FanShi and I are celebrating her first birthday, in a beautifully sheltered spot in the Bay of Islands, called Hauparua Inlet. It's pretty shallow - we are in about 1.5m at LW, but has land all around it and with 80ft of chain out, I'm feeling pretty secure. I have wondered about this place in bad weather and as the met service is talking about the remnants of cylone Cody sending 6 metre swells our way, I am pleased to be sheltered here. I think the swell would have to work hard to get round all those corners!
However, as if a cyclone were not enough, we have had tsunami warnings due to the volcanic eruption in Tonga. I've not been aware of anything unusual, but my friend, Gordon, reckons something must have happened last night, because he woke up to find himself rubbing in over-friendly fashion alongside a launch. And this in barely any wind, after his anchor had held through a couple of days of gale-force gusts. You might recall me writing about the friendly little marina at Tutukaka: well that has been badly damaged with the tsunami piggy-backing on the already-exceptional swell. Several boats have been lost, but fortunately no-one seems to have been hurt. However, I fear the poor Tongans will be in a shocking state, but we don't know because all their communications seem to be down at present. These tiny island kingdoms are feeling the onslaught of climate change; how sad to have to face damage from a volcano erupting as well.
Since I last posted a blog, FanShi and I have been working on the art of Living Slowly. Although I have been sufficiently brainwashed to feel guilty if I'm not being productive, intellectually I feel that time to stand and stare is far more important than a life of busyness. Surely being happy can never be a waste of time? Anyway, I'm pleased to say that I often feel like Pooh Bear: "People say that nothing is impossible, but I do it all the time". And, as I haven't been doing very much, this blog is largely of photos, all taken in the Bay of Islands, which might help explain why I am so much enjoying life here. Unfortunately, the doing nothing also applies to photos, so there aren't as many as there should be!
This is a view from Urupukapuka taken in September. Gales were still coming through rather frequently, but the longer days persuaded me to drop the mooring now and then. The Bay is almost deserted and it
stayed like this up to and including Christmas Eve. It's now very
crowded, but soon people will be going back home again, and those of us
based here can have it to ourselves once more.
Zebedee and Tystie seen from an anchorage at Moturua. It is a real joy having some of my junkie friends based here, too. We always enjoy meeting one another and it's great fun to have an impromptu junket. In this instance, Tystie had just sailed out and Zebedee was just about to sail in.
Finally, the saloon seat covers are made. It took me ages to find a fabric that I liked and in the end I chose something entirely impractical, which will need to be washed every couple of months. But they do look pretty and really 'lift' the saloon.
I now have plenty of time to cook, which is a real treat after all
the years spent building. Indeed, I am in danger of being obsessed, spending far too much time perusing new recipes, trying out ideas and spending time in the galley. Here is one of my frying pan pizzas. I experimented with a vegan mozzarella, which was very satisfactory. So far, it is the only decent vegan cheese that I have managed to buy. Veganism isn't a big thing yet, in New Zealand and up here in Northland, my request for a vegetarian alternative is usually met with either the offer of a cheese omelette (which, yes, doesn't contain meat, but is somewhat aggressively animal-oriented) or the suggestion that I might enjoy some fish. "But fish isn't a vegetable", I reply and am greeted with a blank stare! (I am exaggerating - but not by much!!) Either that, or the restaurant
has gone to the other extreme and offers me something gluten-free (I like gluten), made with beetroot (which I dislike), quinoa and chia seeds. There are thousands of 'naturally' vegatarain and vegan meals around - why do they have to invent something weird and - to me - unappetising? As I can't really afford to eat out, it's not a problem, but when I look at what's on the menu at most places, I wonder at how few places offer really good veg(atari)an food. So I cook for myself and really enjoy spending time over it, as well as not feeling that I'm missing out!
