Napier to Tauranga. 37:40.2S,176:10.7E
We had hoped just to spend a couple of nights in Napier while the wind was in the north then to carry on when it turned back to the south. However a sub-tropical low established itself to the east of North Island and for a number of days its movements were uncertain. First it was shown as moving away to the north east, in which case we could have followed it north, then it was shown as going north before curving back to the south and making a direct hit on Napier! With this uncertainty we decided it was better to wait in Napier until the picture was clearer. In the end it sat in the same position for most of a week before finally moving off to the south east on Wednesday. For a couple of nights it pushed a large and uncomfortable swell into the harbour so it wasn’t a peaceful place.
Napier Sailing Club, where we were moored, is in Ahuriri a suburb to the north of the city and separated from it by The Bluff, making for a hilly walk to town. Ahuriri was the original port for Napier and still has a lot of the old port buildings. The port was moved after an earthquake in 1931 which flattened much of Napier. It was rebuilt in the Art Deco style of the time and the architecture is one of the major tourist attractions of the town. The earthquake also raised up a large area of seabed which has gradually been bought into use for agriculture and as the site of Napier Airport.
Serenity moored on the visitor’s potoon in front of the friendly and welcoming Napier Sailing Club
One of the best examples of Art Deco design
A number of the old port buildings have been turned into bars and restaurants
When we knew we would be staying over the weekend we hired a car and on a hot and sunny Saturday went for a walk on Te Mata. This is a popular walking spot and was very busy, but we were able to get away from the crowds by taking one of the longer walking trails to the top of the hill.
Te Mata is a long escarpment with great views. The bluff on the coast in the far distance is Napier
Nice walking away from the crowds
Tea and cake with a view as a reward
We finally saw an opportunity on Thursday to carry on. The forecast was for a strong southerly decreasing during the day so that by the time we reached East Cape around midday on Friday it would be a pleasant breeze. We wanted to catch the favourable tide around the Cape from 1300 hours and our intention was to carry on to Great Barrier Island – a total of 320 miles with arrival on Saturday evening. We hadn’t anticipated the sea state. As we came out of Napier we were faced with an easterly swell which had us rolling, then as we lost the shelter of Cape Kidnappers to the south a southerly swell also set in making for a very uncomfortable cross sea. Its not often that sea sickness tablets are required on Serenity but both of us resorted to them on this passage. Throughout Thursday the wind varied from south east to south west and from 8 to 26 knots so the sail (we didn’t have the mainsail up, just the genoa) was constantly being rolled away and unrolled, and the engine was on and off to maintain our speed so we could catch the tide.
The sea state meant that we were slower than expected so we started to wonder if we could make Great Barrier Island before the next gale was due later on Sunday. Our alternatives were to anchor off Great Mercury Island (not an attractive option in a gale), put into Whitianga or come to Tauranga. We opted for Tauranga and when we had a phone signal called the marina to check if they had space. They did, so we now had a new deadline – to be at Tauranga in time to go into the marina at slack water on Saturday afternoon. That meant maintaining an average speed of 5 knots for the rest of the way.
Overnight the sea had moderated and by the time we rounded East Cape at 1500 on Friday there was just the occasional large wage; once we were round we had shelter from the land and it got even better. We raised the mainsail and Serenity started slipping along beautifully in 15 knots of wind from the south east. From time to time the wind died away and we had to use the engine to maintain our average speed and it poured with rain on Sarah’s night watch, but otherwise it was a pleasant sail the rest of the way. Our original course to Great Barrier Island took us across the north of Bay of Plenty and well clear of Whakaari/White Island, an active volcano that erupted in 2019, but our new course took us right past it. We decided to give it 5 miles clearance, but still aren’t sure what is really a reasonable distance!
Our timing at Tauranga was perfect and after slowing down for a ship being piloted into the commercial port we came straight in. The tide was still swirling out in the entrance but it was calm in the marina and the marina boat showed us into our berth. The weather arrived as forecast overnight last night and its horrible now. We won’t be sight seeing round Tauranga!
Mount Manganui at the entrance to Tauranga Harbour