage! The deck proved very handy for consuming local wine and planning our foray into the unknown, at least by us! Long walks on the beach were also 'de rigeur'!

We did not swim, although some brave souls did. We picnicked in Spirits Bay and pushed on. The return leg was inland and though not as inspiring as the beach drive, we were relieved that our spirits could eke out further existence in this mortal coil!


Digger is a New Zealand and Australian military slang term for soldiers from those countries, originating during the First World War.

You know what gumboots are but do you know where the term originated? Well apparently the fossilized resin from the Kauri tree has been a much sought after commodity! The sap of the Agathis australis, the God of the Forest, was a thriving industry back in the 1800s. Dalmatians (modern Croatia), Irish and other desperate characters emigrated to New Zealand to work in one of the most difficult jobs of all, extracting the gum from the Kauri trees, buried deep in the ground. These trees had been perfectly preserved, almost to the green of the leaves, due to some cataclysmic occurrence in the past. The orientation of most of these giant trees underground led to speculation that a monstrous tsunami caused the overwhelming destruction of the northern island of New Zealand in prehistoric times. Carbon dating of the trees places them at buried 50 to 150 thousand years ago!

The gum is much like what we know of as 'amber' and was used in varnishes.

The Maori, however, burnt it and mixed the ash to make the ink for their famous Tā moko or permanent body and face marking, distinct from tattooing in that the skin was carved by uhi or chisels rather than punctured, leaving the skin with grooves rather than a smooth surface. The color was definitely unique!

We learned all this while walking through forests of Manuka or Kanuka or what we know as Tea Trees, yes where ‘tea tree’ oil is derived, a natural antiseptic.

But we are back on Toketie, the rain is pouring and the wind is howling again, we are provisioned and almost ready to think about moving around to Whangarei for the next stage of the journey!

Cape Reinga


Cape Reinga



...on the sand dunes!


Tea Tree!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Racing through paradise!

They take their racing seriously here in NZ!

Toketie tugs at her mooring as the swells race down Waikeri Inlet. The wind from the East is a welcome sight to the Friday race out of the Opua Cruising Club as we sit in our sheltered cockpit, sipping a cold white Sauvignon Blanc, a top 100 Gold Medal wine from Crawford Farm….thanks Mikey…good tip that one!

Like most cruising clubs in the world we are treated to the contest every Wednesday and Friday just before the sun goes down.

But we have been in New Zealand for close to three months now. And after sixteen pages of paperwork, passport photos, signatures of a local JP…they have very generously allowed us to stay another three months. What a relief, since there is nowhere to go by boat in cyclone season! Unfortunately, other than the occasional drive into the local villages for supplies, we have seen very little of NZ. Oh, we did go to Russell one day for fish and chips…..and a couple of tall ships sailed by!

But two steps forward, one step back seems to be the order of the day. Most of the rigging problems from Mexico seem to have been corrected. Tip for anyone cruising in Mexico….stay out of Puerto Vallarta….and especially do not have any work done by anyone in the Danielson family, formerly operating as North Sails, we are lucky to have survived what they did for us, literally!

We dropped into Titan Sails, a real sailmaker shop yesterday and witnessed the progress on our two new sails! Now that was nice to see….the jib is about 70% completed and the new fully battened mainsail is cut out with three reef points marked and should be ready next week! It was very exciting!

Soon we will be going around to Whangarei, about 80 miles South, to haul out again and try to resolve an electrolysis problem that seems to have materialized locally and caused problems with the paint below the waterline.

But this is the cruising life. From paradise you go to wondering what the heck you are doing! And we seem to be doing a lot more wondering than wandering lately!

Today we stayed on board and the sun was so hot we had to hide from it, cover up the hatches and put up the air scoop! You cannot imagine how hot it is here. Apparently it hit 40 or more on the South Island…..Warm Rain joined us for a game of scrabble last night…..and John Prine wails in the background….ooh blah dee ooh blah dah…..life goes on…..