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Tuesday, April 06, 2021

EXPLORING IN YOUR DINGHY

After owning Rapport for 16 months we now know her pretty well and have plenty of confidence in her cruising ability and reliability. Although we bought her as being “ready to cruise” that turned out to be not the case and the first three months or so were spent adding equipment and bringing up to our high standards. For the past several months we’ve cruised extensively and clocked 129 nights aboard and 329 engine hours.

A huge surprise for us has been Rapport’s remarkable economy. She’s powered by twin 375hp Caterpillar 3208s and we generally cruise around 1,400rpm giving us about 8 knots. She’s capable of the 21 knots we achieved during our pre-purchase sea trial with full water and fuel plus five adults aboard, but Di and I prefer the more sedate 8-10 knots although we do regularly run her faster for up to 30 minutes in order to load up the engines. We’ve found that we’re averaging about 15 litres/hour each engine for a total of 30 litres/hour and this includes running our 7.5Kw genset for an average of three hours daily. I had honestly expected a figure nearing double this and combined with Rapport’s huge 2,800 litres diesel tank capacity we have a big cruising range with refuelling being a rare occurrence. For example since our last refuel on 27 December we’ve spent 58 days cruising clocking 133 engine hours, only refuelled once and still have over 500 litres in the tanks.

Here is an edited version of an article shortly to be appearing in Pacific PowerBoat.

You can easily miss a lot when sitting aboard your boat anchored a couple of hundred metres offshore, but if you take the time to jump into your dinghy and explore the nearby coastline you’ll be well rewarded and gain a better appreciation of your anchorage, for example knowing where any rocky outcrops and shallower patches begin (keep a lead line in your dinghy to check depths).

If you have young children aboard you can make your dinghy trip a real adventure for them too as well as letting them drive the dinghy and teaching them about about “messing about in boats”. Last but not least, surprisingly large snapper can be caught close to inshore rocks in just a couple of metres of water using floating lines and large baits, especially in the subdued light of early mornings and late afternoons although I must add that we don’t like fishing from inflatables as they are too prone to being punctured by spines.

If we’re going ashore on Hauraki Gulf island beaches we often take a small rubbish bag to gather any unsightly litter. As my background is in the plastics industry we’re a bit sensitive to the inaccurate negative publicity related to what is really an issue of littering, not technology. I must say that despite publicity about littered beaches we rarely find more than the odd plastic bag or container, a few bottle tops and an old jandal. Sometimes we literally can’t find a single item of rubbish. Maybe other folks are regularly cleaning up beaches too?

Here’s some examples of dinghy trips we’ve enjoyed.

Rangitoto Island’s Islington Bay is one of the Gulf’s most popular and sheltered anchorages and we’ve anchored here countless times during 40 years cruising. It’s sheltered from all except S to SE winds so generally like the proverbial millpond except for some residual wakes from passing ferries and large launches. From out in the bay Rangitoto’s rocky coastline looks much the same, but as you cruise close to shore a different world opens up of small coves and the remains of small jetties and launching ramps not visible from afar. At the northern end of the bay Rangitoto is separated from Motutapu Island by a narrow estuary heading north under a bridge into Gardiner Gap, a shallow bay separating the two islands. Within about two hours or so each side of high water this estuary is completely navigable by small dinghy, but be ready to duck going under the bridge. Unlike Islington Bay itself the estuary has clear water and is a good place to have a swim, though watch out for rays which often glide across the bottom searching for small fish and shellfish. Likewise Gardiner Gap is good for swimming close to high tide. If you beach your dinghy near the bridge you can walk east over the farm lands of Motutapu or follow a track around Islington Bay’s coastline. There used to be dozens of baches here built mainly in the 1920s and 30s and these were rustic simple dwellings unlike many of today’s small mansions that people rather ironically still call baches. Many were later removed after disputes about land leases, but you can still see where they were located along with remaining chimneys and foundations. Fortunately a few baches remain reminding us how people then travelled here by ferry to enjoy their simple holidays at a slower pace of life.

Another very popular anchorage is Kawau Island’s Bon Accord Harbour. This is particularly sheltered in easterly winds and the harbour’s depth allows anchoring well up the bay’s head between Emu Point and Moores Bay. Take your dinghy on a trip into Swansea Bay on the north eastern corner up to a couple of hours either side of high water, passing through the mangroves and into the creek. It’s possible to navigate several hundred metres up this creek into a delightfully tranquil valley of bush where the only sounds are birds singing and jumping fish splashing. The water is clean and easily clear enough to see any obstructions such as submerged branches. Kids love it if you pretend these logs are in fact crocodiles and embellish the story accordingly. Up this creek are several fresh water pools, ideal for a dip to wash the salt off.

If you’re visiting Coromandel Harbour a great dinghy trip is navigating the creek to Coromandel township. Anchor your vessel south-west of the Coromandel wharf and set off about an hour before high tide. Be aware the sea can become choppy in strong westerlies so don’t overload your dinghy. In this area life jackets must be worn, not just carried aboard and this requirement is enforced by particularly vigilant authorities. The channel is evident and you’ll see some fairly large fishing vessels moored alongside makeshift jetties either side of the fairway. After a few hundred metres you’ll come to a bridge carrying the main road across the creek and a large area where you can beach your dinghy. The township has an eclectic mix of people (read as people who became hippies in the 1960s and got stuck in the groove) and ranks as one of the most picturesque we’ve seen while providing all the cruising supplies you may need. In the old days we’d often go into the pub for a cold beer, but we’re now more inclined to have a doughnut and coffee at the bakery. There’s also a very good takeaway offering tempting fish and chip lunches. Don’t lose track of time though as the creek does get shallow as the tide recedes. On our very first trip here we moored our 6 metre runabout to the wharf and were shocked to find it high and dry when we returned, giving us no choice but to return to the pub.

A trip we want to do soon is to anchor off Arkles Bay and do a dinghy trip up the Wade River to Silverdale. Enjoy your dinghy exploration and find your own favourites.



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