Monthly Archives: November 2011

Bus trip to Cape Reinga in the Far Far North

Morning Powhiri

On Monday 28thNovember we joined Norman and Sara on a bus trip to Cape Reinga.  Having reached Mangonui we decided not to take Camomile further north because there isn’t anywhere further north that’s possible to leave the boat safely.  We choose the coach company Sand Safaris because Sarah, the lady who runs the company agreed to drive to Mangonui to pick the four of us up.  The tour normally leaves from Kaitaia, a 20-minute drive away, which we obviously couldn’t get to.  Sand Safaris also offered a very good tour.  The tour started with a welcome onto a Marae for a morning Powhiri, which was the beginning of our spiritual journey to Cape Reinga. 

Norman, Sara, Sue and Bill with the Maori's


We experienced a traditional Maori cultural performance, which told the story of The Far North.  The performance only lasted about 15 minutes but was a nice start to the day.  The performers were happy to pose for photos after.  The men were encouraged to take up the similar stance.   We got back in the bus for the 72 mile journey north.  The bus driver was very amusing and told us lots of stories about the area, he pointed out a side road named Cemetery road, underneath it was another sign  – no exit.  The driver thought this was very amusing. 


Rarawa beach


Our first stop was half way along the road where we stopped at Rarawa beach to marvel at the white silica sands of the beautiful bay.  The pure quartz sand was dazzling.  As we approached the little town of Waitiki the driver was busy telling us of the famous ice cream shop there but he apologised that we couldn’t stop because only the Wednesday tour stopped there.  We were all instructed to wave nicely as we drove past because he didn’t want the shopkeeper upset, as we weren’t stopping today.  Like idiots we did as he said whilst wishing we were stopping.  Of course he pulled into the car park with a hearty laugh saying he couldn’t do that to us…. we all enjoyed our ice creams.

Ancient Kahika tree

At the very end of the road lies Cape Reinga, legendary departing place of Maori spirits. A place of intense cultural and spiritual significance to Maori.  We alighted from the bus and began to descend the path to the lighthouse.  The rocky point jutting out to sea is Te Reinga, the place where the spirits enter the underworld.  Clinging to the rock is the ancient Kahika tree named Te Aroha.  It is said the spirits descend to the water on steps formed by the tree’s roots.  They then continue on their journey to Hawaiki, their spiritual resting place.  I hope you can spot the tree in the photo. 



The meeting point

“The meeting point of Te Rerenga Wairua (cape Reinga) marks the separation of the Tasman sea from the Pacific ocean.  For Maori these turbulent waters are where the male sea, Te Moana Tapokopoko a Tawhaki, meets the female sea, Te Tai O Whitirela.  The whirlpools where the currents clash are like those that dance in the wake of a waka (canoe).  They represent the coming together of male and female – and the creation of life.”  As it was such a clear day it was possible to see the two seas coming together as they were slightly different colours.



Cape Reinga lighthouse

We were so lucky to have such a beautiful day the views were stunning.  We walked the windy path right down to the lighthouse.











We’re a long way from home

This sign next to the lighthouse shows we are a long way from home.






Bill and Sue with Cape Maria von Dieman behind them


Cape Maria von Dieman

Cape Maria van Diemen was named by Abel Tasman in honour of the Goverernor of Batavia’s wife and was the site of New Zealand’s first lighthouse.  In 1941 the lighthouse was moved to Cape Reinga.  The beautiful white sand beach looked magnificent. 



We had an hour to explore the area then made our way back to the bus for the short journey to the picnic site at Tapotupotu Bay where the bus driver laid out our lunch.  Sandwiches, biscuits and drinks were included in the price.  There was time to explore the beach, which had lovely rock pools at one end, before getting back on the bus. 

