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Monday, February 22, 2021

REFLECTING ON RAPPORT'S SUMMER CRUISE

This is an edited version of an article shortly to appear in Pacific PowerBoat magazine.

We set off after Boxing Day for a seven week cruise, our first stop being Motutapu Island at our favoured anchorage of Waikalabubu. We love that name – sounds very exotic. Here it’s very sheltered in south-westerlies and only minutes away from great fishing in the Rakino Channel.

After collecting Di’s sister, Sharon and her husband, Doug from Gulf Harbour marina we head to Mahurangi Harbour. The popular anchorage here is Otarawao Bay on the port side as you enter, but it’s often used by shore-based jet skiers breaking all the rules so we head a further mile up harbour to anchor off Oaua Point at the entrance to the Pukapuka Inlet. Here it’s more sheltered and quieter, the only sounds being the splashes of some large fish jumping.

Spending a few days around Kawau Island we enjoy good fishing on the island’s north-east coast around Fairchild Reef. In strong westerlies a good anchorage at Kawau is difficult to find, the best one being Harris Bay in Bon Accord Harbour if you tuck close to shore. But that’s generally crowded so we anchor at Goldsworthy Bay on the southern side of Kawau Bay finding excellent shelter and only two other boats for company. In northerlies our preference is the very picturesque Bostaquet Bay with its great sandy beach.

A visit to the Kawau Boating Club is a must with diesel and water at the wharf, basic provisions, laundry and shower facilities available and an excellent licensed cafe where we enjoy a perfect lunch of seafood chowder and smoked fish pie. In fact we like it so much we join the club.

Most of our time is spent at Aotea / Great Barrier Island and overall it’s hard to beat, providing a huge number of varied, safe and interesting anchorages and some great sandy beaches. It’s well supplied with fuel (although $1 per litre above mainland prices), water and stores and offers superb fishing. We regularly caught good feeds of snapper up to a 72cm, 7kg specimen that we returned to the sea and even caught legal snapper in five metres of water at one of our anchorages.

There must be a few crays around too as the skipper of a nearby boat gave us the rare treat of one to enjoy. We offered him a bottle of wine in return, but he preferred a loaf of bread, something we’ll be happy to trade for a cray any day.

The Barrier also has many great walking tracks taking you to scenic vantage points, hot mineral springs, kauri dams, waterfalls and the remains of a whaling station. If the arts are your thing you can visit the studios of several local talented painters and potters.

Our preferred Barrier anchorages are Kiwiriki (“Two-Island”) Bay and Wairahi (“Ghost”) Bay in Port Fitzroy, Nagle Cove and Karaka Bay (where laundry facilities are available at Orama Oasis) in Port Abercrombie, the Broken Islands in settled weather, Bowling Alley Bay in north-westerlies through to easterlies and Whangaparapara in easterlies or light westerlies.

Port Fitzroy’s Smokehouse Bay is very popular and it’s well worth going ashore to see the bath house, where you can also do some laundry, exchange books and most often chat with other boaties. Fresh water is available here at high water from a hose on the grid. Incidentally water is no longer available at Forestry Bay and while there is usually water available from Whangaparapara the supply has been turned off due to low supplies.

Nearby Smokehouse Bay in Ghost Bay Barrier Gold sell manuka honey and related products from a rustic barn where you can also catch up on the local news.

Recycling can be disposed free and garbage $5 per bag near the Port Fitzroy wharf where fuel, water, ice and bait are also available. Take a short walk up the hill where a store offers basic supplies, beverages and lpg bottle refills. However stocks are intermittent here and the best place for supplies is Tryphena where virtually everything is consistently available from the Stonewall Store at Puriri Bay, one of the island’s nicest sandy beaches except in strong westerlies.

The Barrier has its own private radio station working VHF channel 01 with weather forecasts at 0745 and 1745 while Coastguard can be contacted on channel 60.

In most of the anchorages we visit there are roughly 60 per cent yachts and 40 per cent motor vessels. Among the yachts it’s noticeable there are less traditional designs and more imports, including catamarans. When we started cruising in the 1980s 12 metre vessels such as Marklines, Corsairs, Rivieras and Vindexes were considered large and Kennedy 46s were enormous. Now these are small by comparison with many of today’s newer vessels and it’s not uncommon to see vessels in the 20-25 metre range. Unfortunately some of these large vessels cause enormous wakes of around 1.5m, a fact that seems to escape the notice of some of their skippers.

Despite exceptional numbers of cruisers predicted to enjoy this holiday season we didn’t notice areas we visited being any busier than normal. Maybe people had less annual leave available or was it the relatively strong south-westerlies prevalent for much of the time - in all of our time away there were only a handful of days with light winds.

The subject of sharks has been widely covered in the media since Waihi Beach’s tragic fatal attack in early January. We hooked and released six small sharks while snapper fishing and saw several others swimming near us or other anchored boats including three large bronze whalers just off Port Fitzroy wharf, one in Whangaparapara and one in Tryphena. On the homeward journey we also see a large shark inside Kawau’s Bon Accord Harbour. The experts say sharks are more noticeable because the water’s clearer and there’s more people around to notice them, but we’re not convinced and others aren’t either judging by the noticeable drop in numbers of swimmers off anchored boats. There’s a strong case for not filleting fish where people are likely to swim as sharks are certainly attracted by the scraps. It’s much better to bag the frames and scraps and dump them later in deeper isolated waters, something we’re now doing and encourage others to do the same.

From the Barrier we make a side trip to the stunning Mercury Islands (25 miles from Tryphena) and Whitianga (43 miles from Tryphena) and wonder why more cruisers don’t make this relatively short trip down from the Barrier. Our close friends Frank and Marie are staying at Whitianga’s Simpsons Beach and join us for a three day trip to the Mercurys.

We find Whitianga’s Mercury Bay tough going for fishing, although Great Mercury Island provides us with snapper, kahawai and grandaddy hapuka.

Mercury Cove is snug in all winds except strong south-easterlies while Coralie Bay is great in westerlies and the various sandy bays along the south coast are delightful in northerlies. Another option in strong westerlies is Kennedy Bay about eleven miles to the east on the Coromandel Peninsula. There are many other glorious beaches on the Coromandel’s east coast but most of them are only suitable for anchoring over night in very settled weather due to swell.

Around Whitianga overnight anchoring in south-westerlies is good off Wharekaho (“Simpsons”) Beach or Cooks Beach, but there are no good anchoring options in easterlies.

Whitianga is a perfect place to re-supply and it’s generally possible to use a mooring in the harbour for this purpose, while diesel is available from the marina at mainland prices. In town is the amazing shop called Pinky’s – something like an up-market $2 shop offering a huge range of useful products and we challenge anybody to come out of there without buying something.

On our way home we backtrack our outward voyage via Great Barrier and Kawau and cutting our planned time away by three days due to a forecast of winds around 50 knots and heavy rain. When this weather arrives Rapport is safely on her marina and we’re home once again, planning our next trip.



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