28 April 2014

A Tale Of Five Anchorages

Moving anchorages in the middle of the night. Not my idea of fun.

Tuesday & Wednesday, 18-19 March 2014

My mom isn't a sailor and I'm pretty sure whenever we write about things like nautical miles, wind speed and direction, chop, swell and anchoring, she kind of glosses over those parts of the posts and skips ahead to the pretty pictures. So, I thought it might be helpful to talk a little bit about how we pick spots to anchor by running through the five anchorages, on four different islands, we anchored at over the course of two day. Yep, that's right - five anchorages, four island, two days. Trust me, that wasn't the plan. Especially as it involved shifting anchorages at 2:00 am. In the dark. Without any coffee. In my pajamas. Good times.

We use the Spot X Cruising New Zealand guide to help us pick anchorages. It tells you all sorts of useful information - like what wind direction and swell an anchorage is exposed to. These are two critical pieces of information. You do not want to be anchored someplace where the wind could push you onto the lee shore. That is unless you have some awesome boat insurance, you're wearing some sort of padding (like those sumo wrestling suits you see) and the lee shore is a soft, sandy beach covered in marshmallows which cushions your boat as it softly washes ashore. That scenario isn't likely to happen, so knowing the forecasted wind direction and what wind your anchorage is exposed to is crucial. Assuming your weather forecast is accurate. Because they always are.

The other helpful bits of information our cruising guide gives us are what kind of weather the anchorage is suitable for and the bottom type and holding. You wouldn't want to anchor in a place that is only suitable for fair weather if you're in gale force conditions. And you wouldn't want to anchor in a place with poor holding. If you do either of these, you are in for a sleepless night. 

So here is the run down of our five anchorages and what we experienced.

Anchorage #1 - Crater Bay, Browns Island (36°48’S 174°57’E)

Here is what our cruising guide has to say about Crater Bay to give you an idea of the type of information we look at when deciding where to anchor:

Suitable: Fair weather
Exposed to Wind: N, NE, E, W, NW
Exposed to Swell: N, NE, E, W, NW

Shallow bay, but well sheltered in anything from southerly quarter. Reef runs out from eastern end of island to lighted beacon, otherwise clear entry into middle of bay approx. 100m off beach in 2m. Moderate holding. Well sheltered bay with nice beach. Track runs from west end of beach up the cliff. Great views from extinct volcano summit and wonderful cone.

The "fair weather" wasn't a problem for us as it was a settled morning with very little wind and we were only planning on spending a few hours on Browns Island going for a walk. So wind and swell exposure weren't things we were too concerned with when we anchored. You also need to make sure you know what the draft of your keel is and how deep the water is that you're anchoring in so that you don't touch bottom. Touching bottom is generally not a good idea. That is unless the bottom is comprised of soft marshmallows. Again, that scenario rarely happens. Crater Bay is shallow and although we only draw 1.6m, we anchored a bit further out than the X marked in the cruising guide. All went well and we had a lovely little walk.

Anchorage #2 - Te Matuka Bay, Waiheke Island (36°50’S 175°7’E)

After our walk on Browns Island, we headed across the Tamaki Strait and over to Te Matuka Bay on the southern side of Waikehe Island to anchor for the night. The forecast was for light winds from the north. Te Matuka Bay is exposed to winds and swells from the SE, S and SW. So, we should have been fine. And we would have been if the forecast bore any resemblance to the reality that night. As you would expect, the winds turned to the south. And not just a light wind, but a big stonking, mean, out-to-get-you kind of wind. The kind that generated big waves which slammed into the side of our boat and made everything very roly-poly. It was so bad that at 2:00 am, we decided to move anchorages. 

PFDs on. Headlamps on. Nav lights on. Engine on. Anchor up. And we were off to anchorage number 3... 

Anchorage #3 - Te Kawau Bay, Ponui Island (36°50’S 175°10’E)

It makes such a difference to have some local knowledge when you're shifting anchorages in the middle of the night. Not that we're really locals or that experienced in sailing in the Hauraki Gulf. But we have sailed around Waiheke and Ponui Islands many times, so we felt a bit more comfortable sailing in the dark from one anchorage to the other then we would have been if it was a new area to us. 

Our new anchorage, Te Kakau Bay, is exposed to winds from the northerly quarter. If the forecast had been correct, this would have been a problem. In the real world, this was just fine as the winds were coming from the south. Fortunately, no one else was in the anchorage when we dropped the hook in the middle of the night. Peace at last.

Anchorage #4 - Southwest Bay, Rotoroa Island (36°49’S 175°11’E)

The next morning, we decided to head over to the neighboring Rotoroa Island to explore. It is just a hop, skip and a jump between Ponui and Rotoroa Islands, so it was a short trip to our next anchorage, Southwest Bay. Although Southwest Bay is exposed to winds from the southerly quarter, they had pretty much died out and we had another settled morning. It seems to happen a lot like that here - settled mornings and windy nights. 

Easy anchoring in good holding in mud. Yes, if you're a cruiser, you become quite interested in what the sea bottom is made up of - whether it is mud, shell, shingle, sand, marshmallows etc. We have a great anchor and it seems happy staying put in whatever we drop it in. After our walk on Rotoroa Island, we were in a bit of a quandry - should we stay anchored in Southwest Bay for the night or move? We moved.

Anchorage #5 - Chamberlain's Bay, Ponui Island (36°50’S 175°11’E)

After doing a spot of fishing in Ruthe Passage, rather than go back to Southwest Bay, we decided to anchor for the night in Chamberlain's Bay. Winds were predicted to be from the southerly quarter and Chamberlain's Bay is on the north side of Ponui Island and well protected from the south. The ideal thing about Chamberlain's Bay is that if the winds do shift, it is a straight shot back over to Southwest Bay should you have to move in the middle of the night. Thankfully, this time, reality and the forecast were the same.


Total nautical miles = 24
Number of anchorages = 5
Number of islands anchored at = 4
Number of unplanned night hours = .75

And now for a shameless plug for The Monkey's Fist. Do you have a post you want to share on what makes a great anchorage? Come on, you know you want to share! Head on over and add a link to your post in the comments section on the topic in development page here. It's easy and it's painless. Trust me.

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