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NORTHLAND AND BAY OF ISLANDS                                                    

PASSAGE AND ARRIVAL IN OPUA

Our passage from Tonga to New Zealand was very fast and fairly boisterous. We made it from Nieafu to Opua in a record 7 1/2 days, averaging 160 mile days and a boat speed of 7 knots. It was a much better passage than I had anticipated although it was rough. We managed to sail the entire way and never used our engine at all. In fact, we were going too fast to make water because the watermaker would just suck in too much air.

The first night out, in very rough seas, our engine would not start. Gord shorted it out and started it manually but the batteries would not charge. We need batteries for navigation lights, instruments, radar, radio, VHF and to make water and even to light the stove. Ralph on Ocean Girl, still in the anchorage in Vava'u gave Gord advice on how to rewire the generator to bypass the regulator. That seemed to  work okay so we continued on. Then the rope for our roller furling broke in 25 knots of wind so we couldn't bring in the sail.  Maajhi-Re was close enough that he sailed over to us and threw a spare rope on a float into the water and we were able to pick it up, although I got soaked on the bow (that was bouncing up and down 10 feet...good for the ol' sea sickness) as Gord manoeuvred the boat so I could hook the float and bring it aboard. Good timing, as we had not been in sight of another boat before or since the episode.

As we passed Minerva Reef I couldn't help thinking of our friends that we met in Crescent City who unintentionally left their boat on a reef, so we gave it a really wide berth. We did not stop there because we were riding the high pressure zone and wanted to get to our destination before a low formed underneath it.

During the passage Gord was net control for the radio net that we held between us to update our positions and weather/sea conditions. It was good that we were able to stay in touch with all the boats, although we didn't see each other during the passage. Ascension and Maajhi-Re were out in the front of the fleet so we didn't get some of the extreme weather that Mag Mel and others behind us saw (winds to 50 knots).

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Arrival in OPUA

 

November 5

We sighted the land of the Bay of Islands at dawn. We had to slow down to time our entrance into the Bay for daylight. We were tied up at the customs dock by 7 am and there were a large number of other boats also waiting to check in before we arrived.

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The Bay into Opua is very pretty and there are hundreds of boats moored in the area.

Check In
Check in was a relatively easy operation and we found the officials friendly and efficient. We only had to relinquish fresh produce like garlic, ginger and onions along with the remains of my powdered milk. We did not have any of the prohibited food items on board. My UHT Milk was checked for country of origin, which was New Zealand. However, we had to surrender our bear mace to customs as the possession of it in New Zealand is against the law.

After the officialdom, we were directed into our slip at the Opua Marina and marvelled in the fact that we had water, toilets, showers, internet and laundry facilities at our disposal.

The first evening after check in to Opua, we met friends at the Opua Yacht Club for a Fish 'n Chip Dinner. It seems that in New Zealand, Fish & Chips are as common as the hamburger is back home.

Pahia

We took a shuttle to the pretty little town of Pahia, which is a favourite tourist spot for locals during the holidays. We were delighted that the ATM finally gave us money as we hadn't found one that worked for our Canadian account since Mexico. We checked out the grocery store and found prices to be much higher than we anticipated with Papayas that we had just been purchasing for 50 cents costing $4 each in New Zealand! 

Whangarei

November 9
Since we needed to make arrangements for moorage during the next 6 months, we rented a car with Bob & Becky (Stardust) to make a trip to Whangarei to compare the marinas there. We also all wanted to attend a car auction to get a feel for the prices of used cars as it was our plan to purchase one soon.

It was a beautiful 2 1/2 hour drive to Whangarei and when we got there we met up with numerous other cruisers and all had lunch together at the Marina.  We chose to book a slip at Riverside Marina, about 15 minutes walk from the Town Basin. 

November 10
Our Anniversary!!
Unfortunately, we both forgot until after supper when we were getting ready to help MJ celebrate her birthday at the Opua Yacht Club. Oh well, we made it a joint Anniversary-Birthday celebration.

