Whangaroa paradise, sailor’s rest

Date: Jan. 14, 2016, 4 p.m.
Position: 35 1.00 S, 173 45.00 E
SOG (kts): 0.0
January 15-18: Whangaroa Harbour is a sailor’s dream. Multiple arms wrap around the bay providing complete protection in any wind. There are hundreds of nooks & crannies. And the bottom of the entire bay is a uniform 40 feet deep, sticky mud bottom with excellent anchor holding power. Kelsey and I were astounded by the scenery as we entered the bay–towering lava pinnacles with overhanging grottoes rise vertically from the flat-calm waters beneath. In fact, the bay looks very much like the anchorage at Fatu Hiva, Marquesas, which is said to be one of the most beautiful anchorages in the world. I’d say this is one of the top-three anchorages we’ve encountered on the long voyage so far–we’ve seen so many beautiful anchorages but this one takes the cake for the protection it offers. I was almost asleep by the time Privateer’s anchor bit into the blue-clay-mud bottom. We are in a bay within the bay, surrounded by sheer cliffs cloaked in sub-tropical tree ferns & jungle, on a pool of glassy water. The roar of cicadas in the surrounding hills are the only thing I heard as I drifted off to sleep at 9Am, and we took an extended siesta for the entire day. The satisfaction of reaching a place like this after earning it through an offshore passage/rough day at the capes is unmatched.

In the evening after the hot sun cooled down a bit, we pumped up the inflatable dinghy and zoomed across the bay several miles distant to check out the town of Whangaroa. It was Taz’s first time in the dinghy! At first he was a bit suspicious as the boat got up on a plane and flew over the water, but he quickly became a “natural”. It was a Friday night and everyone was moderately intoxicated at the local yokal waterfront bars. The scene reminded us of Lake Minnetonka or small-town Wisconsin–we were back at the redneck yacht club! Taz, Kelsey, and I stretched our sea legs and took a nice sunset stroll down the road. Taz was pretty pissed off every time we picked him up–he wanted to be walking too! So we crept along, stooped over & helping him navigate the pavement. He actually seems more sure-footed on the boat than he does on land!

We’ve been in Whangaroa Harbour for four days now. One day to rest up, one day to go hiking and because we just couldn’t leave such an incredible place after just one night, and now two more days to wait out bad weather. Whangaroa Harbour is the perfect place to rest, hike, and sit out a storm, and we were happy to have the excuse to do all of these things here!

On the second day we explored Rere Bay by dinghy and landed at a trailhead there. We hiked up a “track” (as the Kiwis call trails) that wound its way along a lagoon and mangrove forest. We called it the “Jurassic Park Garden of Eden”. The track opened out onto lush grassy valleys set among cliffs and waterfalls cascading from cliffs hundreds of feet above. The deafening cicadas set up a vibration that made it feel like they were actually inside of our skulls. We hiked under a towering Manuka tree forest with a thick layer of tree ferns and palms above in the under-story. A few hours later we came to a deep, clear pool at a river crossing, and had a picnic and a good long swim. The perfect hike on a nice sunny day.

On the third day we’d run out of fresh drinking water. I tried to get some at the town but was told that none of the water there is potable! I was directed to the New Zealand Coast Guard Water Buoy, which is just what the name implies: a buoy with a fresh tap coming out of it! Awesome. I filled up our water bottles from the dinghy, and later we returned with the whole boat and topped up the ship’s tanks! We don’t like to run our water-maker in coastal harbors like this, because of the silt from the land. For our water-maker to work it’s best, it needs good clear, & salty ocean water. The Coast Guard water buoy was the perfect solution, and just one more thing we love about Whangaroa Harbour.

The weather deteriorated until williwaws swept down from the high peaks and out-croppings above, but our anchor was stuck so hard and fast that it took great effort to suck it out of the mud later on, and the chain never made a sound as we swung in the wind. Great swathes of foam swept up off the surface of the bay when the gusts hit, and the waterfalls above were actually flowing UP and into thin air, blowing away completely off the cliffs. It was surreal. Bands and sheets of rain twirled around the bay like miniature tornadoes. The best thing is that we got to enjoy the show safely on the hook, without worry, and thinking all the while how nice it was that we weren’t at sea on a day like today!

The storm switched off like a light switch this evening (the 18th), and the sun came out just in time to set over glassy waters. We’re off for Kerikeri tomorrow, in the Bay of Islands, to complete the last leg of our trip. Taz is in good form and has a new habit of plunging his face into Kelsey’s belly and breathing out, creating loud staccato farting noises. He’s pretty pleased with himself.

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