Our first weeks in NZ were spent fixing the boat. Well, not so much fixing as the generator was beyond repair and so got thrown away. We then ordered a new one from the US to collect once we had circumnavigated the North Island of NZ.
We were in Opua for 2 weeks before sailing north towards North Cape to head down the west coast of the island. The weather looked good for a sail to Nelson. This was our first lesson in understanding that the NZ weather forecast is very rarely right! We had to motor north up the east coast with an overnight stop in the lovely anchorage at Houhora. The next day we had a good sail around North Cape and Cape Reinga but then motored most of the way to New Plymouth. We had to make an unscheduled stop in New Plymouth as the forecast for further south was 50 knot winds which we did not fancy.
There is no marina in New Plymouth, it is a working port with some private moorings. We were able to use one of the moorings for the week we were there. The port had a lovely view toward Mount Egmont and there is a public walkway which runs along the water front through the town and out the other side. We had a few nice walks into town and beyond and also managed to get a few chores done on the boat while we waited for good weather to continue south.
Our sail to Nelson was one of our better sails with good winds all the way. The marina in Nelson was very friendly and we met some lovely people. We also spent time with Matt and Jean from Superted and Richard and Alison from Vulcan Spirit. We didn't spend long in Nelson as time was running out to get to Wellington for Christmas.
We spent a few days at Adele Island which is in the Abel Tasman National Park and very beautiful with lots of bird song. We then sailed across the bay towards the Marlborough Sounds to a very isolated bay in the middle of D'urville Island. When we arrived there was one other boat in the bay. The gentleman on the boat was cleaning his hull from his dinghy. A while later we noticed his dinghy was floating free so dropped our dinghy to go and help. Unfortunately when we got there we saw that he had drowned and was floating next to his dinghy. We got the body into our dinghy and called the coast guard. Due to our location it took the coast guard and police nearly 4 hours to get to us. We had to give a police statement while his boat was searched and then they took the body away. We did later receive an email from his family who were glad to be able to bury him and that he died doing what he enjoyed. It wasn't a nice situation and we were both eager to leave the anchorage.
We spent the next few days heading across the sounds with a stop in Pelorous Sound en-route to Queen Charloote Sound. Our stop in Queen Charlotte was in a bay called Punga Cove and from there we were able to walk a section of the Queen Charlotte track which gave us wonderful views out over the Sounds. It was a short stop as the weather forecast was good for heading to Wellington. The weather in the Cook Strait between the south island and Wellington is notorious for bad weather so you need to take advantage of any opportunity that arises. Practically every day there is a gale or storm warning for the strait so we were very glad that there was very little wind and we had to motor most of the way. For me (KB) the sail into Wellington fulfilled a dream as this is where I learned to sail when I was working in Wellington in 1990.
Wellington lived up to its reputation and was cold and windy. There were sunny days but even they were cold and practically every day the wind was blowing 50 knots or more. We spent quite a few days staying at Steve and Jackie's house in a comfy warm bed. It was lovely to spend time with their family and we did a few good walks with Jackie around the area. It was our first Christmas on dry land for 5 years and we enjoyed Beef Wellington and lamb for dinner and some of Steve's family also joined us for the day. The day after Christmas we went back to the boat so that we could get ready for a good weather opportunity to head north. Given that the temperature dropped to 14C and it rained all day we wished we hadn't bothered!
We did get chance to meet up with James, a colleague of mine (KB) from when I was in Wellington working in 1990. We tracked him down on the internet and gave him a shock. He visited us on the boat and we had a good catch up.
Our weather opportunity arrived on 30th December so we left early in the morning to sail to Gisborne. Needless to say, the forecast was wrong again. We had to motor out of the Cook Strait and around Cape Palliser though it did allow us to be only about a mile offshore which is somewhere you would not want to be if there was any wind blowing. The only part of the forecast that was correct was the gale which blew the first night though fortunately the winds were not as strong as forecast. Then we had a NE wind when we were trying to go NE and finally it turned NW just as we wanted to go NW to head into Gisborne. The last part of the trip was horrible. It took us 4 hours to do the last 10 miles into Gisborne bashing into a short steep chop with 30 knots of wind right on the nose. It was New years day and there was a concert and fireworks in Gisborne but we were too tired to stay up and watch them. So our New Year passed with very little celebration, we had a bottle of bubbly, compliments of James, on our arrival and that was it.
We were stuck in Gisborne for 8 days waiting for weather. We met up with friends Pat and Glen from Northern Rose, who were in Gisborne visiting their daughter and did a few walks. There are quite a few memorials to James Cook around the bay as this was the first place he landed in NZ. One thing we did enjoy was the weather, it was warm and sunny every day which was wonderful after the cold of Wellington.
Our trip around East Cape and across the Bay of Plenty involved lots of motoring again. We sailed from Gisborne but in the morning the wind died and it was so calm that we motored between East Cape and East Island! Something which few people get to do as the seas are usually horrible around there. Our friend on Vulcan Spirit have just done the same trip and they had to shelter from 50 knot winds which makes burning the diesel seem not so bad! Our crossing continued with a major lightening storm at night. Spectacular but scarey! Immediately that was over, the wind died and the motor was on again. The end of our sail was at Great Mercury Bay on Great Mercury Island. The number of boats there was quite a shock after not seeing many boats at all for the last month and the anchorage was quite full.
After a rest overnight we spent the whole day sailing 20 miles to an anchorage on the Coromandel Peninsula, and even then we had to motor for an hour to get there before dark! The following day we had a really good sail around our final Cape, Cape Colville, and then we were back in the Hauraki Gulf which is the area around Auckland. We anchored in Chamberlain Bay which is on Ponui Island and have been spending the last few days recovering from our trip. Our plan is to head into Auckland tomorrow for a few days.
Having completed our circumnavigation we both decided we wished we hadn't bothered. It cost us a lot of diesel and we didn't really see very much. We think we should have stayed north and enjoyed the numerous anchorages between Auckland and the Bay of Islands. Oh well, hindsight is a wonderful thing!