Poor Knights

Beautiful morning in Whangarei, with Bodhran back in the water and not leaking

So I left off on the last post waiting for a haul out to replace my new shaft seal. The guys at Dockland 5 (the best yard ever) were able to pull me out in the mid-afternoon and leave me in the slings all night while I pulled my engine so that I could take out the shaft and replace the seal. It turns out that it was just the clamp at the back of the seal that had deformed and was not sealing properly. So I was still able to use my nice new dripless shaft seal and not put the stuffing box back in. Unfortunately about 9pm that night after I had just spent over an hour aligning my engine, I realized that I hadn’t put the prop on yet. I had to pull the engine again to get the shaft out to make room in front of the rudder to slide the prop on. To make matters worse, I made the same mistake a week earlier when I put the engine back in the boat the first time. Oops.

My new shaft seal all cleaned up and ready to go back in

I awoke at 6:30am to the rumble of the travel lift firing up after a short 6 hour night. By 7:30 Bodhran was back in the water and tied up in Town Basin while I ran a few errands before heading out cruising. I borrowed my buddy Mike’s van to run out to Kamo where I traded my old frozen up 3.5hp Nissan outboard for a used Tohatsu 5hp. Along with the new 2.7m skiff I picked up this made for a pretty serious upgrade from my old setup. I would have liked to test it out a bit, but the tide was already ebbing and I wanted to get downriver. So two days after my first attempt I took off back down the Hatea River trying to get Bodhran back out to the Pacific Ocean.

I made it down to Urquharts Bay at the mouth of the river without incident and anchored up for the night. I slipped my nice new 7.5′ oars through the oar locks and took my new inflatable out for an inaugural half mile row across the bay. She didn’t track nearly as well as my old Avon, but I get a lot more power out of the big oars, and it’s a much dryer ride. I’m still a little torn. My old skiff was a lot better quality, but I’m tired of having a wet butt every time I go anywhere.

I needed to decompress a bit after all the engine stress of the last few days, so I donned my goofy looking 5 finger toe shoes and took off to hike the loop trail out to Busby head. I’d never been ashore in Urquharts before, and I’ve certainly been missing out. I’m going to have to go back later this year and hike some of the bigger trails.

Me out at Busby Head

Old gun emplacement with Urquharts bay in the background:

5 fingers shoes. I love these things. They’re so light it’s like going barefoot and after dragging my skiff through the mud and hiking for 2 hours I had nary a blister or hotspot to be found:

The next morning, I took off north to search for my buddies Christian and Rick on Guava Jelly. They’d been up in the Bay of Islands, but were on their way South. I took off north calling on the VHF every hour, but after a 7 hour motor in light winds, I pulled into Mimiwhangata bay and called it a night. The next morning, I took off again, and checked for the boys in Whangaruru to no avail. I thought about staying there to do some more hiking and to dig pipis, but decided to try Whangamumu 12 miles up the coast. I reached Guava Jelly when I was about half way there. They’d spent the night in Whangamumu and were on their way out to the Poor Knights Islands. So I turned hard to starboard and set course to the Knights. There was light wind out of the north and I was finally able to get Bodhran sailing again for the first time in almost a year.

Spinnaker run to the Poor Knights:

The Poor Knights Islands are a world heritage dive site, one of Jacque Cousteau’s favorites. Unfortunately the islands don’t have any protected anchorages. The cliffs are steep and drop off to depths impossible to anchor in. There are only a few places where it’s possible to anchor, but the bottoms are rocky with big pinnacles that rise up to tangle your anchor chain. So you can only visit the islands in calm weather. We had a forecast of light and variable winds for the next 3 days. So this seemed like the perfect opportunity to visit.

Guava Jelly with the Poor Knights in the background

Bodhran and Guava Jelly met up just north of the island and proceed to scout a few anchorages before settling on Sandager’s Reef about halfway up the west side. I actually found a sandy patch and was able to set my anchor pretty well. Rick ended up having to anchor in some rocks not too far away. There was a confused swell refracting off the cliff faces around us, but it seemed like we were pretty well set for the night. After having some beers on Guava and catching up, we settled in for the night. The wind died completely with the setting of the sun, which ended up spelling the doom of our chances of getting any sleep that night. As the boats bobbed around with the swell, the anchor chains wrapped around the rocks restricting our respective swing radius’s until at 3:30am when Rick and I were so close that we could have reached out and shook hands with his bow roller threatening to take out my windvane. So I motored forward on my anchor, pulling up chain as I went until it was free of the rocks, while Rick and Christian got Guava Jelly’s anchor up and motored off to find another anchorage in the middle of the night. Good planning paid off for Rick. He’d scouted another anchorage earlier in the day and had a bread crumb trail to follow on his GPS.

Bodhran in front of a 27m tall arch at the south end of the knights. If the swell wasn’t so big, I could have driven through.

The next morning after coffee and breakfast, I put the new 5 horse on my skiff and was giddy with delight when I throttled up and was quickly able to get up on a plane even in the confused chop allowing me to cover the mile down to where Guava was anchored just moments. After waking up the boys, we took off for a dinghy ride through the world’s biggest sea cave (by volume, Sea Lions Caves in Oregon are the longest.) Afterwards, we slipped into the water to do some of the best snorkeling I’ve ever done.

Rick and Christian in front of Rikoriko Cave:

Christian herding a school of fish:

Rick doing a bit of free diving:

The Poor Knights have been a marine reserve since 1981 and the quantity and diversity of the fish are like nothing I’d ever seen before. Within a minute of sliding into the water, I was swimming through a school of large school of blue maumau. It seemed that everywhere you turned there was another huge school of fish, just swimming around like you weren’t even there. We went through a couple of caves, and swam through an arch with almost zero visibility due to all krill in the water. When the surge would come into the arch, big pink plumes of krill would come streaming out as all the little crustaceans were blown out with the water.

Fish under Guava Jelly’s keel

Rick standing on his keel:

In all we got 3 good snorkels in before taking off on the third day to head back over to Tutukaka. I couldn’t really take another night anchored out there, and Christian was anxious to get back to Whangarei to do some work on his boat Irie. He left Irie on the hard 2 years ago and has been working with Linblad Expeditions. Unfortunately, Irie’s not going back in the water this year, but hopefully she’ll still be in good shape when he’s ready to sail her north next year.

I’ve still got a lot of work to do to Bodhran and Rick’s got some projects to do on Guava, so we’ll be hanging out here for a couple of days before taking off to where ever the winds blows us next.

Here’s 3 videos I threw up on youtube:
Sailing to Poor Knights, even though I say it’s Barrier in the video:

Motoring to Rikoriko Cave:

Snorkeling the Knights

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