The bright sun is shining down from the heavens warming our skin as the cool ocean breeze brushes across our faces. Wispy clouds resembling a horse’s mane hover above giving a soft white texture to the stark blue sky. The new white mainsail billows as the wind passes over it and the ocean gently slaps Dazzler’s hull as she cuts through the water with ease and grace. Ahhhh! We’re barely out of the mouth of the river and our souls feel like birds soaring through the air on the South Pacific tradewinds. It’s sailing at its finest….something we refer to as “Brochure Sailing” and it just doesn’t get any better than this.
Oh yes, it’s a wonderful start to our circumnavigation and we’re both feeling fantastic! Dan continues to adjust the new main checking her performance in the 15 knot winds. She’s performing brilliantly and he could’t be happier with his choice of sailmaker. (Thanks Dave & Nick at Calibre Sails) Before long it’s time to bring out the jib and kick it up a notch. Now we’re sailing along at close to 7 knots and it’s fabulous.
The coast of New Zealand is rugged, green and simply beautiful. There are not many beaches along its crags of shoreline but when you do see one it stands out like a bright light against the deep green of the forests and the azure blue of the sea.
Once we get underway and offshore, I go below to triple check things and make certain everything is stowed and not flying about. Invariably there is something I’ve missed and when Dazzler dips to one side or the other I find out quickly what it is. The hope is that is is not something like we forgot to empty the coffee pot. Yes…we’ve had coffee grounds go flying across the galley before. It’s never fun and forces me to use sailoresque words that make sailors blush and my dear mother cringe.
Enter The Boiling Fish
A hour or so into our trip Dan calls down below to tell me there a bait ball where lots of birds are diving into the water. I take to the bow with camera in hand as he turns Dazzler toward them. Any good angler knows that birds diving in the water means there are fish about. We have our handlines in the water so we’re heading toward them. As we near their location we see the water literally boiling over. It’s always exciting to see this happen. Smaller fish rolling at the surface are being chased by much bigger fish just below them. Birds are diving into the boil looking for the sure thing and here comes Dazzler barreling through the middle hoping to snag a nice fish for dinner.
Turns out that trying to work a fish boil in the middle of the ocean when you’ve got a main and jib flying is a bit more trouble than it is worth. As we keep turning to stay in the boil the sails need to be adjusted so after a couple of attempts without even a single bite we abandoned our mission. Oh well, it certainly was a fun fifteen minutes or so. After all, who doesn’t love to watch nature in action?
After four hours we reached the entrance to Tutukaka Harbor. The entrance here is pretty straightforward even if it does appear a bit intimidating with large swells pushing you in and the giant rocks standing above the water on either side of you. The thing is it’s a clearly marked channel and it’s even well lighted for nighttime entry. Probably wouldn’t try that on our first attempt into this place but after being here we could easily come in at night if needed.
Once we made it through the entrance, our next task was to find a place to drop the hook. Here there are three bays in which you can anchor. All are on the southern side of the channel. The first is Pacific Bay then there’s Kowharewa in the middle and Church Bay which is closest to the marina. Church Bay is a bit too shallow for Dazzler so we opted to find a place in Kowharewa Bay. There were lots and lots of boats. The depth in the majority of the anchorage is much shallower than we typically like to anchor in but it was fine. It is 3-4 meters. We found a sweet spot right next to the rock island that separates Kowharewa and Church bays. We were close enough to the island that no one would come inside of us which gave us a little privacy.
Enjoy The Show
If you are looking for some really great entertainment aboard your boat this anchorage is the perfect place. Wait until about 1500, grab a beer or mix a cocktail and go sit outside. The show is absolutely fantastic. What’s the show you ask??? Allow me to explain. You see, Tutukaka is sort of like a roadstead. Boats use this as a safe anchorage when traveling up and down the coast. There’s not really a lot to see or do here but it’s a beautiful place and it’s well protected. There’s a marina and a few little restaurants so for the cruiser who is heading up or down the coast it can be a great little stopover to avoid making an overnight passage. What does this have to do with the show? EVERYTHING!
