A Week in the Bay of Islands

One of the most difficult aspects of passaging for me is falling into a regular sleep routine. I never get all the sleep I want underway, but after a few days, I seem to get just what I need. The passage from New Caledonia to New Zealand was relatively easy, so I fell into a pattern after a couple of days. Now that we are back on land, I still find myself waking for my 0300 to 0600 watch! But, I suppose, 0500 is a good time to do a bit of writing as nothing is open and it’s too early to start on any boat work.

We hung out for five days in Opua, up in New Zealand’s lovely Bay of Islands. It was nice to relax a bit after the passage before returning to friends, family, boat projects and city life, all awaiting us in Auckland. We also were waiting for favorable weather for the 130-mile trip down the East Coast of the North Island.

Graham, Cate and I took the opportunity to tidy up Moonshadow, play “tourist” in the Bay of Islands and stretch our legs a bit.

In need of some groceries, NZ currency and exercise, we took a five-mile walk from the marina at Opua to Paihia, the largest town in the Bay of Islands and its center for tourism. The easy walk along the foreshore takes one though a variety of scenery including rain forest, rocky shoreline, shell-covered beaches and a mangrove swamp. Arriving before the high tourist season, we found Paihia to be rather relaxed and quiet-a perfect way to ease ourselves back into civilization. After our walk, we were reminded at lunch of how wonderfully creative, yet simple and tasty New Zealand cuisine can be. We followed up with a good read of the newspaper and magazines over cappuccino in one of the local cafes.

We were invited to the Opua Cruising Club, so popped in for some socializing and dinner after their mid-week yacht race. The members were friendly and lively, and put on a great steak dinner. The tab for three excellent steak dinners, lots of salad and fries, and a couple rounds of drinks from the bar was about US$ 29 and, of course they take VISA. Yes, I’m pleased to report, the greenback is still strong against the “South Pacific Peso.”

We organized a taxi to take us to Waitangi, which is the site of the signing of the treaty bearing its name between the Queen of England and the indigenous Maori Chiefs, establishing New Zealand as a British colony. The reserve, or park, is lush and green, and beautifully landscaped and maintained. On the site are the original governor’s cottage (now a museum), a structure containing three very large Maori war canoes, a spectacularly carved Maori meeting house, and, of course a cool little café serving excellent food.

After a few hours of checking out Waitangi, we set out for another little walk, this time up to Haruru Falls. This hike took us through forest and mangrove swamp along an estuary and up the Waitangi River to the falls. Just before our walk, there was a very heavy shower, turning the five-mile hike to a squishy, slippery puddle jump. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful walk on a cool day.

The weather improved so we made plans to sail for Auckland on Saturday afternoon. Just a few hours before our departure, Tom and Vicky Jackson on Sunstone arrived from their rough passage from Queensland, Australia. We caught up with them for a couple of hours before setting sail.

The trip south was quite easy. Winds were out of the north and northwest at mostly less than ten knots, so we motor sailed the whole way, arriving in Auckland just after sunrise on Sunday. This gave us time to scrub down, tidy up and get settled before catching up with our Auckland family and friends.

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