Aground in Whangarei

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Thu 18 Mar 2021 20:27
Position: 35 44.43 S  174 20.97 E
At anchor Hatea River, Whangarei
Wind: E, F3   Sea: calm   Swell: nil
Weather: overcast, mild
Day's run: 34 nm

We continued to make good time yesterday afternoon in the fresh breeze. However, our timing for entering Whangarei Harbour was not ideal, with the tide in full ebb when we arrived at 1500. The high craggy mountains at the entrance also played havoc with the wind so we mostly motored through this part, staying to one side of the main channel so as to avoid the worst of the current. Once past the heads we were able to sail again and shut down the engine.

The ebb stream was still against us, but was only about 1 to 1½ knots, so while our progess was slowed considerably we were still able to make good about four to five knots with the continuing fresh breeze and smooth seas inside the shelter of the harbour.

I had given Kate an ETA of 1800 and this was looking good. We sailed all the way up the Hatea River to within about half a mile of where I was planning to anchor but the last little bit I thought it wise to hand sail and motor. We were making our final approach, about to swing out of the marked channel into the shallows on the eastern side of the river when disaster struck. We had come to a stop. We were aground and the tide was still ebbing. Bother! I tried to motor off but to no avail. There was nothing for it but to wait for the water to return.

I called Kate and we modified our plans for the evening. In the meantime, while waiting for the tide to come back in, which I figured seeing as we were pretty much at the bottom of the tide should only be an hour or so, I tidied Sylph up and got the dinghy in the water. I rowed over to a nearby vessel at anchor and consulted the owner as to local depths and where best to anchor. It seems there is more water in the anchorage area just outside the channel then there is on the western side of the marked channel. I guess this is the nature of rivers and tidal estuaries, they can silt up and their bottom topography can change quite dramatically, especially if there has been a flooding event.

Fortunately, the tide returned more quickly then I was expecting and at 1910 we were afloat and under way again. I motored Sylph into the deeper water outside of the marked channel on its eastern side and dropped anchor in a depth of three meters. Now it was time to catch up with Kate.

All is well.