03 January 2014

New Year's In Man O'War Bay, Waiheke Island {Or The Anchor Vortex}

Sourced from LINZ. Crown copyright reserved.
If you ever saw The Twilight Zone on television, you might recall Rod Serling saying, "There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone." That's what happened to us on New Year's Eve when we entered our own personal twilight zone, the anchor vortex in Waiere Bay on Waiheke Island.

The anchor vortex is a place where all laws of physics disappear when you're trying to anchor in a crowded bay while everyone is watching. It is a very small zone located just around your boat. Everyone else has their boats anchored satisfactorily in normal space-time. You, on the other hand, are trying to anchor your boat in an area which must be a portal to another universe because nothing behaves as it should, especially your anchor. I wonder why they didn't cover inter-dimensional anchoring tips and tricks in my sailing course? It would have made the whole thing a lot easier. We ended up moving to another area, but only after putting on a 30 minute comedy show for everyone else watching us.

As long as you avoid the anchor vortex, you should definitely head out to the Man O'War Bay area. Really neat anchorage and home of the Man O'War vineyard. Want to know more? Read on.

Monday, 30 December 2013
Partly sunny with some showers; winds NW to W around 20 gusting to 30 knots

After dealing with our passport fiasco at the American consulate in Auckland, we decided to head on out for New Year's. Perhaps a foolhardy decision given we're in the midst of silly season here in New Zealand, but our boat is pretty small so we were hopeful that we would be able to find a place to anchor up. Our first stop was good old Islington Bay after going around the top of Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands. We had a very spirited ride against the tide, surfing along the waves and hitting a top speed of 7.2 knots. Of course, we ended up having to motor into the wind and waves for 45 minutes to get into Islington Bay averaging a much less spirited 1-1/2 knots. You'll be relieved to know that all of Islington Bay is in normal time-space and anchoring is not a problem there. There were a lot less boats then I expected during this time of year - maybe around 30 when we got there at 7:00 pm with around 10 more coming in after us.

After dinner, we got partway through Holiday with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant before falling asleep. If you're thinking of giving up the rat race to go off cruising, then this is the perfect movie for you. Young man (Cary Grant) falls in love with rich girl. Young man doesn't tell rich girl that he wants to chuck in work and the pursuit of making money and instead go travelling while he is young on an extended holiday. Once rich girl finds out, she isn't too happy. Things end badly between them. Fortunately, rich girl's eccentric sister (Katherine Hepburn) thinks young man's plan is just swell and everyone lives happily ever after.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013
Fine; winds NW to SW around 10-15 gusting to 20 knots

Scott worked his usual magic making egg & cheese burritos for breakfast and then we headed out on the dinghy to check out Islington Wharf. I've seen dinghies tied up there before, but the signs on the wharf make me think they wouldn't be too pleased if you did. So we didn't. Instead we headed back to Yankee Wharf, where we normally haul out our dinghy and carry it up the boat ramp. Then we went on one of my favorite walks on Rangitoto Island - the Coastal Track. It runs from Yankee Wharf to Rangitoto Wharf and meanders along the coast through lava fields, woods and mangroves. Most people who go to Rangitoto Island head up to the summit and if you haven't done that before, you definitely should. We've been there many times before so we skipped it and instead headed back to Islington Bay via the road. Overall, it took us around 2 hours 45 minutes and was a good way to burn off the burrito calories.

Coastal Track on Rangitoto Island
Scott had hoped to get some fishing in during the evening tide over towards the east side of Waiheke Island but once I saw how many boats were already anchored up in the bays where we were planning to spend the night, I pretty much decided anchoring took priority over fishing. We had intended to go into Man O'War Bay but it was really chock-a-block, so we decided to try our luck in the neighboring Waiere Bay. Waiere Bay isn't in our anchoring guide so we weren't sure about the conditions, what the holding was like etc. but there were a lot of boats already in there so we gave it a go. I'm pretty sure if it had been in our anchoring guide, it would have said, "Avoid the anchoring vortex at all costs. Your boat will not point in same direction as anyone else and your boat will refuse to straighten up despite the gusts of wind directly on the beam." But unarmed with this type of helpful information, we tried to anchor. We tried some more. And then we gave up. We headed over to Rangitawhiri Point which lies between Waiere and Man O'War Bays. Dropped the hook, easy-peasy and we had gin and tonics in hand just a few minutes later.

Waiere Bay, Waiheke Island - "The Anchor Vortex"
There were probably 120-150 boats spread out between the two bays when we got there with another 30 coming in later in the evening. We were pretty tuckered out and were asleep before midnight after watching part of Contact (which was a perfectly themed movie for the anchor vortex). And I stayed fast asleep. Scott, unfortunately, wasn't able to tune out Neil Diamond's Greatest Hits which played on a continuous loop through the wee hours of the morning. I suspect there were some sore heads on that boat the next morning.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014
Partly sunny and squally; winds NE to E around 15 knots

Weather forecasts, tides and winds rule your life when you live on a boat. So when they started predicting thundery squalls and the winds and tides were more favorable to make our way back to Auckland on New Year's Day and less favorable later in the week, we decided to get going. But first, we dinghied over to Man O'War Bay and went for a walk. The bay is really pretty, but unfortunately the beach is stony which isn't my favorite kind of beach. But there is a nice grassy strip between the beach and the road which is popular for picnics and taking in the views. Across the road is the Man O'War tasting room which is open daily from 11:00 am - 6:00 pm during the summer. We were out and about way too early for drinking time, but it looks like a really lovely spot for a glass of vino. If you're feeling energetic, you can take the road from the bay up to the historic Stony Batter WWII reserve. We didn't go as it costs NZ$8 per person and I can't get quite that excited about gun batteries to spend that much money. Plus it was a long walk. So instead we headed back to the boat and made our way back to Auckland.

Man O'War Bay, Waiheke Island
We ended up motoring for a couple of hours due to fluky and uncooperative winds. But once we got around to the southern side of Waiheke, the sails were up and we made pretty good time even though we were going against the tide. Along the way, we did see a couple of boats out fishing in the no fishing marine reserve which is clearly marked on the chart. Poachers ruin it for everyone - especially the fish.

And the most exciting part of the day had to do with our anchor. Not trying to anchor our boat, but picking the anchor up. Scott stopped to try his luck fishing (in an area which isn't protected) and when we went to leave we sailed off our anchor. We've learned a new trick! Of course, the winds were light and conditions favorable so it all went smoothly, but a great confidence booster that we'll be able to do it again if we need to.


Nautical miles = 62
Top speed = 7.2 knots
Approx. hours motoring = 3
Experiences with the paranormal = 1 (in the anchor vortex)
Number of Neil Diamond songs on New Year's Eve = too many

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