Sue on the beach at Tapotupotu


Climbing the sand dunes

We travelled back down on the same road for about 10 miles before turning off towards the Te Paki sand dunes.  We were met with an incredible sight of 60ft high sand dunes.  The driver issued us with toboggans and, after a short instruction of use, said, “Follow me.”  Climbing the sand dunes was like wading through treacle; you needed to take a dozen paces forward to get one pace up.  It was one of the hardest things either Bill or I had attempted.  We congratulated ourselves that we were the only ‘older’ members of the bus to try it, except for Norman but he’s very fit so doesn’t count!  Eventually I made it to the top, the driver sat me down and told me to hold on and keep my feet up and gave me a good push. 

and tobogganing back down again

I came hurterling down at an alarming pace.  I was almost at the bottom when I was worried I wasn’t going to stop so put my foot down …… I was absolutely showered in sand, it was every where – hair, ears, bra, knickers, mouth, I decided not to attempt the climb a second time!  Bill managed to get up a bit quicker than me but also found it very difficult, he also made the same mistake as me and put his feet down.  We didn’t want to end up in the stream at the bottom.  When every one had had their fun the driver performed his party piece. He ran and jumped onto a boogie board face down and hurtled down the sand dune, across the stream, right down to the door of the bus amid cheers from his audience.



One of the coaches being pulled out of the quicksand

The Te Paki stream flows past the sand dunes through to 90 mile beach providing a path for the buses to drive through.  Throughout the day the driver had been warning us that the stream is drying up and quicksand patches are forming that the buses were getting struck in.  He assured us this wouldn’t be a problem because there were several big guys on the bus that day and he had little spades for the rest of us!  After the tobogganing we all got back on the bus to drive through the stream that the driver said needed to be driven fast.  We came around the corner and did indeed find one of the buses stuck.  The driver went to see what was happening then got back on the bus and told us to hang on tight.  We thought he was joking again but he meant it.  He turned the bus round and drove back a few hundred yards then turned again, he picked up speed and must have been doing 40-50mph when he hit the quicksand area.  The bus slowed right down but he kept going and we got through.  There were about 5 other buses that all did the same thing.  They then tied all their towropes together to pull the bus that was stuck out of the quicksand. 

Driving along 90 mile beach (one of the other coaches)

Once all the buses were through we drove onto 90 mile beach.  It’s actually only 56 miles or 90kms long and we drove along about 40 miles of it.  It was an amazing journey.  The sand was as flat as a motorway but a lot wider.  The driver drove fairly fast slowing only for the few shallow fresh water streams that crossed the beach.



Walking on 90 mile beach

  We stopped briefly to walk on the beach and dip our feet in the Tasman sea.  Eventually the bus drove up a ramp back onto the road.  We stopped at a service station that had a very clever bus wash to wash underneath the coaches to clear away the seawater.

Sarah was waiting there to give us a lift back to Mangonui.  We had had a fantastic day in the far far North.  The next day we left the harbour and headed south to Auckland for Christmas.

Bill and Sue on 90 mile beach

Heading North to Mangonui Harbour

Colonial buildings line the waterfront at Russell

On 22ndNovember we finally left Opua.  Our friends Norman and Sara on Norsa arrived at the weekend and joined us on our journey north.  We didn’t go very far – only 3 miles up the harbour in fact.  We stopped at the delightful little town of Russell, New Zealand’s first European development.  It was once known as ‘the hell hole of the Pacific’ in the days when lawless whalers came into violent contact with local Maori but it’s now a quiet hamlet full of historic buildings and fascinating stories. 

Strange sign

We walked around the pretty village in the sunshine and bought a delicious ice cream.  This strange sign was attached to one of the buildings.

Camomile anchored in Waiwhapuku bay


The next day we sailed around to Moturua Island and anchored in Waiwhapuku bay (these Maori names are so difficult to pronounce).  We went ashore to walk around the island.  There are many well-marked walks in NZ maintained by the Department of Conservation (D.O.C.). We walked up and down the paths, each bend giving another stunning view of the Bay of Islands and the views from the top were spectacular. 

Fabulous views across the Bay of Islands



A starfish on the beach



Part of the walk was across a beach which had beautiful shells and a few starfish strewn around.





