Sunday, January 06, 2019

Great Barrier Island

[Kyle]The sail to Great Barrier Island from Man O’ War was a bit on the long side for a daysail, so we made sure we were the first ones out of the bay the following morning. We had great wind until we cleared the northeast tip of Waiheke Island, then it quit and we bobbed around for a bit. We had just enough air moving over the sails to keep us pointed the right direction and the tide was going out, giving us a favorable current, so our progress wasn’t actually as bad as it appeared on the surface.

Another new anchorage for Begonia

After a couple of hours, the wind arrived as tiny cat’s paws skipping across the water’s surface towards us. The sails filled and then started pulling and then started pulling harder. Soon, we were racing along leaving a hissing wake.

We arrived at Whangaparapara harbor just as the weather was switching from “Ooh, Fun!” to “Yikes!” The wind and swell was pushing into Whangaparapara so, like all of the other boats in the harbor, we ducked in behind the hook of land forming the smaller Graveyard Bay within. We were hoping to find a spot that would let the two intervening headlands overlap and block our view of the open sea, but there was too little space and too many boats, so we had to settle for a spot where we were exposed only a little some of the time.

Shortly thereafter, Dave and Lyndon arrived on their boat Parera and anchored nearby. After allowing each other time to get settled, Maryanne paddled the Pudgy over to invite them to dinner.

The lovely Dave and Lyndon of Parera (a type of duck found in New Zealand)

While we were all eating in Begonia’s cockpit, a big motorboat came near enough to us that we all turned to see what they were up to. The guy at the helm yelled something I couldn’t hear over the wind. I cupped a hand to an ear to indicate I hadn’t caught what he had said. He then yelled again, “Where are you going to park?”

Huh‽ The four of us on Begonia looked at each other with confusion. What a strange thing to say. We were clearly anchored. There was a chain sticking out the front and the only four occupants on board were sitting around the dinner table. We even had our anchor ball hoisted, not that he knew what it was. We shrugged and he went on his way toward the part of our swinging circle between us, Parera and the beach. He nearly dropped his anchor on ours, but then drifted a little bit to one side before it hit the bottom, so he ended up slightly ahead of a spot midway between us and Parera. We all agreed he was too close for total comfort, but the bay was full and the options for people ducking out of the weather were limited, so we agreed to keep an eye on him and see how he swings. Meanwhile, we spent a good part of the rest of dinner trying to figure out his cryptic remark. The thing I decided made the most sense to me was that he might have been subtly trying to tell us we were in his spot and we should move so he can have it. Uh, no. We were here first. Anchoring etiquette says that we had the right to ask him to move, not the other way around. If we had been on a mooring ball with his name on it, it would have been within his rights to ask us to shove off, but we were not, so he didn’t.

By the time Dave and Lyndon headed back to Parera, we had all decided the swinging situation with the three boats was acceptable and agreed to let the guy stay put.

By morning, it was really howling. My back, which had been healing slowly, was really hurting again. I didn’t want to sail all of the way over to Barrier and not go ashore, so we joined Dave and Lyndon for a short excursion to the beach. We had a look at the old graveyard after which the bay was named and took the short, but ridiculously steep trail to the top of the ridge separating the anchorage from the open sea. It was definitely way rougher out there. Nobody had come in or gone out so far that day. We were all just hunkered down at anchor.

We made further plans to get together again that afternoon, but before they came to pass, Dave swam over and said they were feeling nervous about leaving their boat unattended and they wanted to skip it. That seemed sensible. Since we got back from the beach, almost every other boat in the anchorage had dragged and needed to re-anchor. One poor couple on a little yellow boat tried so many times that a friend of theirs eventually just told them to raft up alongside him for the duration.

Parera and Begonia held. I went on deck with our handheld wind meter and measured the wind in the mid twenties with occasional long blasts into the high thirties. I saw a peak of 41.9 at one point. That one almost knocked me over.

I retreated to the comfort of our cabin to wait the wind out there. We were halfway through a movie when I noticed the big powerboat was suddenly abeam us, blocking our view of Parera. We went on deck to try to get the guy’s attention, but he was nowhere to be seen – possibly below taking a nap or something. Our hailer horn has a current glitch and wasn’t loud enough to overcome the wind, so we got out our backup lung powered horn. It sounds like a duck sighing or possibly a really sad New Year’s kazoo, but it got his attention. Maryanne went on deck and tried with shouting and gestures to tell him he was dragging. His response was hard to hear, but it was either that he had let out some more chain and he was fine, or that his anchor had reset and he was fine.

Except that he was still going backwards and no chain was going off of his bow roller. Plus, he would surely swing into us on the next wind shift. From on deck, we could see Parera and he was close enough to them that Dave could have probably made a running jump from one boat to the other. Dave was standing at the bow and was able to ask the guy to move in a normal conversational tone. He did so, but I swear he gave Maryanne the stink eye when he left. He tried several times in almost exactly his former spot, but dragged each time, so eventually he retreated to a more distant part of the bay. We all decided we would sleep better knowing he wasn’t upwind of us.

Almost all of the other boats in the anchorage started dragging one after the other. One small boat with a tiny anchor and a tiny chain tried so many times that eventually a friend of theirs told them to raft to him for the night.

In the middle of all of this excitement Swan arrived, carrying Ivan and Kerry, whom we had met in Suwarrow when they were crewing on Capistrano with Dave in 2017, their son Evan and his new girlfriend. We hadn’t seen Kerry and Ivan since then and were looking forward to a reunion. They found a spot downwind of us and Parera, but upwind of that guy, and promised to meet up tomorrow when the weather was predicted to be calmer.

By morning, the wind had ceased completely and it was a different world. We lowered the Pudgy and easily rowed over, barely making a ripple in the bay. Ivan and Kerry were wonderful, as we remembered them to be. Their son and his girlfriend were also a pleasure to meet and humbled us with their many achievements. Swan is big and sleek and beautiful and probably goes faster at dead slow than we do surfing in a gale. It was good to get caught up in the little time we had. More weather was coming and everyone was hoping to be in better protected anchorages by afternoon. We were planning on staying to tough it out because we were pretty comfortable our anchor was holding well and Whangaparapara was in a better position to begin our next leg.

Maryanne: Great Barrier island is a gem to visit. It has a host of different anchorages and lots to do ashore. We were pressed for time to head south, and Kyle's back continued to be regressing when pushed - so we had to skip all that. Still, that leaves us something to look forward to the next time we pass this way.

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