Friday, 16 October 2020

Spring update

Hello.  All is still good with us.  We are back down in the Whangarei area for dental stuff, outboard repairs and provisioning.  Our Covid Level is back down to Level One across the country and there are no cases in the community.  We hope you can all keep safe and well where ever you are.

Blogger recently changed its format and photos are handled differently.  I can no longer 'drag and drop' whatever I fancy where ever I fancy, but I'm coming to grips with that.  I have chosen to post medium sized photos because if they are too large it makes adding text very slow.  All photos can be viewed in full size by clicking on them.

Sept 11 - We head north for Cape Karikari after a quick stop in Paihia for a few provisions. 

Just before Cape Karikari are two bays, Maitai Bay and Waikato Bay and we spent a couple days there with the anchorage to ourselves.  

With quite a lot of swell in coming into the bay, we anchored in behind Takini Point.  

We rowed ashore and rolled the dinghy high up the beach.  Much of the land surrounding  the bay is Maori and we are only allowed access to the beach. This 'lobe' of the bay above is the only area where fishing and collecting shellfish is allowed.

The walk around the bay was made up of long slices of beach with wonderful rocky outcrops. The tide coming in and going out has filled crevasses between rocks with small smooth stones.  It looked like a man-made path through a very rocky rock garden.

The sun is very low in the sky here still. It makes very dark shadows in photos and its hard to come to a balance with lighter shadows without washing out the photo.  That problem doesn't hide the clarity of the water.

Someone had been having fun earlier in the day.

Long ago I read (and reread) a book called 'The Bone People'  by New Zealand writer Keri Hulme. Baches were often mentioned, but not explained and I was never sure exactly what they were. 

These Baches (interesting link!) probably have a much better view of the bay than we had of them, but I liked the way they peaked out over the dune.

The path from Waikato Bay and Maitai Bay.

They really know how to 'do' beaches here in New Zealand.  With the tide out, there was a lovely spot of flat hard sand sheltered by rocks that would have been a magical place for a bit of yoga. Maybe next time once it warms up a little more. 

From the beach we could see two blue pouwhenua over looking the bay.  They are used to mark boundaries or places of significance.

The sea viewing pouwhenua were carved on one side to look like sea monsters.  These were very unlike any we had seen before.  

If they turned their heads to the right, they would look out over Waikato Bay.

The inland facing pouwhenua were carved to look like women in traditional dress. Both sides were very different from those we had seen before.

We often see Oystercatchers and Dotteral but not their nesting grounds.

And back we go to Larus. 

Sept 14 and 15 - Mangonui Harbour

We had a wonderful sail across Doubtless Bay and arrived in time for a walk into the town.

I was rather surprised to find that we only took one photo of our short time in Mangonui, and this is it -  the town Penguin Crossing sign.  We knew there were penguins in both the North and South Islands of New Zealand but hadn't run across any, probably because we didn't know where to look of what to look for.  Just before leaving Paradise Bay, we had met up with a boat we know called Ponyo. They told us how to tell Little Blue Penguins from Sooty Shearwaters.  Both birds float low in the water and look quite similar and black in the low sun, but if it swims away its a penguin and if flies away its a shearwater.  'No kidding,' might well spring to mind but penguins are usually seen in groups of three, and shearwaters in groups of hundreds.  

Now that we know what to look for we have seen less than ten penguins and thousands of shearwaters.

View a nest live stream and learn more about the world's smallest penguin - Little Blue Penguins at The Department of Conservation - Te Papa Atawhai .  Its a great site and you can even find out what to do '...if you don't want noisy penguins nesting under your house.'

We planned to do more walks, take more pictures but it was not to be.

We now know that Mangonui Harbour isn't suitable in unsettled weather.  The harbour is small and the anchoring is very limited.  We spent an uncomfortably bouncy night when the wind direction changed and blew straight into the harbour against the tide.  The next day we decided to try farther into the harbour. We found a spot just out of the channel but the holding was so poor, the mud bottom so soft, that the anchor never dug in and just slid right through it.  After the third attempt we bit the bullet and re-anchored where we had spent the previous night.

We left the next morning for Whangaroa Bay.  It was on this leg of the journey that we spotted our first penguins.  There were three, as expected, and they just paddled on past looking like any small dark (with the sun behind them) water bird.  We now know what we are looking and hope to see more once we are back out sailing.

We met up with two boats we are very friendly with, 'Into the Blue' and 'A Capella of Belfast' and had a nice get together that evening on Into the Blue - blue hulled boat below.

The next morning, the beautiful bay we were in had disappeared.  There was no wind and heavy fog.  

So we out our dinghy on a long lead and headed out of the bay.

Even as we left the fog had started to lift.  We motored around to a bay we had visited before with the idea of staying over night, but with perfect wind and only a 5 hour sail back to Paihia, we anchored for lunch, take the outboard off, put the dinghy on the deck and arrived in time for dinner.

Friday, 11 September 2020

Still in New Zealand

Hello!  We hope you and yours are all well and not going too stir crazy.  

