The Happy Ferry To Paihia

We awoke to another gorgeous summer day here in the Bay of Islands. Seems like everyday is just beautiful this time of year. The sun is out and the winds are down making the anchorage rather calm and quite enjoyable. The plan today is to take the ferry across from Russell to Paihia to do some provisioning.

After our morning coffee/computer ritual is complete we get dressed and head to shore. While there are two Four Square grocery stores here in Russell, we’ve heard there is a Countdown in Paihia that has more supplies so we decide to make the trip. It’s just about two miles across the bay and generally we’d consider taking the dinghy but the winds tend to pick up midday making this bay very choppy. Also, we’ve heard you have to beach your dinghy onshore with nothing to secure it to so we’ve decided the $13 NZD roundtrip ferry tickets are worth the cost. 

The Happy Ferry in Russell
The Happy Ferry In Russell

And don’t worry, this time we have chained and locked the fuel can and Sparkle to the dock. We aren’t taking any chances. 

We board the Happy Ferry around 1000. There are just a dozen or so people on it with us. We get a good chuckle when the Captain gets ready to shove off. He’s in reverse to get the line from the piling and the boat bangs hard against the dock. He goes forward and she hits again. The sound of aluminum beating against the dock rings through the air with a high pitched clanging like that of a cymbal being struck at the end of a dramatic symphony. I look around but no one seems even the slightest bit worried. Hmmm…maybe this is not their first ride on the “bumper ferry”.

Overhead view of the area from Russell to Paihia
Jilly on the wharf at Paihia

After a couple more bumps he throws her into forward gear and off we go. The ride takes about fifteen minutes. We pull into the wharf in Paihia and there’s a little more banging and clanging and still no one seems to get their feathers ruffled about it. Everyone just rises in an orderly fashion and walks off. Of course that is the Kiwi way…no one gets too upset about anything here.

The wharf is an interesting place with lots of tour operators and tourist information. You can book everything from fishing and diving adventures to parasailing here. There are a couple of restaurants right at the wharf and some touristy shops too. There’s also quite a bit of information about Paihia and her history. We stop for a bit to take in some of the historical facts about the area.

New Zealand Builds Her First Sailing Ship

A postage stamp featuring the Herald was made in 1975.

Paihia is where the first New Zealand built sailing ship was launched in January 1826. Her name was Herald” and she was a 55 ton schooner. She was built under the authority of Samual Marsden and Henry Williams, both missionaries who were in New Zealand to spread the word of God and convert Māoris to Christianity. She was used to reach the more remote people of the land as well as for trading so as to provision the Paihia settlement.

The Herald made just eleven voyages in two years and she eventually sank as she tried to cross the Hokianga bar on 6 May 1828. The accounts state she had been waiting outside of the harbor for two days for a favorable opportunity to cross. Just before sunset on the 6th she was making her way for the bar with a fair wind but as she was just atop of the bar the wind suddenly died. She was left to the unforgiving powers of the breakers and eventually carried upon the rocks. The master and his crew clung to the rigging until morning at which time the tide had receded allowing them to walk to shore. Amazingly there was no loss of life.

The Village of Paihia

After learning a bit of Paihia history at the wharf we take to the village to locate the pharmacy, the Countdown grocery store and the bank. This adorable seaside community is filled with people on summer holiday. Some are sitting at the outdoor areas of the restaurants taking in the fabulous weather, others are strolling along the quiet streets and still others are filling the tourist shops where you can buy everything Kiwi…even the stuff that looks like it is handmade here but is in reality just junk from China. As for us, we will stick to buying souvenirs we from the local craftsman.

After locating our provisions and completing our errands we decide it’s time for a little lunch. We stop at CBK Craft Beer & Kitchen which is located right at the wharf. The views are amazing and the entire place is opened up to enjoy the beautiful day. 

Dan orders us some beers and when Kawiti, our server, delivers them he drops off a couple of menus. As we look around we note that this place looks eerily similar to one of our favorite haunts in Whangerie, Jimmy Jacks. And, the menu has some of the same stone grilled items as well. Kawiti tells us this is owned by the brother of the guy who owns Jimmy Jacks. Ahhh…now that makes sense. 

We enjoy our lunch, our chats with Kawiti and the wonderful views but the time has come for us to hop the ferry back to the other side. This time we’re on a different ferry and the Captain seems to be a bit better at negotiating the docks. Of course it isn’t as funny of a trip but the point is we make is safely back to Russell.

Our neighbor, SV Al Vei, in the Russell anchorage.

We’re glad we took the ferry too because by the time we leave the wind is howling and the bay is pretty choppy. It would have been a very, very wet ride back across. Can you say, “Swamp ass?”

Back in Russell we decide that rather than stopping at the liquor store we will just go back to Dazzler and do that in the morning when it’s a bit more calm. Seems like the best decision given that even the protected anchorage has some chop to it now. 

Bay view of Paihia at night
It was a crystal clear night and the view of the lights of Paihia under the stars was simply sublime.

We spend the evening in the cockpit watching the ferries and other boats come and go. I play my tin whistle for a bit and Dan gets out his ukulele for a while as well. For dinner he grills some steaks and we just do what cruisers do….enjoy life.

Until Next Time….

Jilly & Dan

Author: Dan & Jilly

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