The weather forecast looked grim: eight days of stormy 30 knot winds, gusting to 40 at times, with plenty of rain. None of the locals could fathom why we’d venture out in these conditions–it was clearly the weather for a book, a fireplace and a cozy duvet.
But we were crazy South Africans with maybe just this one opportunity to sail in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands. My parents had flown in from Brisbane, and we had been planning on this excursion for a while. Plus, sailing in storms sounded more fun than idling along in the doldrums!
Our trusty ride, the Mystique 4, a New Zealand-made Nolex 25. (Yes that means it’s a cosy 25 feet long!) Though not exactly a racer’s dream with her raisable keel and low-set jib, she handled heavy conditions surprisingly well
And so we tossed a week’s worth of supplies onto our little craft and lurched out of harbor. (Our sailing would become a bit more refined as the week wore on.)
Our trusty compass–not actually that useful since most navigation was by sight
We sailed every day but one, when we caved to an especially dismal weather report. Because we had nice strong winds and were mostly sheltered from heavy swell, we careened around the bay, skipping between half-empty anchorages–evidence of a collective raincheck by the local sailing population.
The scenic Robertson Island with its twin lagoons, where we took shelter after being pummeled by a large downpour
The walk up to the lookout point on Robertson Island is a must. Captain Cook made his first landing here and used this vantage point to survey the area
So what did we do for eight rainy days in our shoebox? Strangely, the time flew by. Between sailing endeavors, we read, drank copious amounts of tea, and played many a hotly-contested game of scrabble. My dad also pretended to fish, and regular landing parties were launched for the dual purposes of exploration and ablution. (Indeed, one of the senior shipmates frequently steered the team to her favorite spot in Otahei Bay for the latter!)
Angie takes the helm in her well-coordinated sailing attire. Note our makeshift washing lines
When we want land, we want land! Here we are grounded after an aggressive lunch anchorage. Luckily, just a good shove and we were free. One of the benefits of chartering a toy boat!
Cruising into an idyllic anchorage for the night at Army Bay
My dad “fishing”
The Bay of Islands is unusual in that they look exotic and wildly tropical, yet in the middle of nowhere you’ll run across a Kiwi batch (what they call a holiday home), accessible only by boat and tucked away in a jungle above a secluded beach. Many of them were not even that well taken care of! Clearly, coastal properties are a tad more attainable than in the US.
We also visited a few BBS (Bogon Breeding Site) sanctuaries, the most notable being Urupukapuka Bay where we witnessed some of the famed mating rituals taking place on a public beach.
A cruise ship whistles past as we re-enter the Pahia channel
Rowing to shore in our dinghy. We seemed to be the only ones without an outboard motor. Note the humble batch with this beach all to itself
Cooking up fresh scallops, which our generous neighbors dived for and delivered to us one morning
Rise and shine! Sun scorching your eyeballs! My mother shows off her Quantas business class pajamas (for people who travel business class)
My parents looking hardcore as we tack into a headwind
Chilling on deck. It’s a tough life, but someone’s got to live it!
Taking in a sunset from the cockpit
Not bad camouflage, eh? A baby oyster catcher scurries along the pebble beach
Chilling in Otahei bay
Taking a stroll above Otahei Bay
The sun finally came out on our last day, and we could actually swim!
After eight days out in the bay, we sailed in to port under grey skies, suddenly feeling the strangeness of having lived together in such a small, defined space. After docking and unloading, we set out for my aunt’s house in nearby Kerikeri. We all felt a touch of sadness for the simple life we were leaving behind, though it wasn’t long before thoughts turned to the creature comforts that awaited.
Hopefully this marks the first of many family sailing adventures. Thank you parents for making it happen!