We were excited to get our next passage underway, as New Zealand had been a place we wanted to visit for many years. Careful attention to the weather was essential as the weather systems that come up the Tasman Sea and cross over New Zealand were going to be a bit different than the trade wind sailing we had gotten used to for the past few months. So on a good weather window for the start of our 1000 mile passage, we were on our way.....
The fishing remained excellent, keeping the crew well fed in mahi-mahi, tuna and Wahoo. (Pictured left is Steve, Elyse's brother who joined us on this leg, with one of the Wahoo we caught) We had good sailing for about the first 5-6 days, then the winds lightened and we had to motor sail the rest of the way. The trip overall was benign and we arrived at the Customs dock in Opua, Bay of Islands at 5AM on November 16th, 8.5 days after leaving Fiji.
Once daylight arrived, we could appreciate the beauty of New Zealand... the lush green vegetation, the surrounding mountains and the cooler crisp air. Although it was summer, it was much cooler than the tropics we had grown accustomed to. It reminded us of our home state of New Hampshire which we had left two years earlier.
As Steve only had a couple of more days before flying back to the States, we rented a car and did a quick tour of the North Island. We drove south through Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, down to National Park to see the snow covered volcanoes then back up via the Kauri Coast to see the oldest and largest living kauri tree, estimated to be about 2000 years old and standing 51.5 meters high!
After spending about 15 days in Opua, we made our way south to Whangarei. We had a reservation at Riverside Drive Marina & Boatyard which is up the Whangarei River near the Town Basin. This was a great laid back place to get all of our boat projects done as all the marine services are right on the premises. The town of Whangarei was a short walk away, and provided easy access to anything we needed. The marina was filled with transient cruisers, all waiting out cyclone season. Every Sunday evening the cruisers would gather for a BBQ which was a great time for comparing boat projects, and of course lots of sea stories.
During the five months we spent at Riverside, we got a lot of boat projects done. Some of those projects included new nonskid on the deck, a dodger for the companionway, a new boom which is three feet shorter which also required the mainsail to be recut, a "Doyle Stackpack" for the mainsail, new mount for the alternator, and last but not least, the new bottom paint.
We did manage to take a month off in February/March to tour the South Island. We bought a Toyota Minivan and temporarily converted it into a camper for our trip. We coordinated the start of our trip to be in Wellington while the Volvo Ocean race boats were in port preparing for their next leg which would take them through the Southern Ocean and around Cape Horn. We had a great viewing spot on the sea wall, as the boats left the harbor for the starting line. The next day, we took the Interislander Ferry across the Cook Strait to the town of Picton on the northern coast of the South Island.
As the weather forecast was going to be favorable, we decided to head towards the west coast first. Along the northern coast is the beautiful Marlborough Sound which is a boaters paradise, with numerous bays and coves scattered throughout. The winding Queen Charlotte Drive meanders up and down the mountains along the Sound with majestic views along the way. This was certainly one of our favorite spots in NZ so far....
The South Island caters to the tourist and the DOC campgrounds and Holiday Parks are very accommodating, the facilities very clean and the people very friendly. We stopped in Havelock which is the "Home of the Green tipped Muscles" then continued on to Nelson. We took Route 6 through Buller Gorge and on to Westport. It was here that we ran into our friends Bruce and Jody from "CaVa". Their itinerary was similar to ours, so we traveled together for about a week. We hiked the 4km trail from Cape Foulwind to Tauranga along the beautiful rocky coastline. Then continued south through Greymouth and stayed the night in Hokitika which is the "Jade Capital" of NZ. The next day it was on to the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. The farther south we headed, the colder it got -- down to about 30 degrees F some nights! Luckily most of the campgrounds had nice HOT showers! Continuing south, we stayed a few days at a campsite on Glendhu Bay on Lake Wanaka. It was very peaceful and a gorgeous spot on the lake. Our next stop was the bustling town of Queenstown, the "Outdoor Adventure Capital". From bungy jumping to jet boat rides on the narrow, tortuous Shotover River, there are numerous things to do to give your adrenalin a boost! Watching the bungy jumpers at the Kawarau Bridge was as close as we wanted to get... We then drove onto Glenorchy along Lake Wakatipu which is the third largest lake in NZ. Then, as the weather was still good, we went on to Milford Sound via Route 94 which was spectacular, and through the one way Homer Tunnel getting into Milford Sound late afternoon. We stayed at a camping area along the river which was beautiful. The next couple of days brought a SW gale with heavy rains, but it made for some magnificent waterfalls along the drive out of Milford Sound. Still in rain, wind and hail we made our way to Invercargill, then to Bluff for the famous Bluff oysters, but unfortunately we were a couple of weeks too early. Then on to Slope Point, which is the southernmost point on the South Island.
Continuing up the eastern coast, we stopped in Dunedin, the home of Cadbury chocolate and Speights beer, the Larnach Castle and the Royal Albatross colony at Taiaroa Head. Drove up Baldwin Street claimed to be the "steepest street in the world". We then headed back to Mt. Cook which is just spectacular. Camped at the Hooker Valley DOC campground with the peak of Mt. Cook looming in the distance. Making our way north, we stopped in Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island, to visit with friends Annette and her son Tim who we had met in Tonga. We had a fun evening catching up over dinner. The next day we continued on to the beautiful coastal town of Kaikoura.
Then on to Abel Tasman National Park, camping in Totaranui, and hiking the Highland Track to Anapai Bay which ended at a beautiful beach. It was now time to head back to Picton to catch the ferry back to the North Island. We explored Marlborough Sound a bit further, driving along Waikawa Road which at one point overlooks McCormick's Bay (pictured right).
We caught the 9am ferry and were back in Wellington by 1 PM. Drove until dark, camping in Pukeruru for the night, then up early the next am and back to Auckland to pick up our new boom, and back to Whangarei and the never ending boat projects. We had the boat hauled out of the water the end of March to strip off all the old bottom paint and reapply new. With the Iron Mistress reconditioned, it was time to make our way south to Auckland.
Elyse had a one year contract to work in the Coronary Care Unit of Auckland City Hospital, starting May 1st. It was a great opportunity to work in the socialized medical system and turned out to be very interesting. The CCU nurses were a wonderful group to work with and very welcoming. We stayed at Bayswater Marina on the North Shore, across the Waitemata Harbor from downtown Auckland. We enjoyed our year in "civilization", sampling the numerous restaurants, cafes and pubs in the Viaduct Harbor and bustling city of Auckland. Our extended stay also allowed us to explore the surrounding area of the North Island by car, as well as cruise to some of the numerous out-islands of the Hauraki Gulf -- Rangitoto, Waiheke, Kawau as well as Great Barrier Island -- during the summer months. The Auckland winter was cold, rainy and very windy, with numerous gales sweeping across from the Tasman Sea, making our diesel heater work overtime.
Well, it's amazing how fast a year can pass, and it was time to get back into cruising mode. With our car sold, boat provisioned and long good-byes to all our NZ friends, we day sailed up the beautiful coast of the North Island to the Bay of Islands, where we cruised for a week or so, catching up with cruising friends all waiting for a weather window to leave NZ. On April 23, 2007 we left New Zealand heading for New Caledonia......