We haven’t posted in awhile, so prepare yourself for a long
one. Of course, you can always use the tried-and-true method of just scrolling
down and looking at the pictures!
When I returned to New Zealand on January 26, Patrick had been
tied to a mooring working on boat projects for two months. He was ready to get
out and do some exploring. We started with a road trip to Waipoua Forest on his
birthday. The route we took across the island to the west coast (State Highway
12) was very scenic, full of green rolling hills dotted with woodlands. The
word “bucolic” was made for New Zealand. Shortly after leaving Opua, we saw a pukeko, a New Zealand swamp hen.
Although common, these birds are very skittery and you have to be looking ahead
to spot them, as they dart into the weeds or
fly into a nearby tree as soon as they sense you approaching. They are awkward
flyers and look most at home pecking for grains among the sedges or grasses.
Pukeko have enormous feet for their body size (not shown.)
When we reached the west coast, we passed through Hokianga,
which has a huge natural harbour that opens into the Tasman Sea. We stopped
there to stretch our legs.
We had planned to take another route to Waipoua Forest but
luckily, we missed the turn for the route we had researched online.
When we got to Waipoua Forest, the naturalist told us she wouldn’t
recommend our taking the Google map route back, because (although beautiful) it is over
rocky, unpaved roads and takes much longer than either the Highway 12 route or
the predicted time listed on Google. Rather than backtrack the way we came, we ended up taking the southern route
home. That meant traveling in a big loop, first east to Whangarei, and then
north to our starting point in Opua. We spent more time driving than we had intended during this outing, but we saw a huge chunk of Northland in the
|Road through Waipoua Forest|
The Waipoua Forest is one of several remaining patches of
native forest in New Zealand. As in other countries, most of the original
forest has been logged for timber and to clear land for cattle. Visiting the
Waipoua Forest gave us an idea of what the country looked like when the Maori (indigenous
people of New Zealand) were the only people living here. The Waipoua Forest is
home to the great kauri trees of Aoteoroa. (Aoteoroa
is the Maori name for New Zealand and one translation is “long white
cloud.”) Kauri trees have the girth of a giant redwood or Sequoia, but they do
not grow as high. Kauris were coveted by Europeans for their tall, straight
timber that was often used to produce ship’s
Te Matua Ngahere (not shown), "The Father of the Forest" or oldest living kauri tree, is estimated to be between 2,500 and 3,000 years old.
|Tane Mahuta, "The Lord of the Forest," is the largest living kauri tree|
|Kauri's scaly bark (like jigsaw puzzle pieces) protects them from parasitic plants|
The Waipoua Forest reminded me a lot of the Hoh Rainforest
in Washington state, with kauris replacing the old growth Doug fir and Sitka
spruce, tree ferns supplanting sword ferns, and sedges that sometimes reached
human-height or taller!
|Kauri tree with epiphytes|
|Tree fern over a forest path|
Kauri trees have shallow feeding roots that are delicate and
easily destroyed. Signs throughout the forest reserve constantly remind
visitors to stay on the trails for this reason. The forest also hosts the
carnivorous kauri snail. These are large, land-dwelling snails that can
be over 5 cm across. It was too dry at the time of year we visited to spot any kauri
snails along the trail, but the naturalist at the visitor station showed me an
empty shell so I could see what one looks like.
|Not the largest sedges that we saw|
Along with kauris, graceful tree ferns stood out among the
forest species. There seemed to be two main types. Those that looked like palm
trees reminded me of alders, with their “pioneer” habit of lining openings
along the road or trails where there is a lot of sunlight. A bushier variety
having multiple stalks or stems was found in denser growth.
|A tree fern's lacy canopy|
|Tree ferns along the Waipoua River|
On the way home, we stopped for a break at a tavern and had homemade
burgers New Zealand-style---with beets and a fried egg on top---washed down
with a cold Lion Red. The tavern was very homey (it was actually in an old wooden house)
with its Victorian-style green and white-patterned area rugs, hearth (not lit in
summer) and huge resident mastiff.
