A friend who has a bach at Whangaroa invited me to his 60th birthday party which was to have a Woodstock theme. Replying that I would attend, it then occurred to me that this would present an ideal opportunity to give Gypsy Rose a good run. Having spent most of the summer working on her, painting, rewiring, stern glands and the like I hadn’t had the time or opportunity to cruise beyond Cape Rodney (near Leigh). Also I must confess that I had never sailed beyond this point in my last yacht, a 25 ft. reactor.
Preparation for my trip involved getting a third and more powerful battery, having rove lines made up out of tested and rated webbing running fore and aft, buying an approved safety harness and life line, renewing some flares, stocking up on charts and upgrading my life jacket with one I would feel comfortable wearing for long periods.
On a sunny Wednesday morning in March I motored up the Tamaki River feeling satisfied that all provisions were stowed and the boat was shipshape. I have about three weeks worth of dry or non perishable stores on board. Quickly forgotten was the incident of almost crushing the dinghy reversing out of the marina and rigging my genoa sheets inside the shrouds! At 11am I was opposite the Rangitoto lighthouse with no other traffic in the channel.
It was a warm clear day puffing a light NE and with the tide pushing me out the GPS reading 7.1 knots. Time to put the kettle on. 1.30pm saw me at Tiri with a 15 knot easterly and a lumpy swell. Set a Kingi lure over the stern…What an optimist! By 3pm the wind had lifted up to 20 knits and I was near Flat Rock on the Eastern side of Kauwau. The swell becoming shorter and more lively after rounding Takatu Peninsula I was hoping for a more gentle ride, but was disappointed. We changed course after passing Takatu to 040 degrees to lay Ti Point (Omaha). Thankfully we lost the rolling motion half way across Omaha Bay and life was more tolerable. I cautiously went forward to lower the headsail, working on the bow on hands and knees. In rather rolly conditions, I am pleased at having the security of my safety harness.
The day had deteriorated with light rain and haze, so felt happy to tie up at the Omaha jetty at 4.30pm having motored up the Whangateau Estuary. Settled in for a nice meal, accompanied by a tot or three of sailors medicine (Rum).
Next day the barometer had fallen, the forecast was for seas rough in Northland. The Harbour Master, bless his soul, allocated me a swing mooring. So I returned to work - and to wait a change in the weather.
Some days later, friend Andrew and I were driven up to Omaha by wife Shirley and thus began phase two of the trip, slipping the mooring at 8am. Mother, who lives at Omaha was at the pier to farewell us. Rounding Cape Rodney we had Sail Rock on the bow heading 321 degrees. In the absence of wind and we were motoring along at 6 knots. Since neither had breakfast we were both ravenous so I elected to make a curry. Beats the crap out of muesli!
1.45pm Whangarei heads off port beam. Leaving Gypsy Rose in the capable hands of the Admiral (autohelm) and Andy on watch. I go below to write up the log and make some pen and ink sketches. Now sailing nicely in 10 knot NE Gypsy Rose is purring along like a contented cat. Andrew suggests splicing the mainbrace which doesn’t seem a silly idea, so we pop the cork off a very cold bottle of Chardonnay.
4pm we spot the Tutukaka Harbour entrance (very narrow). We line up the sticks, red and white as instructed in the pilotage and motor in. After tidying up the boat, we make for the yacht club and a couple of cold lagers, then back to the boat for dinner and bed at 9pm.
Wednesday 2nd April, my snoring loudly in the forward berth ensured crew Andrew was up early. 6.30am we motored out of the harbour in the first half light of the day. Barometer is steady. Made Cape Brett at noon and passed by Peircy Island (Hole in the Rock). Dull hazy conditions. Had some moments of anxiety with the GPS, for a few moments I thought the yanks must have cut us out of satellite coverage after Helen Clark’s remarks on the Iraq war! Not so….Thank goodness. Just need new batteries.
Rounding Cape Brett, turning 40 degrees to port, we come into the lee of the headland and make for the Bay of Islands, the boat’s motion becomes much more comfortable as the sea settles. Now I can entertain the idea of going below to get lunch. Andy and I confer on Whale Rock. An unmarked rock on the chart that stands between us and the Veronica Channel. I entered it on the GPS as Andy's Point!
Heading down towards Russell the sun came out and the water sparkled, we were both in very good humour. Not withstanding the wine.
Arrived Opua 4pm. Andy could only spare two days so dear Shirley was waiting there on the wharf to drive him back to Auckland. One pot meal tonight. Turn in at 9pm
Thursday 3rd April, 6am, crawl out of the forward berth, yawn, turn on the cabin lights and make coffee. Feeling a tad insecure this morning knowing I am on my own again. 7am reversed out of berth and headed north and out the channel. Almost turned the wrong way out of the Marina! Up some creek…until I noticed the Russell Ferry. DHURR! Need another stronger coffee…wake up man.
Motored up the Veronica Channel, past the Waitangi Treaty house and towards Cape Wikiwiki. Now out in deep water. Rounding this Cape set course for Cavalli passage and Matauri Bay. Beautiful day, sun is out and I feel much happier. Rounded flat Island and found myself in the company of a trailer sailor both of us heading North , he soon faded to sternward. Who said H28’s can be slow?
1pm with Stephens Island two miles on the bow. Time for a bucket bath, shave and wash hair, air drying the body in the sun (I felt this sight would have been too much in the harbour confines!!). Feeling a new man I set Course for the Whangaroa Harbour entrance. The pilotage tells me Wangaroa can be a difficult entrance to find. The entrance is blind, by that I mean you enter a little gap in the cliffs and rocks turning to Starboard and voila there it is. To me it seemed like for ages I was sailing directly into a cliff face! Full of apprehension over my navigation it passed my mind that this would look good on a marine claim. Yachtsman sails into vertical cliff on a clear sunny day in perfect conditions. Called Whangaroa Marina for a berth on the VHF and tied up at 2pm. The log reading just under 200 miles. Arrived just in time to see the launch Primetime come alongside and winch up a 247kg Broadbill onto the wharf.
The 60th Woodstock theme Birthday Party went well but was a bit of anticlimax compared to the trip. Put Gypsy Rose on a mooring and returned to Auckland by car with the intention of sailing her home soon. Return home story to follow if anyone’s interested!
Stan Blanch – "Gypsy Rose"