Ricky Puts His Shorts On – Finally

Wednesday 24th May 2017

As I picked myself off the salon floor, made slippery by our sodden boots and lethal by the heavy seas, I felt I had hit, literally and metaphorically, a low point in this passage. We were both very tired, it has been a rough, grey and wet crossing, For a few moments I indulged in a wave of self pity, but it’s just us out here, no other option than to keep going, so we try to smile for each other and get on with whatever has to be done to get us to Fiji.

Rick securing the pole
We finally left New Zealand on Friday. All that week the forecasts swayed from good to bad and back again, each day the decisions onboard each boat swayed too and fro. It started to become apparent to us that there was never going to be a perfect time to leave. We took the decision at the very last minute as we walked to the customs office, swaying from cancelling our appointment, checking out, cancelling our appointment or checking out? We checked out, they are very strict in New Zealand, once you have your exit stamp, that’s it, no turning back.

Now we are hopefully through the worst of the passage it definitely feels like the right decision, the prospect of a Mojito in the Copra Shed Marina Bar in Savusavu, Friday night, encouraging us onward. There were times in the last couple of days  however, when the boredom, indecision and chilly weather of the last few weeks in Opua seemed like a luxury. Almost from the outset we have had messy seas and as the winds built to a steady 30+ knots the waves grew bigger and came round onto our beam. Two or three times a day one would hit us wrongly and crash over into the cockpit. Twice these waves were bid enough to fill the cockpit floor with six inches of water, add in the spray from waves over the bows and frequent showers it has been a very wet and unpleasant few days.

The movement below made life extremely difficult, having to put on and off our heavy wet weather gear, boots and life jackets each time we changed watch was exhausting. The niceties of life, all thoughts of writing a ‘finally left New Zealand’ blog, even trying to read, were quickly put aside. It was all we could do to make sure we ate something and got some sleep. Shares in our seasickness medication of choice, Stugeron, will be sky rocketing.

The hoped for increase in temperatures were also slow in coming, so when we got our first glimpse of sunshine yesterday our spirits rose. This turned out to be premature, the breaks in the clouds did indicate us moving from the NZ high pressure system into the tropical trade winds but it was accompanied by frequent violent wet and extremely gusty squalls. As we watched them track across the horizon our hearts would drop knowing that this ominous blackness was coming our way. In the worst to hit us we registered 60+ kts winds, the last thing we wanted in our bone weary state was to be constantly trimming the sails and fighting the now very rough sea.

Raya of course has, as always, not put a step wrong, she just ploughs on and on, shrugging off the high winds and riding out the large waves. Shame her crew can’t ride out the storms quite so easily.

Now through the front the weather has improved dramatically, the winds are a nice 22kts and with the easterly miles we fought to make early on, we are now sailing comfortably down wind. Rick has his shorts on and it is calm enough finally, for me to write this blog.

Still Here

Sunday 14th May 2017

Although fairly confident that Raya could outrun the approaching deep depression, bolstered by Cyclone Donna’s arrival in New Zealand, yet another out of season cyclone – cyclone Ella has formed and is currently just north of Fiji, the prospect of being sandwiched between the two systems was rather unappealing. So yet again another potential weather window passes us by. We are, with what’s now rumoured to be nearly a hundred yachts, still here.

Bright but chilly in Opua

People with experience of this part of the world are saying they have never known the weather to be so volatile this late in the season. The cyclone season officially finishes on the 30th April, but with above normal water temperatures in the Western Pacific, nature is ignoring such deadlines. Cyclone Donna eventually turned into a category 5 storm the most intense cyclone ever recorded for the month of May. The island populations on Vanuatu are, with the help of aid, having to start picking up the pieces from the devastation it left in its wake and the yachts that risked leaving last week are paying the price. We know of at least eight yachts that are sitting out the stormy weather, precariously anchored, midway between NZ and Fiji or Tonga in tiny remote atolls that give precious little protection. Some boats turned around just beating Donna back to NZ, the ones that pressed on had a rough and in some cases damaging passage.

So when we complain that we had a rather uneventful week, we know it was better than the alternative. And, it had one big upside, a shipment of compact washing machines arrived in Auckland. Friday we hired a car, drove the 3 1/2 hrs to the supplier, picked one up and drove the 3 1/2 hrs back. Then came the difficult bit, getting all 55kg of it from the car, along the pontoon, on to the boat, down into the salon and then into its cupboard in the aft head. It wasn’t easy but with much head scratching and the appliance of science, we, well Rick, got it, in and running by Saturday lunch time without a strained back in sight. Miraculously it turned out to be identical to the old one, so the restraints that keep it in place at sea and the pipes fitted exactly.