Kerikeri

The following morning, Donna (Ocean Girl), Becky (Stardust), Holly (Tanacity), Ellen (Gypsy Wind), KT (Billabong) and myself rented a van and went on a girl's outing to Kerikeri. We did some Christmas shopping, but mostly window shopping as we found prices to be very high. Nevertheless we had a great time.

November 12
Just got word via email that brother Norm and Marianne are coming to visit us. We are so excited to have our first visitors come stay with us and it will be wonderful to see family after all this time. It also gives me a good reason to clear out the aft cabin, rearrange the boat and get rid of some stuff.

It has been raining here constantly and blowing the dog off the chain so we have been staying on the boat doing cleanup and boat projects. We are starting to get cabin fever and hope this isn't typical New Zealand weather. We have had our heater on at night because it is so cold! It was the first day of summer here a few days ago, so hopefully there will be a warm up soon.

Now that I've had a chance to check out the grocery stores (called markets here) I discovered that there are things here you cannot get. No such thing as instant  just add water Aunt Jamima pancake mix (or Bisquik). Also they do not have coffee as we know it. When you order coffee, it's a short black or a long black, meaning one shot or two. I am still on my last can of coffee from Papette so have not had to venture into the coffee isle at the store yet. When you order French Fries (called "chips" here) you never get ketchup (called tomato sauce)...you have to ask for it and a little cup costs 30 cents. Fish and Chips are the most popular item here, like our hamburger back home. Must be the English influence. Also, our old standby, Carnation Instant Breakfast is unheard of here, as is canned chicken (canned tuna is very expensive).

And everything is backwards! Maybe because we are in the southern hemisphere everything is in mirror image. Of course, you drive on the left hand side of the road and the steering wheels in cars are on the left hand side. But light switches flip down to turn on and up to turn off. Hot and Cold on the water taps are reversed, and the water drains opposite to what we are used to. Even the navigation marks are reversed (we had to rename the saying of red, right returning to ...Red, Right, wReck!)

VISIT WITH NORM AND MARIANNE

November 15
Norm and Marianne are due to fly into Kerikeri and are scheduled to arrive this evening.

However, their flight went so smoothly that they arrived several hours early and surprised me as I came onto the boat. It was a very happy reunion and we had lots to catch up on. 

We all had a great visit but because of jet lag and the time change, we made an early night of it.

November 16

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 Pahia

There is a great walk from Opua to Pahia that follows the ocean and takes about 2 1/2 hours. The trail leads through the bush, over a mangrove swamp, along rocks and sandy shores with lots of beautiful vantage points and gorgeous views of the Bay.

So Marianne, Norm, ourselves and Marv and Donna set out to hike to town. Once there we took a look around town and stopped for a beverage along the waterfront. Then we took a shuttle back to Opua 

 

ALL PHOTOS OF OPUA

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Bay of Islands-20_edited.jpg (162049 bytes)Along the trail to Pahia one discovers all kinds of various eco systems from tropical to bushland, to swamp to beaches. Bay of Islands-23_edited.jpg (170145 bytes)

 

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Sail on the Schooner

The SS Tucker Thompson is a vintage style schooner that sails tourists around the Bay of Islands daily at a cost of $100 each person.

Since it is docked in Opua, the Skipper kindly offers to give cruisers a ride to Russel where he picks up his passengers. So we all took the opportunity and had a really fun time, everyone getting a turn at the helm and Donna even climbing up the mast to help flake the sails.

SAIL ON THE  
SS TUCKER THOMPSON SCHOONER
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Visit to Russel

In Russel, we explored the town and then took several hikes. One was to the top of Flagstaff Hill where we were rewarded with magnificent views of the Bay of Islands.

Then we hiked to Long Beach and collected shells along the shore.

