Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Return to the Bay of Islands

[Kyle]It was still raining in the morning when we left Motukawanui. I raised the mainsail and sheets of trapped water came pouring down on me. The wind was only strong enough to keep the sails filled about two thirds of the time during each wave-induced roll. That made us pretty slow, but at least we were moving forward and heading in almost the right direction. The forecast had been for direct headwinds, but they were actually off to one side, so we only needed three long tacks and three short ones to get to Tikitiki Island off Howe Point, at the northern entrance of the Bay of Islands. As the day went on, the wind picked up slowly until it was just below our reefing limit for full sail. Once we got to Tikitiki, we let out the sails and had a fast downwind reach the rest of the way.

After spending months seeing at most a handful of other boats, suddenly they were everywhere. It was Easter weekend, which in New Zealand seems to be a four-day holiday, and the weather was brilliant sunshine. It seemed everybody was out on their boats for the last hurrah of the season. It was like Chesapeake Bay on Labor Day weekend. It was time to dust off our knowledge of the Right of Way rules, not just the one about “Always give way to lighthouses”.

We were on port tack. Another boat was coming up on our port bow. They were on a starboard tack. We had to give way. We wanted to go starboard, but there was another boat there on port tack who was downwind of us. We had to give way to them as well. What to do?

Easy! Point to Old Glory flying proudly from astern and barge right through. They’ll be expecting that! {Kidding!}

After a few more miles of racing every other sailboat going our general direction, we finally wove our way through a few fishing boats and dropped our anchor right in the middle of the Te Pahi Islands. Te Pahi is a group of four islets, each surrounded by rocky outcrops, all lying within a larger bay. Our route into the Bay of Islands had paralleled our arrival route from Tonga five months before, but so far has not crossed it. Even though we can see many of the places we left in November from where we are, we still haven’t officially circumnavigated the North Island. Soon, though. We could almost cross the gap with the dinghy now.

After a night’s sleep, we inflated the kayak and paddled over to adjacent Rangihoua Bay to a trailhead we saw on one of our maps. It turned out to be the Marsden Memorial Walk. The walk meanders through the hills adjacent the bay and has many signboards telling the story of New Zealand’s first missionary settlement, led by Samuel Marsden. For the most part, it seemed like a peaceful transition, although there was some mention of a few neighboring Maori tribes who were a little hostile to both the Europeans and the tribes they favored.

After the one-way Memorial Walk, we used our map to find an alternative route back, which took us past the Pa mound of the old Maori settlement. (A Pa is a fortified village) The view from up there was amazing! The whole Bay of Islands could be seen from on top, as well as the adjacent valleys in the other direction. It was a very picturesque and eminently defensible position.

From the Pa, we scrambled down to the beach along a trail that seemed to vanish a little more with each step. It seems few people do the whole loop.

We got back in the kayak and returned to Begonia to drop Maryanne off. She had a million little scratches on her legs from the gorse we had to occasionally push through on our walk. Once her legs hit the salt water while launching the kayak, she decided she was too distracted by the stinging to enjoy any more time out.

I went back out and did a big circuit of the Te Pahi group, stopping at the end to land and scramble up the islet nearest to Begonia. I had got it into my head that I wanted to get a photo of the boat from the top.

Exploring Te Pahi Islands & Rangihoua Heritage Park

There was no trail up there, per se, but I managed to claw my way up through high grasses and skirting patches of gorse. The grass was so thick that I couldn’t actually see below my knees. I kept finding mini mounds or holes to trip me up and ended up stumbling my way up and down more than gracefully climbing.

When I got back to Begonia, I was pretty much done for the day and ready to start winding down. We were planning on spending one more night at Te Pahi and then moving across the Kerikeri inlet to Moturoa Island in the morning. The forecast was for rain all day the next day, so we decided to move now, so we could hide inside during the rain and not go out and get wet.

It did rain hard all night, but we were surprised to wake to blue skies and sunshine! The rain had apparently not stopped for the day, but it looked like we would have a few hours before the next wave arrived. We decided to get out the kayak and have a paddle around the islets near our new anchorage.

Around Moturoa Island - among other things we found concrete gannets!

Moturoa has pretty different geology than Te Pahi. The hills here seem to be frozen pyroclastic flows that have since been worn by erosion into big, rounded boulders. They are fascinating to kayak around because of the way even the smallest swell magnifies, reflects off of them and then churns through the gaps.

We played around, ducking in and out of them until the wind picked up and it started getting genuinely rough. Maybe that rain is finally on the way. We hadn’t avoided getting wet, but at least we weren’t paddling around a floating bathtub yet. Time to get back.

{Maryanne: While exploring we were amazed to hear a colony of gannets (and it isn't even nesting season?). As we got closer we found a solar plane, loud speaker and some concrete(?) gannets - presumably part of a plan to attract them to the areas that have been cleared of predators hence making nesting safe. Every time the noise started up, I couldn't help but chuckle.}

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