I hadn’t seen my sister in 4 years, and her husband Dave and son Daniel hadn’t traveled to this side of the world for 16 years, so it was an exciting reunion as Nadia, Dave and son Danny planned their extended holiday to visit our family in Australia before flying on to New Zealand in late November to visit Frank and I.
They flew first to South Island in NZ where they had more adventure than they had anticipated by experiencing a 7.8 (Mw) earthquake that hit near Kaikoura on 14th November and saw them evacuated in the middle of the night, but thankfully they did not need to change their itinerary too much to cope with the landslides and substantial earthquake damage.
It was quite amazing the way that the chilly spring weather we had experienced in the month since arriving in New Zealand, mellowed to pleasant warm sunny conditions from the day Nadia and family arrived, lasted their 2 week stay, and ended with a front bringing renewed strong winds and rain the day they left.
Frank and I met Nadia and family off the bus from Auckland at Paihia in the Bay of Islands and transported them across the bay to the historic township of Russell (the first permanent British settlement in the Bay of Islands) where they had booked their first few nights accommodation in our friends Marian and Colin’s air B&B. (Anyone considering accommodation in the Bay of Islands, do check out their website- https://www.airbnb.co.nz/rooms/15554697?checkin=05-11-2016&checkout=&guests=1)
Frank and I anchored Stars End 2 in the bay below where we could clearly see ‘A Noble View’ perched up the hillside and once we walked up the steep hill each morning we could keep the yacht in clear view from the verandah of the home.
After being on the go for over 4 weeks, Nadia, Dave & Dan appreciated being stationary for a few days, and we all relaxed in the luxury of a comfy home environment, catching up on our family’s news over copious cups of tea & coffee during the day and beer & wine in the evenings to accompany our home cooked meals.
We climbed Flagstaff Hill with stunning views over the bay as well as trekking several times back and forth down to the quaint seaside township of Russell to scour the souvenir shops with our visitors and stock up with supplies for the planned trip on the yacht.
In these few days, Frank reckoned we did more exercise than in the previous year, but we were slowly learning that New Zealanders love ‘tramping’ up and down steep hills that locals consider ‘mild walks for beginners’ but leave us gasping for breath.
Coming from the renowned trekking areas of the Peak District in Derbyshire, we knew Nadia, David & Danny would love the wonderful picturesque walks through the Department of Conservation land in the Bay of Islands and so we were happy to push ourselves too.
However much as our arthritic legs ached each night, we have really enjoyed feeling healthier and fitter and have noticed that we can cope better and easier with the climbs as time passes and we continue to exercise.
Several days later, after loading the yacht with food, drink, personal gear and our 3 family members, we set off in Stars End 2 in choppy conditions, keen to show our visitors the beauty of the Bay of Islands.
For my sister and family, it was their first experience of ‘cruising’ on board a yacht so we had decided a week was a fair time to have 5 adults all squashed together on a 39 foot yacht. It was a perfect means to explore the many islands and bays and thankfully the busy summer period had not yet arrived so all the anchorages were not over crowded.
Our first night’s anchorage at Moturoa Island was in the strongest winds we experienced all week, and poor Danny didn’t enjoy a good night’s sleep with the ocean swell gently rocking the yacht from side to side all night. Luckily, all subsequent nights were as smooth as a millpond.
We all enjoyed a walk circumnavigating Moturoa Island, through dense forests, up and down hillsides and across wide sandy beaches. There were stunning views from various headlands and beaches along the way and the extensive variety of plant and bird life entranced us.
Over the next week in the Bay of Islands, we anchored around various bays and islands, including the largest- Urapukapuka (Maori word for ‘a group of puka trees’) and accessed a number of walks from the different bays.
We spent Frank’s 66th birthday at Urapukapuka, having a leisurely walk followed by a relaxing day playing board games whilst I baked a birthday cake and cooked a big roast dinner followed by a nostalgic rerun of the movie ‘Avatar’ in the evening.
One day at Urapukapuka, after our walk, Nadi, Dave & Danny all took turns to play on my kayak along the sandy shoreline whilst there was scarcely a breath of wind.
But undoubtedly, the highlight of the week would unquestionably be our unforgettable swim with the dolphins.
