Frank and I are becoming expert coddiwomplers.
For those of you who think I have now lost the plot completely, let me explain that coddiwompling means ‘to travel purposefully towards an as-yet-unknown destination’.
In fact when Queen Elizabeth I knighted Francis Drake in 1581, she said, ‘Arise, Sir Francis, our intrepid world explorer, our own ultimate Coddiwompler.’
So as I said, Frank and I are embracing and perfecting this skill which seems to describe our lifestyle so eloquently. In fact I should like this to be the name for our next yacht!
With time up our sleeve and no fixed destination, we have spent the last month meandering around all over the place. Coddiwompling!
The day after my sister and family left, we sailed south from the Bay of Islands.
Although we had planned to coast hop on the way down, with little wind forecast over the following days, we took advantage of the excellent conditions to sail whilst there was light. With daylight saving, it doesn’t get dark till very late and despite a very late start, by 7pm we had sailed 55 n miles and were anchoring in Urquhart Bay, just inside the entrance to Whangarei Harbour.
Next day, we continued downstream another 18 miles to the city, past bays with waterside homes sprawled over the hillsides and many marine slipways, workshops, and marinas along the river banks.
We radioed the Hatea Bridge that has to be lifted for us to pass through but it’s easy to see why so many overseas boats stay the entire cyclone season here in Whangarei, particularly at the Town Basin Marina where we moored for 3 nights.
You walk out of the marina straight into the heart of the city, with more cafe’s, supermarkets and specialized marine shops than we had seen since in a long, long time.
I was like a child in a candy store when we first entered the massive Pick ‘n Save supermarket across the street, faced with the huge selection of products at competitive prices. Knowing that we planned to sail back to the Pacific in May, I was able to buy many of the dried pantry goods I had not sourced from the smaller supermarkets in the Bay of Islands and were impossible to find overseas. It was just as well it was so close to the marina as each day our arms stretched longer as we dragged bags and bags of heavy groceries back to the yacht where I listed the items and then had to find space to pack them away.
Frank had his own temptation in the form of a huge second hand shop on the waterfront, jam packed with marine parts.
We both ticked off a lot of items on our wish lists, as we walked all over town sourcing a variety of products. We also caught up with ‘Ding’, one of our ‘yachtie’ friends we hadn’t seen since Fiji, who was on the same marina.
After giving the credit cards a thorough thrashing over those busy few days, we were glad to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and head for Great Barrier Island which lies on the Hauraki Gulf about 40 n miles off the coast, protecting the mainland from the long swells which roll in from the Pacific.
We had a great sail to Kaikoura Island which straddles the entrance to the Port Fitzroy Harbour at Great Barrier giving it a land locked appearance until you pass through the narrow entrance. With strong gusts producing bullets of wind and white caps churning up the water, it was quite disconcerting passing through the 80 meter wide Man of War Passage, but with a ‘Shangri-la” styled impact, a stunning protected harbor opened up, with calm waters and many sheltered bays fanning out, surrounded by steep forest covered hills. It felt dream like.
We spent a couple of nights anchored at Smokehouse Bay, one of the most popular anchorages here as all visiting ‘yachties’ are invited, by the Webster family who established this place, to fire up the smokehouse and smoke your freshly caught fish, or use the facilities to enjoy a log fueled hot bath in the hut provided. There is also a freshwater pipe with tubs, wringers and clotheslines at the water’s edge to do your own laundry.
The picnic tables and benches are used most nights by visiting boaties who come ashore to enjoy their ‘sun downers’, cook their supper over an open fire whilst their fish smoke and share stories.
There is even a set of piles for tying up to if you wish to careen your boat for a hull scrub down between tides.
We met up with Bill and Cheryl (Bill is brother to our good friend Marion) on their yacht ‘Lotus’, and “Ding’ joined us on his yacht ‘Chiquita’ and we all ate mussels Cheryl & I had collected from the rocks at low tide, that Frank tossed in garlic butter on the open fire plus freshly caught smoked fish the ‘boys’ had caught. It doesn’t get much better than that!
We had several walks on Great Barrier. The first was a ‘Frankie adventure’, as we bush bashed for an hour or so up a near vertical path that I feel sure was only made by wild pigs, but that Frank was sure was THE track our friend Marion had assured him led to a lookout on the hill behind Smokehouse Bay.
A couple of days later, we enjoyed an official DOC (Dept of Conservation) walking track from Port Fitzroy through dense woodland to a river bed and series of small waterfalls. Over 60% of land in Great Barrier islands’ – 285 square kilometers is public land administered by DOC with many stunning walks through this untouched wilderness for all levels of hikers.
We also did the Glenfern walk that ran up the hillside behind Port Fitzroy where 10,000 locally grown trees had been planted to re-vegetate the hillsides after the area had been heavily logged.