The Bay of Islands
A Great Day for Ducks
Several days after returning from our road trip to Waipoua
Forest, we left our mooring in Opua to do some cruising in the Bay of Islands. Since I had returned from San Diego, the weather in New
Zealand had for the most part been gray, dismal, and depressing. Although
temperatures were warm, it did not seem like summer in the Southern hemisphere
at all. The weather did not relent during our first couple of days in the Bay
of Islands, and the constant overcast and misty rain reminded us of the Pacific
|A great day for ducks|
The weather was not the only thing that reminded us of home.
The Bay of Islands itself is very similar to the San Juan islands, composed of islets
with a maritime climate covered in gnarled trees. Here in New Zealand, the gnarly,
twisted trees are pohutukawa and unfamiliar conifers rather than madrone and manzanita.
|Like the San Juans|
We spent our first night anchored in Assassination Cove, right next to Opunga
Cove. The forecast the next day was for 30-40 knots of wind and rain, so we
spent a lazy day at anchor, much of it in pouring rain.
The following day, the sun was finally out, but it was still
windy. I was hoping to explore Roberton Island, a wildlife sanctuary. We
checked out the anchorage to see if we could use it as a day anchorage, but it
is exposed to the south and there were 15-20 knots of southerly winds. Patrick
did not want to leave the boat on a lee shore, so we decided to come back
another day. We moved on to beautiful Omakiwi Cove, one of the few remaining
pine-forested coves in New Zealand. Omakiwi is a small, narrow cove, and we had
the good fortune of sharing it the first night with only two other boats.
We went ashore and hiked along the road to the Maori
villages of Rawhiti and Kamakama Bay. One of the similarities between the
Maoris and the other Polynesian cultures we have visited on this voyage are
their community gathering spaces, or marae. The entrance to the marae
at Rawhiti and its community building had some beautiful carvings; but I
discovered I had left the memory card for my camera in the computer the last
time I downloaded pictures, so I do not have any photos to share.
|Sailboat in Omakiwi Cove|
Both of the general stores in these two villages, mentioned
in our cruising guide, were closed for the season.
Just past Rawhiti, there was a sign for the Oke Bay
Preserve, and we hiked up the stairs to the overlook. Oke Bay is beautiful,
indeed, and would be a fine anchorage in southerly winds.
The next day we spent aboard Silhouette, splicing new
preventer lines and working on other boat projects. It was Waitangi Day
in New Zealand, a holiday over which there is some contention among New
Zealanders. The Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840, was an agreement between
the British and Maori chiefs to establish a nation state and share governance
over New Zealand. Two different versions and interpretations of the
treaty caused the Maori to lose some of their rights, resulting in an inequitable society, and there is still a
struggle over honoring the terms of the treaty today. Nevertheless, the attempt at creating an
inclusive founding document seems more forward-thinking than the way most indigenous
cultures were treated by colonial powers at the time.
The picture above shows a version of the official New Zealand flag (blue) based on the British Union Jack, with four stars symbolizing the Southern Cross, flying side by side with the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand (white). Many Maori prefer the national Maori flag that first flew at Parliament on Waitangi Day 2010, while others prefer to display the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand. When Patrick and I went to research the significance of the white flag we saw flying over Omakiwi Cove, we were bewildered by just how many variations of the New Zealand flag exist.
|Waitangi Day flags |
Over the course of a windy afternoon, the number of vessels
in Omakiwi Cove swelled, as a total of 19 additional boats crammed into the
anchorage with us. That afternoon, we had our bit of drama when we heard about
an earthquake in the Solomon Islands over the radio. A Tsunami Watch for the
North Island turned into a Tsunami Warning over the course of the late
afternoon. Although the predicted wave at the North Cape was supposed to be less than 1 meter, we decided to up anchor and head for deeper water.
