A sailing blog about a skipper and his yacht

Great Barrier Island Jan 23rd – 9th Feb

Early morning swim Hatfield beach on way from airport

Wendy had arrived for a visit, we made use of the campervan to go to the Bay of Islands music festival in Waitangi then visited Kerikeri for waterfall walks then across to Hokianga harbour and down through the Waipoua forest and the giant Kauri trees. Back in Whangarie it was time to go sailing again. 

Leaving the marina just before midday, at the top of the tide, we slipped the mooring warps and headed off down the river, under the Hatea bridge and away. We anchored for the evening in Urquharts bay, cooked tea and relaxed in the cockpit with a sundowner. The forecast for the morrow looked good for the crossing to Great Barrier island with fine weather and westerlies of 10 to 15 knots. We left at first light, the weather was fine but the winds remained light all day. We did fly the cruising chute for a while but progress was to slow to ensure a daylight arrival so we ended motoring most of the 40 mile passage. Late afternoon saw us anchoring in Nimaru bay, Great Barrier  Island.

We moved next morning, sailing around Maunganui point where the wind was strong and gusty and the sea a nasty slop, into the calmer waters of Port Abercrombie and thence to Forestry Bay, Port Fitzoy.

Dinghy landing Forestry bay

Here we rowed ashore and followed the Bridle track first to Port Fitzroy itself then returned to the junction with the Warren track up the waterfall. Farther than expected the timings on the track signs being a bit out. The waterfall itself was a little disappointing – reduced to a mere trickle on account of the drought. Next day a walk took us around to Kiarara bay and a walk up the old forestry road.

Forestry Bay

Back at the boat we made the  short hop to anchor in Kiarara bay . It was very windy the next day so we stayed put.

Moving on again to Kiwiriki bay, a lovely bay this, rocky islands by the entrance and wooded hillside all around, no roads no houses. We did a couple of walks whilst here on the Kiwiriki track. One up towards Maungapiko and the other up to Coffin creek and thence to Kiarara bay. Other times we played about in the dinghy and on the paddleboard.

Kiwiriki bay

After a few days we moved back to Port Fitzroy, anchoring in Forestry bay again. A walk to Port Fitzroy  and up to Lookout Rock rewarded us with fine views and later with bread and fruit from the shop and a delicious burger and chips on the quayside.

Lookout rock above Port Fitzroy

Great Barrier island is off grid, there are few roads and no mains power, poor or non-existant phone signal. Residents rely on catching rain water for their water supply. It is a lovely largely unspoilt place though was once heavily logged for the Kauri trees.

We could have happily stayed there longer but decided to return to the mainland whilst conditions were good. It was calm as we motored out from Port Fitzroy but later the wind kicked in a little NW at first then later it switched to West 17 knots dead on the nose then to SW.

9pm and just dark as we anchored in Uruharts bay , a long tiring passage.

Next day we took the tide back up the river to Whangarie, under the bridge and moored alongside at Riverside drive marina again.

Christmas at Whangaroa

When the weather eased I left the Bay of Islands and headed north. Last year whilst touring in the van I had walked from Totara to Lane Cove and seen a boat anchored there and had wanted to visit the spot by boat ever since. My way north up the coast  took me past the Cavalli Islands and I decided to take the Cavalli Passage, inshore of the islands. The Cavallis are the last resting place of the Greenpeace ship. After her sabotage & sinking by French agents she was salvaged and brought up here to be sunk as a memorial and a dive site. Heading past Flat island , then between Stephenson’s island and Frenchman’s rock and  past Arrow rocks I could head into Whangaroa Harbour where I anchored in Waitepipi Bay. A spectacular spot this, surrounded by steep bush covered slopes with rock towers sticking above them including one called the Duke’s Nose.

Dukes Nose from Waitepipi bay

Next morning it being Christmas day I rowed into Lane cove landing at the little beach here and took my customary xmas day walk  up the Duke’s Nose. The top section was a bit of a scramble but an iron railing was there to provide assistance.


Railing up Duke’s Nose

The views were superb. Regaining the boat I cooked my xmas dinner followed by the pudding. I did some more walks whilst here and never saw another soul in the bush.

View from Duke’s Nose

View from Duke’s Nose

Whangaroa harbour

After a few days I decided it was time to head back to Whangarei but before leaving Whangaroa I explored the harbour a little and then anchored in Owhatanga Bay for the night. 

I coast hopped southwards, around the outside of the Cavallis this time.

Cavalli Islands

 Back in the Bay of Islands I anchored at Waewaetorea Bay, Waewaetorea Island  for a quiet New years eve. New years day saw me rounding Cape Brett and down to Puriri bay, Whangaruru harbour. The last hour into here was a bit hectic with 25 knots of wind and me having full sail up, the forecast had suggested 15 knots max. As I have often found, so much for forecasts.

Percy Island Cape Brett

On then to Urquharts bay at the mouth of the Haita river, a gentle wind most of the day then suddenly a 180 deg shift and 25 knots kicking up quite a sea. With the wind on the nose it took a long time to round Bream Head and it wasn’t long before dark that I could drop the hook.

