35 13.13S 174 13.48E - Bay of Islands

Mike and Liz Downing
Fri 20 Apr 2012 10:46
Back in the Bay of Islands, anchored in Paradise Bay on the island of Urupukapuka. The passage from the mouth of the Whangarei river was just over 65 sea miles and with much better winds than yesterday it took just under 11 hours, so an average of 6kts. It was interesting that the forecast for today was exactly the same as yesterday, but the weather was quite different. The day was overcast (which always makes it seem worse than it is), but the winds were much more consistent, although quite a bit stronger than predicted. This was particularly true on departing Whangarei where the onshore winds and swell created an hour's slog into big rough seas. The rollers were dead on the nose coming down the only channel out and so there was no real option other than to plough through them, and on a few occasions, plough was a more than apt description. When waves came very close together the bows slid down the trough between them and the next wave was so close that it broke over the bows before they had time to lift, spraying the whole boat and creating rivers of sea water down each deck. It took the scuppers sometime to get rid of it all. This part of the passage reminded us of leaving Brighton marina with a strong southerly blowing - not something to do unless there are no other options (like staying where you are until the winds change!). 
At the other end of the passage, rounding Cape Brett, the wind had risen to 25 to 30kts with a much bigger swell than expected - the sea was in turmoil with white horses everywhere. But at least this time, the wind and swell were both behind us - far more comfortable! For the 50 miles or so in between Whangarei and Cape Brett, good winds on the starboard beam allowed great sailing with speeds up to 7 1/2 knots, achieved with a double reefed main and a well reefed working genoa. It also allowed us to get in before darkness fell, with the anchor hitting the seabed just as the last light of the day disappeared, so pretty good timing.
Cape Brett, as we turn into the Bay of Islands. We had planned to do a controlled gybe to turn the
corner, but the winds were so strong we thought better of it and opted for tacking all the way round.
This worked well and avoided the risks associated with gybing (controlled or uncontrolled) in very strong winds
Just to the south of Cape Brett is the island with the hole through it. The 'hole in the rock' is a big
tourist attraction here and, in much better weather, the tourist boats go right through the hole.