So what have we been up to this summer/Autumn?
I finished work on the 23rd of December, yahoo, but Paul continued working until the end of March. We had the boat hauled out just before Christmas and steadily worked away at things until we re-launched at the end of January. Our plan again had been to head off-shore, north to the Islands for the winter. But after much expense over the years, installing an AIS, obtaining a life raft and all of the other many sundry items required for Cat 1, and much time adding locks to all the lockers, refining systems, finding storage spots etc etc, we have finally given the whole idea the heave ho. We have joined the long list of people who have tried and failed to go offshore. In some ways I felt like a failure, and we had lost our dream, but really truly, deep down, I am glad.
Over the last 9 years we have been cruising our coast during the summers and working in the winters, we have toured the South and North Island’s on our motorbike, we have travelled Great Britain and Ireland for 3 months. We have spent short and long periods of time living on board Kabuki either on the hard, on a mooring or at a Marina. We have both tried different jobs, Paul doing Insurance Assessing work in Christchurch after the earthquake, and fly in fly out to Australia doing ore crusher re-lining. I have done retail work at a local Emporium (interesting) and entered the office world of a Rates department at the Local Council, a total change from Mobile Librarian. Our lives have been full of meeting interesting people, seeing interesting and beautiful things. Why do we need to spend more money (up to another $10,000 - $15,000) to put ourselves through sleep deprivation, nausea, anxiety and wear and tear on ourselves and Kabuki. We have nothing to prove to ourselves by going, but everything to lose.
So we have embarked on a new dream, one that involves continuing on the same course that we have been on for the past 9 years. Apparently we have been “ Living the Dream” for the past 9 years and we didn’t even know it. We thought the dream was offshore voyaging, but for us it has become cruising the coastal waters of our beloved North Island, exploring our own backyard (New Zealand) and experiencing life as it comes.
So again, what did we do this summer? After Paul’s 60th Birthday at the end of March we set off in Kabuki for Taurikura Bay, at the head of Whangarei Harbour, hoping to sail north-west to the Bay of Islands. The wind unfortunately was from the north, so we waited a few days hoping it would turn in our favour, alas no. I suggested that instead we head to Great Barrier Island which is to the south east and would be a beam reach in the prevailing wind. So off we set, after first postponing my mammogram appointment (no great hardship). We upped anchor in the early morning gloom and motored out to Fairway Buoy where there was enough wind to set the sails. It ended up being a fast tight reach to Abercrombie Harbour, where we motored to the north east corner of Kairaara Bay and anchored up. What a joy to be back after at least 4 years.
Great Barrier is a great place for bush walking, bird watching, mussel gathering and meeting like minded cruisers. We walked up to the kauri dam, bathed in the river, kayaked and absorbed the atmosphere. We also had to endure the influx of many boats over the Easter weekend, running generators for hours on end, and anchoring slightly to close for comfort. We bumped into our old friends John & Sue from Sir Francis and met a new friend, Ian from Souvenir. We explored the Glenfern Nature Reserve, and experimented with our new Go Pro. Then I received a call from work asking me if I was interested in returning for a time, also the weather was closing in with a blow set to arrive within a few days. After past experiences of sitting out weather events at Great Barrier and knowing that I could commute to work from Opua, we decided to head north to the Bay of Islands with the favourable 15 knot south westerly that was forecast.
It is approximately 100 miles to “The Bay” from Great Barrier Island, we took 17 hours to cover the distance averaging around 6 knots an hour for the trip and arriving at Paroranui Bay at about 3am. It was a boisterous, choppy sail with spray flying and later in the night, Petrels dive bombing into our sails, with one ending up in the scuppers uninvited. At first we did not think it had landed on the deck, but we heard a scuffling up near the Kayak. On shining the torch in the direction of the noise the Petrel headed straight for the light and slid helter skelter into the cockpit. Westsail 32’s don’t have very big cockpits, and two adults and a flapping distressed bird was a bit cosy. I managed to grab it and gently lift it over the side and release it. I was amazed at how light and fragile it felt, it was all fluffy feathers and bony slim body underneath.
I love arriving in the dark to an anchorage and then waking in the morning not sure what to expect outside, it always looks totally different by day light. After only 4 hours sleep, we headed for the cockpit and our usual coffee whilst watching the day come alive on a brand you view. As the weather system was still looming we motored up to Opua the next morning and hooked up to our mooring for a few days, this would give us a chance to do washing and have nice hot showers. The weather system turned into a fizzer for us, but our friends out at Great Barrier had it rough.
We love the Bay of Islands, the sailing is easy, you can always find a sheltered anchorage, there is activity on the water which makes life entertaining, and you are not far from town. Sometimes there are a few to many boats around, but you have to take the good with the bad. Our plan was for me to commute to work 3 days a week and then we could go off sailing in the Bay on my days off. Well this lasted for 2 weeks. Paul was getting a bit bored on his own, and thought perhaps it was time for him to return to work and earn more freedom chips as well. So the call was made, and ‘nek minute’, we were heading back to Whangarei.
Our sail, or should I say motor down the coast was lacking wind and uneventful. We stopped at Whangamumu for one night, but with a 2 metre SE swell running it ended up being a wee bit rolly. We made it to Taurikura after motoring all the next day, spotting a shark and a whale and hooking 2 fish, which promptly jumped off the lure. The rain set in over night and we had a damp motor to Whangarei, with the sun coming out as we picked up the mooring lines. It actually felt quite good to be home.
We are spending the winter on the boat this year, moving off the pile mooring and to the marina in June. Marina living makes life far more civilised when you are working full time and it is cold. Like many boats we have a problem with condensation in winter. On the marina we will have electricity and can run a dehumidifier and a heater. We have a ‘Dickinson Newport’ vented Gas fire which we will use at night, but for the 5.15 am starts the electric heater with a timer is the business. It is certainly not as comfortable as living in a house, and Paul and I have to dance around each other on occasion in the confined space, but it is our home, and we love it.