We were sitting in Tutukaka with the forecast calling for 40 knots of wind out of the east to southeast. The anchorage was pretty rolly and we had moved in to a pile mooring in the marina. So the question was do we stick around Tutukaka on a nice secure mooring, or do we sail north to find an anchorage to wait out the weather? We had already done the hike out to the lighthouse in Tutukaka and there wasn’t much else to do but spend money at the little store or the pub. Christian had also picked up two backpackers who didn’t much want to just in a marina, so we decided to sail north to Mimiwhangata with it’s long sandy beach and good 270 degree protection. There was even the chance that we’d be able to hike over the hill to a good surf beach on the other side of the spit. We had a great mellow sail with 10-15 knot easterlies pushing us along on our northeasterly course and anchored in 8 feet of water and blissful protection from the 6 foot swell running just outside the anchorage.
Fortunately we got up the gumption to go snorkeling and go ashore the first evening in the anchorage, as the weather came in hard about midnight. Torrential rain, 40+ knot winds and leaks I didn’t know about was the theme of my night and morning while we spent the rest of the next day hunkered down with the tempest roaring outside. A break in the monotony came when Paul on Surreal came into the anchorage just before sunset. He’d just singlehanded his 46′ catamaran down from the Bay of Islands in all that snotty weather that we’d been hiding from. There were a total of six of us having drinks on Irie when he came in and he called over to invite us all over to Surreal. Paul then continuously filled drinks late into the night from his copious liquor cabinet which he apparently wanted to empty before returning to Auckland. We, of course, were happy to oblige him.
We were all pretty tired of the swell and needed a change of scenery the next morning, so we decided to sail 6 miles north to Whangaruru. With big rolly seas coming across the shallow bay connecting Mimiwhangata and Whangarur, we played it safe and just flew the staysail but were able to quickly cover the distance and sail into one of my favorite anchorages in a long time. We turned the corner into the bay and the swell instantly turned off. We had our choice of 4 different little bays we could pull into, so we decided to drop the hook in an empty Puriri bay again in less than 10 feet of water. I love being able to put out 75′ of chain and be at nearly 10:1 scope. There’s a little Department of Conservation campground at the head of the bay with trails heading in two directions. We spent the next two days exploring the great trail system which took you across pasture land, up mountains, across the almost desert like windward side to a secluded little black sand beach and back again. On the second morning, we got up at low tide and skiffed across to a spit on a little island teeming with Pipis (small smooth shell clams). I’d never seen such a bountiful shellfish spot. We didn’t even need shovels, we just used our hands to dig through the loose sand at the water line and strain out the little bi-valves. Within 15 minutes, Christian, Tiffany and I easily had enough for 3 or 4 meals and set off on the long windward slog back to the boats.
After a couple of days of hiking and swimming, the weather forecast was calling for 3 days of 15 knot easterlies. It’d be a hard close hauled sail south, but we figured that we might be able to beat the 100 miles down the coast to Auckland in time to meet up with Tiffany’s mom. So we set off south while Irie headed east dead into the wind to try and make it out to Poor Knights Island. The wind was lighter than forecast the first day and we averaged 3.5 knots on the 40 mile passage down to Urquhart Bay just inside of Bream Head downriver from Whangarei. Urquhart was an pretty ideal anchorage, but we just spent the night and took off at 8am to make the 55 mile passage down to Gulf Harbour marina. With stronger winds out of the east southeast, we ended up motor sailing half the way to make sure we made it in before dark. This was the first real test of my new motor mounts and unfortunately either one of the mounts is faulty or I just did a poor job aligning the engine. I went into the engine compartment to check on the autopilot and saw that the whole motor was shaking from the prop spinning as we were sailing through the water. The stuffing box was probably deflecting ½ inch to either side with each revolution. I’m pretty sure that I cutlass bearing is shot. It was fine back in December when I hauled last, but it looks like it’s trashed now. Fortunately we were able to sail all the way to the mouth of Gulf Harbour and only motored the last little bit into a slip. There’s a haulout yard not 100 yard from Bodhran right now, so I’ll check with them on Monday and see if I can’t get a haulout. It looks like it’s time to pull the engine yet again. At least Tiffany is taking off to tour around NZ with her mom for a few weeks. Hopefully I’ll be able to get everything done while she’s gone.