Patrick’s thought was that the prediction was based on a model---and the model
could be wrong---and both of us felt that even a small wave could create havoc
in such a small, crowded anchorage. About fifteen minutes after we got
underway, the Tsunami Warning was cancelled. Nevertheless, we had a nice
evening sail, slipping into our new anchorage after the predicted wave. Along
the way, we saw our first penguin and a pod of dolphin!
Since the stores in the villages on the mainland had been
closed, we decided to backtrack to Russell to resupply fresh groceries before
rounding Cape Brett for our trip to Whangarei. We had visited Russell once
before by ferry, but this trip allowed us to get more familiar with this former
whaling station and site of the fall of Kororareka. Instead of
anchoring outside Russell, where there is a lot of ferry traffic, we anchored
one bay south in Matauwhi Bay. Although our cruising guide said this had bay
had poor holding, friends of ours had left their boat here for long periods and
had no problem. Matauwhi Bay is a convenient location because there is a dinghy
dock at the nearby Russell Boating Club, and it is only a short walk into town.
|Russell Boating Club|
"Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." ---Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
|Messing about in boats---the dinghy dock at Russell Boating Club|
I had visited the Maori marae the first time we were in
Russell, and we hoped to visit the Russell museum on this visit. Unfortunately,
we never made it to the museum during open hours.
|Detail of carving outside marae |
|The Russell Museum|
|Trypots outside the Russell Museum|
While in Russell, we explored the oldest church in New
Zealand. (The oldest cathedral, we were
told by a South Islander we met in Whangarei, is in Nelson, New Zealand’s
|Triptych showing seafaring history of Russell|
The church had a pretty interior. Its parishioners were obviously
more about comfort than some of the more austere churches we had seen in the
South Pacific (perhaps they had to listen to longer sermons), as
hand-tapestried cushions in every pattern imaginable lined the pews.
|The Russell Anglican Christ Church, established 1836|
know how recent those cushions were, nor this painting, which was hanging
above the balcony:
|Hand-embroidered cushions tell a tale of the region's history|
|An interesting take|
Unfortunately, there was no access to the balcony, and the bottom of my photo of the painting was cut off by the balcony (which I cropped from the photo.)
Russell’s Christ Church had an interesting graveyard on its
One was reminded of the high childhood mortality rate in previous
centuries. We found one tombstone that appeared to be engraved by hand.
|Cemetery at Russell's Christ Church|
|Prayer on the death of a child|
Other tombstones appeared to be actual boulders with one
face planed off for carving the name and dates of the deceased.
There were historical grave markers from the fall of Kororareka
and maritime disasters.
|A boulder-style tombstone as seen from the rear|
|Marker commemorating the native people who rose up against the British in the Northern war|
|Captain Bell died at sea but not in battle|
In both Matauwhi Bay and Russell, we were able to get closer
looks at the tall ship we had seen from Roberton Island, a gaff-rigged, top-sail schooner. The historic-looking vessel seemed a bit incongruous with its large inflatable hanging off the
stern, but her crew still climbed the rigging. We later learned that although the R. Tucker Thompson was designed in the tradition of North American halibut schooners, she was designed using state-of-the-art computer generated calculations for stability and was herself launched in only 1985.
|Grave of a sailor, fisherman, or whaler|
|The R. Tucker Thompson|
The R. Tucker Thompson
now takes tourists on day and evening sails, enabling them to help raise the
sails and steer the ship.
|With tops'ls raised|
While in Russell, we ran a few errands including taking care of the groceries. Shortly after we arrived in New Zealand,
Patrick had purchased a car with a contract to sell it back at a reduced rate
in six months time. We left the boat for a day to drive the car from Opua to
Whangarei, so we would have it during our haul-out. We felt that the car would
be more secure in the boat yard than at the marina in Opua, where there had
been several thefts and break-ins during the two months Patrick had spent
there. We returned to Russell by bus (Whangarei-Pahia) and ferry
(Pahia-Russell). (The bus also drops off at the SH 11 turn-off on Opua Hill,
for those wishing to return to Opua Marina.)
