24 January 2014

Cruising In Great Barrier Island {Or The French Lady Takes A Pee}

View from Oneura Bay out to Kaikoura Island
One of the things people always say about cruising is that the weather is the boss of you. It decides what you can do and where you can go. And sometimes, it decides that you can’t go anywhere. And when that happens, and you live on a 26’ sailboat with no internet access or television, you need to find ways to pass the time. Finding new ways to amuse yourself becomes especially important when you are holed up in a bay for three days due to near-gale and gale force conditions and the sound of the wind is really grating on your nerves. This recently happened to us up in Great Barrier Island, but fortunately we found some great diversions including:

1.  Planning Your Meals

Spend at least one hour every morning and one hour every afternoon discussing the meal plan for the next few days. It is amazing how fascinating it can be to talk about what canned goods you have on the boat, how many bags of pasta are left and how you can magically turn them into a delicious meal. I’m pretty sure Scott and I would have never spent so much time talking about food before, but when you can’t leave your boat, planning what you are going to eat becomes just the most fascinating thing ever. Or maybe this is just a sign that we’re getting old? Next thing you know, we’ll be talking about our ailments and the medications we’re on for hours each day too.

2.  Talking About The Wind

This was one of my favorite pastimes. It seems like we spent hours saying things like, “Wow, it’s windy out.”, “Sure is getting gusty – must be at least 40 knots now.”, “Seems like it is dying down now.”, “Nope, looks like it has starting gusting again.” and “Damn you wind, damn you!”

And because the wind howled all through the night, we would also be heard saying things like, “Are you sleeping? I can’t sleep with all that noise and the rocking and swinging of the boat. How about you, can you sleep?”, “Do you think we’re going to drag anchor?” and “We might as well get up and have some coffee as I can’t sleep.”

3.  Watching The Other Boats

But if you’re trapped on your boat for days on end, we found the best way to pass the time is to watch the other boats. In the bay we were anchored in, there were two other sailboats – an American one and a French one. There were a couple of gin palaces anchored up further in the bay but they were too far away to keep an eye on, so we focused our attention on the sailboats. Scott loved nothing more than to stare out the window at the other boats, look at how they were swinging on their anchors and speculate as to the reasons why we were all swinging differently.

Sometimes it pays to be a curtain twitcher, because at one point Scott noticed a bottomless lady on the French boat peeing off the back of her boat. It was an incredibly acrobatic move as she held on to the back of their boat. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. No idea what prompted her to do it – maybe their holding tank was full, maybe their toilet was broken or maybe they were so bored out of their minds they started daring each other to do crazy things. Something along the lines of, “I dare you to go pee off the back of the boat acrobatically and see if anyone notices.” Regardless of the reason why she did it, we were just grateful she did as it gave us something to talk about instead of meal planning and the wind for a few hours.

If you want the detail, here is the scoop on our outing to Great Barrier Island. It is less about our cruising adventures in Great Barrier and more about how not to cruise because we were pretty much stuck in the same place for days.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

We spent many hours looking at this view of Oneura Bay.
We left Gulf Harbour Marina at 8:45 am and headed up to Great Barrier Island for what we thought would be a week or so of fun and high adventure. We had been up there last summer and were really keen to return and explore more of the island. The trip up there was fairly uneventful, although unfortunately the wind died out and we ended up having to motor in the afternoon which is always a drag (it’s noisy and burns diesel). We decided to anchor up in Oneura Bay for the night, dropping the hook around 6:30 pm, and planned to head into Port Fitzroy in the morning. Oneura Bay is a lovely, sheltered bay just before the narrow Man O War Passage that cuts between Kaikoura Island and Great Barrier Island and leads you into Port Fitzroy. Oneura Bay is suitable for gale force winds and protected from everything but northerly winds. Which was fortunate for us as it was a very windy night. And a noisy night with the wind rattling through the rigging. And a night full of endless swinging back and forth on the anchor. And a pretty sleepless night. 
Thursday, 16 January 2014

We woke up to a beautiful morning – sunny and a bit breezy. Scott woke me up with a cup of coffee in hand and exclaimed, “Isn’t it great to be back in Great Barrier!” If he has some sort of psychic powers, what he would have said was, “Isn’t it great to be back in Oneura Bay! I’m so glad it is a pretty bay because we’ll be here for a while!” The winds picked up again (gusting 35-40 knots) and it was clear we weren’t going anywhere.