Hooray, new washing machine?

Next window, Thursday/ Friday, well maybe?!?

The Fleet Waits

Sunday 7th May 2017

Hardly a wisp of wind blows across the deck, the midday sun is warm, activity in the marina is sultry and slow, a mood of disconsolate acceptance hangs in the still air. The benign weather, nice as it is, unfortunately represents another missed weather window. As the calm centre of a high pressure passes over us, its back edge will bring northly winds closing any opportunity to sail north. As predicted the disturbed systems hanging over the tropics have produced bad weather over the islands. The tropical storm spotted last week, has deepened to produce a cyclone. Cyclone Donna is a rare out of season, destructive, category three cyclone and is currently bashing Vanuatu. It’s future path appears unpredictable, the risks of leaving New Zealand on Friday were too high, so with the rest of the cruising fleet, we wait.

Everywhere jobs that have languished way down at the bottom of ‘to do lists’ written years ago, are seeing the light of day, cars are being hired for day trips and many boats have sailed into the bay to pass the time. Yachts that left for Fiji early last week are being nervously watched by tracker, SSB radio and any other means, they report back high winds and rough seas but luckily all lie east of Donna and are OK for now. The obsessive weather map watching has stopped, departure with the arrival of the next high, due at the end of the week looks uncertain and rest on the shoulders of Donna, everybody is settling in to be here a while longer.

Not that that is too awful a prospect, the nights have been chilly but the days sunny and pleasant. Today Rick is taking advantage of the calm to paint the black side vents, a job that has been hanging over us since being put aside as we rushed to leave Southampton. I’m not sure Raya has ever been so polished.

Spraying the side vents

The previous two days however, feeling a little let down by more delays, we deserted our cleaning posts and decided to get out and about. Friday we went for a walk on the local beach, encouraged by the sturdy boardwalks we walked on around the wooded coastline. The boardwalk stopped but it was a pleasant and varied track, over tree covered cliffs, mangroves and across rocky beaches, we were enjoying ourselves and we walked on. An hour and half later after a particularly steep section, we keenly wanted the end of the track, the town of  Paihia, lunch and a taxi home, to be just around the next headland. Not a chance. There is something about us and walking, normally so organised and well prepared in life, we seem to set out for strolls that turn into hikes. We only had second hand directions of what lay ahead, we didn’t even have a bottle of water, we had on too many layers of clothes for the conditions and my footware was woefully inadequate. Another hour on and we made it across the beach, the last part of the walk, just before the incoming tide cut us off, half an hour later and we  would have been forced to retrace our steps – all the way back. 

Coastal path from Opua to Paihia

Saturday with still sore feet we hired a car and drove north. The car from Rent-a-Dent was mostly dent free but small and uncomfortable, we abandoned plans for the three hour drive to the very northern tip of New Zealand and the dramatic cliffs at Cape Regina and instead stopped about halfway to check out Doutless Bay and the Karikari Peninsular. Here the scenery is very different to what we’ve been use to, flat by New Zealand standards, with wide open white sand bays and the start of the huge sand dunes that stretch up the most northern of New Zealand’s beaches. Dominating the landscape was Pampas grass, an invasive species introduced from South America, it seemed to be growing everywhere, even amongst the woodland and tree ferns. We drove to Maitai beach at the very end of the peninsular and strolled its large curved shore and then stopped in the seaside town of Manganui to eat fish and chips on the harbour front.

Maitai Bay

 Back on the boat I steal a glance at the weather forecast. If the remanents of Donna do dip south enough to hit New Zealand, we will have, yet again, stormy wet weather, this may disrupt the next high pressure system, produce very rough seas and wipe out yet another weather window, I wonder how long we need to be here to become permanent residents!

Deferred Departure

Monday 1st May 2017

Weather, weather, weather, my brain has gone to mush staring endlessly at wind forecasts, pressure charts and swell projections. Each model appears to tell a different tale and each picture changes hourly. Add in our preference to arrive in daylight and not at the weekend when customs will charge exorbitant overtime fees, finding the right time to leave, for the sail up to Fiji, is not an easy task. 

