|Chart of the Mercury Islands. Sourced from LINZ. Crown Copyright reserved.|
Sir Michael built some swanky properties on the island and usually people who visit fly over on helicopter from Auckland and fork over NZ$20k or more to rent one of the houses for a day. But fortunately for the rest of us without money burning a hole in our pockets, Sir Michael allows boaties to visit the island and roam around on the beaches and farmland. Apparently, he even holds a barbeque for all the boaties on New Year’s Eve in Mercury Cove. He seems like a swell guy and his island is pretty swell too.
When we headed out to Great Mercury last month, we first anchored at Peachgrove Bay on the south side of the island. Some folks had told us that it was one of the loveliest bays in New Zealand with a long, white sandy beach and shallow waters perfect for a nice swim. It sounded good to us and when we got there it looked just swell. An absolutely idyllic island paradise. We were in heaven. But as we settled in for the night and the sun went down, our heaven turned into hell. And it was a swell, swell hell.
You may have guessed by now that “swell” has two meanings: (1) super-duper and (2) the water pushing relentlessly against your boat over and over and over during the night, slamming you and everything in your boat from side to side and keeping you up all night.
We got the latter type of swell at Peachgrove Bay. What made it even worse is that we went to sleep in flat calm waters with no swell predicted and were really looking forward to a peaceful sleep in calm weather. But then the swell came knocking on our boat to say “howdy” and woke us up. We toyed around with relocating but there weren’t any anchorages nearby that were protected from the swell, so we ended up staying and not sleeping again.
Clearly, sleep deprivation is affecting our ability to think clearly, because for some reason we decided to stay in Peachgrove Bay a second night. We deluded ourselves into thinking that by relocating in the bay we wouldn’t be affected by the swell and I even think we convinced ourselves there wouldn’t be any swell that night. What’s that quote about insanity – doing the same stupid thing over and over again? That would be us. Insane. And tired.
But not to worry, there were some really great parts of our time cruising to the Mercury Islands – there was a shark, penguins, walks and some new cruising buddies. And we put on a comedy show for the folks in the fizzboats near the beach when we tried to get in our dinghy in the, yes you guessed it, giant swell. Read on if you want the scoop…
Wednesday, 22 January 2014
After hiding out from the remnants of Cyclone June at Westhaven Marina in Auckland for a couple of days, we were more than ready to get back out on the water. But before we got underway, I got a chance to practice my docking maneuvers. It kind of reminds me of trying to squeeze your car into a parallel parking spot without hitting the curb. Except in this case, you’re steering a boat and the curb is a big dock which you can’t really see too well because you’re way too short. Fortunately, Scott is tall and talked me through the maneuver. I was convinced I was going to smash into the dock but he kept telling me to go forward and when to turn and amazingly neither the boat nor the dock were injured in the process. Not sure how I would do it without Scott coaching me. Some more practice certainly seems to be required.
We left Westhaven after lunch and headed over to Islington Bay for a couple of days to wait out some more weather as there were gusts predicted around 35 knots. Islington Bay is a nice sheltered place to hide out and a pretty bay, but it seems like all we’ve been doing this summer is cursing the wind and watching our boat swing back and forth on the anchor. It gets old after a while.
Thursday, 23 January 2014
Another day on the boat hiding out from the weather. We talked about food. We made food. We ate food. Scott also kept an eye on the other boats in the bay. He is currently reading James Michener’s Alaska so when he saw a catamaran from Alaska anchored near us he got all excited. Well, “excited” might be a bit of an exaggeration. But it did give us something to talk about for a while.
Friday, 24 January 2014
|A beautiful sunset at Peachgrove Bay. It made us think we were in a for a peaceful night's sleep.|
Although it started out as a pleasant, peaceful sail, conditions deteriorated when we got to the top end of the Coromandel Peninsula near Channel Island. Going through the passage between Channel Island and the Coromandel Peninsula, we had 24 knots of wind, with wind against tide and big waves behind us. Well, big waves to me. Scott said they were moderate and has seen worse. In any event, it made for one very roly-poly sail.
After 60 nautical miles and 13 hours later, we anchored at Peachgrove Bay on the southern end of Great Mercury Island. We were absolutely shattered by this point, but the bay was absolutely stunning and it was a beautiful evening so we started to believe things were looking up for us and we would have a peaceful night’s sleep. We couldn’t have been more wrong. One of our blog readers shared this quote with us, which perfectly describes our night – “I slept like a baby. Every five minutes, I woke up and cried.” It was a swell, swell night.
Saturday, 25 January 2014
After our roly-poly, choppy night from hell in our island paradise, we woke up to a beautiful morning with flat calm water in Peachgrove Bay. The swell was gone. An American guy from the only other boat in the anchorage came over on his dinghy to ask if we had any petrol that we could give him for their generator as their engine wouldn’t start. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to help as ours is pre-mixed with oil for use in our outboard motor, so they decided to sail off their anchor and make their way back to Whitianga under sail. We stood by with a line ready in case they ran into any trouble getting off the anchor. Fortunately, they didn’t need our help and sailed off expertly and away they went. We decided to relocate to where they had been anchored as it seemed to better sheltered.
|Proof that Scott really did see a penguin.|
We headed over to the island to the main beach in search of the waterfall. We never did find it, but we had a nice walk and enjoyed the views. By the time we were ready to head back to the boat, there were a number of other boats in the bay. And our flat calm waters had turned into choppy waters. I’ve never tried to launch a dinghy from a beach into crashing waves. Let me tell you, it isn’t easy. I jumped in the dinghy, water came splashing over the side. Scott pushed it out in the water, more water came splashing over the side. While I wasn’t paying attention, Scott pulled the cord on the outboard motor to start it and bashed his hand into my face smacking me in the nose. More water came splashing into the boat. It was a comedy show beyond belief. I’m so happy we gave the people on the launches and fizz boats something to talk about over lunch. We finally got underway and then the engine stopped. And it was a long way back to our boat. And with no seat on our dinghy (lost during a previous storm at Great Barrier), rowing back was going to present an interesting challenge. Fortunately, Scott got the motor started again and we made it back.
|The smaller beach at Peachgrove Bay. Much easier to land a dinghy here.|
Sunday, 26 January 2014
|Huruhi Bay, Great Mercury Island|
Sunday, 27 January 2014
|Close anchoring at the "parking lot" at Huruhi Harbour. This boat was anchored so close to ours that when they pulled up their anchor in the morning they were only a couple of feet away from us.|
Later that afternoon, we went over to another boat for a beer. Which as most beers end up doing, turned into a few beers, followed by some rum and cokes. And before you know it, we ended up having dinner with them and folks from another boat. Lovely, lovely people – a great time was had by all. It was swell. And most importantly, another great night’s sleep was had by all!
Total nautical miles = 75
Top speed = 7.2
Number of sleepless nights = too many to count
Top speed = 7.2
Number of sleepless nights = too many to count