I am writing this anchored of a picture perfect tropical island of Pangimotu in Tonga complete with palm trees, white sand, lovely weather and gentle trade winds, still gotta pinch ourselves sometimes to make sure its not a dream.
Anyway we dropped into our usual watch pattern of 3 hours on 3 hours off. My long suffering first mate, (wife and entertainment director) Rachel was looking somewhat unimpressed, our first night at sea in lousy conditions. I left her in the cockpit with darkness falling as I went to hide under the blankets.
We were both feeling rather green as we didn't have our sea legs yet and before long we were feeding the fish occasionally. When I came on watch at 0300hrs it wasn't a pretty picture, we were both sick, the seas were huge but on the bright side we were doing 5.5knots in the right direction.
During this watch I had a number of large seas which pooped us, it wasn't a problem as we had the hatch sealed up but the waves broke high over the windward side and crashed heavily into the inside of the leeward lee cloths. I had bungie cord attaching the lee cloths to the side decks but I had used rather a heavy bungie cord using my usual - make it stronger than it needs to be methodology.
It turned out that the bungie cord was too strong and didn't allow the lee cloth to release the wave quick enough and we got some small tears in the top of the lee cloth near the eyelets. I have now replaced the bungie cord with very thin and stretchy stuff which allows the lee cloth to just stretch out and let any big waves out.
By dawn the next day we were past Farewell spit and as we moved north away from the influence of Cook Strait. The seas were still steep but were now down to about 3 metres and not breaking much. The wind was still a good 30knots of S/E and we were still making good progress.
We passed west of both the Maui platforms and our last glimpse of land was cape Egmont in the distance. Once into the deeper water north of cape egmont the sea conditions mellowed as per usual with the swells becoming more rounded and gradual with no tidal effect to mess things up.
The low which was to have been moving off to the east changed its mind and started to follow us north up the coast. This wasn't too bad, it was a bit wet but there were good winds gradually reducing over the next couple of days. When about west of Auckland the wind got lighter and lighter until we were becalmed. I reefed the main onto the second reef to stop it slatting, got rid of the headsail and lashed the helm to leeward and we were quite comfortable. The reefed main prevented us rolling too much and with the helm lashed to leeward any stray puffs would rotate us head to wind and keep us from being beam on to the sea most of the time.
We took the opportunity to have a big feed complete with desert as since leaving Nelson the meals had been basic owing to the difficulties of cooking in rough weather. We remained hove too all that night with no wind. During Rachels watch 0600hrs to 0900hrs she had a light breeze fill in from the S/W so we threw all sail up and dawdled along about 2 to 3 knots. By that evening it had increased to about 15 knots and we were sailing in the mid 5's.
The following day we lost the wind again and hove too for a few hours before a light breeze came in from the N/w. This meant sailing tight hauled which I'm never keen on but it was only about 12 - 14 knots so not too unpleasant.
The next day saw us approaching Cape Reinga, because of the N/W wind I was closer to the coast at this point than normal, (we usually parallel the coast 40 nm off). I had to put in a bit of a dogleg to give Pandoras bank a good offing. We ended up rounding cape Reinga 5nm off which was fine in the calm conditions.
We lost the wind and I motored into Spirits Bay between Cape Reinga and North Cape and anchored for the night. The anchorage was a bit rolly but with the help of my trusty flopper stopper rigged over the side on the end of the boom we had a comfortable night. It felt funny eating tea with the yacht not moving and both getting in to bed at the same time without having to sleep in 3 hour shifts.
The next day dawned squally wet and bleak. I toyed with staying put which in hindsight I should have done but being keen to go somewhere new we decided to push down the east coast against the forecast S/E winds. It was ok until we reached North Cape where we found snotty 20 knot S/E winds with 30 knots in the squalls and rain. Once around the cape we were greeted with a steep 2metre S/E swell.
We bashed down the coast and generally had a very unpleasant day. At least the wind backed a bit, we had an E wind enabling us to sail tight hauled. We motor sailed when the wind headed us. Conditions gradually deteriorated we had been heading for Houhora Harbour but the NZ pilot stated it was not good to enter in strong easterly conditions which we had. It probably would have been fine as the NZ pilot always errs on the pessimistic side of things but not being familiar with this part of the coast I took the safer option and continued down to Rangaunu Harbour, (Awanui River) which is sheltered from easterly winds.
When we got to Rangaunu we lost all the swell as we got into the lee of the land to the south. The entrance was very flat. We followed the GPS up one of the channels to Kaimaumau. Fortunately the chart seemed very accurate as the channel is unmarked. I wasn't too worried if we bumped the bottom as the water was flat calm and the bottom mud but we didn't.
We anchored right near the small settlement of Kaimaumau and had a good nights sleep. The next day we went for a row ashore to see if there was a camp or similar to get a shower. There wasn't but the locals were very friendly and soon we had free showers, alot of new friends and an invite to roast dinner the next night. Which turned out to be a very social affair with many of the local residents popping in.
After a great few days at Kaimaumau we moved down the coast to Mangonui again with S/E winds on the nose but only 15 knots this time. Mangonui was crowded with moorings and no room to anchor but the next bay further in the harbour called Butlers is very sheltered and not too crowded because of limited depth but there is plenty of water for an H28.
We had a great time at Mangonui for the next few days. It was only a 12 minute row in the inflatable, (we left the outboard at home, I decided the exercise was good and modified the dinghy oars to make them longer and stronger). Once again we went in search of a shower and were walking towards the yacht club when an elderly gentleman enquired from his balcony above the road if we were from the H28.
We told his that we were and he invited us in to see his model of an H28 on the wall. It turns out he was an 84 year old ex cruiser who had been all over the world with his late wife and had owned 2 wooden H28's among other long keel yachts. He opened up his home to us very kindly and once again we were clean, not to mention fascinated hearing about his many sailing adventures and seeing photos of his yachts propped up on beaches in remote parts of the world etc.
Four days later we again headed south this time with a mixture of wind most of it light. We headed for Whangaroa and lost the wind altogether 3 miles off and had to motor in the rest of the way. I had never been in Whangaroa before and was very glad I was entering in daylight. Even very close to the big cliffs at the entrance I could see no entrance. It looked like we were sailing straight at a cliff. I checked and double checked our position and we appeared to be in right place so we pressed on and were finally rewarded with the harbour entrance opening before us.
Whangaroa was one of the most impressive NZ harbours I have been in and we didn't have time to even begin to explore it and will definitely be returning. We went to the town of Whangaroa first and anchored nearby.
We walked to the small settlement in search of a shower as usual. We found the local game fishing club give showers for $2 as soon as we got in the bar we bumped into the crews of 2 other Nelson yachts, like us waiting to go to the islands. A very social night was had.
The next few days were spent poking around Whangaroa but probably could have spent a month there. There are great bush walks and the water was still warm enough for swimming. I dove on the propeller with a piece of 80grit wet and dry sand paper and got the propeller shinning again.
Next destination was Bay of Islands our stepping of point for Tonga. It was a pleasant day sail for once with light winds, mostly favourable to Bay of Islands. We sent a text message to another NN yachtie who was already there and he stated he was in Russell for the night on a friends mooring and there was a spare mooring next to him. So another social night followed as we hadn't seen our friend for some months.
The next day we sailed to Opua and anchored in the Kawakawa river which was to be our base while cruising the BOI for the next couple of weeks prior to departing for Tonga.
Steve and Rachel