We’ve spent quite a bit of time tied to the dock in the past year and quite frankly, it’s just not our brand of rum. No, we like moving around, meeting new people, seeing new things and having wonderful adventures. And while we do adore Whangarei and the amazing Kiwis we’ve come to know & love here, we are both really thirsting to get back to what it is we are meant to do….sailing. So, since it’s cyclone season in the islands and most of the borders are closed anyway we’ve decided to take off and circumnavigate New Zealand’s North Island. After all, we’ve seen a lot of New Zealand by land so now it’s time to check her out from the sea.
Depending upon who you ask, New Zealand has the highest number of boats per capita in the world. And the Bay of Islands is listed as one of the top seven best sailing grounds in the world. So, it only makes sense that we would take the time we have left here in New Zealand and head out to enjoy the great sailing and beauty she has to offer.
Departing Town Basin
With Dazzler’s stores fully provisioned with food and a variety of pirate spirits such a rum and beer, we cast off our lines and head down the river. It’s a perfect day to begin our journey with the sun shining brightly overhead and a ten knot breeze coming over the stern quarter! Dan gets on the radio and calls the bridge tender to open the Hatea River Bridge as Jilly stands on the bow taking in a few final views of the basin area. Jilly tears up a bit as we pass under the bridge. Yes, we’ll be back here but it will be a few months and this has sort of become like home to us.
One final call to the bridge tender to thank her for the lift and we’re free! We’re finally free! Within a week or so we will be sailing the world class cruising grounds of the Bay of Islands. Then it’s up and over the top of New Zealand, down the west side and into Cook Strait where we will sail Marlborough Sound for a few weeks before coming up the eastern side of the North Island. What’s there? The Bay of Plenty, Coromandel Peninsula, White Island with it’s active volcano and the Great Barrier Island. Yes, there’s plenty of adventure ahead of us and we are both feeling excited and thrilled to be on our way.
Before we can just take off we have to address the issue of Dazzler’s not so sparkly bottom. After spending a few warm weather months in the town basin we knew she was going to need a good washing down. You see here in New Zealand many marinas simply will not let you in if you cannot prove you have either cleaned the bottom within 30 days or put on new anti foul within 6 months. Yes, it’s quite a big deal here and the worst part is they won’t let you clean the bottom of your boat unless you are more than two miles offshore. Not sure about you but bouncing around in swells two miles offshore doesn’t sound like a really safe way to handle it to me. No, we’ll pay the price and let the professionals do it.
First Stop…Urquharts Bay
We couldn’t get an appointment at Marsden right away so we decided in the interest of getting the show on the road we would head out to Urquharts Bay at the mouth of the Hatea River to hang out for several days while we waited to do our haul, clean and splash. It’s not quite an hour from the bay to the marina and it’s a really great place to spend a little time with it’s beautiful bay and incredible scenery. The bay is large enough for plenty of boats without having to be on top of each other which is always nice. There’s some great hikes to be had at Breams Head Preserve onshore. And, one of Jilly’s favorite things is the port across the channel where the big ships come and go. It’s always fascinating watching the tugs pushing them around.
Plus there are fishing boats everywhere and you can dive for clams here. On the weekends at the point of Mount Lion the fishing boats are almost on top of each other. It reminds Jilly of the days of Tarpon fishing in Boca Grande, Florida. You could almost toss a beer to your neighbors they were so close. And, of course, with this many boats out here you have to believe there are fish right?
Where’s the Fish?
If you know us you know that we absolutely LOVE fishing. In Mexico we killed it! Dan even gave seminars to other cruisers about the best way to catch, filet and cook these tasty morsels from the sea. Unfortunately since we arrived in the South Pacific in 2018 these salty swimmers of the deep seem to elude us. Yes, we caught a few in the Marquesas and in 2019 we managed to pluck some of these slippery suckers from the waters of Fiji but nothing like we’re used to catching. So, you can imagine how excited Dan is to get back to fishing when he hears from the Kiwis that the Kingfish and Snapper are running and the catching is easy!
The first afternoon we drop the dink in the water so we can go on an exploratory mission. No poles….just a ride around to check out the potential fishing grounds. We take off and head around the point to the other side of Mount Lion. Here there’s a small beach and anchorage but the weather has to be just right to anchor in Smuggler’s Bay which is why most yachties prefer Urquharts. All around the point the water is perfect for fishing. It’s deep and rocky which is what the pelagic fish like so we’re hopeful that the following day will yield a nice catch for dinner.
The following morning we head out while the waters are still calm and the sun is warm. It’s summertime here but I’ll tell you this…it still gets rather chilly when the sun isn’t directly on your skin. And with the breeze here you always have to have some cold weather clothes available. Anyway, Dan prepares the rods and reels while Jilly sets about preparing some liquid refreshments for the trip. Soon we have Sparkle loaded up and have a line in the water as we troll the area.
We’re not gone from Dazzler ten minutes when we run through the pass between the head and Frenchmans Island. We’ve got a hit! WOOHOO! Dan starts reeling it in and just about the time it gets a few feet from the boat the hook comes flying out of the water and over Jilly’s head. Darn fish spit the hook back at us. OK, that’s alright…at least we know we’re where the fish are biting right???
Or maybe not….A couple of hours of fishing around the point and back across Smuggler’s Bay leave us empty handed. After the first bite we got nothing. Not a single little nibble. Guess we’ll be eating filet tonight instead of fish. Well, guess it could be worse. Turns out we didn’t catch a fish the entire week we were here but nevertheless we certainly enjoyed our stay.
At the end of the week the time came to move over to Marsden Cove Marina to get Dazzler cleaned up. We enjoy the haul, clean and splash system they have in place. It’s absolutely no stress at all with the very cool hydraulic trailer they use. The entire process from lift to splash takes right around an hour too so it’s very efficient too. Adam, Remi and Mark make the job look so easy and Brent, Emma, Brian and Valerie in the office take excellent care of you as well.
We were a bit shocked when they hauled Dazzler to find over a third of her bottom covered in barnacles. Nothing sinister there but lots and lots of barnacles. We just put new anti foul on in March last year. When we hauled her in August it was just a slime coat but oh what a difference a couple of warm weather months make. And the thing is, we move her every seven to ten days to go to the pump out dock. Simply cannot imagine what some of those boats look like that never move. Anyway, the guys scraped her down and we were back in the water forthwith.
After one final night in the marina we are off. We have cast our lines from the dock and are making the four hour trip north to Tutukaka for a few nights. After that we’re Bay of Islands bound. Let the adventure begin!!!
Until next time,
Jilly & Dan