Camomile and Norsa anchored at Mangonui harbourin the crook of the tree

We spent the next few days making our way north to Mangonui harbour.  We anchored with Norsa beside the local boats.  Mangonui is famous for its fish and chip shop, advertised as ‘The Best Fish and Chip shop in NZ’.  We went ashore to sample its cuisine. It was indeed very nice fish and chips but I’m not sure if it was the best in NZ but I suppose the advert worked because it encouraged us to try it.


Bill looking across the valley

On the Sunday morning I thought it would be a good idea to walk up to the Rangikapiti Pa, an ancient Maori fortified village.  We found the path and walked up to the top of the hill.  On reaching the top we were rewarded with a fabulous view of the harbour and surrounding village.




View across the water towards the Rangikapiti Pa


Our position on 27th November

34º59.23 south

173º31.90 east

Our third week in Opua at the All Points rally

Bill got to meet Bob McDavitt

Our third week in Opua was taken up by the events of the All Points rally.  There was a good selection of seminars and evening events.  Bill got to meet Bob McDavitt, the self-appointed weather guru for the South Pacific.  We’ve used him three times now for our passages to and from New Zealand and found his voyage forecasts to be spookily accurate. 


Prize giving night

On the last evening, Saturday, there was a pork roast followed by prize giving when all the prizes John and Lyn have begged, borrowed or stole are given out.  Every boat present gets a prize.  We won a $200 dollar voucher for something we couldn’t use but managed to sell it for $100 to someone who could – result. 



Bill helping on the bar

Bill and I offered to help serve the food but Bill ended up on the bar – talk about putting the fox in charge of the chickens!! 






Sally and Sue resting after serving Roast Pork and trimming to several 100 people

Our second week in Opua

Monday 7th November, today would have been my Dad’s 80th birthday.  I wonder what he would have thought of our journey, I’m sure he’s watching from wherever he is.  In the morning I went to the town of Pahia on the Yachtie Shuttle.  It’s the main town of the Bay of Islands and full of hotels and B&Bs.  I managed to find a hairdressing salon for a much needed haircut before I walked up to the Countdown supermarket (very similar to Sainsburys) to do the shopping.  It’s difficult to adjust to the thought that it’s no longer necessary to buy huge quantities of basic food items.  In the islands if we found the local shop had onions or carrots or other such supplies we bought large quantities not knowing when we would see it next.  The shuttle picked us up from the supermarket and I spent the rest of the day finding homes for all my purchases.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent sewing.  The stitching on the dinghy cover has suffered badly from the UV light.  Many of the seams were coming undone because the cotton was rotten.  I spent all day re-stitching every single seam.  The mainsail stack pack bag got caught in the reefing lines and ripped on our way to NZ so we had to take off the main sail before we could strip it off and then the reverse to put it back on again.  Another day gone.

Beautiful Bay of Islands

 Thursday, with most of the jobs completed or parts ordered, we packed up and left the marina.  It was good to get out into the Bay of Islands.  It’s still spring here and a little on the chilly side but the air is so fresh.  We sailed north to the Te Puna inlet and anchored north of the Keri Keri peninsular alongside Forteleza, an ICA rally boat.  We have our full aft cover up at the moment and sat listening to the kiwis (feathered kind) calling to each other during the evening.

Our position on Friday 11th November

35º11.3 South

174º02.6 East

We got up early on Friday morning and dinghyed around the peninsular to Doves Bay marina where David keeps SeaEsta.  My adopted grand daughter Eva saw us coming and was running around the deck calling us.  As she’s just learning to talk she pronounces our names as “Shue and Bwill”; she’s so sweet.   David very kindly drove us back to Keri Keri to meet his parents then lent us his car for two days, the kiwis are kind like that.  We were able to get so much done, new duvets from the Warehouse, gas bottles filled, Bill’s computer sorted out and more shopping.

Alpacas at the show

Saturday was the day of the Waimate North show.  Having enjoyed it last year we decided to go again, it’s a cross between a fete and an agricultural show, and a kiwi institution.  We picked up Kerri and Tony from Forteleza and motored around the headland in the dinghy again, jumped into David’s car  and headed out to the show.  We were going to join David at his house and all go to the show together but he had an infected foot so couldn’t come with us.  The first thing we saw were the Alpacas, they were gorgeous and so soft. 