Patrick also used the internet to check on his visa
extension-in-progress. It turned out to be a good idea to return to Russell, as
Patrick needed to provide another document by 4:00 p.m. on the day we arrived.
The document (his proof of ownership of the vessel) was not required in the original
application, but there was a disclaimer on the form that stated that
Immigration may sometimes ask for additional documents. Patrick received this
email (sent only 48 hours in advance) at 3:15 on the day the document was
required by 4:00 p.m. Luckily, he was able to send a readable digital photo of
the document, because we didn’t have time to go into town and find a fax
Back in the Bay
By the end of our stay in Russell, the wind in the Bay had
completely died down and summer was finally in full swing. We were off to
explore Urupukapuka Island and its environs before leaving the Bay of Islands.
|Gently folded coastline and bays line the sheltered side of Urupukapuka Island|
We anchored in Paradise Cove for two nights. Like all the
good anchorages in the Bay of Islands, Paradise Cove can be crowded (the
islands are many, but the anchorages are few); however, it is a lovely wide bay
with a sandy beach and turquoise water. Hiking trails in New Zealand are called
“tracks,” and many tracks criss-cross Urupukapuka Island (as well as nearby Moturua
Island, which we didn’t visit.) We spent part of each day tramping all over the
island, exploring the ancient pa sites and drinking in the coastal views.
|Pohutukawa tree overlooks Otaio Bay, and Te Akeake Point |
|The north side of Urupukapuka is exposed with dramatic cliffs|
|A turret arch|
|The shallow pit at the base of the tree (to left of terraced hillside) was formerly covered and used by Maori to store kumara or sweet potato|
|Pohutukawa overlooking the South Pacific ocean|
Many of the tracks on which we hiked (not just on this island) were covered with spider webs or egg cases.
|The skipper looks at that same ocean|
At first, I thought these were just an interesting form of web, but when I examined one further, I found it was full of dozens of tiny spiders. I was surprised, because if it was an egg case, the spiders inside looked to be past the size when most spiderlings hatch. I tried researching the web/egg case online, but with a basic search for New Zealand could find no images or definitive explanation of it. Patrick and I came up with some far-fetched but interesting hypotheses of our own: 1) The spiders are communal, and their "tent-like" web and tiny size are adaptations to the strong wind in New Zealand. 2) The spiders are cannibalistic, and the "fittest" spider hatches from the egg case when all the other spiders are eaten.
|The white forms on the grass and in the bush are home to spiders|
While sheep ranches cover part of Urupukapuka, it was not
uncommon to meet “escapees” grazing in the forest or along the trail.
|Close-up of spider egg case/web|
We took a dinghy excursion to the pass between Urupukapuka
and Waewaetorea Island, where I got my first taste of snorkeling in New
Zealand. Although the visibility was not as good as in the tropics…
….the fish I saw looked more like dinner.
|This fish is called a Leather jacket in N-Zed but it reminds me of a unicorn fish|
|Red moki with sea urchins|
Most of the fish were congregated over the large kelp beds.
|I think these are kingfish, a popular sport fish in New Zealand|
The water temperature was also a lot different from
snorkeling in the tropics, and I could only manage to stay in about a half an
hour before getting chilled. As I surfaced near the dinghy, I was surprised by what appeared to be the remains of a huge gelatinous zooplankton population.
|Zooplankton help support the rich fishery in New Zealand|
While anchored in Paradise Cove, we cleaned the prop and
attempted to clean the waterline and hull of Silhouette. Two months in Opua had left barnacles on her prop and
hull and covered the bottom of the boat with a thick layer of slime. The bottom was the worst
we’d ever seen it.
|A fisherman drags a net (probably catching bait fish) on Urupukapuka|
When we were ready to leave the Bay of Islands, there was no
wind in the forecast for the next several days. Since we had a haul-out date in
Whangarei and wanted to see some things along the way, we left anyway, feeling
that motoring around Cape Brett was perhaps a better fate than bashing around
it in contrary winds.
Next post: Journey to Whangarei