We are safe, well and destined to stay in New Zealand a while longer.  Until Covid-19 is under control and countries feel safe to open their borders, there are very few places for us to go, so we have applied to have our visas extended for another year.  

So that is where we stand right now. 

Sept 02  - Where we sit right now is in Oke Bay, North Island.  We sailed up yesterday from Urquhart's Bay, which is at the mouth of Whangarei Harbour.  

Tim took the opportunity to install the new wheels for our dinghy. With wheels, we can roll the dinghy up a beach very easily, and even more easily roll it back down.  We are very pleased with it.

The pink lines are our previous trips around the Bay of Islands to Whangarei and back. 

The sail was a mixed bag it started off slowly until the rain squalls from the SW brought us 20 knots gusting 25.  With the wind coming off the land we had quite a flat sea, which makes a faster passage.  Rounding Cape Brett the wind dropped and we motored down to Oke Bay.

Oke Bay is new to us, but as we have a gale from the south going on it is a perfect location.  We only get the odd big gust and tiny ripples off the beach thanks to the high cliffs around us. You can see our 'boat' on the chart in the top right of the photo.

We have two types of weather down here. Throughout the winter and much of spring, the weather tends to arrive wet and warm from the north or cold and dry from the south. Today is a perfect example of a wind from the south.  Out of the wind it's quite pleasant, but it was about 14 C inside the boat this morning. 

Oke Bay is open to the North West but it is very well protected from the South, East and West. 

We took the dinghy ashore, rolled it up the beach, climbed the rough steps and rocky path to the top of the ridge, walked down the steps on the far side and then carried on along the road to Kaimarama Bay.

The road ended at a beach, slipway and view further into the Bay of Islands.

The tide was out and at the side of the slipway, I noticed some odd red jelly like lumps between the rocks. Once back on board a quick interent searchtold us that they were Red Sea Anemones waiting for the tide to come back in before opening up again like flowers.

'NGA HAU E WHA,' inscribed in the plaque above the stairs back to Oke Bay, means 'the Four Winds' in Moari, which is a symbolic name for a meeting place for all people from everywhere.

When I searched for Nga Hau E Wha on the internet, I found it is used by or to refer to a variety of groups, places, works of art, libraries, churches and meeting places in general.  

These steps are the start The Cape Brett Track, a 16 km hike. We have been around Cape Brett numerous times by sea as we travel between the Bay of Islands and Whangarei.

06th September.  We did a little shopping at the Supermarket in Paihia (Pah-hee-a) and are now anchored off one of our favourite anchorages near Russell in anticipation of a strong southerly wind.  In retrospect, it was a bit of a damp squib, but that could have been because the bay is so well protected by cliffs from the south.

Much of our time since the lockdown in March has been spent in the Bay of Islands moving from anchorage to anchorage depending on the strength and direction of the wind. Often we go 4 or 5 days without going ashore.  It is easier to live at anchor here than in Whangarei.  There are good shops in  
Paihia and Russell which area an easy dinghy ride ashore.

07th September. We arrived at Paradise Bay, on Urupukapuka Island, nice and early so that Tim could clean the bottom of the boat.  

The water temperature is only 15C and Tim is now the grateful owner of a 5mm hooded wetsuit and a Deck Snorkel. The deck snorkel is a wonderful thing and allows Tim to do a more thorough job. He has been able to clean the bottom of the boat once a month.  If you do it regularly it's a reasonably easy job. A scrubbing pad or brush with get rid of the layer of slime and grass that is the first to start growing.  After a couple of months, baby barnacles will have started to grow and they have to be scraped off, so best to not let them get started in the first place.

The next day we replaced the anode on the propeller as Tim noticed yesterday that there was very little anode left. Tim did the underwater stuff and I sat in the dinghy handing him the bits he needed and going in search of the bits we forgot he needed. It went remarkably smoothly.

09 September. We did had a quick visit to the shops of Paihia again yesterday for milk, bread and onions and this morning we were on our way to Whangaroa by 0700.

It is 'Spring' here, which started on the 1st of September.  We are still finding quite cold often down to single digits over night and up to the mid teens, but the sun is rising earlier and setting later.  When we arrived last October in the Bay of Islands, we were shocked and horrified by the wind, rain and low temperatures.  None of this seemed to  bother the locals in Opua Marina who wandered around in shorts and sailing boots.

It was cold this morning even before the wind came up.  Once that happened, I put on a woolly hat, another jumper and stayed below with a blanket.  

It took up about 5 hours to get from Paihia to Whangaeihe Bay, Whangaroa. It was a brisk sail. With the wind - 15 knots plus - coming off the land the sea was flat and we were making up to 7 and a bit knots in the gusts.

The little green boats you can see on the chart are underway and have been picked up by our AIS (Automatic Information System).  We have been into Whangaroa Harbour on a previous trip as you can see by the pink track lines.

We chose Whangaihe Bay because we are expecting strong winds from the south over night and we are very well protected here.

Tomorrow we are heading a little further north to the town of Mangonui.  

