Written June 2011 – Raoul Island, NZ & Savusavu, Fiji
Too much. Not enough. Time. Too much time since the last update (6 months!), so now there isn't enough time to cover everything that's happened without boring you all. So the theme of this update?
There isn't one. I'll try to keep it brief. (Impossible!) Just a lot of photos and a little narrative. Perhaps inspiration and promptitude will strike properly next time.
OVER THE TOP
Here's the plan: Up and over the north end of the North Island, south along the west coast to the north end of the South Island to visit the Marlborough Sounds, then south (yes, south) to the south end of the North Island to spend the holidays with friends in Wellington. Enough norths and souths for you? This map will help.
The North Island of New Zealand is about 450 miles long.
As we left Opua heading north, our first stop was the Cavalli Islands...
And it was here that we were first "stopped" as well. In the distance behind Migration, you can see a big NZ warship. They launched a large RIB and zoomed over to check us out. More on this later.
Excellent hiking, or "tramping" as the Kiwis say.
Remember the Rainbow Warrior? That's the Greenpeace ship the French sank in Auckland Harbour back in the Eighties. (What a stupid and immoral action!) It was refloated, towed to the Cavalli Islands, and purposely sunk to form an artificial reef. (As a side note, I'm listening to the NZ album Send the Boats Away which was recorded at that time [Thanks, Kieth]).
We lucked out and had perfectly calm weather for our dive on the Rainbow Warrior. It was very interesting... and cold. We wore every piece of neoprene we had aboard.
After the dive we headed through the small pass into Whangaroa where we spent the night.
Sailing around the North Cape and down the West side can be difficult unless the weather cooperates. There is only one safe harbour if a storm develops during the 450-mile journey. Thus, if good weather is forecast, you take it. We left Whangaroa right away so we would be ready when light northerlies were due on the west coast.
As we headed for North Cape, we had our second visit by NZ officials.
North Cape has a reputation for bad weather, but we approached it on calm seas.
We had to wait for the northerly before heading south. We anchored in Tom Bowling Bay -- desolate and beautiful. Despite my efforts, we didn't have fresh fish for dinner.
We took the opportunity to transfer our extra fuel out of the jerry jugs and into the main tanks. In the middle of the process we received our third visit from NZ officials. You can see the plane flying above and to the left of Alene. Of course, they hailed us on the radio when our hands were all diesely.
It was nervous-making and exciting to round Cape Reinga, the northeastern-most point of New Zealand. It's covered with giant sand dunes.
We had an awesome sail down the west coast (of the North Island). We felt far away from everything. We were out of sight of land most of the time and, until we neared the south, we saw no ships.
A glorious sunrise began our third day out.
And hidden in the sunrise, magnificent Mount Taranaki.
In case you missed it, Alene will help.
Mount Taranaki is a spectacular peak rising to 2,518 meters (8,261 feet). It is a classic snow-covered volcanic cone.
We were with the mountain all day long. Sometimes it was hidden in the clouds, sometimes it peeked out, and then it would stand tall in full glory. What a day!
As we passed Taranaki, the North Island curved away to the east. We were bound for Marlborough Sounds. To get there we had to cross... Cook Strait.
COOK STRAIT PRIMER
Notice how NZ is divided into two big islands. Each island has tall mountain ranges. The prevailing westerly winds coming from the Tasman Sea run right into those mountains. Each island also extends all the way to the sea floor (of course). The ocean and tidal currents run right into those walls of rock.
So what happens? The wind and water need to find some way around. That's either to the north -- a long way, or to the south -- also a long way, or through that convenient gap right between the two islands. That's Cook Strait.
Cook Strait has a reputation. Not a nice one. It can be a pleasant, beautiful day just a few miles away. The seas can be calm, all is fine in the world. In Cook Strait? 40 knots of winds against a 5 knot current creating mountainous, confused, steep seas.
We were understandably apprehensive as we approached the area. Fortunately, our first brush with the strait was just that. We skirted the northwestern edge. But the change in the weather was quickly noticed. Fog and rain developed as the wind and seas increased.
The automated weather reader says "seven" just like Jerry Lewis!
Almost out of Cook Strait. Our first view of the South Island.
Moored in Ship Cove in Queen Charlotte Sound. Happy to have completed this passage.
It didn't take long! Within a few hours of arriving, we had our fourth visit from NZ officials.
On our way across the Strait, we caught a strange-looking fish. It was a barracuda, but one quite different than the tropical species we are used to.
We picked up a mooring in Ship Cove. What a fascinating place to be. Captain Cook anchored here for months. Besides being full of great history, the Sounds were like no place we had ever sailed.
Ashore at Ship Cove we found carvings, wildlife, and excellent tramps to impressive views.
Chanukah in Marlborough Sounds.
The weather changes quickly. When a south wind blows... this is just two days after our summer hike.
We loved the way Migration looked floating in this misty, green landscape.
