Where are we

Friday 10 September 2021

Weather and Walks

We're back in the Whangarei area in Marsden Cove Marina. We had planned to be here just a couple of days to check on friends boats that are out of the water when the Delta variant raised its ugly head in Auckland.  We have just come out of approximately three weeks of full Covid lockdown and will be at Level 2 as of noon today. We have been safe and well throughout and are due our second Covid jab in about a few days.

We spent the previous month in the Bay of Islands. We like it there for the convenience anchoring off Paihia and dingying ashore to the shops and laundrette. We also have the use of a car and we take advantage of the free parking across the road from the Paihia Police Station. This is not as secure as it sounds as the station is seldom manned. 

(Funny story from pre-Covid.  Tim and I still had the hire car I did all the touring in and we drove from Whangarei up to Paihia to meet Jeremy and Suzy from Joy of Shamrock.  It was summer and as a holiday resort Paihia was really busy. Parking is limited and we could only find a few 30 minute parking spots free.  I popped into the tourist office to ask where the nearest long term or better yet free parking was.  The gentleman at the counter started to explain and then noticed the Tilley hat I was wearing.  It turned out he was a Tilley hat enthusiast. He pointed to his Tilley hanging on the hook behind him, then leaned in close and said quietly, 'There's no parking attendant on duty in Paihia today.' Happy day.)

When we moved up to Larus up to the Bay of Islands, Tim took the bus down to Whangarei to bring the car we are looking after for the absent owner up to Paihia.

We haven't used the car as much as we'd like because of the winter weather. Depending on the wind direction and strength and/or the swell direction and height we will move to the most sheltered bay for the conditions.  We often end up quite a long way from Paihia.

For our biggest forecast blow we headed to Pipi Bay, Motorua Island.  It's a long narrow high-sided horseshoe shaped bay. It very well sheltered from the southwest through to the northeast and is seldom trouble by swell.  When we arrived there were already two boats tucked into the bay so we ended up farther out than we hoped. It is a good deep bay and with a well set anchor and lots of chain out we were in a very good position.

The two day forecast called 30 knots winds gusting to 45 knots and periods of 40 knots gusting 55 knots, but as expected we experienced nothing like that.  Our maximum gust was just over 40 knots.  In the bay the surface is nice and flat so all we had to suffer was the flukiness of the gusts.

Stuck on board in bad weather makes getting exercise ashore difficult, so when we do have a break in the weather we go walking.

There are some lovely walks in the area - a very steep one that takes you up to The Lookout for views across the bay toward Russell,  an 8 km one-way coastal walk to between Paihia and Opua and a new walk for us from Paihia to the Hurua Falls.


 The walk to Hurua Falls followed along the river, through the mangroves up to the Falls.

I did not know all these things about this type of mangroves. The mangroves in the Caribbean that we are more familiar with are quite different.

The falls were farther than I thought, 6 km one way rather than 5, making it even more of a blow to discover that the public toilets were being refurbished and not open.

Stoats are a big problem for Kiwis (the bird) throughout New Zealand.  I think that they were brought in to keep the imported rabbits population in check, but kiwi chicks are a much easier meal.  Traps are found all along the path and all have a message of some sort for example: 94% of kiwi chicks are killed by stoats.  The trap photographed was at the top a particulary long and steep hill.  The traps are baited with a chicken's egg.  

The walks are more limited in the Marsden Cove area. It's flat as a pancake and more residential, but being on the coast makes the walks that we can do ever changing with the rise and fall of the tides.

More walks photos. I enjoying taking them more than Tim enjoys waiting for me to take them.

My foot and a Horseshoe Mussel surrounded by a little rock oysters.  The oysters are edible but the Horeshoe Mussel is not. Piahia walk.

The most beautiful stick I have seen in a long time.  It was over a foot long and surprisingly heavy, a dense hardwood possibly.  Space is at a real premium on a boat and I am almost content with a photo. Paihia walk.

The mouth of Whangarei Harbour is a short walk from Marsden Cove Marina, One Tree Point. One Tree Point is such a great name for an area.

Tide out. 
Something lives at the bottom of that hole, but I was okay with not knowing what. 
In the distance you can just make out the Marsden Point Refinery.  There is also a port where ships are loaded with enormous logs for export. You can't see it, but if the wind is blowing from the right direction there is a strong scent of pine.

