Whangaroa Wanderings

Earlier in the year, I decided to head up for Whangaroa Harbour, having not been there since I brought Fantail up from Nelson. So on 15th February, I slipped my mooring and sailed out of Matauwhi Bay in the lightest of SE airs. I wasn’t quite sure whether to head for the Cavalli Is, which lie about half way between the Bay of Islands, or head straight for Whangaroa and decided just to see how things went.

Sailing up the bay, I decided to pass between Ninepin Island and the mainland, which turned out to be a bit of an error, because there was a nasty jobble that threw us about and the wind was coming along the shore, so that we ended up very close-hauled. I put the motor on for a quarter of an hour to give us a lift and felt a bit better about it, when a 35+ft yacht under full sail, proved to have its engine on when it went past us. After that, it was a really nice sail all the way to the Cavalli Is, and when I started to go through the pass, which looks quite tricky on the chart, I found it quite straightforward.

By now, the afternoon was well advanced, so I decided to anchor for the night. We had a nice little beat into Horseshoe/Papatura Bay, which was a very pretty spot.

I sat and had a couple of drinks, watching the sun go down and then cooked some pasta for dinner.

It was a bit of a restless anchorage, a little breeze filling in from the south at about 0400 and waking me up. About 0830, I raised sail and we left the anchorage and were soon bowling along north again, in S F3, on a sparkling sea in bright sunshine. My ideal conditions!

However, when we came to Flat Island, we had to turn west to head toward Whangaroa and the wind died under the land. We were getting set well off course, so motorsailed for a while to clear Frenchman Rock. The coastline was very interesting, and for some reason, a short stretch of it reminded me of Nova Scotia, although, in fact, it could hardly be more different!

The wind came back and I sailed all the way into the harbour, whose entrance can be tricky to find in poor visibility, but stood out clearly on this bright sunny day.

Photo credit: “Brigadoon”

As I approached the anchorage in Rere Bay, the wind was all over the place and motored for the last mile. I anchored in a nice, shallow spot towards the head of the bay and celebrated our epic voyage and successful arrival with some bubbly. Astonishingly, I could get an Internet signal, so could check on weather forecasts when necessary.

I made myself a rather splendid curry and really enjoyed being in a new harbour: indeed, Whangaroa is so big that it’s actually a cruising ground in its own right. I decided to spend some time exploring, over the next week or so.

The next morning I had a visit from Jackie and Dave from Brigadoon, who had passed me when I was sailing in, and had some nice photos to pass on, I spent a bit of time on the keyboard, editing for the Junk Rig Association magazine and sat in the sun reading.

The next morning, another sunny day, I spent on the boat relaxing and enjoying myself. A couple of boats left, a couple of boats arrived. It’s at times like this that I realise how incredibly privileged I am to be able to live on my boat full time. When I arrive somewhere beautiful, like Whangaroa, I can sit in the cockpit, admire the view, watch the birds and stay as long as I like. Other people have taken a week or two out of their busy lives to spend time on their boat, and feel the need to make every day count, as well as having always to keep an eye on the weather, so that they have allowed themselves time to get back to base. Admittedly, the knowledge that I can nearly always put off until tomorrow what I don’t fancy doing today, has turned me into a mistress of procrastination. But I am a happy procrastinator!

After my sundowner, I made a lovely dinner of rice and wild rice, red pepper, onion, tomato, kale and green beans. Slowly cooking and savouring my meals is one of my great delights in life.

Saturday was another sunny day, flight calm with a flawless blue sky. In the morning, I enjoyed looking through some of the boats on the online boat show run by Offcenter Harbor. Needless to say, I had entered FanShi for the show, which was hardly overburdened with junks!

A couple came bay asking if FanShi was Zebedee. (Zebedee is 8ft longer, black and white, has two masts and black sails. But maybe one junk rig looks very much like another.) I explained that we were a different outfit, but that I know Zebedee well and we parted on the best of terms.

I then – finally – took myself ashore to try the rather daunting ascent of the Duke’s Nose, a flat area atop a nearby cliff, which I assume to be a basalt column, but don’t quote me on it.

I had last made the effort some 15 years ago, with someone who could give me a hand if necessary. I wasn’t sure if this old-age pensioner was up to it!

To my astonishment, I succeeded! The ropes that I remembered, to help you up the last steep part of the climb, had been replaced with a steel rail, which I reckon probably made things easier, although I did think that perhaps sandals hadn’t been the best choice of footwear.

It was well worth the effort and there were fantastic views from the top.

I went back down and took a further path along the harbour for some way, but it wasn’t sufficiently tempting for me to go for very long, so I turned back and recovered Fantan from the beach and rowed back ashore.

I was very hot and sweaty after the walk, so I bunged up the cockpit drains with a couple of champagne corks (exactly the right size!) and filled it with seawater. It made for a delightful bath after which I felt wondrously clean.

Then I had a leisurely read, made mung and kidney bean curry and enjoyed another pleasant evening, feeling virtuously tired.

Published by junksailor

I have been living on small boats since the mid 70s. For many years I was an ocean voyager, but since 2012, I have been on my own and based in New Zealand. Unable to find my 'perfect boat', I decided to build it, and between September 2015 and January 2021, worked full time on building FanShi. (You can read about this at www.anniehill.blogspot.com) I am now happily living afloat again and pottering around Northland, with the occasional daring foray to Auckland.

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