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13 March 2014

The Attack Of The Killer Kingfish

Empty LPG tank you don't know what to do with? Why not turn it into a mailbox?
The other night up in Port Fitzroy in Great Barrier Island, we were down below watching a movie on our portable DVD player when suddenly we felt a big thud on the hull. I was scared that a couple of guys with machetes had boarded our boat up by the bow, but then we remembered that this is New Zealand and that kind of thing doesn’t happen here. The only other possibility was that we had dragged and crashed into the nearby mussel farm. But that seemed really unlikely as it was a calm night and our anchor was well dug in. We scrambled up on deck to see what was going on and saw some creatures swimming around our boat. At first we thought they were dolphins playing near our boat, but upon looking more closely we saw that it was a swarm of kingfish circling around our boat and thumping into the hull and our dinghy. Thump, thump, thump - they really wanted to make sure they had our attention.

Kingfish are a very popular gamefish in New Zealand. They are apparently quite aggressive and put up a bit of a battle if you manage to hook one. The ones swimming around our boat were at least one meter long and seemed pretty intent on making sure we knew they were in town. Scott has had a hankering to catch (and release) a kingfish so he scrambled to get his fishing pole out, but by the time he got it in the water, they were long gone. I think they might have gone off to the next boat to wake the folks over there up. It was a pretty amazing sight – this is what cruising is all about!

Here is what happened during the rest of our stay up there…

Saturday, 15 February 2014 

We foolishly didn’t get our LPG tank refilled when we were down in Auckland and, wouldn’t you know, it ran out on us. Fortunately, Scott had already had the kettle on so we were able to have one pot of coffee while we figured out what to do. And believe me – this was very, very fortunate. A morning without coffee on our boat isn’t something you want to experience. We were at Whangaparapara at the time and remembered that you can get LPG up in Port Fitzroy. So, after a breakfast of cookies (which don’t need to be cooked), we got the boat ready to go and headed on up. LPG isn’t always the easiest thing to find in New Zealand, even at marinas (where you would think it would be). So, it pays to know where you can get your tank refilled and keep an eye on how much you have left. 

Once up in Port Fitzroy, we anchored near the wharf and headed up to the general store. If you find yourself in the same situation, keep in mind that the LPG hours are different from the diesel hours. You can only get LPG from 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm and diesel before and after that. One guy runs the two  operations and obviously can’t be in the same place at the same time. Thankfully, we got there around 11:30 am and didn’t have to wait too long. After we filled the tank, we had a couple of beers at the general store and chatted with the guy. Another friendly and interesting local character. You have to love the Barrier – it is chock full of them. 

After a cooked lunch, courtesy of the newly filled LPG tank, we headed out to Port Abercrombie to do some training. We did a man overboard exercise five times. The original plan was to only do it a couple of times, but I clearly need more practice picking up the fender out of the water with a boathook. Scott did just fine tacking back to where the fender was floating. Then I got a chance to practice reefing the mainsail – putting the reef in and shaking it out two times. For the non-sailors out there, reefing is a way of making your sail smaller. You do this when there is a storm and the winds are too strong to safely sail your boat with a full sail. Personally, I’m hoping to never find myself in a situation where we need to reef our sail, but it seems unlikely so practice, practice, practice.

And then it was over to anchor for the night in Kaiarara Bay where the swarm of killer kingfish came to say hi. 

Sunday, 16 February 2014 

A new day meant some more practice, so we sailed off the anchor and then headed back out to Port Abercrombie. This time, I got to practice helming the boat while we tacked it. So far, my sole responsibility when tacking and gybing has been to pull on the sheet when Scott says, “Ready about, lee ho!” or “Stand by to gybe, gybe ho!”, while he helms the boat and releases the other line. So it was time for some role reversal. I could probably use some more practice. 

The wind kept dying on us, so we decided to find a new anchorage for the night as the winds were changing to easterlies. We checked out Kiwiriki Bay and decided it just didn’t feel right and instead headed over to Oneura Bay (where we’ve spent way too much time before). Once there, I started cooking dinner and we chatted about the weather forecast. We had planned to spend more time in the Port Fitzroy area, but if there is one thing I’ve learned about sailing is that the weather is in charge and when it says it is time to leave someplace, you better listen. The forecast was for the swell to rise to two meters over the next few days which is never much fun in our boat. So we decided to cut and run for Kawau Island while the going was still good and headed on out around 4:00 pm. 

The ½ meter swell that was predicted turned out to be closer to 1 to 1-½ meters so I’m glad we left when we did as the swell would probably have been much higher the next day. It was a long haul and Scott helmed the boat pretty much the entire trip with his PFD and tether on and the washboards up in case any of the waves came crashing into the cockpit. Thankfully, Mr. Moon was up that night which made anchoring in Bon Accord Harbour in Kawau Island so much easier when we got there at 10:30 pm. 

Overall

Total nautical miles = 61
Number of killer kingfish = Too many to count 
Number of maneuvers practiced = 13 (2 reefing, 5 MOB, 5 tacking with me at the helm, 1 sailing off the anchor) 
Size of the swells = Bigger than forecast 

4 comments:

  1. I didn't know King fish would do that. I guess I never really thought about it before. It would have freaked me out too. Glad you were able to get your coffee, and I hope you are somewhere safe with the Lusi coming.

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    1. We were surprised too - they are feisty little creatures! We're hiding out from Lusi in Auckland just now. Hopefully it won't be as bad as they're predicting.

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    2. Even more un-nerving when Kingies headbutt your kayak! Apparently they do it to a) remove parasites, and b) terrify unwitting sea travellers!
      Just found your blog and slowly working my way through it all, really enjoyable.
      Thanks for writing it.

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    3. So glad you found our blog and are enjoying it :-)

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