Saturday we decided against leaving today, firstly we have three lots of orders in at the local chandeliers and engineering workshops that didn’t arrive Friday. Secondly, the winds are due to turn northerly a day early, so waiting for the spares and leaving late in the afternoon might have meant not clearing the northerly flow and having to bash into the wind for 24hrs. Finally, the weather for our arrival in Fiji looks very lively, the South Pacific Convergence Zone has moved south, with 25kt winds, 3-4m seas and a developing tropical storm just east of Vanuatu. Once the decision was made we both relaxed, another window is looking to open up at the end of the week and to be honest we have been so busy of late that a few days wait will probably do us good. 

So after finishing our jobs today, laundry and downloading cruising guides for me, inspecting the quadrant and tightening the steering cables for Rick, he is treating himself to an afternoon movie while I am sitting writing this on the forward deck, in watery autumnal sunshine, seeking protection from the chilly southey wind that is blowing directly into the cockpit. The marina is in the throws of major reconstruction and today they are hammering, very loudly, piles into what will be the new wharf. At least the dredger that was in constant use amongst the berths when we were here a month ago has been forced, by the number of boats now moored up, to take a break and sits abandoned at the end of the pontoon.

Working on the new section at the marina

Boats of all shapes and sizes have congregated waiting for the sail north, along with the numerous independent yachts such as ourselves there are now thirty five boats, that are joining the Pacific Circuit Rally, gathering around us. This ‘Rally World’ is reminiscent of our ARC experience a year and a half ago, crews busy working on their boats, nervously comparing notes on what still needs to be done and running around from one information session to the next social event, we feel slightly like intruders. 

They are due to leave on Saturday so the downside of our delay is that it will mean checking out at customs, paying up at the marina office and getting fuel with a huge crowd. On top of that temperatures are expected to drop over the next couple of nights to around 8C, the winter woolies are back out and the call of the tropical sunshine is becoming louder. Fingers crossed, well rested and well prepared, the weather will allow us to escape before the crowds and get away on Friday.

Our yellow brick tracker is still running, so if you are interested, you can watch our progress at http://my.yb.tl/sailrayatracking/

The track of our cruising in New Zealand.

Fixing For Fiji

Tuesday 25th April 2017

Slowly and painfully I unwrap my legs and wrestle myself upright, I have spent the last hour and a half wedged between various bits of rigging and the outside rail cleaning the brightwork (stainless steel fixtures). Fifty six foot seems very large when armed with just a duster and a toothbrush. My stiffness was not helped by the couple of hours I had already spent crouched and bent cleaning the bilge in the bottom of the engine bay. Rick’s in a similar state having spent one half of the weekend bouncing about, mostly upside down, replacing cables and tidying wires in the dingy, the other half dismantling and manhandling a heavy washing machine off the boat and today removing and servicing the water maker high pressure pump. We are not the young flexible things we once were. Why we ask ourselves, after six months in New Zealand is there still a last minute rush.

Polishing the brightwork

Fiji everybody assures us has quite good shops and services and it’s unlike leaving Panama, sailing out into the unknown, we now know we can easily survive on very little, life at anchor is in fact a very simple affair. Still, with a possible weather window opening up early next week, it’s difficult to resist one last visit to the big shiny supermarket, one last purchase of possibly essential spares or one last download of books on to our Kindles.

Preparations have been mostly going well, stores are topped up and stowed, Rick has completed a dozen tasks that he’s been meaning to do for months, I have started cooking and freezing passage meals and routes and cruising research is well underway. However, there have been a couple of untimely breakdowns, firstly the battery of my trusty iPad has started to fail. As anyone who has spent time on the boat with us knows, I love my iPad using it for everything from downloading weather and emails, to keeping up to date with friends on Facebook and writing my blog. At sea it’s our connection to the satellite, it acts as a secondary chart plotter, it gives us vital information on tides and distances and its Goggle Earth app helps us navigate through treacherous coral reefs. We decided we couldn’t risk being without it, so, fingers crossed, it’s ordered replacement will arrive Thursday and I will find time and enough Internet to download everything we need to get us running again.

Not so easy to replace is the second breakdown, the washing machine which has seemingly been on its last legs since we left the UK two years ago, finally gave up the ghost on Friday, it’s corroded inners irreparable. It’s a compact model, it’s diminutive size essential to allow it to get through the door of the bathroom where it lives. After an extensive search it appears there is only one such model sold in New Zealand and the country is completely out of stock. So life in the islands will be further simplified, it seems the best we can do is to replace my washing machine with a bucket. Cleaning the length of the boat with a toothbrush suddenly seems quite easy.

