Thursday 30th March 2017
We have had a a great week sailing between the Islands of the Hauraki Gulf, the weather has been mostly kind, the sea calm and the wildlife friendly. In fact our guests, Taryn and Greg, seem to have bought the Aussie sunshine with them. Taryn, who before this holiday had never sailed, is beginning to wonder what all the fuss about seasickness, rough seas and difficult conditions below, is all about.
Tuesday we had one of those cruising days that make the difficult days all worth while. We were in Bostaquet Bay on the south of Kawau Island, Monday evening had been stormy, we were caught out with the dingy in the water and had to venture out into the cold torrential rain to raise it before it completely filled with water and then had a sleepless night listening to the wind howl and the thunder crash. Tuesday, however, dawned sunny, fresh and calm. Just as we prepared to raise the anchor five large bottlenosed dolphins arrived and proceeded to feed right next to us. They worked together circling their prey creating barriers by producing bubbles, once corralled the bait ball of fish were easy pickings. They gave us quite a show diving under and around the boat and swimming past on their sides eying us up.
Eventually we said goodbye and set out on the 30nm crossing back to Great Barrier Island. We had a perfect sail, calm seas, 15kt winds on the beam and sunshine. Four hours later we arrived in Tryphena Harbour and dropped the anchor in pretty Puriri bay. After a pleasant afternoon of swimming, reading and fishing (Greg is another of our guests that can catch and cook our dinner), we went ashore for supper at the Irish Pub. To call the collection of buildings a village would be an exaggeration, a small grocery store, a cafe and shop, a few houses and the pub. The pub was full, a friendly bustling atmosphere greeted us and the food was great. A very good day. With the sun still shining, the next day, we motored up to Port Fitzroy winding around the dramatic headlands, narrow ravines and rocky outcrops. The harbour in the clement conditions was looking much lovelier than a few weeks ago and it also provided us with another close up wildlife encounter. We were befriended by a small duck who took up residence on the deck, following us around, accepting food from our hands and when we were below, poking his head into the nearest hatch to try and find us. We identified him as a rare brown teal, endangered in the rest of New Zealand, 60% of the population live on Great Barrier. His protected status had to be frequently impressed upon Rick, as the decks gradually became covered in duck poo.
Great Barrier couldn’t give us wall to wall sunshine but was hugely improved from our last visit and we enjoyed a nice walk to a waterfall. The path lead through native forest, thick with the scent of the surrounding pines and steamy from recent showers. The waterfall, despite the seemingly high local rainfall, was modest, the pools and stream way below their spring level marked on the sides of the gulley, but the scenery through the pines, kanuka and tree ferns was lovely.Our sail back to the mainland was across mirror seas so calm that the light winds could even pull Raya along, for most of the crossing we kept up a steady 6kts in scarcely 8kts of wind. We approached our next destination, Marsden Cove Marina near to low tide and decided not to risk the 3m sand bar at the marina entrance and instead dropped the anchor near by in Urquharts Bay. Looking into the bay was a typical New Zealand scene, a scattering of boats, a small town and dramatic green hills, however behind us the setting sun highlighted the not so scenic Whangarei Oil Refinery.