We are trundling on in New Zealand. Life here has pretty well returned to normal except for the very firmly shut boarders, and occasional escapees from the quarantine facilities. All neighbouring country borders are also shut so we intend to remain in New Zealand for the foreseeable future. The marina did get a little busy after the lockdown but is now relatively quiet as some boats have left for Opua, and most of the local boats have been winterised. As always the cruising community remains very supportive, and we have a good circle of friends, but we are all extremely uncertain as to the future of our cruising plans. For us, we are determined to make the most of our time here, and while frustrated at times, we do feel fortunate to be in a such safe place at this unbelievably difficult time.
Winter in New Zealand is proving to be very wet and windy with depressions (35 knots plus of wind in the marina) coming through frequently. Apparently the rain is needed but we are finding it tiresome. We have had to purchase some more winter clothes and thankfully Kathmandu has a sale on so we are now much better equipped. The boat heater is working well and I have made some insulation for the windows so we are quite snug, although there are times when a proper fire would be just lovely. There are some wonderful bright days and we have learnt to take full advantage of these when they come along.
Bill Tee from S/Y Krabat joined us for a couple of weeks after Krabat was shipped back to the UK. Julian had lined up some electronic projects so it did seem that Bill, an electronics expert, spent his time working at the chart table with the soldering iron permanently at the ready. We now have a water usage monitor, so beware anybody taking too long in the shower, and a stray current measuring device.
Julian’s Sunday cooking has got even better and he created an excellent steak and kidney pudding before Bill left. Suet in New Zealand is the real deal and does not come in an Atora packet! Julian has perfected the art of shaving beef suet to make his pastry.
Poor Bill had a fairly torrid time dealing with the bureaucracy of flying back home, and ended up going via Australia just in time for “quarantine” back home, despite coming from one of the safest places in the world. Just a little more madness. We have sailed with Bill and Moira since we left the Canaries in 2017 so we will miss them very much.
We hired a car to drive up to Opua, in the Bay of Islands, to visit Bill and Zoe from S/Y Into the Blue. This proved to be very social and an excellent break from Whangarei. Bill, who is very keen on fishing kindly took Julian for some angling lessons. These have proved very successful and Julian now seems quite good at fishing, as he has caught sufficient snapper for two suppers, with only a reasonably small investment in bait and tackle! I do hope I have not spoken to soon, as the snapper make excellent eating. I have noticed that the suggestion of a vegetarian supper seems to spur on his enthusiasm for catching fish. Zoe and I gave the fishing a miss and had two excellent walks along the coast. We dined well at the excellent eating establishments in this area, and were joined by Andrew and Julia from S/Y Hullabaloo who we have not seen for many months.
The weather is not really suitable for any long sailing trips so we have ventured out to the nearby Great Barrier Island for two visits to make sure we can remember how to sail, and to check that all the boat’s systems are working properly. It was an incredible eight months since we had last sailed. There were a few teething issues in particular the new generator, but everything is now in really good order.
Great Barrier Island is just off the coast about a six hour sail from Whangarei. It is a dramatic island, and there are many very protected bays, great walking and abundant wildlife. It is very busy in the summer, but for us in the winter we had just a few boats for company and mostly we were on our own. We did have a few rather windy (30 knots plus) nights but the holding was good and our anchor proved up to the job.
The hiking is steep and we are now getting used to the dreaded steps. We climbed Mount Hobson, the highest mountain in the area, and apparently there are 1,200 steps. The views are fantastic but we could definitely feel those steps the next day. We are constantly staggered at the incredible pathways, always well maintained and signposted.
Smoke House bay has to be a highlight. Here there is a bathroom complete with bath and hot water, albeit the fire for the boiler has to be lit. This isn’t that easy as inevitably the wood is rather damp at this time of year. Julian took on the challenge as he is particularly fond of a bath and this was enjoyed, even although it was more practical than luxurious. There is also a smoke house, pizza oven, BBQ’s and an open fire. This is a legacy from an ancient mariner and maintained by local cruisers. As you can imagine it is a bit of a magnet. We met up with Angus and Laura and their children from S/Y Victoria who we had been next door in Norsands boatyard. New Zealanders Colin and Akema from S/Y Phoenix, and Peter from S/Y Tamariki. All great company.
We met up with New Zealander Ian Ashton on S/Y Dream Weaver. We first met Ian when we crossed the Atlantic, and he was leading a scout trip to Great Barrier Island. He saw us on the AIS. The scouts very ably stoked the fires and made us some excellent pizza. So much better when someone else lights the fire and finds the wood. We then spent some time telling the scouts about our trip half way around the world. A really fun time, and of course excellent to see Ian again.
Boyed up with the success of the first steak and kidney pudding Julian volunteered to do this again. Sadly Bill and Zoe were unable to join us but Ian and Manuela from S/Y Mr X, and John and Janet from S/Y Tango joined us for another excellent supper. We have also managed to find some new walks near Whangarei with Ian and Manuela at Waipu Cove and McLeod Bay.
We have decided to hire a campervan from Queenstown in the South Island for a month, and after that hopefully it will be better weather to do some proper sailing in New Zealand. Given there are no tourists here anymore, the price for the campervan was incredibly reasonable. We are not sure quite what it will be like but we are used to living in small spaces. We are planning some skiing and winter walking, and Queenstown and the surrounding area should be very beautiful at this time of year. Really, who would ever have imagined this?
We send our very best wishes to all our friends in the UK and elsewhere in the World, and trust that you are all keeping safe and well in these very uncertain times.