We walked through dense bush and old kauri forest to a swing bridge across to a massive kauri tree with a lookout, along pathways through native bush to a lookout with stunning 360 degree panorama and visited a pond which was home to some protected Pateke ducks- NZ’s rarest waterfowl species.
We found Great Barrier, with a population of just over 800 to be such a pristine tranquil place, with few roads, shops or traffic. We felt as if we had stepped back in time when the pace of life was slower and more laid back.
There was such a friendly atmosphere in the township of Port Fitzroy when we went to check out the ‘local shop come bottle shop come tourist information’ and we were welcomed to join ‘happy hour’. Just purchase your chosen beverage from the shop and join all the locals who gathered around the picnic tables outside the shop to have a ‘good yarn’. We did this a couple of times and enjoyed meeting other yachties as well as the local residents who had interesting stories about Great Barrier.
We left Great Barrier Island with 2 days of balmy sailing back to the Bay of Islands in time to celebrate Christmas Day with our friends Marion & Colin.
We had experienced none of the Christmas commercialization we are used to in Australia, carols blaring in shopping malls, streets full of bauble covered Xmas trees & tinsel decorations and shops crammed with all the trappings of Christmas- mainly because we had not been exposed to any big towns or cities. It felt quite surreal as our family and friends messaged and skyped to offer their Christmas greetings, but once we enjoyed a wonderful Xmas afternoon with our friends and family, wearing our prerequisite Xmas cracker hats and spoilt for choice with food, and lots of bubbly, it finally felt festive!
Sadly, my trusty Canon camera chose this time to stop working altogether, so until I pick out a new one for my forthcoming BIG birthday in Brisbane my iPhone is all I have to record our adventures.
We stayed around the Bay of Islands until after the New Year visiting anchorages that had become familiar to us but were so much more crowded now that all the locals were on their summer holidays, so we explored new areas that were less popular and more exposed to wind conditions.
We had great fun foraging the exposed beaches and shoreline, finding interesting flotsam and jetsam, shells and wood for my mobiles I enjoy making, and hoping the water would warm up enough for us to swim. The locals seemed to think nothing of the cool water temperatures- (17-18 degrees), there were people swimming, snorkeling, diving and water skiing everywhere, but although the sun had a strong bite, the water was simply still too cold for Frank and I to enjoy.
However, I have to say that in the last couple of weeks, there does seem to have been a marked improvement.
As we sailed northwards in early January to a group of small islands called the the Cavalli Isles, just 2 miles off the coast and 20 miles north of Bay of Islands, we were impressed with the stunning scenery and crystal clear waters.
We spent several days here, exploring the small islands and anchorages and one day we trekked from one end of the main island Motukawanui (under the care of DOC) which we enjoyed with Cheryl and Bill who we met up with in their yacht ‘Lotus’.
After the long walk up and down the island from Waiiti Bay, it was glorious to sit on the hilltop in the cool sea breeze in such picturesque surroundings with twisted pohutukawa trees dotting the landscape with their blazing red flowers and watching boats far below us weave between the small islands.
We continued on to Whangaroa Harbour, with its narrow entrance that opens up into a magnificent harbor with rugged hills that are the remnants of ancient volcanoes and a number of protected bays and anchorages.
The town of the same name is a little further downstream with a small community, a pub, a shop and a marina.
In the past couple of weeks, we have experienced some of the best weather so far in NZ, and although we both suffer the next day with aching joints, Frank & I have enjoyed more walks around the Ranfurly Bay Scenic Reserve in Whangaroa as our fitness level continues to improve.
From the township of Whangaroa, we did the walk through manuka bush to the top of a volcanic plug -St Paul’s Rock with stunning 360 degree views of the entire area.
With a fear of heights, I was unable to pull myself up on the chain installed in the rock for the last 30 meters, as my hands were shaking too much with the vertical drop, but I still enjoyed climbing so high to get such a fantastic panoramic view of the entire harbor.
Another day, Frank and I did the Wairakau Stream Track from Lane Cove to Totura North, a 12 km round trip I only noticed today is classified online for advanced trampers! There you go!
It involved crossing the Wairakau Stream from Lane Cove, through grassy flats and then continue up a rocky incline through dense woodland for several miles until you start descending by a steep clay based rough track as you near Totura North.
Thankfully Frank bought us a packet of lolly snakes in Totura as a sugar boost incentive to make the return trip back, where we gratefully collapsed into the pool at the Wairakau Stream to cool off- the first time we have actually appreciated the chilly water.
Sometimes you see some strange sights. First we saw a fellow yachtie taking her cat for a kayak down the river, and soon after we saw a couple of young fellows paddling their paddle boards from the comfort of a plastic chair balanced on their board!
Anyway, we are still in Whangaroa Harbour, deciding whether to stay here longer, head back to the Bay of Islands to source paint and parts we wish to buy for the yacht before we fly home, or whether we have time to sail back to Great Barrier which we loved so much.
Its a tough life contemplating our coddiwompling!