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Russell, Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Tim and I are well, and we hope that all of you and yours are too.  New Zealand is currently beginning the 2nd week of a 4 week lockdown. If you are curious on how they are doing things here this is their website - New Zealand Government Website Unite Against Covid19.

We are very fortunate to be here.  The Government has extended visas for visiting yachts crew who have 6 month visas valid until the end of April.  If your visa was due to expire as mine was before that time, you must apply for a visa extension, which allows you to stay in the country for a additional three months.  We arrived quite early last year and unlike Tim, I have not left the country, which reboots your visa, so I filled out the online form, paid the money and was advised within a week that my visa extension had been granted.  With that in hand, we are both allowed to remain in the country till the end of September.  We expect there will be further extensions depending how the worldwide fight against the virus goes.

Being in lockdown as a cruiser isn’t really much of a change, though it happened so quickly there was a little scrabbling around to finish provisioning.  The Alert Levels were introduced only 4 or 5 days before we found ourselves at Level 4 a week ago.

We relocated from the Whangarei area to the Bay of Islands, which has much easier access to supermarkets and chemists/drugstores/pharmacies.  We can also find bays which have clearer water for water-making not too far away.

Now it is just quiet.  There is very little going on, which is as it should be. We are encouraged to go out for exercise once a day and we do take advantage of that particularly as the weather is so nice.

Do your best to keep safe and well and we will too.


Nancy and Tim

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Whakarewarewa - The Living Maori Village and The Waitangi Treaty Grounds

We visited a number of Maori cultural attractions and the first was a guided tour around the Whakarewarewa - The Living Maori Village in Rotorua.


Whakarewarewa is the short version of the name you see written below.  Te Whakareware O Te Ope Taua A Wahiao means 'The gathering place for the war parties of Wahiao.'  It is often abbreviated by to 'Whaka' by the locals.  Our guide had no trouble with the pronunciation of any form of the name as he belongs to one of the iwi (tribes) who share the village and its resources.

The local tribes have grown tolarge to be housed in the village, and some now live in nearby towns.  All are welcome to make use of the hot springs.

Cooking with thermal steam; The thermal waters are dammed and re-directed to cooking pits or the communal bathes; A row of baths which are closed for cleaning; Trough bringing hot water to the bath; The end of the tough at the bath.


Where to buy your seamed sweetcorn - behind the sulphurous rocks; Steaming pools with a shoreline crusted with minerals;   A groove in the rock directing the flow of water; And people really do live here. The thermal springs often flow out of sight underground, their paths can change and create new openings to the surface, causing areas to be closed.


As well as the springs, this area also has geyers. Three in particular are regularly active;  You can just see possibly Te Tohu erupting.


Down hill from the village were walkways around bubbling pools of mud and unexpectedly clear(ish) lakes of turquoise water.

The highlight of the visit was the cultural experience at the Ancestral Meeting House.


We were greeted with a welcome dance, Poi spinning, a Haka and authentic Maori expressions.  It was a wonderful theatrical performance and really very special.

My sister, Laura, and I more recently visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds near Paihia only a couple hours drive from Whangarei. The performance was very similar to the Whakarewarewa performance, but there was one addition that we particularly enjoyed.  

First a male volunteer was chosen to be the chief of the visitors - Waitangi Maori Experience Part 1 (video).  Next a young warrior approached our 'chief' with a with a spear and a small leafy branch.  He was really fierce, thrusting at our chief with his spear and demanding to know whether he was coming in war or peace, all in Maori of course.  Then he dropped the branch on to the ground and backed away, keeping low with the spear poised.  With a little encouragement our chief walk forward, picked up the token of peace. It was very impressive so of course the video failed.  But I do have our welcome into the Meeting House -  Waitangi Maori Experience Part 3.  Its a little wobbly at first as I have not mastered videoing and walking at the same time but it rallies at the end.

The Meeting House or Marae, (great wikipedia article explaining the importance in New Zealand particularly).

We often saw road signs for local Marae as we drove along the highways. We have never stopped to look as there because I don't fully understand what it means to the Maori.

At one museum there was a small stone bowl filled with water to dip your fingers in to wash the holiness off as you left.

Not knowing why this was done, I found this I site and am now much the wiser -  Washing Hands.

Inside the Meeting House we were forbidden to take videos but photos without flash were okay. It was dark inside but I think the blurring gives a sense of the movement going on.


The first two photos - singing and dancing. Third photo 'Poi' spinning made to look easy.  I once had homemade poi made from tennis balls and tights.  It is not easy. Fourth photo - the brandishing of the short sticks.  Final photo - group juggling.  It really was amazing to watch.  The sticks are thrown from both hand in opposite/different directions and caught without anyone appearing to be watching where they are throwing or from where they are catching.


The first three photos - a display of spear handling, then the closing dance and song and one example of the many carvings that decorated the walls and ceiling.

And finally, if you are not a Rugby fan you might not have seen the New Zealand team, the All Blacks, perform a Haka - a ceremonial dance or challenge in Māori culture. It is a posture dance performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment. (Wikipedia)

Do watch for the fluttering of the hands in the video.  All dance involves this movement and we have been told that it is to show life and energy.  Enjoy!