New Zealand—the land of the long white cloud
After an eight day passage, we sailed Learnativity into New Zealand’s Bay of Islands near midnight on November 13th. Some 42 years before, I had sailed into the same bay with my first husband on our boat the Kathi II, and everything about the two arrivals could not have been more different.
For starters, back in 1975, we never would have entered a strange port in the dark. Our navigation was dependent on the sun and stars. Instead, we sailed in just at dusk and dropped anchor off the Russell pier. A cruiser friend rowed out to welcome us with a loaf of still hot bread from the bakery and a glass bottle of milk with an inch of cream at the top.
In 2016, with GPS and the many friends who had assured us the area was well marked and the charts accurate, we entered the bay on an overcast night. The near full moon was still able to light the clouds and sky and helped with visibility. At just after midnight, we tied up to the Customs Quarantine Dock in Opua, and retired to our bunk for a good long sleep.
We spent nearly a week in the Bay of Islands, and together with our friend Philip, we took the ferry across the bay and I got to return to Matauwhi Bay where we had stayed at anchor for six months off the Russell Boat Club.
While the bay looked very different and there were lots more houses around it, the boat club looked nearly the same.
While Russell had changed from a sleepy little village with bakery and butcher into a touristy, artsy destination, what has changed the most in those 42 years is me!
We had lunch at the familiar Duke of Marlborough hotel and restaurant where the 21-year-old me had experienced some memorable adventures. Long before my time, Russell was once the home of Pacific whalers and called the “Hell Hole of the Pacific.” Philip, Wayne and I enjoyed a decidedly unhellish flight of local wines along with our lunch.
From Opua, we sailed down to Whangarei with an overnight stop in Tutukaka Harbor. Ever since we’d arrived in New Zealand, we’d been complaining about the cold. We’d had to dig out our long pants and sweat shirts. But while the weather was decidedly crisp, it was so clear and clean, the air tasted delicious. On our sail down the coast we had gusts in the 30’s but the wind was from the west, and we were mostly in the shelter of the land, so we scooted south with barely a splash on the deck.
We rounded the infamous Cape Brett with near flat seas.
The town of Whangarei is located several miles up a twisting river. The wind was still gusting over 30 as we motored our way inland. It was a Sunday and we passed a local boat club with a fleet of kids in little sailing dinghies out for a little race round the buoys. No wonder the Kiwis man the decks of all the serious race boats if the kids start like that!
The river narrows by the time you reach the town of Whangarei, and the waterfront makes it feel like a little village, though, in fact, it’s quite a large town. Where we tied up to the Town Basin dock, we were entertained by the music and people of the many cafes and shops along the river.
We spent about ten days tied to the dock, cleaning and sorting out the boat and prepping for our long off-boat vacation ahead. We took long walks along the river in the evening and Wayne was able to show me the New Zealand her remembered. Wayne had spent the cyclone season there in 2009, but it was my first time. I loved the little town.
With Learnativity snugged into her berth, eventually, we packed our gear into our little rented Nissan and took off for our ten days of exploring the North Island. Back in 1975, we had done the same thing, and I was interested to see how much the island had changed.
The first stop was Auckland where we planned to spend some time with our yacht designer, Dennis, of Artnautica Yacht Design. As the city came into view from the big freeway, I gasped. “It looks like the Emerald City of Oz!”
After a fabulous dinner aboard Koti, the first LRC 58 Dennis designed, and the marvelous company, we returned to our Airbnb room in a home overlooking Half Moon Bay. Our land trip around New Zealand was off to a great start, and we still had nine more days to go.
But that trip is deserving of its own blog.