Thursday, June 6, 2013
New Zealand 2012-2013
Despite the hard work making improvements to our boat, we greatly enjoyed our time in New Zealand and see why many cruisers return year after year. After making landfall in Opua, in the North Island’s lovely “Bay of Islands”, we sailed about a hundred miles south to a bay and river mouth leading 8 miles inland to the small city of Whangarie where the charming Town Basin Marina is located, right in the heart of the city. Navigation from the open ocean up the river is straight forward via a well buoyed channel but, for vessels like ours with a fairly deep draft, must be made at high tide to avoid numerous shallow areas. Due to our arrival a bit ahead of schedule and our impatience to reach our destination, we found ourselves tip-toeing along through some of the river’s shallow sections with just inches of water between our keel and the soft mud bottom. At one point as the river took a lazy bend to the right, we found ourselves slowed to a stop as we touched bottom. We were in the center of the marked channel but, as we would find out later, transit of that area required hugging the southern shore just a few boat widths from the river bank. The incident was without any real drama as we knew the tide was still rising and, with the application of some serious reverse thrust, we floated free and were able to proceed via a different line. An hour later, we were securely tied up in our marina slip and breathing sighs of relief.
We found Whangarei to be a perfect place to base “Blue Rodeo”. The town has all of the shopping and dining venues that one could want and is a hub for the North Island’s marine industry with numerous boat yards, chandleries and resources all within a small radius. Added bonuses were a beautiful swimming pool complex across the street from the marina and a system of hiking trails in the nearby forest that provided a pleasant place to exercise and attempt to burn off the calories consumed in the towns many interesting eateries.
Since boats are always a work in progress, “Blue Rodeo” being no exception, while in Whangarei, we took the opportunity to take advantage of the convenient resources and make some improvements to the vessel. The biggest of which was the modification of our cockpit’s fiberglass top (dodger) to allow the addition of one half inch thick, heat formed, clear acrylic window panels to replace to original, semi-rigid, removable ones. While sailing through rough weather from Tonga to New Zealand, we had one of the forward panels broken out by wave impact and sought a solution to the problem of ever having that happen again. We were so very fortunate to connect with a local craftsman named Steve Eichler who was heartily recommended by friends Ken and Beth from the sailing vessel “Eagle’s Wings”. The project was quite involved requiring the fiberglass fabrication of window frames and bonding flanges and a mold from which the acrylic panels were produced. The end result was a work of art and a valuable upgrade to our boat. Smaller projects, too numerous to mention, kept Mark busy from sunup to sundown and “Blue Rodeo” in a nearly constant, construction zone state of disarray. With the interior often so cluttered with boxes of tools and boat parts, leaving nearly nowhere to even sit down, Anne busied herself with daily hikes with girlfriends and frequent provisioning recon trips to Whangarei’s many markets. As the weeks passed, evening time was taken to socialize with our many cruising friends who had chosen to summer-over in the area but our hopes of land touring evaporated. On a positive note though, we managed to accomplish most of the big items on our project list and expect minimal boat work next year which will free us up for seeing more of New Zealand’s natural beauty.
As our May 1st estimated departure date approached, we continued to scramble to get everything done. Mark’s 43 item “to do” list was whittled down, even though he continued to add more items daily. Finally, with most chores done, we left Whangarei and headed back up the coast to Opua, our jumping-off point for Fiji, stopping to enjoy two nights at a lovely anchorage along the way. We both remarked that it felt so wonderful to be away from the dock and back in open water. Although many people use their boats as waterfront “condos”, being back underway reminded us of how much we cherish the experience of really using our fine vessel as the designer intended.