As I start to write we are sitting out a blow at Waiheke Island just near Auckland. The pressure is dropping fast, and it is very wet and windy reminding us that summer is not quite here yet. We were all set up for a dull day on the boat but the anchor has just dragged, and we have had to reset it, in the rain, but of course it could be happening at night. We now have ten times the depth in chain out, so the anchor should hold better now despite the muddy bottom here.
We have spent a few weeks exploring the Bay of Islands. Yes, we are getting close to being able to write a tourist guide. The warmer weather is helping. This is a delightful cruising area named the Bay of Islands by our old friend Captain Cook, who just seems to have been everywhere. There are about 150 islands, some private but many open with some excellent Department of Conservation walks. This is still early season so we are enjoying this area with no crowds, and we feel quite invaded if we meet someone else while walking, or have to share an anchorage. Given we are in no rush we must have done most of the walks, and we have certainly discovered that the hills in NZ can be quite steep, so it is doing wonders for our fitness.
We are always very impressed with the care that the Department of Conservation takes in looking after and protecting the wildlife. Both the islands of Urupukapuka and Motutua are pest free and this is allowing endangered native birds to thrive. We were told that because New Zealand is so isolated many of the endemic bird species do not fly either at all, e.g. the elusive kiwi, or fly poorly and nest on the ground; hence predator control is essential for their survival. Many of the islands just off the coast are nature reserves so the sea birds are plentiful. Now that we know what we are looking for, little blue penguins are rather common. They are tiny, very sweet, and fly through the water.
We have headed south stopping at Whangamumu where we had a lovely supper on A Capella with Paul and Sally from s/y Bagheera. We visited Tutukaka, and old haunts Urquarts Bay and Marsden Cove to pick up some mail, and Great Barrier to do the hot springs walk. The hot springs were hot, but rather murky and the whole logistics of having a dip rather put us off getting wet, but it was a lovely walk over the unique wetlands of Great Barrier.
We are now at Waiheke Island, which is just off Auckland so plenty of exclusive pads, helicopters and vineyards, oh and much higher prices! We spent a couple of nights at Man o’ War Bay.
From Man o’ War bay we enjoyed a visit to Stony Batter. This was the largest battery built to protect New Zealand in the Second World War. Work started in 1942, and the battery was completed in 1948 (a bit late but luckily the Japanese never came). No gun was ever fired in anger. I am sure that is a good thing but what an effort.
On our way round to Ostend Bay we were delighted to see the America’s Cup boats out practicing in the Bay. They absolutely fly and leave a big wake. The chase boats barely keep up.
We have of course followed both the New Zealand elections and the US presidential election with great interest. What a contrast. Jacinda has appointed what must be one of the most diverse cabinets in the world. Of the 20 members, 8 are women, 5 Maori, 3 Pasifika and 3 LGBT.
We are now heading for the South Island to the Marlborough Sounds. This will be much trickier sailing, but in the great scheme of the distance we have come, not really very far. We will take care.
Once again it sounds bleak at home. It is difficult for us to imagine, but we do think of home often and wish all our friends well during this difficult time.