Tag: SV SuAn

Clearing Into New Zealand

So here we are…we made it! After eight days of which four were a complete beating we couldn’t be happier to be in the land of the Kiwis. The first order of business is to check in with the officials.

The sun is finally beginning to peak from behind the clouds as we enter the mouth of the river and make our way toward Marsden Cove Marina. This is where we will do our official check in with Customs and Immigration. On the way we pass a large commercial dock where freighters come to deliver fuel and other supplies to the island. Dan radios the marina to let them know we are getting close. They advise us to continue on to the Custom’s Dock.

We arrive at the dock and tie up and Dan calls them on the radio to let them know we are ready. It takes a bit for them to arrive so we celebrate our arrival with the traditional anchor down beer. This one tastes especially sweet as it’s not just celebrating a safe passage, it’s celebrating the entire journey from México to New Zealand.

About twenty minutes after arriving the first of two Custom’s agents arrives at the boat. We’d been forewarned that New Zealand can be very strict and so we were completely prepared. We have filled out all of the paperwork and we have a spreadsheet that lists all of the food we have on board and where it is located. As the officer goes through our paperwork he finds that we do still have a few items they will have to take from us. They confiscate a couple of packages of meat we didn’t get to yet as wells as popcorn, fresh beans, our last onion and a couple of other small items but nothing we really cared about. Like I said, they are pretty strict with what you can and cannot bring into the country but we were prepared for it so it was no big deal. In fact, before we left Tonga we donated some of the food we knew they would take to the islanders. At least someone would get to eat it rather than it being tossed in the garbage.

The second officer who came aboard was Bruce Cooper. He is a fine mate who has been doing this for over twenty years. We chatted with him for quite a while. He was a wealth of information and very kind to us. When he finished with his paperwork he told us we’d get an invoice via email for the custom’s fee and he’d send us our TIP (Temporary Import Permit) when he got back to his office. All in all it was a pretty easy check in, of course it helps that I spent several days completing the paperwork before we arrived.

After our check in we departed Marsden Cove and headed up river to find the marina we had booked for our stay. The hour long trip up the river was absolutely stunning with mountains and hills that reminded me of an English countryside. And even though the sun had finally made its way from behind the clouds it was still cold! Our house gas had gone empty the day before our arrival so I was trying to make coffee from the hot water in the sink. It wasn’t as hot as we like it but it was helping to warm our insides.

Once we got to the north end of the river here in Whangarei (pronounced… Fon ga ray), you have to go under the Hatea River Bridge. It’s a rather unique looking bridge that is said to resemble a Māori fish hook. Our mast is too high to get under so we called to have it opened. The tide was low at the time and as we passed under the bridge we had just a foot and a half under the keel. That’s cutting it s little too close for both of us but we made it.

We originally planned to put the boat in the Riverside Marina but as we went by we realized this was not going to work for us. They didn’t really have any slips that would fit Dazzler so we kept moving up the river toward the Town Basin Marina.

One thing we both noted here is that not every slip has a finger dock. Some slips are just pilings and you tie off the bow and stern. Well, that means no electric and no water and you have to keep your dink in the water to get to shore. This was not an option for us. After all, whats the point of being in a marina if you don’t have easy access to land? Dan radioed the office as we were getting nearer to the main part of the marina and they did have a slip available on a finger dock. Hooray!

After eight days of traveling and in some pretty rough weather we were both ready to get tied up and relax a bit. We found the C dock and as we rounded the corner toward our slip I looked out and saw a most wonderful sight. Our dear friends, Lutz & Gabi were docked just two slips away from ours. This was such a wonderful surprise for us! More good times are definitely ahead!

Once we tied up and checked in with the marina office it was time to relax and tip a few cold ones. It’s absolutely beautiful here. I think we are going to love New Zealand!

Until next time,

Jilly & Dan


Japanese Coral Gardens

After several lovely days in the village of Mata Maka we decided to jump to another anchorage. We motored about an hour south with the hopes of stopping for a few nights at Anchorage #16. On our way there I was on the bow watching for shallow spots and I had my headset on so we could communicate. All of the sudden I turned my head and heard bang, bang, plop! My heart sank. It was the receiver for my headset. I was in a bathing suit and had it clipped onto the bottoms. Apparently that wasn’t the best spot for it as it flipped right out and landed in the drink. I was devastated! We depend upon these for excellent communication when anchoring and docking. Dan, of course, was so sweet about it even though I’m sure he was thinking a few not so nice things. LOL

Anyway, as we approached Anchorage #16 we realized it was going to be very unlikely we could get to it. The tide was out and the coral below us kept getting closer and closer to the surface as we neared the anchorage. We tried several different routes but just never felt comfortable with any of them. Even if we had been able to find a place to get through it could have been disastrous if weather came up and we had to leave quickly. Being the cautious cruisers we are we decided to go back to Anchorage #17 at Lape Island. There were a couple of mooring balls there and it was close enough to #16 that we could still dinghy to the reef.