We had picked a good spot to anchor in the bay the previous night, but unfortunately, one of its attributes is that it has poor VHF reception. It can be a bit maddening to only be able to hear every other word of the weather forecast and try to piece together the situation, how strong the winds were going to be and what direction they’re coming from. We decided to pick up and move further into the bay to try to get better reception. After endless circles around and around the bay, we gave up on trying to hear the forecast and relocated further into the bay for a more protected spot for the night. And to our surprise, we found we could get VHF reception deep in the bay where you wouldn’t have expected it. The lovely lady on the VHF confirmed our fears, Oneura Bay was to be our home for a while.

So we settled in for the day - we chatted about what we would eat, Scott looked out the window and I cursed the wind. And eventually we tried to get some sleep. Instead, we got sleep deprivation. At one point, I kept hearing noises that sounded like the dinghy was sliding back and forth. Worried that it was going to come loose, I went out and checked it. It was all tied up securely so I went down below thinking all was okay. It wasn’t until a couple of days later that we discovered that the seat had come off of the dinghy and slid off in the wind into the water never to be seen again. Just one more thing not to love about our dinghy. {Sigh}

Friday, 17 January 2014

Friday was a lot like Thursday. We chatted about what we would eat, Scott looked out the window and I cursed the wind. And the highlight of the day - the French lady taking a pee.

Saturday 18 January 2014

The general store and post office at Port Fitzroy.
I can’t really say we woke up on Saturday, as no one got any sleep. Again. (Damn you wind, damn you.) Fortunately, they were forecasting 25 knots in the morning, dropping to 20 knots in the afternoon so we decided to get our skates on and move into Port Fitzroy. We dropped the hook in Kaiarara Bay, had some lunch, talked about how sleep deprived we were and eventually mustered up enough energy to dinghy over to Bush’s Beach where we picked up the trail into Port Fitzroy. It was a beautiful walk through the Department of Conservation land and then along the main road to Port Fitzroy. There were some stunning views along the way, which I would have possibly enjoyed more if I wasn’t so tired. We had some beers and chippies (or crisps or potato chips, whatever you want to call them is fine with me) at the general store and then made our way back.

You know how people in small towns always stop and offer you a lift? We usually say no because we enjoy our walks. But of course, the one time I desperately wanted a lift, as I was so tired, not a car was to be seen. So I struggled along the road and an hour and a half later we made it back to the dinghy. After a quick dip in the bay (and I mean quick, as it was absolutely freezing), we used our solar shower for the first time. It was lovely and warm. Possibly the best Christmas present ever. After dinner, it was a very early night. Sleep at last.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Views like this made leaving Great Barrier in the dark worthwhile.
While we slept peacefully, we didn’t get a lie-in. The alarm went off at 4:00 am, and we were underway by 4:45 am headed back to Auckland. And why you ask, when you finally got to see some of Great Barrier Island, would you leave? The weather, that’s why. Cyclone June decided to head down towards New Zealand and turn herself into a deep sub-tropical low which means wind, wind, wind and rain. We had had enough of wind so instead of waiting out this latest storm up in Great Barrier, we decided to wait her out in the comforts of a marina in Auckland. 13 hours and 64 nautical miles later, we were nicely tied up at Westhaven Marina. And as it turns out, it was certainly the right call to head into the marina as the winds are forecast to get up to 65 knots. Lesson learned – when they say a deep low is coming, they mean business. Go ahead wind, blow all you want, we’re safe in here.


Total nautical miles = 106
Top speed = 6.4 knots
Average speed = 4.5 knots
Approx number hours motoring = 10
 Number of times the French lady peed = 1 

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  1. Ahoy!
    As a new follower and luvin' your blog, I had to comment. Having been stuck on an Island this past summer for 2 weeks due to 30+knot winds, I can totally relate.
    "At night I slept like a baby...... I'd wake up every five minutes and cry!" This phrase (which I cant remember where I read it, probably from http://artofhookie.org/) says it all!!

    1. Thanks for following! I love the quote - perfect description of how we slept!


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