Another Great Barrier New Year 36:18.5S, 175:29.2E

Serenity of Swanwick
Phil and Sarah Tadd
Tue 12 Jan 2021 05:17

We left Whangarei on the 29th December and spent the night in Parua Bay before catching the early morning tide the rest of the way down the river.  We had company for the trip from Bernd on Rebell, another 38 footer, and we were fairly well matched in the variable conditions.

The forecast was for a moderate south westerly wind, going southerly later, which would give us a windward passage, so we had our working jib out ready as this is our best windward sail.  We started out pointing well south of our course and gradually increased sail as the wind eased.  When it looked like we had made enough progress south we eased around off the wind and headed to go round the north end of Little Barrier Island then lost the wind entirely and motored for an hour and a half.  The wind came back with the promised shift to the south and increased steadily again so we progressively reduced sail and had a great sail into Oneura Bay, where we anchored in time for Sundowners on Serenity with Bernd.

Rebell sailing well as we pass Little Barrier Island

On New Year’s Eve we had a look at the anchorage at Smokehouse Bay but it was packed as usual so, despite seeing a couple of boats we knew we carried on to Kiwiriki Bay and found a nice spot sheltered by a small island.  This was the same bay we had been in last New Year, so we saw 2020 out in the same place we saw it in, although the conditions were very different.  Last year there was a gale which blew for more than a week with the result that the celebrations were quite muted.  This year with a clear, still night and a full moon there were parties on a number of the boats around us and cheers, horns and fireworks at midnight.

Boat lights in Kiwiriki Bay on New Year’s Eve

On New Year’s Day we hiked up Mount Maungapika from the head of Kiwiriki Bay.  It was a hot two and a half hour walk with a rocky scramble to the top and views across the island and south to Coromandel.

Coromandel Peninsula, south of Auckland, looking lovely in the sunshine

Dramatic rocky peaks and forest in the centre of Great Barrier Island

Our next stop was Kaiaraara Bay, where Bernd joined us to climb Hirikimata/Mount Hobson – the highest peak on the island at 627 metres.  We left early to get the climb out of the way before the heat of the day, but it was still a sweaty walk.  The climb is known for the wooden steps constructed to get you up to the rocky summit and to keep you away from the nesting places of the rare black petrel which nests up there.  Phil tried to keep count of the steps, and made it 2,200 (+/- 5%).  The last time we did this hike it was winter and we saw almost no-one else – this time there were several other groups up there as well.  We made a circular walk, coming down a nice and varied footpath that includes a section rock hopping along the bed of a stream (care required after rainfull!) and took nearly 6 hours for the 15km.  We followed this with a swim in the sea to cool down and cold beers on board Rebell!

The east coast of the island has white sand beaches

Hot and sweaty at the top!

The steps are as steep as they look

Amazing construction on New Zealand hiking trails

When the crowds began to disappear we had 3 nights at Smokehouse Bay where we did our laundry in the outdoor basins provided there and  met up with Martin and Susan from the yacht Shenemere for an enjoyable evening ashore.  Two of the nights were spoilt by a group of noisy motorboaters who spent the evenings blasting out loud music.  When they showed no signs of moving on, we left and found a lovely quiet spot at Karaka Bay where we had the place to ourselves for the night: just the bird song, a solitary shark patrolling the bay and a beautiful sunset silhouetting Little Barrier Island.  After a short walk to a lookout above the bay we watched a group of teenagers arrive at the outdoor centre nearby and when they all swam out to the diving platform close to us we decided it was time to leave here too.

Sunset at Karaka Bay

We had made a couple of visits to the General Store at Port Fitzroy, anchoring in Forestry Bay, but they hadn’t managed to restock after the holiday yet and we couldn’t buy much fresh food, so we decided to try the store at Tryphena instead.  On Monday, a short but exhilarating sail took us to Rangiahua Island where we waited in a rolly bay for the wind to go easterly on Tuesday morning.

After a good sail down we rushed ashore and stocked up. Great Barrier shopping is expensive as everything has to be shipped in but today it seemed even more so. We had bought wine and beer which we know is costly but by mistake when buying some cans of tonic we bought cans of gin and tonic, oh well saves doing the measuring.

Bernt has sailed down here too and also Charles and Fung on Wilderness turned up this afternoon so we have had a good long catch up with them. Tomorrow we intend to make use of the easterly wind to go the 35 miles to Kawau Island.

Map of our wanderings around Great Barrier Island

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