Once again we had the anchorage all to ourselves so we sat back and enjoyed the beautiful, sunny day in paradise. We had planned to take a dingy ride around later that afternoon but soon we heard a vessel calling us on the VHF radio. Much to our delight and surprise it was our dear friends, Lutz & Gabi of SV SuAn. We left them over a week ago in Neiafu. They were heading south when they saw us on the AIS and decided to come join us. If we were going to have company we were certainly glad it was them. That evening we had sundowners and snacks on Dazzler and enjoyed some wonderful times once again.

The following morning we all decided we would dinghy over to the Japanese Coral Gardens. We’d been assured this was a most spectacular place for snorkeling. The issue is you have to hit it at the right time. You see the gardens are part of the reef that surrounds this bay so we had to wait until the tide was almost high to get over the reef. Even at that we had to drive the dingy into the oncoming surf to get to the outside.

We left a bit early that morning so we stopped at a beach just inside the reef and checked out an abandoned resort. It look like it would have been a lovely place if they had kept it going. Apparently the builder started it and then took the investor’s money and fled. Such a shame to see how devious and evil people can be over money.

We found Nemo here in Tonga!

After exploring the ruins we left there and went to another spot to snorkel a bit while we waited for the perfect time to cross the reef. This spot was very beautiful and the reef seemed to be very healthy. The water was shallow and warm and we saw lots of beautiful things. One of my favorites is the purple-blue colored starfish called the Blue Sea Star. You see them all over down here. Dan spotted these amazing giant sea stars called the Cushion Star. And, he found a beautiful cone snail shell that he brought up to me in the dinghy. He told me to only handle it by the sides because if the animal was still inside it is highly poisonous. I’m just curious, when my man hands me a highly poisonous shell in the middle of nowhere, should I be concerned? Needless to say we deposited this little creature of terror back into the sea because I wasn’t taking any chances that the critter might still be inside. I will say, however, that it was an exceptionally beautiful shell so I had to get a picture of it before we sent it home again.

Several hours into our day the time was finally right to make our attempt to exit the reef. Yes, this is when you hold your breath and hope for success. If you hit the incoming surf wrong it could flip the dinghy over and the last place you want to be thrust into the water is on top of sharp coral heads. At best you’re going to be bounced around bit. Yes, you have to time the exit just right.

We sat in our dinghies and watched and waited until it looked like the timing would work. Lutz & Gabi went first and while they launched in the air a couple of times we watched as they reached the other side. Now it was our turn. I was holding my breath and of course, the Go Pro. After all we had to have video of this. Off we went. The first wave was a bit bumpy but no all that bad but then we saw the next one coming. This time we launched into the air and when we came down we heard the prop hit a piece of coral. Forntuately Dan was smart enough to release the motor lock so the motor would come up if it hit anything. That lessened the impact on it. After a couple more waves we reached the outside of the reef. SUCCESS!

By this time in the day I was pretty tired and my feet were swollen and hurting due to the four broken toes I sustained a couple of weeks earlier in Neiafu. I told Dan I’d stay with the dink while they snorkeled. I did say that if it was as amazing as everyone said then I’d get in. Within a minute of him being in the water he came up and told me I HAD to see this.

I donned my mask, snorkel and fins and slid over the side of Sparkle (our dinghy). WHOA! This is some really, really cold water! It almost took my breath away but within a moment I was looking down at the most beautiful underwater scenery I’ve ever experienced! There was just about every type, shape and color of coral you could ever see all in one place. Colorful fish were swimming in and out of the coral and I was in awe! I was so excited about what I was seeing that I completely forgot how cold it was or how much my feet hurt. The only difficult part of the snorkeling was making sure you didn’t get caught up in the surf. If you got too close to the reef the waves would push you right into it and we all know that wouldn’t feel too good.

We played there in the water as long as we could but eventually the cold did start to get to us so we got back in the dinghy. Fortunately it didn’t take long for the bright sunshine to warm us up. Now, we had to get back over the reef. The return trip wasn’t as bad because this time we were just surfing the wave. It was still a bit unsettling but we made it.

The rest of the afternoon we enjoyed in the cockpit of Dazzler having a few cold beers and discussing the sights of the day. One thing for sure is that the Japanese Coral Gardens are not to be missed if you ever get to this part of the world.

Until next time…

Jilly & Dan