Great Barrier 2011

Whangamumu Harbour

After 4 great months with Tiffany, I’m back to flying solo again. Tiffany was running low on cash and is going back to Washington to look for work. A lot happened the last couple weeks before she took off. First we got hit by cyclone Wilma. We had left Opua and dashed around Cape Brett down to Whangamumu where we hoped to spend a couple of days exploring. Then we get the news on the radio that a cyclone was coming and though Whangamum is a beautiful well protected anchorage, it’s not the type of place I wanted to ride out a cyclone. Instead we went out and bashed into the the pre-cyclone rain and wind down to Whangaruru where we tucked ourselves as far up the river as possible around a bend from any possible ocean swell and anchored in 10′ of water over thick mud. We never got more than 45 knots of wind, but we got of ton of rain. That was the second cyclonic storm to hit us in two weeks. I know that Australia has been getting hit a lot worse than us, but we’re well out of the tropics down here and I’ve not been amused with the weather this Summer.

Once the cyclone blew through, we continued on down to Whangarei where we picked up groceries, water and Tiffany’s friend Bronnwyn and left within a few hours. This time the weather cooperated and we had a great sail out to Great Barrier Island 40 miles off the coast. I needed some chill time after all the weather of the last few weeks, so we tucked into the superb protection of Port Fitzroy. It’s already been a couple weeks now but here’s the highlight: we hiked to the top of Mt Hobson. We did at least 9 miles that day and were almost done in by the 1000 steps to get to the top. They don’t really do switchbacks in NZ, but they do build these great steps that allow you to go straight up the side of a mountain.

Bronnwyn climbing the steps up to the top of Mt Hobson

The top of Mt Hobson, the tallest point on Great Barrier Island:

Tiff and Bronnwyn on the way back down:

The smallest of the many suspension bridges on the trail:

Tiffany and Bronnwyn collected a bunch of cockles the next day as Bodhran ended up in some pretty skinny water. We’d had 18′ under us when the wind was blowing out of the SW, but a northwesterly breeze blew us back over a shoal and we ended up in about 2′ of water at low tide. No problem really, the bottom was soft and muddy, there weren’t any waves and so I just climbed overboard and scraped all the barnacles off Bodhran’s bottom and cleaned the prop up all nice and shiny.

Bodhran’s unscheduled careening:

After that we made our way over to Smokehouse Bay where a local family and volunteers maintain yachting facilities including of course a smokehouse for fish along with cleaning tables. There’s also some great laundry tubs with hand wringers. And then the coup-de-gras, a wood fired bath tub/shower. They have a number of saws and axes, so you just cut up some drift wood and stoke a little woodstove which has pluming to heat a large water tank inside the bath house. Tiffany gave me a haircut outside while we waited for the water to heat up and we all had showers…..actually I think we all took 2 or 3 showers in the 2 days we were at Smokehouse Bay. We also took advantage of the firepit with a steel grill to have a clambake.

Tiff getting the fire started so we could take hot showers:

I’d been talking about cutting my hair for a long time. We finally got around to taking about 5 inches off at smokehouse bay, but I need a couple more off to get it out of my face:

Tiffany and Bronnwyn at the clambake:

After 5 days out at Barrier it was time to get Bronnwyn and Tiffany back to Auckland. Of course the forecast winds never showed up and we beat into shifting southwesterlies all the way, but we got in with time of a quick shore excursion on Tiritiri Island for some birdwatching before heading to the Gulf Harbour Marina to hook up with Arek and Iwona and to get Tiffany off to the airport.

Once Tiff was gone, I sailed up to Kawau Island for some alone time to work on Bodhran. I’d been delaying a bunch of projects and decided that a nice quiet anchorage would be perfect. I’ve rebuilt and fiberglassed my rotted out foredeck hatch, injected epoxy and firmed up my port side deck that was starting to get a bit spongy and did a bunch of interior varnish work. I ran out of propane after making coffee yesterday, so I sailed back in for a quick re-supply and will be heading back out to anchor and work on Bodhran. Eventually I’m going to be making my way back up to Whangarei where I’ll be leaving Bodhran next month when I go back to the states for my brother’s wedding and another work season.

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