Alene picks flowers while I wait in the kayak. Besides flowers, we collected lots of fresh mussels.
Classic Marlborough Sounds. The turquoise waters of the tropics are replaced by aquamarine.
Duck in the hole! Looking through our 'garbage disposal' in the wing deck in the galley. (And "wing deck" is not a pun.)
The weather changes fast in this part of the world. We awoke one morning expecting strong cold winds from the south but instead we had light northerlies. A perfect time to cross Cook Strait. We'd only been in the sounds for five days but we upped anchor and quickly made our way 20 miles through the sounds and out Tory Channel into the strait.
The weather was fine. In fact, at first there wasn't even enough wind to sail.
Ferry traffic in Cook Strait.
In mid-channel, we hit a fog bank and the wind rose from 15 to 30 knots in a matter of minutes. We sailed fast toward Wellington.
The fog didn't last long and we had our first view of the headlands around Wellington.
A personal escort entering Wellington? Nope. With winds upwards of 30 knots, we had our fifth visit from NZ officials.
Less than two hours later we approach Wellington without foul weather gear! I'm ecstatic because I've dreamed of sailing into Wellington ever since my friends, Steve and Shirley, moved here back in the 1990's. (I was a little too late to visit them as they moved back to California in 2001.)
THE REAL WINDY CITY
We'd visited Wellington briefly last year and really enjoyed ourselves. Now, moored at the marina a few blocks from the city center, we understood why Wellingtonians love their city. Well, most of the time.
Migration moored in Chaffers Marina right across from the Te Papa Museum. What a great location.
Wendy and Ken of s/v Cop Out, the only other foreign-flagged boat boat in Wellington for nearly all of our time there. Notice the pahutakawa in the background. They are beautiful trees that bloom just in time for Christmas!
The weather in Wellington is pretty interesting. During our first six days we had four days with maximum winds of 52, 51, 70, and 54 knots. Hurricane force is 64.
Actual wind speeds we were recording in the marina.
And then there were days like this...
You might remember that I'm a Morris Dancer. That's a slightly dorky English traditional dance. Depending on whether you do it or not, you might argue about the 'slightly'. In January 1988, some California Morris dancers got together and flew to New Zealand to dance with the annual New Zealand Morris Tour. They made many friends and some of the Kiwi dancers came to the first Southern California Morris Ale (The Sunset Duck), which I organized in April of that same year. Ever since, I've always thought it would be great to dance with the Kiwis. I got my wish. The Britannic Bedlam Morris Gentlemen were more than welcoming. I had a great time practicing with them... and drinking David Barnes's home brew afterward.
Morris practice looks the same regardless which hemisphere you're in.
December is the beginning of summer in the southern hemisphere. New Zealand hasn't commercialized the holiday season to the extent that the US has. Still, there are signs of Christmas. New Zealand Telecom put up a giant tree made of lights in the park next to the marina. With dozens of bean bags set up below, it was a great place to hang out and enjoy the light show.
You can duplicate the experience if you lie on your back outside when it's about 14°C (57°F), with 20 knots of wind blowing, and hold the the computer above your head.
There's much to do in and around Wellington. With Wendy & Ken, we biked the Rumataka trail along the route the trains used to take over the mountains.
Great scenery, good company, and a picnic in the sun. Meanwhile it was blowing 50 knots in Wellington.
The cityfront playground lighthouse was a bit of a magnet for Alene.
CHRISTMAS! Note: I know there are lots of pics here of people you don't know, but they were our wonderful hosts so they get top billing in the update. I know photos like this can be boring so I tried to pick ones that make our friends look funny or weird.
Christmas started the day the package arrived from Ohio. Alene's mother sent us a huge batch of her amazing ginger snaps. These are some of the best cookies in the entire world. Do not ask me to prove it to you because I will not share. Sorry. I know it is base and shallow; but some cookies call for selfishness.
We sailed down to Wellington because we'd been invited to spend the holidays with two sets of wonderful friends: David & Janet from s/v Navire (whom we'd met in Tonga), and Mike & Ingrid Hewetson, whom I'd met through Steve and Shirley in California back in 2001.
Christmas Eve was gorgeous. This is the amazing view of Wellington Harbour from David and Janet's home. The photo on the right is included just because I think it is cool.
Friends and food and presents.
Janet is an incredible chef. David writes songs, plays the guitar and makes strudel. What talent! We exchanged songs written for each other as part of our gifts.
Christmas day was absolutely beautiful. Mike and Ingrid live in Plimmerton, about 15 miles north of Wellington. So we gathered gifts and food and headed for the train station. The trains were all free on Christmas Day -- a nice treat from the District Council.
All our holiday gear at the marina. I am able to text, ride a train, and hold sweet potatoes on my lap all at the same time.
Mike is working hard to become a model for champagne brochures.
Mike's mom, Frances, looking reindeer chic.
Daughter Izzy and friend Esther. They don't have antlers but they look really good in hats.