VISIT TO HISTORIC TOWN OF RUSSEL

ALL PHOTOS OF OUR SAIL TO RUSSEL

FIRST NEW ZEALAND ROAD TRIP

We decided to rent a car and go touring the Northern part of the Island

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Giant Kauri Forest
2000 year old Kauri trees

Taurunga Bay sand seemed to extend foreverBeautiful Views 
in every direction
Doubtless Bay
Spectacular views
Ninety Mile Beach-
speed limit 100 km/ hour!

 

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Sand Dunes

Fabulous sandy dunes border the Tasman Sea at Ninety Mile Beach

Stairs built inside Kauri Tree at the Kauri Store where pricey items can exercise your wallet. 

Kawati Glow
Worm Caves

 limestone formations with tiny worms glowing like the Milky Way.

Bush Walk-
Great  trek through the native ferns and overhanging rock precipices from the caves

Kawakawa Toilets

Built in 1997 by Austrian artist Hundertwasser,  uneven patchwork use of coloured tiles.

ALL PHOTOS OF OUR ROAD TRIP NORTH

BAY OF ISLANDS

Sail to Urapukapuka Paradise Bay

November 19

It was a beautiful day so we decided to sail to Paradise Bay on Urapukapuka Island, about a 3 hours sail away. The breeze was gentle so we had a relaxing sail on smooth seas. Donna and Marv on Endless met us at the anchorage.

The following morning, we took the dinghy ashore and went for a walk around the island. Unfortunately, Gord did not join us as he was suffering the results of having too good a time the night before.

Our hike proved to be rather ambitious with the steep terrain but we were rewarded with the most fantastic views of the surrounding Bay of Islands. One side of Urapukapuka was beautiful sandy beaches; the other side, just the opposite with craggy sheer vertical cliffs dropping down to the unrelenting pounding of the surf.

We stopped on top of a hillside for lunch, enjoying the surrounding scenery. Below are just some of the highlights of the "tramping" we did. 

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Marianne & Donna
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Reaching the beach

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The climbing was steep...

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but the views were worth it!
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Overlooking the anchorage...
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from very high up on the bluff.

 

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Taking a break
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Norm admires the view
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The Bay of Islands
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Lunchtime

ALL PHOTOS FROM PARADISE BAY

November 22
After breakfast the following morning we sailed back to Opua because Norm and Marianne had to fly home (boo hoo!). We have so much enjoyed the time we spent together.

Driving to Auckland

Since there was a potential issue of flight connections from Kerikeri, we decided to rent a car and drive directly to Auckland. Since the flight left in the early morning, we thought we could get a hotel and take the opportunity to see Auckland a bit.

We had an interesting drive to Auckland but we were not prepared for the price they were asking for motel rooms. We searched the area around the airport, enquiring about discount rates at numerous places. Finally we found rooms that offered a considerable discount as the rooms normally rented for $200/night.

The rooms turned out to seem below standard and we found people in Auckland to have a totally different attitude than we had been experiencing in the more rural parts of the country. Since restaurant price were so high, we opted for Take-Away burgers and beer and wine purchased from the grocery store which we enjoyed on the rickety picnic table behind our rooms.

Auckland.jpg (862766 bytes)Overnight in Auckland

Here we are with looks of dismay as to our accommodations.

But the experience was great for me. I got to enjoy TWO baths. It had been something I had wished for for over a year!!!

We said our goodbyes that evening and when we awoke the following morning they were already in the air.

We took the opportunity to rent the car for another day and check out some dealerships, car auctions and other marinas in the area. We attended an auto auction in Whangarei on the way home but didn't find a car that suited us.


Finding Norman Greenbomb

The following morning, we returned the rental car and found out that they had a car for sale. We took a look at it, drove it, and bought it. A 1993 Honda Vigor for $2500(NZ...about $2350 Cnd). Too bad we didn't do that BEFORE we rented a car! We even made arrangements to have the car delivered to Whangarei.

 

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