Tide In. Variable Oystercatchers 

Patiriella regularis, also known as the Cushion Star.

Spoonbills which are relative newcommers from Australia.

Tide out

Tide in. 
In other locations we have seen starfish making their way labouriously down to the waters edge.  This one has made no effort at all.

Thanks to having use of a car, now often walk on Ruakaka Beach.

Ruakaka Beach is spectacular, particularly when the tide is out.

The high water line is artfully strewn with shells and driftwood. 
New Zealand tends not to put out garbage bins in public places. Instead they post signs telling you to take your rubbish home with you.  This policy works very well and this beach at least was pristine.

I couldn't resist creating a little beach art.  We've often seen rock, shell and dirft wood circles on beach in the Caribbean.  I liked that as the tide comes in my canvas will be washed clean. Also, I could only find a very short stick to draw with so it was a punishing workout for the ole glutes.

Purple seaweed on silver sand.

Oystercatcher tracks on the spit of land between the freshwater estuary and the sea.

The tracks were outside the roped off area.  In fact most of the birds were outside the roped off area.

A very different day from the clear skies of our first visit. 
There are two walks we do at Ruakaka; we either turn left for a long walk or right for a short walk.  on our last walk we turned left and walked toward the river where the birds are nesting.  

As we walked along a young Fur Seal dashed out of the dunes, passed us by about 2 metres and carried on straight into the sea. It rolled and ducked under the slight waves rather otter like.  We continued our walk, which takes us to the estuary, a little up the river, along behind the dunes and then back onto the beach.  There was no sign of the seal and I hope it had hustled back into the dunes and was cuddled up with its friends/relactives who had been too cowardly/lazy to come out.

Last but not least a totally unrelated photo taken at the thermal springs near Piahia. Laura and I visited in January 2020 and they have been greatly refurbished. Tim had been longing for a bath and this was our only option.  
The temperature range of the pools on that day was between 10C to 45C.  Tim stuck to the middling temperature pools. Once I got up my nerve, I altered between the 45C pool and the 15C pool.  The trick of the hot pool, I was told, is to lean back and keep you toes in the air.  The trick of the cold pool was to move as little as possible so the water warmed by your body stays near you body.  Both tricks seemed to work and getting into both got easier surprisingly quickly.
It was a busy day with coach loads of people from Whangarei up for the day, so we didn't take many photos but will go back again and have another try. 
We are leaving Marsden Cove Marina and heading up the river to Basin Marina, Whangarei.  We have our second Covid Vaccination on the 15th and are having our 20 year old saloon cockpit cushions replaced.  We're equally excited about both.


Sunday 11 July 2021

Bay of Islands - Assassination Cove and Great New Zealand PublicToilets

After leaving Whangarei and between weather windows, we made our way back up to the Bay of Islands, via Tutukaka. Tutukaka is about a 4 hours sail north from Urquart's Bay. With strong winds and a rough sea forecast from the SW, we popped into Tutukaka for two nights.  It was very pleasant to be happily, if gustily, anchored well out of the large seas we could see thundering past the harbour entrance. 

The next day with a reasonable wind direction and the seas reducing in size we finished our passage up to and around Cape Brett and into the Bay of Islands.  The sail up to Cape Brett was one of the best we've had in a long time.  We were on a close hauled beam reach, which is our fastest point of sail. A slight current was with us, we had a quite a flat sea except for 1 metre swell that gently propelled us forward another knot or 2 in speed so that at times we were making NINE KNOTS.  We never make 9 knots, so to be able do that in such comfortable conditions is memorable. 

Sailing can be more or less enjoyable for all sorts of reasons.  

A flat sea and comfortable motion and the right amount of wind from a good direction that allows you to sail a direct route, meaning that the wind not on the nose.  But we don't want it directly from behind either as a running before the wind is a slower and often very rolly point of sail. 

Warm and sunny beats cold and wet and, I think, warm and wet might well beat cold and sunny depending on just how wet and how cold we are talking about. 

Heeling at a comfortable angle so that you can make a sandwich or use the toilet with relative ease. 

Day sailing so we can both sleep at the same time and going a good enough speed so that you aren't tempted to turn on the engine or that you aren't slowing down the closer you get to your destination.  It is very discouraging to see the distance continue to reduce while your arrival time gets farther away.

