Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Beautiful Bay of Islands ….. December 2016

05 – 10 December:  Russell & Matauwhi Bay – 35 18S 174 07W

After the Bubbles Settled

The celebrations continued for a few days as more and more yachts arrived into Opua.  This was the light at the end of the tunnel for many boats after a long long passage across the vast Pacific Ocean.  We spent a week in the Bay of Islands Marina washing layers of salt off the outside, cleaning and sorting out the inside of Balvenie.  Laundry was done (ah the joys of washing machines) sim cards were activated, Wi-Fi connections made to reconnect with the world.  Then came the task of restocking the lockers with all our old kiwi favourites and undertaking taste tests to find new ones.  We were back “in the land of stuff”, and didn't our wallets know it.

Historic Russell, Hellhole of the Pacific!

We left the marina after a week and headed off 4 miles back out the Veronica Channel to Russell, gosh I like these little short hops!

This has always been a favourite spot for us to visit, although this was the first time we had arrived on our own boat.  Russell was settled long before Captain Cook arrived in 1769 and thrived as a provisioning stopover, mainly for whaling ships.  It expanded quickly in the early 1800’s and for a time became known as the Hellhole of the Pacific, it once had the most public houses (pubs) in NZ and was the countries first capital.

The restored historic Duke of Marlborough Hotel has prime position on the waterfront and was issued the first hotel license in New Zealand in 1840.  When the whaling ships left and the capital was relocated to Auckland things quietened down considerably.  Most visitors arrive now as day-trippers by ferry from nearby Paihia and discover a charming compact sleepy seaside town with handsome historic buildings lining the bay.    
We enjoyed a few nights anchored outside the moored boats, the ferry wash during the day does get a little annoying but tolerable, if you want to take a mooring call Russell Radio on VHF63 and they will allocate you one if there is anything available, they take payment too.

New to the Blog ……..  

Worthwhile Walks

 We are keen on keeping fit and jumping off the back of Balvenie for a swim and snorkel just isn’t an option until the water warms up considerably.  So for now we will enjoy walking, both for exercise, spotting birdlife and seeing the countryside.  Now that we are home we will share worthwhile walks we enjoy and try to give a few directions so if you want to follow in our footsteps you wont get (too) lost.  Warning though, we do like hills and we walk fast.  The DOC signs I refer to are the yellow and green Department of Conservation ones, they normally indicate times of walks and level of fitness required, sometimes they have a map.

From Russell Wharf to Tapeka Pa via Maiki Hill Flagstaff (3hrs – shorter options detailed, good hills) 

From Russell Wharf turn left along the waterfront, past the Duke of Marlborough along road.  Turn right at junction before car park then left straight away and follow the road up the steep hill.  (If you just want to go to the Flagstaff take this road to end then footpath through bush).  On the left there is a marked DOC bush track on the left off the road, it is detailed as alternative route to the Flagstaff, take this downhill to the T junction.  (You can go left here back to Russell only at Low tide).  Turn right up the hill to the road.  Continue up road, another marked track on your left offers a side trip down to a small beach about 10-15mins return. 
Back on road another 100 metres on right is track up to Flagstaff.  Lovely view, also short track across to Sundial up here, in between these two in the car park is track on right which takes you back to original steep road and Russell.   

To continue to Tapeka Pa retrace steps from Flagstaff down short track to road and turn right then left along main road.  Take care, there is no footpath but it is not a busy road.  Along here a way on the right is a marked private track open to the public, it goes down through the bush and there is a boardwalk through wetlands, it re-joins the road just before Tapeka settlement.  This is a small coastal village with no shops.  Follow road to right then around to left then there is a DOC track sign on left at top of road, some uphilling then levels off, this takes you out to the end of the peninsula for a wonderful view of the islands.  Return same way to Tapeka settlement.  From there is a low tide only walk back to Russell along rocks, we were there at low tide but the track wasn't obvious to us so we  returned via the road to Russell.

Here Comes Summer!!

Saturday, 10 December 2016

We Have Circumnavigated the World ~ Opua ….. November 2016

25 Nov -  04 Dec 2016:  Bay of Islands Marina, Opua ~ 38 18S 174 07E

We Are Back in New ZealandPB261813

In the early hours of the 25th of November, under the cover of total darkness Balvenie motored the final few miles into the Bay of Islands. We navigated our way up Veronica Passage and at 02.30am nudged up to the Customs and Quarantine Dock in Opua. (Huge thanks to Conrad on Ruby Danger and Eric and Cathy on Erica for staying up and helping us tie up.) 

We had sailed around the world and were back in New Zealand, we looked at each other in amazement, we had done it, we had really done it.


Yellow flags flying, the Customs & Quarantine Dock is full

PB261815Let The Parties Being

The adrenaline was flowing, as was the rum.  There was little sleep to be had as yacht after yacht arrived during the early hours of the morning and into the day.  Each new arrival joined in the party atmosphere on the dock, all were relieved to have their last big passage of a very long journey across the Pacific finally behind them. The long trip south to New Zealand from the tropics can never be taken lightly.  

The NZ Customs & Quarantine staff did an excellent job of processing us all in a timely manner, considering they had a cruise ship in port too.  They were professional, friendly and welcoming – a great introduction to New Zealand for all our foreign friends.PC031829

20161203_173318We headed into the Bay of Islands Marina for a week to treat ourselves.