I've always wanted to go up the Waikare Inlet. When I was building the boat and used to come up to visit my friend in Russell, it always attracted me because the old road that I used runs along it in places. The inlet always seems deserted; there are very few houses and whenever I saw it, it was calm and tranquil. It's reputed to be shallow and very few people i know have ever explored it, so I decided to take full advantage of my shallow draught and sail up as far as I could get.
In fact there was plenty of water most of the way, but right at the head (and well off the chart) it obviously was going to dry out. I settled down quite happily onto the less than smooth bottom, riddled with mounds of Pacific oysters I was glad that I had decided on an external ballast keel! At low water, it wasn't exactly scenic and, being constrained
by the tide as to when I could leave, not really worth it. But it was an interesting experiment. The tide around BOI is only a couple of metres, and generally, I have found that there is no need to dry out. I can find plenty of depth and there always seems room for a shoal-draught, 8m boat. I think that most people never look at the tide tables to see how much above chart datum LW actually is. Thatt's great - all the more room for me!
The next day we went back down about half a mile and found a much more pleasant spot. I really like this photo. To me it could be in China - not that I've ever been there! - but the low angle has turned the hills into mountains and the lighting is evocative.
I enjoy being anchored near mangroves which I find very restful. It's interesting to watch the different birds and I love the basket sof roots and branches, exposed at low water. A black swan flew into my present anchorage yesterday and made straight for the mangroves. I wonder if there is a nest there - you don't often see a lone swan. Mangroves are important habitats for all sorts of animals.
On a fine, spring day, we sailed up and anchored in the Kent Passage. The forecast was for strong winds in a few days, but there was enough time to get a change of scenery and the Kent Passage is only about 5 miles from my mooring. (I am now renting a mooring in Matauwhi Bay. Apart from anything else, it saves wear and tear on my expensive anchor chain!)
Motoroa is a privately-owned island, which is also a wildlife sanctuary. I am not sure how this all works, because there were sheep wandering around on the beach, there are several large houses and I know for a fact that the winery there is not organic. Like the other islands in the Bay it is pest-free, which must be a bonus to the land owners, but I gather they are pretty positive about the wildlife. It must be fabulous to live on one of these islands, as the endangered birds get reintroduced.
The view from where I was anchored was
very pretty, but I regretted the decision to stay the night, because far too many
launches were coming through the passage at a rate of knots and creating a
horrible wake. It astonishes me that there is no speed limit, because you often see people on the beaches on both sides of the passage, and some of the wakes would be dangerous to children or even adults, if they were caught off their guard.
However, the wakes were far enough apart that I was able to enjoy cooking and eating a delicious warm salad, wth some of the glorious vegetables that I had bought at the Paihia Farmers' Market. Although you wouldn't believe it, when you are shopping in the supermarkets, fresh food is one of New Zealand's delights. Roadside stalls and farmers' markets are often supplied by people who really care about their produce and they are always pleased when you tell them how much you appreciate it. I recently bought a bag of 7 good-sized avocados (supposedly seconds) for $5 and a huge pile of peaches (also seconds) for $4. Food is generally expensive in New Zealand, so as well as getting much better fresh stuff, its great to be able to buy it more cheaply. While I will have to guzzle down the peaches (such a struggle!), the only thing that I can see that makes the avocados seconds, is that they are asymmetrical. I can live with that.
The next day I left early before the launches started coming though, and sailed back to Russell with a light breeze, bright sunshine and a sparkling sea. It was a perfect morning and a delightful sail: exactly the conditions I had in my mind all the time I was building this boat.
November arrived and suddenly
it was summer. I celebrated the return of the hot weather with my first
cold beer of the season, on the Russell waterfront. I have no fridge and am used to beer at bilge temperature. The nice thing about buying a beer out is that usually, they are so incredibly cold, that I find it unpleasant. However, I pour a little into my glass, which warms it so that I can drink it without fear of permanent injury,. By the time I've finished that, the rest of the beer is no longer painful to swallow. Better still, because it takes a long time to warm up, I can make the one bottle last a long time. For me a cold beer on a hot day is a real treat, the more so for being a fairly rare event. I love to have one in Russell where I can sit outside and look over the Bay or watch people as they go by.
