Saturday 7th February 2015 – Hello Again, Opua

Jon & Carol Dutton
Sat 7 Feb 2015 09:51

Saturday 7th February 2015 – Hello Again, Opua

Thursday 2nd October 2014 saw us fly out from Auckland to Gatwick, leaving Arnamentia in Opua Boatyard.  Chris Austin very kindly picked us up from Andover after the usual relaxing 27 hour or so transit in cattle class.  But, the Emirates A380 aircraft are not bad, really.  Jet lag was a touch troublesome for a week or so – dozing off in mid-afternoon, struggling to stay awake until about the time that parents of a six year old child might consider putting him to bed and then waking at about 0200, ready to rock’n’roll. 

As planned, we sorted out a few maintenance issues with the Lymington cottage (rotten fascias and soffits again but this time on the double garage – deep joy but really quite good therapy, if one is undergoing withdrawal symptoms from lack of a boat on which to perform maintenance tasks - the provision of such opportunities being the core function of most cruising yachts) and had the rest of our garden fence replaced.  We repainted the bathroom ceiling; a major undertaking, as you can imagine, in such a substantial property.  US readers should note that English bathrooms have baths, which may be confusing.  The repainting took almost half an hour to accomplish, what with having to find the paint and a roller and so on.  Then we chased the chap who had promised that he’d do a minor roof job a year ago but hadn’t quite got around to it.

The focus for the first few weeks was the preparation of material for a presentation to those responsible for arranging a 9 month long Atlantic circuit in a yacht belonging to one of the clubs of which we are members, beginning in September 2015 and involving many total crew changes on the way.  That is very challenging on several levels and considerably more so than most such projects undertaken by private individuals and permanent skippers.  Apart from everything else, too many pieces of equipment on modern cruising yachts are maintenance junkies whose hypochondriac tendencies and fragile medical condition it is best to know well.  Where one important function depends upon not only its own flaky bit of kit but some other bit of nonsense to perform, it can get a bit fraught until you take the plunge and sort the interdependence out once and for all – which may not be cheap.  The presentation involved quite a lot of work but we hope that most of what we said bears fruit.

Where did the rest of the time go?  God alone knows.  Christmas was delightfully spent in Wales with Carol’s sister and family and, astoundingly, the weather was really pretty reasonable.  We managed a late flurry of visits to or meals out with a variety of friends in the south of England, some of whom we had not seen for several years.  Some appeared a bit surprised that we hadn’t grown two heads or become greatly more piratical of aspect or developed a wish to blather on forever about our doings, but they soon relaxed.  Our thanks go, of course, to all for their kind hospitality.

Carol managed to get in a decent spell of riding in and also helped with the teaching of some groups of school children at her friend Jacky’s riding school.  She also did some quilting workshops which should stand her in good stead when we eventually get to Fulanga in Fiji where, last year Ann (S/V Charisma), gave the ladies in that tiny and isolated atoll community an introduction to the art.

On Sunday 25th January Jon’s brother, Roger, insisted on driving us all the way to Gatwick rather than dropping us off at a convenient railway station.  Again, that was an undeserved treat for which many thanks, Podge. We flew out that evening, arriving in Auckland on Tuesday at around 1400 NZ time (13 hours ahead at this time of year).  The jet lag wasn’t too bad compared with our experience going the other way.

Having arrived, we thought we’d better come up with a plan of what to do before we head back to Fiji – and that can’t be before May at the earliest.  Having um’d and ah’d a bit recently about having the boat Coppercoated we decided to take the plunge provided we could get a reasonable quote for doing the work.  For the uninitiated, Coppercoat is a special form of antifouling that has something like a 10 year life.  It is, of course, much more expensive to apply than normal antifouling paint but probably pays back financially over 4 years or so.  It pays back almost immediately in terms of the effort represented by the annual agony of sanding off the old antifouling (scoring 10 on the grotty jobs scale) and putting on the new (scoring about 6 on the same scale).  Unlike ablative antifouling paint, it does not wear away gradually and so might be a bit more prone to slime build-up.  But, in warm waters, that is easily dealt with using a sponge and diving kit.  We will still need to lift the boat about annually to scrub her off properly, deal with the sacrificial anodes and lightly sand the bottom to reinvigorate the Coppercoat.  But, that should be nothing like as lengthy, messy or unpleasant a job as dealing with the normal stuff.

Anyway, we obtained a couple of quotes and it transpired that it was going to be significantly cheaper to have the job done in Opua.  They can start work towards the end of February so we will leave the boat out of the water here until they have it completed in about mid March.  Meanwhile we’re off touring, seeing a bit more of NZ and catching up with various Kiwi friends as well as (the very British) Eric and (equally Kiwi) Pauline Happé whom Jon hasn’t seen for at least 22 years (Eric, most recently, in a tent on the fringes of Larkhill artillery firing range on Salisbury Plain, if memory serves).

Once that work is done we will be off, back to Gulf Harbour, near Auckland, to have a couple of bits of remedial work done on the new teak deck before re-launching and getting in some local sailing in NZ waters done prior to departure for Fiji.

Since Aranmentia is still out of the water, we are staying in our home from home in Andrea’s delightful hostel, Ferry Landing, overlooking the Veronica Channel in Opua. 


                                                  Sunset in Opua from the balcony of Ferry Landing

Whilst well north in North Island we took the opportunity to visit the Far North.  On Wednesday 4th we left to stay at an excellent Backpackers’ hostel in Henderson Bay, on the east coast, for a couple of nights.   We took in Cape Reinga at the NW tip of North Island.  Apparently, from an 800 year old Pohutakawa tree hanging precariously from the tip, the spirits of the Maori dead depart, sliding down into the sea and emerging on Ohaua – the highest point of the Three Kings Islands, just visible over the horizon, to the north of Cape Reinga.  From there they bid a final farewell before departing to join their ancestors in Hawaiki – the underworld.

Off the Cape, the two north-flowing tidal steams converge in a clashing, boiling maelstrom.  Best not to sail through that lot really.  There are some excellent walks around the Cape and we took one towards the beach to the west.  The whole area is a beautifully maintained spiritual site.  The vegetation, growing in the constant warmth but often with appreciable wind and in a salt-laden atmosphere, is impressively rugged and Bonsai in appearance.


Cape Reinga Lighthouse – next Spirit stop Ohaua en route to Hawaiki


                Looking west from Cape Reinga over Te Werahi Beach and the ridge we walked along


                                            The tumult where two tidal streams meet at Cape Reinga

On the way south, again,  we headed to the east coast where reputedly the finest silica sands in the world are to be found in Parengarenga Harbour.  They are difficult to reach by land but still impressive from across the harbour.


                                            Snow like silica sands at Parengarenga Harbour

Impressions of the Far North?  It is both stunningly beautiful and very sparsely populated.  From our hostel in Henderson Bay it was about a half hour’s drive to the nearest Four Square general store.  There are rare hamlets of a few buildings but, mostly, people live in widely dispersed cattle and sheep farms.  Many of the roads are unsealed and not a few are suitable only for 4WD vehicles.  Since our car is not 4WD, a drive down the length of 90 Mile Beach on the west coast (a very, very long beach, granted, but not quite as long as its name boasts – 90km is more like it) was not remotely on the itinerary.  So, we satisfied ourselves with a look along it from the southern end.


                         The southern end of 90 mile beach on a very blustery day and at high tide

So, that’s the Far North done.  Now it’s on to a bit of serious motor-touring to see a bit more of this most picturesque country.  We’ll let you know how we get on.