One kiwi and his dog

There was a sheepdog display showing how they round up the sheep, something they have plenty of in NZ, as well as equestrian events.  There were several marquees displaying local food items to eat or take home with you, several of which we enjoyed for lunch. 

Beautiful display of roses

The centrepiece of the show was the display of local handicrafts, flowers, vegetables and the children’s crafts.  The perfume from the flowers as you entered the room was glorious. 

'Mothers day treats'

The workmanship displayed was brilliant, especially the children’s exhibits.  

Local children displaying their cows

We spent most of the day looking around the showground and bumped into quite a few cruisers who had also made it there; it made us feel like a local. 

We had a lazy Sunday morning before lifting the anchor and heading back to Opua for the start of the All Points Rally, a land based rally of seminars and entertainment organised by John and Lyn of the ICA for the boats just arriving in NZ.  A marquee had been erected for the main events and while sitting down registering I felt a tap on my shoulder.  When I turned round our good friends Norman and Sara from the yacht Norsa were standing there.  Past BWR participants, they have spent the last year in the UK while Norsa was in NZ but were now back on Norsa to join us cruise NZ and also to sail back to Fiji together next year, it was a wonderful surprise to see them. 

The rally got off to a good start with a Pot Luck supper that evening.

Our first week in Opua, NZ

Our first week here has been very busy.  We were checked in by customs fairly quickly on the Monday but didn’t go ashore.  We had a few chats on the pontoon with fellow sailors but then went to bed.

On Tuesday Bill hosed down the cockpit and the cushions, which were all covered in salt and we put the winter cockpit cover up.  Bill was going to hose the decks down but it started raining so the rain did the job for us.  We went for a wander familiarising ourselves with Opua.  It’s so nice to be able to walk into a chandler and buy what we need for the boat. 

Some fellow ralliers

The last rally event was in the evening, a ‘Hi and Bye’ party.  John borrowed the local yacht club for a Pot luck supper.  We all took a dish of food to be shared; it was amazing the variety of dishes that turned up. It was sad saying goodbye to many of the friends we’ve made in the islands but we’ll probably see some of them again further down the country.

On the Wednesday we had a lovely chat with James who was celebrating his 28th birthday with Gemma in Scotland.  Later that day we were lent a car by David on SeaEsta (the kiwis are so generous like that) so we went into Keri Keri to sort out our Vodafone dongle so we can have internet access, buy a top up for our NZ phone, resurrect the NZ bank account and do some food shopping.  It was wonderful to walk into a supermarket and buy all the things that were unavailable in the islands.  I stocked up on veggies, fruit, whole grain bread, fresh milk and bacon, to name but a few, and of course strawberries and sweeties.  I even bought a magazine.  Quite a few boats left later that day but we met up with a dozen or so of the cruisers left in the Yacht club for a meal.

Thursday the sun was out so I hit the launderette.  All the lockers were stuffed with washing because there weren’t any launderettes in Noumea plus we had a leak in the forepeak and seawater got into Bill’s t-shirt locker during the passage soaking everything so they needed rewashing.  Bill spent the day removing 3 stanchions and the Hydrovane, the foresail has gone off to the sail makers for repair and also the dinghy has gone away to be re-glued.

Friday Bill put the new stanchions on and re-assembled the Hydrovane after having had the shaft straightened.  More boats left today but we enjoyed Happy Hour in the YC meeting new cruisers that have come down from the islands.  The good thing about Opua is that it’s a terrific meeting place and we’ve discovered cruisers here that we haven’t seen for ages.  Each day new boats turn up on the quarantine dock and we discover that we’ve met some of them before but it’s always hard to remember where.

Saturday was Gloria from the American boat Pincoya’s 60th birthday.  We first met Gloria and Gene in Opua last year and we’ve been with them on and off through the islands so it was good to share in her big day.  They invited quite a few people to cocktails and nibbles on Pincoya followed by a barbeque on the pontoon.  Kerrie from Forteleza made some delicious puddings and I made her a chocolate birthday cake.  As it was the 5th November we all wandered down to the YC to watch the fireworks, yes, they have Guy Fawkes Night in NZ.

