Back in New Zealand

At the moment we are anchored in Karaka Bay, Port Abercrombie, off the ruggedly beautiful Great Barrier Island, about 55 nautical miles from Auckland. Adam and Eric, my visiting Yank crew, are off diving for scallies (scallops) and crayfish (lobster) so I have a bit of time to myself to do some writing. I have, as we say, been “caught in the drift” since returning to New Zealand from our little cruise in early November, so many of you have not heard from the Moonshadow since we made landfall in the City of Sails. Since our return, I have been busy catching up on boat work from the 4,000 mile circumnavigation of the South Pacific, a bit of yacht racing, watching the Louis Vuitton Cup (the challenge series of the America’s Cup), and doing all the things one does when they return to a big city after nearly five months in the boonies.

The Coastal Classic

A week after we returned to Auckland was the start of the Coastal Classic, the biggest coastal race in New Zealand. With a moslty Kiwi moo-crew, Moonshadow completed the 120 mile race from Auckland to Russell, in the gorgeous Bay of Islands, in approximately 20 hours. We placed fifth in the cruising division of twelve boats, and probably much higher in the fun department. Becalmed in the wee hours of morning, we resorted to a few Irish coffees, professionally made by Mary and David O’Connor (Irish, of course) and broke out the disco ball and did some dancing on deck to keep up our spirits and body heat. Something like 200 boats participated in the race, and the party at the Duke of Marlborough pub in Russell the next evening was in typical Kiwi style-out of control. We stayed and cruised the lovely Bay of Islands for a week afterwards and enjoyed lots of hikes and sightseeing with cruising friends the Sunstones, Total Devotions and Touche M’dears in the quiet aftermath of the race.

Great Barrier Island

Since approximately one in three households in New Zealand has some sort of boat, and the national sport here is sailing, coming out to one of the many close but unspoiled islands in the Hauraki Gulf, Bay of Islands or Coramandel Peninsula is simply what Aucklanders do for the Holiday season. It is summer here, the weather is warm, the fishing is awesome, the islands offer all sorts of recreational opportunities, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a week or two in this part of the world. At least two dozen friends are out here on boats as well, so it seems that nearly every night a party breaks out. Yesterday, friends Adam, Cate, Eric and I started out on what was to be a two hour round trip hike to one of the Kauri dams. These dams were built to hold back water which was then released to wash felled Kauri trees down to the ocean for transport elsewhere. We made through the thick native bush (rain forest) it to the first Kauri dam and then got a bit more ambitious. Being a lovely, temperate, partly cloudy day, we decided to go for glory and climb all the way to the top of Mount Hobson, the highest point on the island. An hour and a half and thousands of stair steps later, we had reached the 2000+ foot summit, and were rewarded with a view of nearly 100 miles in each direction. From the white sand beaches on the east side of Great Barrier to the beautiful bays to the west, the Coromandel Peninsula, Auckland, Kaiarara Bay where Moonshadow lay at anchor, Little Barrier Island, we had some real treats for our eyes. Five hours from our start, back at the boat we had a beer to celebrate our physical accomplishment. I’ve attatched a photo taken with my new digital camera at the top of Mount Hobson. Moonshadow was anchored in the bay in the foreground between Eric and Adam on the left and Cate and I on the right.

America’s Cup

Part of the reason we are in New Zealand again is to sit out the South Pacific cyclone season. It just so happens that there is another little gig going on here call the America’s Cup. One of my dreams since I started sailing was to check out an America’s Cup so when this one crossed my intended course I locked on and returned once again to the City of Sails to get up close and personal with the ultimate of sailing events.

This little regatta is the biggest sporting event ever to be held in New Zealand. And being the sporting and sailing minded city that it is, Auckland has risen to the occasion like no other city in the 150 year history of the Auld Mug. The city has turned a fishing boat basin similar to San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf into what is called the “New Zealand America’s Cup Village.” What was once a run down and unsightly part of town has been transformed into a purpose built venue for the event and a hub of activity. In addition to the twelve sailing syndicate’s compounds, there are at least 20 new restaurants and night spots, shops, condominiums, a yacht club, media center, concert stage, and berthing for the largest fleet of superyachts in the southern hemisphere. On any given day of the week, thousands of tourists and locals alike come down to “the Village” to check out the action. There is non-stop entertainment for all. Everything from television monitors to view the racing action, to live music, gawking at all the visiting megayachts, sstreet performers and face painters for the children. All of this is just a few blocks from the central business district of Auckland, and the marina where Moonshadow is berthed for the season.

Anyone who thinks that the America’s Cup is just a yacht race is missing the boat.
Yes, there is the yacht racing part, but A-Cup is big business. It is estimated that the direct impact of each of the eleven foreign syndicates on the New Zealand economy will be US $25 to $50 million, not to mention the impact of tens of thousands of visiting spectators. In addition to the money, there is also the politics, personalities, power and glamour of the event. That part is a story in itself, and the city is buzzing with it. Suffice it to say that when you look at some of the megayachts in the Village, you will see the who’s who of the world well represented. 

Christmas in Auckland

Auckland is a festive city and Christmas time just turns the fun meter up a few more notches. Christmas is not nearly as commercial as in the States, so it seems people are much less stressed about the whole thing. Trees, lights and decorations are not a big thing. Get togethers with family, friends and co-workers are. We caught the annual “Christmas in the Park” show at the Auckland Domain. This is a free live concert of all sorts of Christmas music. Everyone brings a blanket and some bevvies and enjoys an evening of music and socializing under the stars. At the end of the evening there was a spectacular laser light show and fireworks display, much like we Yanks might experience for the fourth of July. 

I spent Christmas eve and day attending a nearly endless array of parties, breakfasts, lunches and dinners, catching up with both cruising friends and Kiwi friends. The weather was a bit cool, so we missed out on any sort of beach party. Bugger!!

Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, is the day of Auckland’s biggest social event of the year, the Auckland Cup horse race. The racetrack at Ellerslie is transformed to one huge fashion show/party. Occasionally, the spectacle is distracted briefly by a bunch of little guys in funny looking, brightly colored outfits riding around on horses. It didn’t bother us too much as we spent a lovely summer afternoon sipping fine Kiwi wines, eating beautifully prepared foods and rubbing shoulders with lots of friends and other beautiful people.

New Year’s Eve

We have no plans and we’re stickin ‘ to ’em. It is likely that we will either remain here at Great Barrier and have some sort of beach party or go back to Auckland and anchor out someplace where we can watch the huge fireworks display they have planned.

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