These beautiful mammals abound in the Bay of Islands and many of the tourist boats cater for dolphin watching tours due to the high demand.
Oke Bay is on the ocean side of the Bay of Islands near to Cape Brett, and as we anchored in the large sandy bay late one afternoon, we noticed a tourist catamaran hovering near to where two yachts were anchored nearby.
Suddenly, we were treated to the spectacle of two large dolphins spectacularly leaping out of the water and chasing each other around as if for a well staged aquatic show in Seaworld.
We grabbed cameras, ran to the side of the yacht, and watched in awe as this playful duo continued to entertain us for many minutes. As the tourist boat left, so the occupants on board the yachts jumped into the water and the dolphins happily swam around them seemingly enjoying the interaction. The more the people splashed and dived beneath the water to play with them, the more they appeared to respond.
Well that was it! I grabbed my sister, and told her we were not going to miss a chance like this, and simply had to get into the water too. We threw on our swimmers, I found snorkel gear for Nadi, Danny & I and within minutes we jumped into the freezing water which our instruments showed was a mere 16 degrees!
On a positive note, I was so excited that I ignored the numbing cold that spread through my body, as I dragged my floundering sister across the water towards the dolphins. Halfway across, Nadi ran out of steam, declaring that she had forgotten how to work fins and snorkel over the many years since she had last used them. Luckily, another yachtie saw her distress and launched his paddle board into the water for her to use as a float and soon we were all enjoying the display and friendly antics of these stunning mammals.
As if this wasn’t special enough, next day, two dolphins (the same ones?) spent almost an hour accompanying Stars End 2 under sail out of the bay and playing on our bow wave.
We sailed out to Cape Brett to show our visitors the Hole in the Rock at Piercy Island with its towering rock wall formations and the Grand Cathedral Cave.
One day, we had a balmy sail across to the north eastern side of the Bay of Islands where we anchored at the entrance of the river and took the dinghy several miles upstream to Kerikeri and the oldest surviving stone house in the region, built in 1832.
If it weren’t for Frank waiting patiently outside with David & Danny, whilst Nadia and I were taking forever to shop for gifts inside The Stone House, he would not have noticed a group of young indigenous children playing inside our dinghy that they had untied from the wharf, with oars out and ready to take off.
We spent the last night of our cruise anchored in Waipiro Bay as our friends Marion & Colin had invited us to a BBQ at their caretaker’s cottage. We had a wonderful evening full of good food, wine and great company before we returned to Russell for the final 3 nights of Nadia, Dave and Danny’s stay in New Zealand.
On the way back to Russell, we stopped at Roberton island (also known as Motuarohia ), the first place where Captain Cook landed in the Bay of Islands and took a steep walk up the hillside to a magnificent 360 degrees panoramic lookout over the Bay.
With 5 of us on board the yacht for a week, back at ‘A Noble View’, I was so happy to use a washing machine to get all our washing up to date whilst Nadia and her family sorted and packed their bags for home after 7 weeks of traveling.
Over the next few days, we still managed to take the yacht over to Paihia one day for some retail therapy and to the site of the Treaty of Waitangi signed in 1840 for some sightseeing, but all too soon, our time together came to an end.
Despite the obvious difficulties of having 5 adults on board a 39 foot yacht, and unaccustomed as Nadia, Dave and Danny were with life afloat, they seemed to thoroughly enjoy the novel situation of their time on board Stars End 2 (perhaps not so much the skill of taking a shower in a tiny cubicle with a trickle of water!), and warmly thanked us for the unique experience of exploring the Bay of Islands from a yachting perspective.
In the tranquil anchorage of a secluded bay, surrounded by rugged hills, lush vegetation and abundant wildlife, it’s pretty hard not to appreciate the beauty of your surroundings.
Cruising the unspoiled Bay of Islands is an unparalleled thrill we have felt privileged to experience and now to share with our family for all too brief a time.
PS- After labeling all the pictures, I realize I need to explain something. As a toddler 3 years my sister’s junior, I was unable to say her name- Nadia Anscombe. My effort came out as ‘Arbie Ampump’ and I am not ashamed to say that 60 years later, my beloved sister has always been known as, and will always remain ‘my Arbie Ampump’! I hasten to add that a number of other family members also now refer to my sister as Arbie too, so I am not alone!