Dead washing machine

Easter Moon

Tuesday 18th April 2017

Friday night we were treated to a spectacular moonrise, the sight made even more amazing by our not so spectacular surroundings. Okowawa Bay had served us well, protecting us from the wind and rough seas associated with Cyclone Cook, high hills roll into the distance, dark water, that will be one of my lasting memories of New Zealand, surrounded us and just four yachts sat at anchor. Rick was keen to get stuck into the generator, despite all the work that has been done on it over the past few months it still had a fuel starvation issue that irritatingly stopped it regually every couple of day, the flat calm of this bay was a perfect place to tackle it. My job for the day was to delve deep into all the provision lockers to find out what exactly we had lurking in their depths and then put together the big “still have access to good supermarkets” shopping list to stock up for the next few months.

As we worked we were aware of boats arriving and were surprised at the amount of activity around us. It dawned on us this was not any old Friday it was Easter Friday. Families were arriving by boat to fill the holiday homes (Bachs) that line the bay,  numerous bags were unloaded, children skipped excitedly up the beach, quad bikes, ribs and paddle boards appeared out of garages. When we emerged for morning coffee we saw a sea plane landing, one couple were arriving in style.  

Sea plane taking off from Orakawa

Slowly but surely the bay filled with boats and by the end of the day at least thirty vessels were crowded together. Shrieks of enjoyment, jet skis and dingies whizzing around, BBQ’s giving off delicious smells, everyone enjoying their time off, as we worked below we felt out of place, a bit like we had come to a funfare to mend the car.

Night fell, lights and chatter filled the bay, the songs of Queen drifted on the air from one of the parties ashore. We sat on deck trying to ignore our neighbours, when we noticed a bright haze of light appearing behind the hill. We were treated, to a dazzling, sharply defined, moonrise. As we gasped at yet another marvellous natural event it felt wrong that nobody else was watching it, the partying continued, it was if it was rising just for us.

Moonrise over the hills

The next the morning we moved out to Oke Bay, a bit of ocean swell was creeping in from the open water beyond, which made it a bit rolly but the lack of crowds, clear sea and lovely beach made it worth the slight discomfort. That was until we tried to get some sleep, at two in the morning and still awake we weren’t so sure. However, we looked around, the rain of the past week had created a small waterfall, a favourite large tree, its bent gnarly branches covered in a distinctive bark hung over the beach, the familiar dominating cliffs and a chilly swim to shake off our grogginess, Oke Bay still comes out top.

Fantastic trees on the beach at Oke Bay

And so our cruising in New Zealand has come to an end, this morning we came back into the marina in Opua. Provisioning, last minute maintainance ( fingers crossed the generator is fixed), cruiser gatherings, the preparations for the exodus to the tropics begins.

Cyclone Cook Passes Us By

Thursday 13th April 2017

It has been a rather tense twenty four hours, the whole of NZ battening down the hatches in anticipation of yet another storm. Tropical Cyclone Cook took a dramatic south turn from the tropics and is currently skirting down the east coast of the North Island. We are tucked away in Orakawa Bay in the Bay of Islands and thankfully so far the storm force winds have stayed out at sea, here it is suspiciously calm our wind gauge mostly hovering between 0-7kts. We have had plenty of rain, infact almost continuos heavy rain, I’m sure once we have enough internet to see the news some poor areas will have had a much worse time than us and flooding and land slips will be plaguing the mainland yet again. It is slightly ironic that having sailed south to New Zealand to escape the tropical storm season, Tonga and Fiji are coming out of the summer relatively unscathed while we have spent the last six weeks hiding from one storm after another.

Cyclone Cook missed us in the very North but still forecast to make landfall over the Coromandel and the Bay of Plenty

Tuesday lunchtime we waved a fond farewell to Taryn and Greg at the fuel dock in Opua. Their last few days were rather drizzly and grey but we did manage a few final adventures. The most pleasant of which was spent in what I think is my favourite of the bay’s we have visited here – Oke Bay. We had spent a lovely couple of days there in November and it didn’t disappoint this time either. Dramatic hills almost completely protect it from most directions of wind, it is open to northerly swells but last Friday was calm there was just a gentle roll creating a relaxing rock. The beach at the head of the bay is sandy and dingy friendly, as we stepped ashore we were greeted on the beach by an affectionate dog who followed us around demanding strokes and tickles. We were not sure where he came from but he obviously couldn’t read, on the track leading down to the beach it clearly stated ‘ no fires, tents or dogs allowed’.  Walking up the track we were surprised to discover how narrow the peninsular was, just a hundred metres away, over the top of the hill, was the rest of the Bay of Islands. Taryn and Greg climbed higher into the hills and were rewarded with fantastic views. 

