Wednesday, December 17, 2014

First month in NZ

I've been in New Zealand for over a month now.  I like it here!

When I first arrived in NZ I was a few days ahead of a strong weather system, and after checking in and moving over onto a mooring, the wind blew and blew for a bit less than a week.  In that episode, I was experiencing winds of around mid 30 knots in strength, in Opua, which is a pretty well protected little bay.  Following these winds the weather has been generally very nice.  It warmed up and the sun came out which made enjoying the area that much easier.

I arrived in Opua a few days before the start of the All Points Rally, which is a free rally offered to all yachts leaving from anywhere and arriving in Opua.  There were probably something like 50 cruising yachts in the area during the rally, and it was a fun, social time.  The local businesses sponsored many BBQ nights, there were seminars on various topics ranging from polishing your diesel to which of the local kiwi candies are the best.  It was a fun time and I encourage anybody who is planning on arriving in NZ to attend, there is really no downside - its all good!

After spending two weeks in Opua I wanted to get out to start exploring the local anchorages.  Opua is in an area called The Bay of Islands, which is one of the premier cruising areas in NZ.  I've only been to a few of the anchorages now, but it is a beautiful, easy area and I think I'll be here for several months, at least.  At the start of my exploration of the area I was pretty well provisioned, not to the standards I would have done for a long passage but I had quite a lot of food onboard.  After 10 days I had eaten my last onion, I had no more wraps left, my peppers were long gone and I was down to a couple carrots - so it was time to return to civilization and buy some food.  There are two local towns used for provisioning, Pahia and Russell.  As I went past them toward Opua I decided to keep on moving as it was rolly at both locations and I had grown to like being able to be in a calm anchorage, so I continued on to Opua and anchored toward the back of the fleet.  I spent a couple of days in Opua, ordering some parts, visiting with some folks and buying a few onions.  A couple of days later the forecast was for variable 5 knots of wind, followed by NE 15 and stronger the following day, so I moved along to Pahia, three miles away, and made three trips to shore buying food.  I managed to spend over $500 in those three trips, one of the dangers of being close to civilization after having spent some time in the wilderness...

After my second run into town buying food I decided to update my weather forecast.  The NZ Met service was now announcing a Gale warning, with the wind in my area increasing to 35 knots by the evening.  It was time to finish my time at Pahia and move along to somewhere with some weather protection.  Pahia has a good BBQ restaurant, and Indian, a Pizza and craft beer place - all of which I was hoping to sample before leaving, but with gale force winds arriving, it was time to move along.

The distances in the Bay of Islands are never very great, and 6 miles away was a little harbor which is a popular place to hang out in a gale.  I arrived at around 5pm and anchored in light winds.  By that evening the wind was blowing and the Met service called the following 6 days perfectly.  The following day the winds were to go light and then switch around to the S and SE, so I moved across the bay in light wind to get a little more protection.  Then there were 4 days of 35 gusting 45, 40 gusting 50 and so on, with almost constant rain.  The winds may have been that strength in open water, but with my surrounding protection I mostly saw winds in the low 20's with gusts up to low 30's.  I've been boat bound for 6 days now.  Yesterday evening the winds fell off, as forecast, and today the winds are much lighter and the sun has peeked out.  I'll move along to find some more hiking tomorrow as I have plenty of food left and I need to start working on my fitness again - there are some good hiking trails in the islands, and I have another one I want to explore.

I start the pictures below on my trip between Tonga and New Zealand.

On my way to New Zealand from the Tropics
Could you ask for better conditions in which to tow a vessel?  Flat seas, no wind.   Perfect.
Luckness at the Opua Quarantine dock.  Large and easy.
Quarantine dock 'cleats'.  These were a bit of a surprise...
Some boats had a harder time 'out there' on the open ocean.
This is the second jib I've seen torn to shreds on this trip
As is somewhat typical of me, I didn't take a single photo during the two weeks I was in Opua attending all those seminars, BBQs and social events.  I resume the photos after leaving Opua, going to start exploring the Bay of Islands

Robertson Islands.  My first anchorage in the Bay of Islands

Robertson Island has a little hill, with a path leading from the shoreline to its top.  The first time I walk up the hill I was out of breath and my heart was pounding like it wanted to escape my body.  The second day I did the walk twice, and it felt a little better.  By the fourth day it was time to move along to find a longer walk.
Looking NW from the top of Robertson
Luckness at anchor
The view from my companionway, one calm day at Robertson
Cruising boats tend to arrive somewhere, anchor well, and then stay for at least a day.  Often we stay for many days at each anchorage.  The Locals seem to arrive, stay for a few hours and then move along to another anchorage which is often less than a mile away.  I woke in Robertson Island's anchorage alone one morning, and then over the day 15 boats arrived and had left by that evening, leaving my alone again overnight.  During the time when all the boats arrive, things can get a little crowded.  Also, many boats seem to simply throw an anchor out followed by some rode and 'call it good', without setting the anchor to know whether or not its going to hold.  I've started to relax when seeing this, as I know they will likely be gone in an hour or two.

I moved to Army bay after leaving Robertson Island.  Army bay is on an island which has a track (trail) which circumnavigates it.  The track is something like 7km with some up and down.  I built up to walking the trail twice a day before leaving.  Its really nice to be able to improve my fitness level a little.

My second anchorage: Army Bay.
A different perspective on the square rigger I had seen earlier at Robertson Island

Two boats, neither of which is Luckness, at anchor
Luckness at anchor, one fine morning.  Taken from s/y Sheer Tranquility
That's the end of the sailing photos.  I'll update the blog again when I've gathered some more photos, but probably not for a while.


I re-started my programming hobby while at Beveridge Reef and have been continuing with it ever since.  I'm currently working on what may become a suite of cruising related software.  The first piece of the puzzle I needed to solve was to create a base map widget so that I could provide geographical context to the other things I want to work on: weather, passage planning, position reporting, and other stuff.  Being holed up inside Luckness for 6 days straight, not being able to get to land due to the high winds and rain, provided a good opportunity to get some good software development in.  This is the best hobby ever...if you happen to be an introvert software developer.

Here are a few screen shots of my base map widget in action. I'll build on this with more pieces over time.  The widget scrolls and zooms smoothly, on my 2011 Macbook Pro.

The World
The Pacific Northwest
The base map doesn't have enough resolution to navigate by, which is ok, that isn't my goal.  When the next gale roars through, which likely won't be all that long of a wait, I'll be ready to get started on the next piece of the puzzle!