Opua marina full of cruising boats

Sunday was sad because David on SeaEsta left with little Eva but I’m sure we’ll see them again.  We had a lazy morning but later Bob and Elaine from the British boat Pipistrelle came for tea – more excuses for chatting!

Noumea to NZ days 7 & 8

Sunday 30th October

Our position at 6.00 this morning

32 58.0 south

172 16.7 east

137 miles covered in the last 24 hours


Sunday morning and we usually have something special for breakfast so I made pancakes, that cheered us both up.  Bill discovered a leak in the forward cabin today and all his t-shirts in the lockers are soaked.  It’s not surprising I think Camomile thinks she’s turned into a submarine!  We’ve sailed for the last 36 hours but we are being pulled south west by the current again.  We haven’t come across tides/currents like this since we left the English Channel.  It’s difficult enough trying to keep as high on the wind as possible but when the current starts up it pulls the bow south making it impossible to stay on course.  The wind was promised to go north of East today, which would help but it’s been promised before and not arrived.  We continued to sail until 3.30 this afternoon but as soon as the current started pulling us we started the motor to try and make some easting.  It seems crazy because the wind generator and solar panels are charging the batteries and we have plenty of wind to sail but we are motor sailing, it’s very frustrating.  The danger as we get nearer NZ is that there are some shallow areas near the top of north Island which have some nasty overfalls and rough seas so we don’t want to get mixed up with those.  The wind is rising again and we are starting to get 25kts+, which isn’t making the passage any smoother.  I think we are in for a bumpy night; at least the new moon is out now.  Sea temp now down to 14C and the air temp is 20C.


Monday 31st October

Our position at 6.00 this morning

34 31.2 south

173 39.8 east

122 miles covered in the last 24 hours


King Neptune saved the best for last, neither Bill or I got any sleep last night.  The wind was howling, the waves were pounding on the side of the boat and we were being thrown around all over the place; to make matters worse the wind went round to the south east in the night.   We both managed to nap for a couple of hours each this morning. There are 2 reefs in the main again and a scrap of genny as we continue to motor as close to the wind as we can but as it strengthens it’s becoming really difficult.  I think this passage will go down in our top 10 of the most difficult passages.  A 900 mile beat close hauled isn’t funny.  The engine was off for a couple of hours but as we got closer to NZ we couldn’t afford to drift off course so it was on just to keep us into the wind.  Land was sighted at 9am this morning, which was a hugh relief.  We continued sailing down to the Bay of Islands where we are checking into customs.  As the sea got shallower the chop got shorter which was uncomfortable for an hour or so.

Rounding the Nine Pins rock

At 2pm we rounded the Nine pins rock at the entrance to the BOI and had the best sailing of the trip when we were finally upright with a nice beam reach up into the bay. 




Tall ship sailing in the Bay of Islands


2 hours later we landed on the quarantine dock at Opua.  WE ARE HERE


Bill raising our hand made NZ courtesy flag on Quarantine dock

We had covered 919 miles in 175 hours giving us an average of 5.25kts per hour, which is surprising considering how slow we were traveling a lot of the time.






1st November

35 18.7 south

174 07.3 east

Opua marina, Bay of Islands, NZ

So we are in NZ, we have so many jobs to do.  I’ve got shopping, washing, mend the dinghy cover, washing, mend the sail bag, update the website and more washing.

Bill has a mini refit planned including replacing the rigging that wasn’t replaced last year, the genny needs repairing, replacing some of the stanchions, the fridge needs further work or replacing, the Hydrovane has got to come off because the shaft is bent, having the dinghy fixed (the tubes are coming away from the transom), replacing the bearings in the wind generator, the top gearbox on the steering needs attention to name but a few.  Hopefully we’ll see something of North island as well.

The weather isn’t too bad here, it’s a bit cloudy at times but at 21C it isn’t too cold.

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