Come December, the pohutakawas starts to bloom. I love thesse trees, with their complex shapes and the way in which they cling to cliffs and crevices, exploiting every last bit of 'land' to grow on.
it was wonderful to spend a few days in an anchorage and to watch the red glow spreading over the trees. It appears, as you might expect, to start on the north face of the tree and then slowly move along until the whole tree is a mass of flowers.
back down Te Puna Inlet and beat up the North shore of Moturoa and then
across to Urupukapuka. The conditions were so perfect that I throughly
enoyed tacking to windward: something I generally try to avoid. I have managed to wrestle my sail into submission. FanShi still suffers a bit from lee helm and the extra parrel that I've fitted to the yard makes the last three panels of the sail difficult to raise, but the boat is now sailing well and giving me a lot of pleasure on all points of sail. However, I don't think I'll ever enjoy going out in much wind. I gave the boat plenty of sail area and we often reef in F3. Poor boat - I dislike going quickly, so she is rarely given free rein.
A friend, working on Moturoa, took a photo as we sailed back, but the little blob of yellow is very hard to see! He was quite envious, poor man.
anchored in Paradise Bay, off Urupukapuka I. The next day I went ashore for a long walk and to see the birds. Well into the breeding season, the island was alive
with tieke/saddlebacks,, which have been re-introduced as they were wiped out by rats, stoats, possums, etc. They are the most delightful birds, gregarious and noisy, they seem to fly about in large family groups. They also seem to be good-natured birds - I've never seen them squabling - and I think the first brood of chicks must help with the second, because the young tieke were being fed by more than two birds. All those that were origially released have leg bands, and I was delighted to observe that none of the many birds I encountered had a band. They are flourishing.
There are also far more of the native birds that can elude predators than there used to be. I saw large numbes of tomitits, banded rail, tui and
piwakawaka/fantail and heard many robins. Stoats, rats, possums and even mice attack all our birds and of course cats, domestic and feral wreak carnage on birds, lizards, skinks and insects. Apparently some giant weta have also been released on Urupukapuka. These are a cricket-like insect as big as my fist and I'm not entirely sure that I really want to see one at very close quarters!
Out of the bush there are far fewer birds, but the views always make it worth walking the extra distance.
People are permitted to camp in a couple of bays on the island and there's a small cafe. Tripper boats bring people to come and tramp over it. to admire the scenery and enjoy the birds. Because of this the bush won't be allowed to cover all the island and sheep may safely graze for a few more years yet. However, in the middle of the day, if there is no wind, it can be very hot work, tramping up the hills.
It's always a bit of a relief to walk back into the bush, where there's plenty of shade to be found and, of course, the wonderful birds. I've managed to take some photos of the birds, which are nice for me to have, but my camera lens is too wide-angle for decent shots, worth posting on this blog.
I can't resist taking photos of my ittle ship at anchor, and I hope I will always feel the same lift in my spirits whenever I see her sitting there, waitng for me to row back.
I am incredibly fortunate to be able to call this stunningly beautiful area home. I'm even more fortunate that I can live here on my own boat and be able to move around from one delightful anchorage to another. Nick Skeates told me he reckons that God created New Zealand when He decided to take up cruising. I think he might be right.
With their beautiful red flowers blooming in December, you can see why pohutakawa are regarded as Christmas trees!
And leading up to Christmas, we had day after day of this weather. No wind over F3, warm sunshine, calm sea. Absolutely my ideal sailing conditions.
And this magical, misty morning was on Christmas Day.
This life I live on my lovely boat, in this beautiful part of the world, is a precious gift. I savour every day and am very aware of my incredible good fortune. FanShi and I are very happy. We may even decide to stay here.