On Saturday we set off for the Cavalli islands and Whangaroa Harbour, the wind was light and directly behind us, so disappointingly, yet again, it was on with motor. It was a scenic trip however, the sun put in a hazy appearance, the islands are surrounded by striking craggy rocks and the cliffs of the mainland are topped with green rolling hills. We spotted, on top of one of the cliffs a distinctive sculpture, after a bit of research we discovered it was the memorial to the Rainbow Warrier. This Greenpeace boat was sunk by the French Secret Service in Auckland Harbour in 1985 while it prepared to set sail in protest at the French testing of Nuclear weapons on remote Pacific Atolls. It was salvaged, towed and resunk in 26m of water off Motutapere Island, to create a new home to colonies of coral and shoals of fish and an exciting dive site. 

We passed through the narrow entrance to Whangaroa Harbour to find yet more incredible New Zealand scenery, deep inlets encased in dramatic rocky formations. It was extremely quiet, there was hardly any movement of boats and the small quaint town was almost deserted. We did find some life at the friendly Sports Fishing Bar but there was a definite feeling of being in the back of beyond.


Most evenings since Taryn and Greg have joined us, with the weather not clement enough to be on deck, we have settled down at the salon table and played bridge. Despite all being very much beginners we’ve had great fun, our brains struggling to keep up with rules that Rick delights in reading out to us from the Learn Bridge book, just when we think we are getting the hang of things. I can see the mantra of. “come over for a sundowner” spoken by all cruisers when anchored in a bay together, will have to be increased to “oh and, do you play bridge?”.

The sail back to the Bay of Islands was messy with the swell ahead of the cyclone effecting the coast. Yet again, I was caught out not keeping my level of sea sickness medication high enough and spent the last hour of the journey feeling terrible. However it was great to give Taryn and Greg a final trip with the sails up. We even managed to deliver a goodbye sighting of dolphins, a spectacular display, the dolphins jumping high into the air. 

It felt odd to have Raya back to ourselves, we anchored off Russell and stocked up with food. We both felt tired, it’s been a busy few months, so treated ourselves to an afternoon of TV. We regretted not sailing on, we were woken the next morning to the boat rocking violently in the wake of the early morning ferries from Paihia and the start of the rain. We avoid sailing in the rain if we can but we needed to get ourselves somewhere well protected from the forecast high winds so we dug out our wet weather gear and in deteriating visibility motored around the headland to Orakawa Bay where we have sat more or less windless but wet for the past day and a half. 

Very wet anchoring

Checking the forecast it seems we have escaped the worst of the cyclone which is now just south of us and I can even spot a bit of blue sky!

Tea, Tides and Torrential Rain

Wednesday 5th April 2017

The air felt heavy as dusk approached, an errie quiet after a day of torrential rain, the atmosphere tense as everyone in the marina awaited the coming storm. The remenants of Cyclone Debbie, the cyclone that has been reaking havoc across Eastern Australia is now over New Zealand. We are back in the Bay of Islands Marina in Opua, the location of the start of our New Zealand adventure nearly six months ago. A good place to sit out the bad weather but not quite where we wanted to be. The last month or so, especially with guests onboard, it has really emphasised how much our lives are determined by the weather and tides.

Friday morning, on the incoming tide, we sailed into Marsden Cove Marina to spend a day on domestics – shopping, laundry, cleaning and a quick visit to explore Whangarei. We wandered up and down the lively town basin, visited the small clock museum and sat on the waterfront for lunch. 

Lunch in Whangarei

Having been away from ‘cruiser world’ for a while it was nice to spot a few boats we knew in the Basin Marina and bump into a few faces we knew on the boardwalk. Everyone’s talk turning from their plans in New Zealand to weather windows and preparations for the sail back up to the tropics.

However, first we have a few more weeks cruising left here to enjoy. Sunday we had planned to sail up to Tutukaka Harbour to join a dive boat out to the Poor Nights Islands and their reputed world class dive sites, but the weather and tides had other ideas. The forecast for wet stormy weather had come forward a day, from Wednesday to Tuesday, and the combination of north winds, large swell, torrential rain and shallow water restricting movement within the harbour, persuaded us to push on up to the Bay of Islands.

