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Of fridges and Auckland views from a volcanic rim

Camomile is somewhere among this sea of yachts in Westhaven marina

Our position on 4th January 2012

36˚50.1 south

174˚47.0 east

It had been great fun though a little crowed living 6 up on Camomile for 2 weeks while Kate, Barry, Will & Daisy stayed with us over Christmas but the time came for them to fly back home to Christchurch with what I sensed was some ambivalence. They looked forward to sleeping in a proper bed that you could get into from both sides and didn’t have to pack up in the morning, a shower which wasn’t preceded by a trek to find it and a toilet that flushed without blocking. On the other hand it had been a welcome break from the continuing earthquake aftershocks which now count 10,000.

Camomile dried out

So it was that, after bidding them all a fond farewell atAuckland’s Westhaven Marina, life returned to reality and it was time to re stock the boat after the visit of the gannets and start on the boat job list for a few days. This time it was the ancientWesterlyfridge which had been merrily sucking the batteries dry ever since we first entered the tropics. I had decided to water cool it but this involved drilling an epic size hole in the bottom of the hull and doing some fancy plumbing work. We (Norman from Norsa and I) put her up on her yacht legs and, as soon as the tide was out far enough, cut  the hole and gummed a new seacock in place. It was then just a question of waiting for the tide to come in and hoping that nothing leaked.

The remodeled fridge

The wait was long and tense but all was well until Sue pointed out that with a new super efficient compressor I could now afford to remove some of the dummy insulation I had used to reduce the fridge box’s volume. This was an irritatingly accurate insight and is one that can only come from someone who has lived with an engineer for over 30 years as it is done in a fashion which overlooks that the stripping out and reforming the inside of a fiberglass lined fridge is a very unpleasant experience both for the engineer who itches fiberglass for days afterwards but also for anyone within earshot who is assaulted by the necessity of this sort of tasks requirement to be cursed into submission.

Job list slightly slimmed we now had to turn to slim ourselves because somehow we needed to pay for all the lbs the clotted cream and booze had distributed around our waists over our Christmas and New Year with our Christchurch tribe on board with us.

Our last view of Auckland waterfront

Some walking seemed in order so we set off on the short sail across the bay towards the broad, squat profile of Rangitoto and rounded into Islington bay on the Eastern side of the island, a popular sheltered anchorage with good holding, dropping the hook for an overnight stay.

Walking across the lava fields

The following morning we set off on the 4 hour return walk up the 850ft summit and back. From the sea the island had the look of any other island hereabouts, green and verdant albeit that this one has that distinctive cone shape across its 5.5 km girth. As we trudged along the track it soon revealed it’s true nature as the scrubby, low brush and trees could be seen to be clinging to widening areas of unforgiving bare jagged black clinker lava flows. Rangitoto is Maori for ‘Bloody Sky’ and that this is named by the local Iwi (tribe) is a reminder that the ground was hot and moving a mere 600 years ago. And it is big. The 2.3 cubic kilometers of material which erupted from the volcano was about equal to the combined mass produced by all the previous eruptions in the Auckland Volcanic Field, which were spread over more than 250,000 years. Happily this volcano is not expected to become active again, although future eruptions are likely within the volcanic field is a source of some understandable preoccupation by Aucklanders.

View of the crater

As we approached the summit the flows disappeared to be replaced with ash soil, loose and piled up on such an angle as to make the climb difficult and dangerous. The Department of Conservation has built a wooden walkway cum staircase however which makes the final assent feasible and pleasant as it winds around the base of the summit revealing tantalizing glimpses of the surrounding islands and sea.

Arriving at the rim there is a viewing point where you can observe the crater which, due to lingering volcanic gasses only became covered in foliage in the last 100 years as they finally dispersed.


At last the summit gave up it’s superb 360 degree views of the area with Auckland in the distance and the added interest that it formed a defense battery spotting and command centre during WWII (though it happily saw no action). Well worth the climb! Subsidence back down the throat during the cooling process has left a classic rim around the crater summit where a path has been formed allowing us to circumnavigate it as we began our decent back to the anchorage. Feeling as if we might have burned a couple of calories we arrived back at the small wharf in the gathering dusk and met a lady who was on holiday in a friend’s bache (a small holiday house). She told us how some of these were built around the island’s edge in the 1920s and 1930s but were later banned as the island become a scenic reserve though apparently some 30 of the original 140 baches remain and are preserved to show how the island used to be. People really find paradise in the most improbable places don’t they?

View from the top

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