Long distance sailing is similar but the length of time it takes changes your perception.  Far a start, if you arent enjoying the conditions, they'll change in time and you'll just have to wait it out.  What you will have is time to get into a routine and everything slows down.  Sailing off shore with no chance of running into any land at all for days or weeks is in itself very restful.  

With our latest New Zealand Visitor Visas extended to January 2022, we won't be going any great distances just yet.

We are currently anchored in Assassination Cove.  The website, NZPlaces.nz, under the link says of Assassination Cove,  'French explorer Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne was slayed and possibly eaten here in 1772.'  This is not why we came.

Our reason for being here is the very good protection it provides from an Easterly gale which will blow over the next 48 hours on and off.  There are about 10 boats anchored in the area as well waiting for this weather system to pass through. 


While we're waiting, its a good time to show you some of my favourite New Zealand things - their public Toilets.

When I made the Hundertwasser post I didn't have a photo of 'the Seed', and this was taken by my friend Susan who visited in December 2019 into January 2020.

Seed was a taste of what to expect from the finished Hundertwasser Art Centre. My interest was piqued by the artist and later when my sister, Laura, arrived in January 2020 we made a visit to the Hundertwasser Toilets in Kawakawa.

Tada! There is a tree growing through the building and a roof garden, which is a Hundertwasser theme.

The Men's

The Women's

A wonderful glass bottle window at the end of the corridor.

I'm very much looking forward to the opening of the Hundertwasser Art Centre in December.

Paihia, north of Kawakawa, is our Bay of Islands shopping anchorage. They got creative with one of their Wee Toilet on the waterfront.  I particularly like the roof top flower pots.

Even farther north, the Far North of Northland in the North Island, Laura and I found the Centennial Playground Kaoe.  The link gives you a 360 degree view of the playground and Church.

You can tell from the outside that it's going to be equally special on the inside and it did not disappoint.

The star of the mural is the Pukeko and you really can see them everywhere, real and in paint.

The Playground also had a very fine Hop Scotch board.


About halfway between Whangarei and Auckland are the famous Matakana Toilets.  Laura and I took an enourmous detour to visit them after spending the morning watching sheep shearing at Sheep World.

The detour was worth it. Perched above the Matakana River, carpark and picnic area and on the main Matakana roundabout is this very impressive public toilet.

It is quite a hike up from the carpark.


The symbols outside the toilets were handmade and each one individually made. Someone else like them too as they stole a couple. Shame on them.

The interior doesn't quite live up to the exterior, but they were clean and they worked.

Unfortunately, to get this view you have to stand in the middle of the roundabout and we have found that pedestrians are given no leaway, but I think I was worth it.

Susan and I found the most in touch with nature public toilet on a walk to Soda Springs on the foothills of Mount Tonagriro.

This really is a state of the art eco-friendly facility.  You even had to bring your own toilet paper. You are warned of that at the start of the trail.  I like that it blends in so well the its environment and has guy wires to stop it from toppling over a strong wind.

Last but nearest and dearest to the hearts of Susan, Laura and myself are the Helensville Public Toilets. 

State Highway 16 passes through Helensville and is an alternative route, which avoiding the Auckland City Centre, and a convenient stop between Whangarei and Auckland Airport.  The drive from the east coast to the west coast is a lovely change from State Highway 1 and all its roadworks. These roadworks have been underway since we arrived in Nov 2019. In their defense, it can't be easy widening and repairing roads in a country that was formed by volcanism.  In fact it's hard, damn hard.

On the way south from Whangarei, you take a right at Wellsford onto SH 16.  State Highway sounds very grand when it is two lanes only as are most of the SHs outside of those servicing Auckland or Wellington. The road winds its way over ridge backs, down into valleys, over rivers and past fields with many places to stop and look at the views. 

About halfway to Helensville if you keep you a look out to the west you will see a large areas of grazing pastures scattered with at least 20 sculptures large enough to be seen as you drive by. 

The two in this photo are easy to see.

I think there are four in this one.  From left to right - 1) the four uprights, 2) the back figure on the hill top, 3) a yellow cone like thing, and 4) the red lump on the far right.

I read that the land isn't open to the public except on very rare occasions as it is a working farm.

