Up to Opua

Donald Begg
Sat 21 Oct 2017 04:27
After a long weekend in Whangarei the boat was cleanish
and the fridge was not looking as dismal as it had been, so ready to go.
My appreciation
to Mary Schempp-Berg, OCC Port Officer in Whangarei, who saw that I was
there and made a point of saying hello.

On Tuesday morning I rather lazily motored the 15 miles down
the river, there was wind but it was flukey and drizzly. Once past Marsden
Point I got sail up, made a tangle of the
mainsail as I always do first time out, got it sorted, and finally had the
bows pointing towards the Pacific. The sun came out, there was 20-25 kts of
breeze on the quarter and, to plagiarise David Mitchell, Lydia came
out of the river like a rat out of a drainpipe.What a difference a clean
bottom makes! I had planned to stop at Tutukaka or, if the going was good,
at Whangamuru, but sthe boat was revelling in the conditions, logging 7, 8,
even touching 9 knots, so we kept going 50 miles up from Marsden to
Whangamumu, close to Cape Brett. I had anhored here on the way down 6 months
ago and thought it charming. It is a very sheltered woody bay, 5 miles by
forest track from the nearest road, and wonderfully isolated. The only sign
of humanity is the ruins of an old whaling station. The calm and the
birdsong are terrific, the water deep green. There was only one other boat
there, a motor-cruiser
wearing no colours, so probably a professional crew awaiting owner's

Wednesday morning, and disaster. I weighed anchor, put the engine into gear,
and the propeller fell off (I thought). One moment I'm rejoicing in the
remoteness of the location, and the next I'm coming to terms with a serious
breakdown a long way from help. Well, the decision process wasn't
difficult, there was nothing to gain by hanging around, so I got sail
up and ghosted out of the bay towards Cape Brett, enough wind in the lee of
the land for 3 or 4 knots of boatspeed. I telephoned Opua Marina, they
kindly agreed to
have a boat ready to tow me in, up to their closing time of 5 pm. Five or six
miles to the Mammoth at Cape Brett, round the corner, and then a very long
25 mile beat up to Opua with 20 to 25 kts of wind on the nose, my mood
unsympathetic to the beauty of the Bay of Islands. I eventually
got there at 7 pm, too late for the marina, but edged up the last bit of the
river in very flukey wind conditions and managed to find a space not
far from the marina in which to drop the pick . Just to improve my good
humour it was race night for the local sailing club, and the race boats
were buzzing around me wondering what page this bloke in his heavy cruiser
was on.

Chris Tibbs in his safety briefing for ARC crews has a saying that disasters
are seldom as bad as they at first appear. He may or may not be right, but
that I had the leisure to look I found that it was the coupling between the
gearbox and the propeller shaft that had broken, in the engine room, and that
shaft and hopefully
propeller were still in place, so probably no need for the expensive haul
out that I had been dreading. On Thursday morning I was towed in, and the excellent engineer from
Seapower was soon aboard and dismantling the coupling. The finger points
towards Thierry in Raiatea who replaced the propshaft bearing, but appears
not to have fully tightened the bolts on the coupling: they fell out one by one
until the last one had to take all the strain, and sheared. The verdict fom
Seapower is that it should be repairable, but a new flange is needed and one
must be located. Murphy's Law, it's a long weekend in NZ. Bob McDavitt,
weather router, tells me that I should have a weather window for Australia
on Tuesday. But.... I'm unlikely at that stage to have a propeller that