Rounding a mist topped Cape Brett

It was quite a long days sailing, so we slipped into the first anchorage we came to – Deep Water Cove. The sun held out long enough to tempt even me in for an invigorating swim in the clear, dark blue water. We were the only boat in the bay and there were no buildings in sight, the silence only disturbed by the bickering Pied Cormorants roosting in a couple of Pohutukawa trees. It was another lovely spot and it was with regret that we left Monday morning to catch the high tide to ensure safe entery into Opua Marina.

A less than perfect docking at the berth set the scene for the next couple of dreary grey days. Tuesday morning the heavy rain arrived as promised, one of the reason for coming into the marina was so we could at least get off the boat, we hired a car with Taryn and Greg and drove to the small town of Russell. Russell is easily reach by car ferry from Opua but I thought I’d been told the long way round, the hour route around the Wikare Inlet, was a nice drive. In retrospect I think I was told it was an interesting drive and interesting it certainly was. The tarmaced road quickly turned into a bumpy gravelled track that twisted steeply up and around the hills of Russell Forest with generous amounts of rain added into the torturous mix.

Russell a picturesque seaside town was very soggy, so we headed for the Pompallier Mission building as a dry option to pass the time. It was set up by Bishop Pompallier to print and disperse bibles and prayer books, written in Maori, in their drive to convert the locals. Inside we were treated to a fascinating guide to the production of these small books, that included the original press, the binding rooms and the tannery that produced the leather to cover each volume.

Raining in Russell

The storm did bring plenty of rain but the winds were not as bad as forecast and we seemed to have whiled away the couple of days quite easily, copious amounts of tea have been drunk and our Bridge skills rekindled after some thirty years of dormancy.

Cruising a Sunny Hauraki Gulf

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. 

Taryn enjoying the wind in her hair

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.

Watching the dolphins fishing

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.

Pretty beach at Tryphena

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.

Douglas the duck, hoping for some tipbits


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.

Warrens Track Waterfall

Team Raya

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.

Crowded Week

Friday 24th March 2017

Entering Auckland

As we sat waiting for the brilliant Adele to come on stage, I realised how quickly our time in New Zealand has passed. I bought the tickets for Adele Live back in November just after we had arrived. Then this concert seemed such a long time away and was a marker for the final part of our New Zealand stay. The plan now being to start slowly working our way north, back to Opua, where we will look for a weather window early May to sail up to Fiji.

Adele was of course worth waiting for, belting out her familiar songs, joking with the crowd and making the most of her extensive set, she was the true showman. Add in the buzz from the near 50,000 people seated in the Mt Smart Stadium, the chance for a good sing along and the mostly efficient organisation – we had a great evening.

Adele Live

It has been a very busy week, Sunday morning we sailed into the centre of Auckland. It was maybe not the best of days to have chosen, Auckland has the nick name ‘City of Sails’ due to the large number of marinas, one in three Aucklanders own a boat, on this pleasant Sunday morning I think most of the them were out enjoying the sunny weather. Navigation was hazardous through the crowded channel and the water choppy with wakes. We eventually worked our way through all the craft, big and small, everything from a car ferry to a guy fishing from his kayak, and tied up at the Viaduct Marina. We are stern to the dock underneath the main walkway through this busy city waterfront area. It’s a bit like being the exhibit at the zoo as hundreds of people wander past looking at all the boats. Although the smallest yacht in this part of the marina, our Southampton registration is attracting attention from the many Brits who are visiting or live here. 

Rush hour past the boat

Fun as it is to be in the middle of things, restaurants and shops a mere stroll away, the true attraction is the large chandleries and miriad of  yacht services at our finger tips. For the first time in over a year we can get things done quickly and easily, Rick has jumped at the oppotunity. Amongst other things the generator has been serviced including refurbing the injectors and hopefully sorting out the last of the problems caused by the dirty Tongan fuel. The dingy engine has also been serviced. Rick has replaced the seized dingy gear cable and the broken main outhaul and furling buttons in the cockpit.  The boxes of spares have been sorted, topped up and the inventory updated. We have cleaned inside and out, everything was ready, Raya back in tiptop condition for another season in the Pacific Islands.

Well, until last night that is, on our return to the boat, to our dismay, we noticed the fridge had stopped. Days more at the zoo were imagined, disapointed guests, friends Taryn and Greg arrive this evening, having to waste precious days of their holiday waiting around, doom and gloom accompanied us to bed. But no, this is the centre of Auckland we had an engineer onboard by 2pm, a small leak and blocked filter discovered by 2.30 and a working fridge by four. Plan A back on track.