It didn't occur to me to take a photo at the time of the Helensville Public Toilets as they look like just any block of three stainless steel toilets, but they are very much more than that. With a press of a button the door glides open.  Another press to close it and a calm and reassuring voice tells you how the toilet operates and that the door will open in 10 minutes time, ready or not.  Then the music swells and you have the pleasure of listening to an instrumental version of the What the World Need Now Is Love Sweet Love

I never listened to the end, but thought you might like to.

This link opens in Google Maps and Helensville Public Toilets.  The link opens in google maps and if you look left you will eventually see the coffee shop with the date scones that Tim was very fond of.


We are still anchored in Assination Cove.  There is still a gale blowing but we are well protected and though we have experienced winds of 30 knots, gusting 40 occasionally it is due to calm down this evening.  We are anchored in about 5 metres of water with 80 metres of chain.  Lots of chain keeps the anchor being plucked out of the seabed because of strong gusts and that in turn means that every horizontal tug on the anchor by the swinging of the boat causes the anchor to bury itself further and further into the seabed.  

We aren't going anywhere! We will probably have to drive Larus over and around the anchor to loosen it from the mud before we can haul it up.  .



Thursday 1 July 2021



Since we first arrived in Whangarei in late 2019, I've been fascinated by the building of The Hundertwasser Art Centre. From a berth in Basin Marina, you are always aware of it on the cityside of the Hatea River. We've seen almost all of the building of it and I was a rather disappointed that the date for completion was December 2021.  At the time I accepted that there was just no way we would still be in NZ two years times and yet here we are for the foreseeable future.

The last few months of building work had been the most interesting.


 The wooden pier from the first photo, much of which was condemned, is being replaced with a new boardwalk but that is still to be completed.

This video isnt's really about the building work as it's there in the background I decided to include it.  In the autumn, once the marina is less full of boatrs, dredging work begins and goes on for a number of weeks.  The river silts up quite badly and this is done yearly.  The tug and digger on the barge work together to manuevre themselvers into position.  A post is driven into the river bed to keep them in place and the dredging begins.  They do this between all the pontons as well the main path of the river through the marina.

Last Friday the golden cupola that would sit atop the tower was to arrive by barge in the early morning.  We booked into the marina for the festivities.  The cupola was brought by barge in the early morning. By the time I was up at 7 it was already there.


Freidrich Hundertwasser Biography 

I selected one event for each year of the biography in case you thought his biography might be dull.

1928 - Born 15 December in Vienna as Friedrich Stowasser

1936 - Attends the Montessori School in Vienna for one year.  His report refers to his unusual sense of colour and form.

1949 - Develops his own style and adopts the name Hundertwasser.

1958 - Reads his Mouldiness Manifesto against Rationalism in Architecture at a symposium in Seckau monastery on 4 July.

1967 - Nude Speech for The Right to the Third Skin at Galerie Hartmann, Munich.

1976 - Sails on board the Regentag from Tahiti via Rarotonga to New Zealand.

1983 - Designs a flag for New Zealand, the Koru, an unfurling fern.

1993 - Paints in New Zealand, works on the Hundertwasser Bible project.

2000 - Dies of heart failure on Saturday, February 19, in the Pacific, on board of Queen Elizabeth 2. In accordance with his wishes, he is buried in harmony with nature on his land in New Zealand, in the Garden of the Happy Dead, under a tulip tree.


Hundertwasser, 1979


Sunday 6 June 2021

Waiheke Island

We're still waiting for good weather to head back up to Whangarei.  June 1st is the start of winter here in New Zealand.  We have had the odd day of wonderful weather but then another weather system foloowed by another weather system appears and we decide to stay a little longer.

We are on a mooring in Maitiatia Bay on the west coast of Waiheke Island.  It is extremely convienient for the ferry to Auckland, the local Waiheke buses and many walking tracks.

We had come down to Waiheke to meet sailing friends we had first met in New England, Simon and Kim.  We were anchored near them near in Newport, Rhode Island and stopped by in the dinghy to marvel at their spectular transom. It was wide, easy to board and lead into an equally spectular cockpit.  We last saw them in Trinidad. 

We had planned to have lunch with them at the Mudbrick Vineyard restaurant in Waiheke.  As we were days early, we scoped out the location.  It was a 30 minute walk from Maitiatia Bay though woods, farms and vineyards.