In the afternoon is when everyone starts pouring in looking for an anchor spot. Some yachties are super efficient, well-oiled machines when it comes to anchoring and others are well, how can I say it? They look like the Keystone Cops trying to put out a dumpster fire in Central Park. It’s ugly but there is definitely some comedy to be found in it.
You see a little of everything here from 40’ boats that drop 15 feet of chain to those who never even back down on their anchor. You see people sailing into the anchorage with no motor then scrambling to get their sail and anchor down at the same time. There’s men yelling at their women and women yelling right back. Oh yes….this is absolutely a show and one we’d probably have paid to watch. As we sat in the cockpit each evening we enjoyed some wonderful laughs. We decided we really needed to have some large numbers made up and then show them like judges once they are all set. We even came up with a pretty elaborate scoring system too.
Some of the scarier things we saw are people who don’t put down enough anchor chain and/or don’t back down on their anchor at all. They just drop the chain in a big or maybe not so big pile on the ocean floor and hope for the best. This is where our little spot paid off because we didn’t have many boats around us. At least we were fairly certain we were not going to get hit in the middle of the night. No, it would more than likely be some other poor boater. We actually even saw one 35’ cabin cruiser come in and drop his anchor while in forward gear going about 3 knots! He just dragged it until it caught on something and flipped him around. I guess that’s one way to do it!
Seems crazy too when you realize that New Zealand has one of the highest per capita boat ownership rates in the world. You’d think they would be a little better educated. Of course if they were then we wouldn’t have had a free night show that was better than any Vegas show I’ve ever seen.
The marina in Tutukaka is pretty nice. We stayed on the hook but did go to shore a couple of times. There’s a fishing club/restuarant at the marina as well as a pizza place. We stopped in at Marina Pizza & Bar for a pizza. It was good but not nearly as good as the pizza at Parua Bay Tavern down by the Whangerie Heads. Seems excellent pizza is a tough thing to come by in New Zealand.
One day we decided we’d hike up to the Tutukaka Lighthouse. You can go by dinghy to a beach area and walk up to it. What we didn’t know when we started this mission is that you walk up from the beach to the top of the ridge line then walk a quarter mile or so to a set of stairs that lead down, down, down back to the water. Then you hike up, up, up again to reach the lighthouse. The getting there wouldn’t have necessarily been the issue…It would be the down, up, down going back. Suffice it to say that we stopped our little hike at the top of the stairs!!! I’m sure the the view at the lighthouse is amazing but we had some pretty nice views right where we stopped. Note that if you are looking for a more challenging physical test and want to continue up the second mountain then you need to do it at low tide. At high tide the land bridge at the bottom of the stairs is gone.
After our hike that day we headed back to the marina area to a little place call Schnappa Rock where we had lunch and listened to some live music. It was a very lovely afternoon.
As the evening progressed and we discussed our plans for moving north to the Bay of Islands the following morning our thoughts turned to the issue of my “bites”. They appear to be getting worse and are no longer responding to the high powered antibiotics. We decide we will wait until morning to make a decision as to what we will do. In the meantime I contact a few friends in the medical profession to get their thoughts.
By morning everyone has weighed in and the consensus is that we must not go further until we have an answer as to what is causing this and get it under control. The decision is made to make the four hour trip back south to Marsden Cove, rent a car and drive in to see the doctor one more time. Dan insists that it is the prudent thing to do but I am completely heartbroken. I can’t even stand to sit on deck so I go below to wallow in my misery and disgust.
Shortly after we take off Dan calls me on deck. There are dolphin. He knows how I love the dolphin. I come out to find not just one or two but a few dozen of these magnificent creatures surrounding the boat. They are swimming and playing and jumping and instantly my heart is lighter and my mood brighter. They stick around for quite a while and one even rolls over and looks me dead in the eye. After doing what they have come to do they are gone but an hour or so later they are back. In all I think they were here close to an hour and they absolutely made my day. They were like my little beacons of hope telling me that everything is going to be okay.
So, for now we are back in Marsden Cove awaiting test results. But don’t get discouraged….we WILL be making this trip even if Dan has to cut my leg off and carve me a peg leg! This is just one of those little detours you have to take in life sometimes. Stay tuned for Take Two!!!
Until next time…
Jilly & Dan