September, and a delayed get away to Bay of Islands, 33,12.88S;174,13.41E
We had hoped to leave the Town Basin at the start of September, after organising the hash for Whangarei Hash House Harriers on the 31st August, but lockdown put an end to that. Once we went to level 2 restrictions on 8th September our hash was rescheduled for the 21st, so that was our next target. The COVID outbreak is still confined in Auckland and a couple of towns just south of the district border, but numbers have been increasing again in the last week and the government seems to have acknowledged that the greater infectiousness of the Delta Variant means elimination is no longer possible. The hard lockdown has bought time to increase vaccination rates and Auckland is still under tighter restrictions than the rest of the country with the district boundary closed to all but essential travel. As the only way out of Northland is through Auckland we are effectively isolated from the rest of the country.
We kept mostly to the town during September, venturing just outside to an orienteering event, but otherwise beginning to re-provision with a view to a summer away from the town and stocking up on supplies so we can continue jobs and projects.
One job Phil completed during September was the installation of mast steps to make getting to the top of the mast easier (one of our age-proofing jobs – making sailing easier as we get older!). The steps were offered second hand on a cruiser website and we snapped them up, then Phil spent several days working his way up the mast installing them.
We had to put our departure off again because our visas ran out towards the end of the month and the immigration department required further medical checks before processing our requests, but as soon that was complete we paid our dues to the marina, returned our keys for the facilities and left. It was gusting strongly across our berth as we left, but with help from a couple of neighbours and a good burst of power on the engine we were away. The South Westerly was due to continue into the night so we stopped overnight in The Nook, where the holding is excellent in mud, and then were up early on Friday 1st October to start heading north. The wind was due to turn to the north at the weekend and we wanted to be in Bay of Islands before then.
Sunrise over Urquharts Bay as we motored to the mouth of the Hatea River
The conditions continued light through most of the day so the motor stayed on until we were within 7 miles of our planned stop at Whangamumu Harbour when the wind filled in from the North East allowing us to sail the remaining distance at a gentle 4 – 5 knots. It carried us all the way inside the harbour until we were able to round up and drop the anchor in 5 metres just off the beach, with out using the motor again.
Whangamumu Harbour is almost semi-circular and the only buildings are the derelict whaling station on the north shore. There were only 3 other vessels there overnight and it was beautifully peaceful listening to the birdsong from the shore.
The morning was still and quite and we only had 12 miles to go to Urapukapuka Island in Bay of Islands so we had a leisurely start, only thinking about starting when a motorboat with a noisy crew arrived. By then there was enough wind that we could get the sail up, lift the anchor and sail out of the harbour.
The wind was blowing directly in through the entrance so we had to tack across the harbour to get out (the red line). The shore is quite steep too so you can go close to the edge before needing to turn. It was fun sailing like this – something we don’t do often enough.
We lost the wind for a while as we approached Cape Brett but once round that and into Bay of Islands we managed to sail again, all the way through the narrow channel between Urapukapuka and the private island to its north, finally dropping our sails as we approached Otaio Bay on west coast.
Due to Auckland being closed Bay of Islands, to the north of Whangarei, is the only possible cruising ground at present and as a result our anchorage is full of yachts we know from the town. We spent the winter next door to a converted fishing boat called Sea Bee but only ever chatted across the dock, so it was nice to go on board for afternoon tea and to see the work they have done to convert her. Saga is also here and Inge and Thomas came on board Serenity to celebrate Sarah’s birthday.
Looking down on our anchorage in Otaio Bay
Urapukapuka Island has a number of walking trails all with great views, but to get the views you have to climb the hills
Next to Otaio Bay is Paradise Bay, where we went ashore to walk yesterday
Our walk took us to the southern end of the island where there is a Department of Conservation campsite at Urapukapuka Bay. It is provided with long drop toilets, outdoor showers, compost bins and great views. To get there you need your own boat, or you get the ferry to the landing on the east side and walk across the hill.
Looking down on Urapukapuka Bay, with the mainland in the background
Its still early in the season but the weather is getting warmer and, despite the fact that it is school holiday time, the anchorages are relatively quiet so we are going to enjoy this time while we can.