Last week Tintin was loaded onto the deck of the ship that will bring her home from Auckland to Southampton. Minervagracht will be heading east-about via Tahiti, the Panama Canal and Fort Lauderdale. The journey will take about 45 days, AGWWP*. This phrase is a new one to us. The shipping company, Seven Stars, use it at the end of all their emails regarding dates. Due to the pandemic the shipping date has changed from mid March to late May. It's great news that Tintin is now underway and we hope to see her in Southampton in late June.
* All going well weather permitting.
We are both back home, in the nick of time it feels. Spring is on it's way and today's blue skies and sunshine feel just what the country needs after an unprecedented few days, with more unknowns to come.
We and the family are well, and we are thankful for a wonderful time in NZ.
We have just arrived at Auckland's Bayswater Marina.
Tintin will remain here until early April when she is moved across the harbour to the port and loaded onto the deck of the ship that will bring her home.
17,000 nautical miles are on the log since leaving Salcombe in August 2018.
Tintin has done really well. And the crew are in good shape too. It's with mixed feelings that we start to tidy up and prepare her for shipping. We're really looking forward to going home, but sad to end this adventure.
Down the west coast of the Coromandel peninsula we have been visited by bottlenose dolphins, blue penguins, and thousands of shearwaters. I have never seen such big dolphins and honestly am not sure I would want to swim with these ones! There are more seabirds here than we have seen since the Gulf of Panama, and evidently there is a plentiful supply of fish for them.
We are heading west now towards Auckland, anchored off Waiheke island tonight, and a last get together with Mango and Cabana before we head our different ways.
We waved a sad goodbye to James and Katherine who left us yesterday to start their journey home. It has been great to have them on board with us as we've explored some of Northland's beautiful coast.
The first leg of their journey was a prop plane ride from Great Barrier Island to Auckland. The strong easterly winds were abating as they flew. Katherine got a seat next to the pilot and sent an aerial photo back to us- Tintin is the smudge in the V shaped bay below the nose of the plane.
Here in Kaiaraara Bay we've made friends with a fearless duck who came visiting. Yesterday evening we were joined on board by friends from Mango and Cabana, 2 other World ARC boats who are also sheltering here on Gt Barrier Island.
And soon after they arrived, so did the duck. He peered through the windows from the deck, looking really sad to be missing out on all the fun.
Great Barrier Island is providing us with good shelter from brisk easterly winds. Last night was windy, and at 4:30am today we were all up trying to get the attention of a neighbouring yacht moving backwards at quite a pace due to a dragging anchor. Foghorn and flashing searchlight did the trick.
It's grey and rainy so we have got on with the list of re-shipping boat jobs, best one being a good old bilge clean out!
Over the next few days we'll make our way to Auckland via the Coromandel Peninsula and Waiheke Island.
Imagine being the skipper of Tintin, lying in your bunk at night. You're already paranoid about electrolytic ion exchange robbing you of your aluminium hull so you've foregone copper anti fouling and regularly check your sacrificial anodes.
Now you hear a new crackling sound from beneath the hull. Whether in the marina or in a remote island anchorage, there it is again, every night, rather like the crackle of rice crispies or continuous unwrapping presents at Christmas.
Unhelpfully your crew members remark how loud it is and suggest it might be the sound of the hull dissolving.
It turns out, much to Rob's relief, that the noise comes not from the dissolving hull but from colonies of pistol shrimp. The pistol shrimp is remarkable for stunning its prey by firing a jet of water from its pistol claw at 110 kph, so fast that the pressure behind the jet drops low enough to vaporize the water behind it creating a gas bubble. As that bubble implodes it releases energy in the form of a light flash and a crack of some 200 decibels. They also use imploding bubbles of gaseous water to talk to each other, hence the continuous crackling.
Mystery solved - Rob and crew happy. Here's a fun podcast which better explains what's going on and how the US Navy used the shrimps for camouflage:
Today we enjoyed a great 35 mile sail up to Whangaroa Harbour, a fjord-like remote anchorage which feels pretty Norwegian with the pale grey light, cloud and rain we have had today. Great news for this part of the country to have rain at last. Yesterday in Russell we saw tankers of drinking water making deliveries around the township, and as we left Opua this morning a helicopter was scooping buckets of water from the sea to quench bushfires on the cliff.
The Duke's nose is a well recognised rocky outcrop on the cliff above this anchorage (see photo); we will see if we can scramble up there tomorrow.
Later tomorrow we plan to weigh anchor, set for Great Barrier Island 110 miles to the southeast, near Auckland. The spirit of Steve Withers must be with us, because we had following winds all the way up this coast and the forecast is for them to turn from the north tomorrow as we plan to sail south. We will do it in one hop overnight so we can be snug in harbour there before brisk easterly winds arrive on Thursday.
We have spent the weekend exploring the beautiful Bay of Islands. Yesterday we were joined on board by friends of James (fellow cyclist of Le Loupe, Tom Zink, and his wife Jolene) who live close by. They appeared to enjoy the day trip on board Tintin and we loved their company. Together we explored Moturua island, where we saw a kiwi having a drink (they are nocturnal birds but the drought here has brought them out in the day to dishes of water put out for them by the Dept of Conservation volunteers). We sailed round a few islands in the afternoon's sea breeze and as we turned a corner we saw a catamaran ahead of us, none other than Cabana, a boat we had sailed with last year and had last seen in Fiji. The evening we spent with Bobbie, George and Troy catching up, eating rock oysters gathered by George in aptly named Paradise Bay.