At this time of year the sun always very low in the sky, but it still is strong enough to suck all the colour and detail out of your photos if you're not in a position to get it behind you.  I'd have to catch Tim and that seldom happens.

The views really are spectacular whether you are admiring the fields of vines and olive trees or looking at the Auckland Sky Tower in the distance.

The day felt especially fine thanks to the rainy days that had preceded it.

I was really pleased to finally see why the New Zealand Fantail is forever fluttering along with walkers.  They take advantage of us stirring up insects for them to eat.  This is the first time I was actually able to see the swarm of gnats that they were picking out of the sky one by one.

 This was not an easy video to take.  They are so fast! 

Looking into Maitiatia Bay. Larus one of furtherest boats, just to the right of centre.

 There are often notices informing us of the history of the area. 

We hope to do more walking on Waiheke before we get our weather window to head north.

We did take the opportunity to visit Auckland for the day.  It is just a 25 minute ferry ride from Maitiatia.  We went off peak for $35 return. 

We have very few reminders as we go about our day that Covid19 is such an enormous problem elsewhere in the world.  We haven't needed to use public transportation and we spend most of our time in less populated areas or at anchor.  We use the Covid Tracer App on our phones whenever we visit public places and I carry 4 masks in my backpack, but that is it.  Travelling on the ferry was the first time we had been required to use them in over a year.

We arrived in Auckland well before anything of the shops opened, thanks to our ticket restrictions, and we had plenty of time to wander around the city.  

We decided to start with a coffee and not fancying a crowded high street shop we wandered up toward the University. We found a cafe under the Ellen Melville Centre on a nice little square and went inside.  

The urn of hot water and instant coffee and tea bags on the counter were a hint. It  took a while, however, to figure out that we had wandered into a community centre.  By then it felt rude to leave haveing chatted with others helping themselves to a hot drink, so we made and drank our free coffee, rinsed our cups and put them in the dishwasher tray as per the sign, thanked the people who worked there and went on our way.

There aren't many places in Auckland, or Waiheke Island even, where you can't see the Sky Tower.  It is a great landmark for navigating the streets.

Much of the construction along the waterfront is complete but there are still packets of major building work going on.  I suspect that they are replacing an intersection on a steep hill with a tunnel and road over the top.  Auckland is a very hilly city thanks to its 53 dormant Volcanoes.

We walked up through Albert Park to the University Clock Tower and it went like this.

Up a steep path past this extemely tall tree with aerial roots. 

It might be a very tall and straight Pohutukawa, but I'm doubtful. The Pohutukawa is also known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree because it flowers red and white in the NZ summer, Christmas time.  It isn't normally that tall and usually spreads out wider from the base, but its the only one I could find with the aerial roots.

The fact that the next three trees are all Ombu trees, native to South America, seem to supports that doubt. These might not be endemic to New Zealand, but they are very impressive.

Carry on up hill ducking under the low hanging branch across the path.

Pause to catch your breath and marvel at the roots of this massive tree.

Shelter from the rain in the hollow trunk of the topmost ombu tree.

And finally, past  the floral clock across the road to ....


The University of Auckland's most iconic building, The Clocktower

We were pleased that the next walking we did was down hill on the whole to the Auckland Bridge.

If we didn't have flowers already onboard, it would ahve been very tempting to buy some here.

I expect I'm not the first tourist to have taken this photo.

We had a lot of low cloud, a heavy mist of rain that made everything very wet, but it made lovely reflections. We looked briefly in a shop and then turned around and headed back.

Follow that tower!

I don't even know the name of the company that thought to use this quip, but it did make me laugh.

Larus on her mooring.
Home again, home again, jiggity jig.

 And last but by no means least...

We had a most enjoyable lunch at the Mudbrick Restaurant with Simon, Kim, Ian, Ann, me and Tim. I'm letting a picture say a thousand words.  It is the type of dining we don't do ever! : )

Yesterday, we had a lovely afternoon with an ex-work colleague of Tim and an equally memorable meal in their quite amazing mountain-side house.  We're looking foward to having them aboard Larus and have our fingers crossed for a dry warm day.

Unless it stops raining, this will be the last from Waiheke.