The Island Cruising Associations’ All Points Rally festivities were in their final days and we managed to take part in some of the events. It was a very social time and wonderful to have a central focus for us to regroup, say hellos and goodbyes before we all start going separate ways over summer.P1100233


The Balvenie Celebration Party

The numbers for our Welcome Home/Circumnavigation/Magellan Netters/Pacific Crossers party just kept on swelling, I truly thought everyone would be partied out, but no, they came out in force to celebrate – we filled the Opua Yacht Club with nearly 100 happy cruisers. 

My brother-in-law Robert drove up from Auckland (Denise my sister was overseas), Martha and Bryce off Silver Fern (retired cruisers who completed their circumnavigation last year) and with whom we spent many an anchorage on our journey drove cross country, and some of this years cruisers who were already down in Whangarei came up for the occasion too,PB261817 it was a very special fun evening.

The Magellan Net Awards

To add some light hearted fun to the evening we hosted the first and probably the only ever Magellan Net  Awards.  The HF/ SSB Radio on a sailing vessel would have to be one of the most important pieces of equipment onboard.  For us it has been our lifeline for communicating almost everyday when at sea or in remote anchorages for the last 12 years.  It is the offshore cruisers version of Facebook for keeping in touch with cruising friends.

PB261819We have participated in a cruisers net ever since we left Auckland in 2004.  We have “met” hundreds of cruisers over the radio, a handful we never met in person, but most we did and many have become lasting friends.

In Portugal during the summer of 2011 we started up the Magellan Net (nickname Magnet) with friends Andrew and Clare on Eye Candy (still in French Polynesia) for all of us that were sailing across the Atlantic Ocean that season. By November 2011 we had over 30 boats checking in regularly to the net.P1100230 

The boats have changed over the years but the Magnet stood the test of time.  It underwent a necessary split earlier this year, the Poly Magnet stayed in French Polynesia with Eye Candy and helpers keeping it going, the Magnet kept heading west and now south – last week we still had over 20 boats calling in daily, we along with several other net controllers have brought it home to New Zealand and we will try to keep it running while cruising over summer. 

P1100208And So To The Awards

Prizes of a Bottle of New Zealand Wine or Bags of Chocolate fish went to:

Most Entrepreneurial Mini Magneters ~ “Pizza on the Reef” Team (best read the Minerva blog if you don’t know about them), Noah & Ferne on Jade, Horatio & Noah on Enough, Alice, Felix & Tiffen on Kalon and Zara on Aislado.  All under 10year olds!

Most Amazing Mum ~ Michelle on Jade for having 8 mini magnetters making pizza dough in her galleyP1100219

Longest Time Between Checking In and Us Meeting Them ~ Jeanette & Neil on Echo Echo who first checked in while in the Bahamas and we met them finally in Tahiti .  Jeanette also received an honouree award for sounding the most distressed (her version is sea sickness) but she never gave up!

Checked In on the Most Different Boats ~ Bill & Gene on Out of the Bag who also did 2 deliveries while Magnetters on Blue Dream and Kiwi Beanz – crazy or what?P1100215

Best Radio Signal in the Fleet ~ Went to Eye Candy but as they are still in French Polynesia unfortunately they missed out - Omweg gladly took 2nd place and drunk the wine on their behalf, cheers from Ilona & Frans!P1100228

Most Speeding Infringements & Most Exotic Destination ~ Russell, Greer & Family on the catamaran Tika were the only yacht to go to Norfolk Island as well as reporting the fastest boat speed in the fleet doing nearly 19 knots one morning.  Out of the Bag lodged a late protest claiming higher speeds.  Too late, bad luck!

Fastest Mono This Season ~ Couldn’t quite win this ourselves, and we did try.  Well done Jeff, Miriam & boys on Enough (they are longer than us so we reluctantly conceded to them)

Most Patient Magnetter ~ Single-hander P1100202Garry on Freedom Song seemed to spend a good part of the season bobbing around waiting for wind or waiting for the wind to change direction so he could sail.  Then some of these guys wonder why they are single handing!

Most Improvement Checking In ~ Charlie, crewing on Sahula got thrown into checking in one morning and was totally unprepared and well, it was a shambles.  After a little guidance she was spot on in future and was chuffed with her wine for getting it all wrong first time!P1100241

Most Concise Checking In ~ Lanny on Swiftsure missed out as they have headed north to the Marshalls for Cyclone Season (told them not to) but Verner on Windance III was very happy to receive a Pinot Noir for 2nd and enjoyed every drop

Lifetime Achievement Award As Longest Serving Magnetter ~ Tony on Tactical Directions has been with us on the Magnet since it started as he popped out of the Med and headed for Morocco in 2011.PC031831  Actually we first heard Tony on the ‘Sheila Net’ as we all headed north up the eastern Australian coast way back in 2005, he is also our longest cruising friend still out here with us!!  

For those of you that read this and haven’t cruised, it will be hard for you to understand how big a part of our circumnavigation our cruisers nets have been along the way.PC051851  For those of you that are cruisers, well - you know.

We are a small transient community, the Magnet (and all the other earlier models – Namba, Sheila, Over the Top, Sandeq, Turkey Shoot & Dragnet) have been our lifelines.

Thanks to all of you that have shared these times with us as we sailed around the world, we couldn’t have done it without you.

The Circumnavigation May Have Ended But The Memories & Friendships Will Last Forever