Over the weekend we have come across 6 other boats that we have previously met along our journey from Salcombe to NZ. Cyclone season in the Pacific islands is November to April so many boats sail down the NZ. Happy reunions!
Today the girls ( Jo and Katherine) explored the lovely old town of Russell while the boys took Tintin up to Opua Marina and did the laundry and shopping. 👍👍
This secret blissful anchorage opens up as you enter a very unpromising wild rocky bay a few miles south of the formidable looking Cape Brett.
Exploring ashore, the climb gave us a view over the ridge to the west into the Bay of Islands, our next destination. As we walked through the bush there were areas sweet with the smell of honey. All along the path we heard cicadas, with the occasional tuneful call of the bell bird. A fantail said hello before dipping away.
A very good day will now be called a Whangamumu day
Mitchell, of Nomad Campervans, made time to drive all 4 of us up to Whangarei to rejoin Tintin this morning after we delivered Bailey back to him. It was hugely kind of him.
The forecast is set fair, so after a few jobs tomorrow we will set off for our cruise of NE coast of the North island, heading up to the Bay of Islands first before turning south to finish in Auckland mid March.
En route back to Auckland we diverted to Waiuku where Rob spent a few months in 1983 working on development of the Glenbrook steel plant. It is still in action, as a steel mill. On down to Waiuku's beach on the west coast, which has the blackest sand I've ever seen. It's another of NZ's beaches stretching as far as the eye can see both ways
This campsite between Wellington and Lake Taupo in the N island deserves it's own blog entry. 17km from the main road, the council maintained campsite next to a river in a gorge was one of our favourites.
Sadly even the electronic specialist garage in Blenheim couldn't sort Bailey's problem, but Jim of the Auto super shoppe was kind enough to lend us their courtesy car for the afternoon. So we went to see an exhibition of Peter Jackson's collection of WW1 aeroplanes...and explored the countryside. See how brown the hills are. Drought conditions exist on the east coast which hasn't had rain to speak of since October, while the west coast suffers floods and landslides due to too much.
So Bailey was no better but no worse, brake lights do work but only when the key isn't in the ignition! A problem that can wait until Auckland.
We headed up to Picton and had a fun evening meeting Nicki Murray's friend Lynne, who had spent a week on Tintin with Nicki in New Caledonia last year, after we had headed back to UK.
We started the day sharing our breakfast with 2 great Dutch girls camping next to us, who had run out of food. They had walked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing yesterday but finished too late to get to a supermarket...Their smiles were huge when they joined us for bacon and eggs.
We headed up to Whakapapa to walk, and noticed interesting clouds en route...a prize from Rob to anyone who knows the name
Mt Ruapehu was hidden in cloud but we had a great walk up on the shoulders of the mountain to see lakes in volcanic craters
Between Nelson and Havelock in the Marlborough Sounds there is a turn off signposted to French Pass.
A very twisty road has brought us part of the way, to Elaine Bay, situated amidst the inlets and islands of this archipelago. Facing east, it gave us some protection last night from the prevailing weather, although it was a wild and wet night. As Rob said, at least no worries about the anchor dragging.
Just off the coast at Kaikora the sea floor drops into the Kaikoura canyon. A meeting of nutirent rich waters from the far south meets warmer tropical currents and results in an endless buffet for sea life, ranging from giant squid in the dark depths to fish, krill and plankton higher up. A large part of Kairkoura's economy is supported by visitors coming to swim with seals, and to watch dolphins and whales - from the air in little planes or by boat. James and Katherine (Heath) has stopped at Kaikoura on their way south (we had missed it by driving the Molesworth staion road) and had taken the opportunity to go whalewatching. Hearing their stories drove me to convince Rob to take Kaikoura in on our way north, while the Heaths remained on the west coast. We arranged to meet up again at the Abel Tasman National Park in the NW of S Island in a few days.
We weren't to be disappointed.
Out at sea over the Kaikora canyon, a sperm whale had surfaced just as we arrived. Their pattern of behaviour is to dive after a deep breath for around 50 mins, searching for prey with sonar then "machine gunning" the prey with 230 decibel sonar waves to stun it, then swallow it whole. Then the whale returns to the surface to breathe and relax for about 10 mins before diving again. They need to eat about a tonne of food a day. Everything about sperm whales appears to be awesome (a word used a LOT here in NZ!) from their 60x1Kg teeth to their 2.5 tonnes of spermicetti oil carried in their forehead to help them control their bouyancy (by varying its temperature and therefore its density).
We sat about 50m away from this enormous creature as it floated and blew from its spout for a while. Then it arched its back ever so slightly and up came the fluke (its tail) to provide us with the perfect photo op.
And to completely make my day, Rob spotted a big bird that came right up to us and landed on the water nearby. It was an albatross, with a huge wingspan and such apparently effortless gliding and soaring. Other birds appeared, terns having a dogfight with an arctic skua who wanted their catch for lunch, petrels and 2 other sorts of albatross - a Mollyhawk and the others I will have to look up to identifiy.