Next morning I took the flood tide up the river, it was still blowing hard but there was a bit of a respite up near Whangarei. Under the lifting bridge and thankfully there was a free berth at Riverside Drive. With a strong wind up my tail it was tricky to get in but the skipper of a neighbouring boat took my lines and I was soon all snug and secure . Good to be back in Whangarei.

Bay of Islands Dec 2019

I spent some time for rest in Opua. I also fixed the broken tiller bolt and replaced the broken latch spring on the self steering and bought a new dinghy as my old one was truely on its last legs. I dug out the bike and rode the twin coast cycle way to Kawakawa and back.

Twin coast cycleway

I also walked along the coast path to Pahai,

Opua to Pahia path

went to the thermal pools with Rusty John and also to an open mic night at the Russel boat club. I thought then it was time for more cruising and explore  the Bay of islands.

View from Pahia

My first stop was Opunga cove, a nice place to relax. Then to Robinson bay,  Motuarohia island. A very popular spot this with a nice walk up to an old Fortified Pa on the hilltop.  Captain Cook had  beat me to this place too and had a notable meetings with the Maori here. 

Robertson Island

On to Pipi bay, Moturua island, this is a Department of Conservation island. They made strenous efforts to rid the island of all introduced pests, rats, possums and stoats and the bird life has recovered helped by re-introductions. There is a good walking track on the island which I took. Nice to to get a bit of a leg stretch.

Moturoa Island

The weather turned into strong SW winds of 25 – 30 knots so I moved across to Putakokota bay which was more sheltered but moved later as the wind seemed to be swirling around the headland and I moved a few miles to Parekura bay which offered better shelter.

By next morning the wind had died so I sailed across to Indigo bay Urupukapuka Island. Somewhat confusingly  places often have multiple names. This bay is variously called Indigo bay, Otaia bay or Entico bay, take your pick I guess. Another DOC island again with several good walking tracks, I took the Cliff Pa loop and the Pateke loop tracks, very nice too with good views.

Urupukapuka island


Indigo bay Urupukapuka island


I didn’t stop in this bay overnight as the weather forecast predicted a wind shift to NW and strong winds so I moved to Orakawa bay and sheltered here from the blow.

Time to restock on supplies so I anchored off Pahai .Rowed ashore and walked to the supermarket to restock and buy some xmas goodies like a xmas cake, xmas pudding, mince pies and some wine. Pahai is not a good anchorage as its is far too rolly with all the wash from the ferries and sight seeing boats so shopping done I moved across to Pomare bay. It was pretty blowy for the next couple of days so I just stayed here.

Back in New Zealand

Sea Bear in the boat yard

Sea Bear in the boat yard

It was good to be back with Sea Bear in New Zealand, welcomed by warmth and sunshine, even though the 44 hours of travel involved was somewhat draining. I needed to acclimatize to the weather, leaving a cold and damp UK to here with the temperature up to the 30’s, Nice to be back to shorts and vest for everyday wear.

The boat was was as I had left her although looking a little grubby and neglected. At first work on the boat was on hold as I had to get the camper van back on the road.It had sat neglected in the car park for all those months but at least it started once some petrol had been put in the fuel tank. It need some work doing before passing its WOF and then I could hand it over to my son Ged and Haley who were borrowing it for a holiday in NZ.

Ged & Haley

Attention back to the boat. Time to get to work and bring her back to full cruising trim. I sat and compiled a list of things to do, all the maintenance plus some improvements that I had been pondering. It was long list but I could set an order of works as it were.
A small problem with the stove prompted me to fit the new burner I had purchased and I was pleased that this burned nice and clean.

new burner

New burner on the stove

Christmas came early for Sea Bear in the form of a big cardboard box containing a new windlass.

new windlass

new windlass

Before I have had to haul the anchor & chain by hand so hopefully no more “way hey heave ho my hearties put your back into it”. Of course fitting it will be tricky but Thom on “Fathom” who has the same set up has given guidance and photos by email. From the flimsy paper template supplied I made a plywood template which will help with the positioning – rather crucial in view of the position of the forward bulkhead. It will also act as a template for the teak plinth needed for mounting and for a backing plate too.

windlass template

An unwelcome discovery was that the fuel tap for the fuel tank had been leaking whilst I was away. dripping diesel onto the propshaft and so along it to the stern gland and cutlass bearing. This means more more that I had not anticipated. Oh well nothing for it but to empty the fuel tank of its 120 litres of diesel into some borrowed jerry cans and replace the fuel tap. That job went better than expected but still leaves me with the stern gland and cutlass bearing to deal with.

new fuel tap

The through bolts for the hull anode were looking dodgy. Crawling into the port side locker revealed their true nastyness. Just mild steel bolts had been used yuk. I got some new SS studs made up and fitted them. Not a fun job in the confines of the locker.

nasty rusty through hull anode bolt

One great thing about Whangarei is the weekly growers market. A visit to this, early Sat morning saw me stocked up with delicious fresh fruit and veg so I will be eating well and healthfully.