Friday, February 25, 2011

Great Barrier Island

From Tutukaka (yes, that's it's real name), we motored down to Great Barrier Island.  It's a large, mountainous island, with many protected anchorages, for any weather direction.  It's sparsely populated, with many tracks (hiking trails).  We anchored in Smokehouse Bay.  Some local residents had prepared a landing for vacationing boaties, to bath, do laundry and smoke fish.  It was really charming.  A few years ago, few landslide damaged it, but volunteers restored it to it's former glory.
Bathhouse at Smokehouse Bay

There's a wood burning stove to heat the bath water.

The next day was Valentines Day, so we opened a surprisingly good bottle of New Zealand sparkling (wine).  Even the French cruisers like it!  We must get some more.

Welcoming Committee
 The next day was blustery, with 15-25kts of breeze on a broad reach, we had the best sail of the trip past the nature reserve island Tiritiri Gulf Harbour marina, on the Whangaparoa pennisula,  This is not far from our friend Mike's house, so he came down to the boat for dinner.  It was good to catch up again for the first time since we returned from America.

The Poor Knights

The next day we pressed on the Poor Knights Islands.  They are land and marine sanctuaries.  So humans are not allow ashore and fishing is not allowed.  However, the islands are very rugged and scenic (that again) and it's a well known dive spot.   We went to a protected bay, but at 75ft, it was too deep for us to anchor.  The weather was calm and sunny, and the sea was sapphire blue.  The islands are high and rocky.  The shore is mostly stone walls that go straight up, and there are many, many sea caves, both above and below the surface.

There was one very large (80ft) sailboat anchored and a couple dive boats inside the cave.  Yes, inside the Riko Riko cave.  It's big and can hold several boats.

So we moved on to Tutukaka.  It was a busy place due to a fishing tournament, so we anchored in the outer bay and dinghied ashore.  We booked a dive at Poor Knights the next day.  Well, the weather turned bad the next day.  The entrance to Tutukaka is very rocky and rough in bad weather.  Not all the competitors could get out to fish, which must have been really miserable anyway.  The dive boat was quite large and capable of handling the seas, but the driver had a lot of work to manuver the boat through the seas.

The diving is different than the tropics, with little hard coral, some soft coral, lots of weeds, with beautiful colorful fish and other sea creatures everywhere.

Finally, we're away

We finally left Opua for good on Febuary 8th.  This seems to be a pattern:  We left Seattle September 8th, 2009.  We left Puerto Vallarta April 8th, 2010.  It was late in the day, so we just went a short distance to one of the many beautiful bays nearby:  Orokawa Bay.  There are protected anchorages for any wind and wave direction.  There are so many choices.  Many bays are quite large, so many boats can fit.  Also, the bottoms are usually moderate uniform depths, so anchoring is usually pretty easy.

Albert Pass on a sunny day
 The next day was calm and rainy, so we motored out of scenic Albert Pass past scenic Cape Brett.  We anchored in another well protected by called Whangamum.

During the night I heard a strange noise and went on deck to investigate.  I couldn't see anything so I went back to bed.

The next morning I heard the noise again.  It was a small pod of dolphins fishing in the bay.  One of them was wheezy and that was the noise I had heard in the night.

Whangamumum another beautiful spot that with a now abandoned whaling station.  There are few foundations left and signs describing the buildings and the whale killing, slaughteriug and rendering.  There are even some old photographs.  It must have be really gory, and foul smelling.  Local workers would walk miles over the steep hills to work there.  The trails still exist.


Whangaroa is a beautiful enclosed bay north of the Bay of Islands.  We got away for a weekend there. Weekend!  For cruisers, every day is supposed to be a weekend.
But, when you've hired tradespeople, you follow their schedule.

Whangaroa has lots of low steep hills and exposed basalt towers, not unlike the Marquesas, but small.  This area is probably older and the volcanic terrain is more eroded.

  We went for a hike up a long (small) river valley.  Although the weather isn't hot, it's warm and moist enough that the bush is very jungle-like.  It looks very exotic to us.  Despite recent rain, there were few bugs.  Nice!

Sunday afternoon, back to Opua to finish the canvas work.  $$$$ again...

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Rest of the Opua Story

Three big storms and several costly boat projects came and went before we could leave Opua.   One storm brought 10inches (225mm) rain overnight.  The water was so full of sediment, it looked like land.  Opua and several other towns were marooned, with roads closed due to flooding or slides ("slips" as they're called here).

There is a short "tall ship", named the Tucker Thompson based here.

It's out on the bay most days.