That's a tui (a native NZ bird) in Mike & Ingrid's backyard. Tui birds have an amazing song but this one was still learning. We called him the "One Note Tui".
Yet another picture of us.
I titled this photo: Pahutakawa in Plimmerton. Alene insisted on being in it.
A Christmas Day walk on the beach.
Do not mess with this man when he is carving lamb.
Ingrid cooked a delicious meal. "Alene, Please hurry up and take the picture so we can eat..."
OH, THOSE BRITISH TRADITIONS Note: I know that photos of Morris Dancing are excruciatingly boring for most non-Morris Dancers. Oh well.
The Morris sides in Wellington traditionally dance in the Botanic Gardens at the top of the cable car on Boxing Day (that's the 26th of December for you Americans). I was invited to join in. Alene and I ran around like crazy the week before -- in advance of all the shops closing for the holiday -- to find whites to for me. The Gentlemen provided braces and a hat and I was in!
It's an amazing place to dance -- overlooking the entire harbour. And the Gentlemen are great fun to dance with. (Center photo by s/v Cop Out)
My solo jig.
I even had a little fan club. It takes true friends to come see Morris dancing!
And after dancing? Tea, of course!
This is Keith Riach whom I met when he came all the way from NZ to dance at The Sunset Duck way back in 1988.
All of NZ closes down for several weeks after Christmas, so we just hung out and had fun. Except for the days we were on the boat because it was too bloody windy to go outside.
The highest wind we saw. Wow.
Alene's friend Kay, whom she met in Panama years ago, came and stayed with us for a few days. We sailed out to Somes Island in the middle of Wellington Harbour aboard David & Janet's boat Navire.
It wasn't blowing 79 knots on this perfect Wellington summer day.
Lily, David's daughter, said she was going for a swim. David and I had to show that we were tough as well -- even though the water was about 25°C (59°F). However, long after David and I had scampered back onboard shivering, Lily was still casually swimming about. (Left photo by Kay Dennis)
The views from Somes Island are wonderful. These photos were taken before the Dept of Conservation ranger chastised us for tying the dinghy to a prohibited pier, coming ashore at an unauthorized spot, walking in off-limits areas, crossing yellow taped zones, and endangering ourselves by hiking near recently fallen trees. We were very bad.
A NEW YEAR
We decided to throw a New Year's Eve party aboard Migration. Despite the cold, we had a great time. Especially because of Alene's excellent homemade eggnog.
Eggnog, party hats, charades, eggnog, Auld Land Syne, and eggnog.
The annual NZ Morris Tour happens in early January and Britannic Bedlam allowed me to glom on. Alene and I jumped in Gentleman Jim's car and drove with him the nine hours north to Hamilton.
First day dancing.
We danced at the "Magic Horse Show" which, disappointingly, did not have horses performing magic tricks. But we did get to ride the horses. Who is that dork in the saddle?
Dancing at the giant corrugated iron dog in Tirau. Our dancing was not good enough to make the dog drool... lucky for Alene!
The Wellington women's side: White Rose.
The Gentlemen in fine style.
Saturday Night (the dance, not the time).
The whole NZ Crew. And the Britannic Bedlam Morris Gentlemen. Thanks to all for an amazing time.
We went to the museum in Hamilton where Alene was immersed in déjà vu. She'd posed in front of this same wall when she was in NZ in 1989.
Andy and "No Longer a NZ Virgin" Cimi camp it up at the birthplace of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Its creator, Richard O'Brien, worked in the old movie theatre that once stood on this site.
The Morris Tour lasts for most of a week. There were dance tours every day, singing and music at night, and an Ale with skits, songs, and awards. Thanks to all the NZ Morris Dancers, especially BBMG, who made us so welcome. Box of birds!
I had a great time.
During the week we had one free day. Alene and I visited Waitomo Caves for a blackwater rafting adventure.
We donned our gear and practiced with the equipment.
First we rappelled down a 30 meter (100 ft) shaft. At the bottom we hung from a zip line and zoomed through a dark tunnel with the lights of the glow worms surrounding us.
Then we jumped into freezing water with our inner tubes.
And floated through the darkness marveling at the glow worms. Stunning! (Photos stolen from oz.plymouth.edu & www.nomadicmatt.com)
Then we crawled, swam, and hiked through passages, rivers, and pools until we exited the cave by climbing up a waterfall. It was an awesome trip.
Back in Wellington, it was time to get moving. The Marlborough Sounds called again. We provisioned and said goodbye to our friends.
Before we left, Alene got some kitty time when a cute marmalade cat named Neville adopted us for a couple of days while his owners were away. In the right photo, Neville is intent on making sure the ducks swimming nearby weren't in any danger.
NORTHWEST TO SOUTH
Though we loved being with our friends, we'd had enough of the city. It was time to go cruising again. In mid-January, a fine weather window appeared to allow us our third crossing of Cook Strait. This time we'd be heading in a northwest direction to arrive at the South island.
On a beautiful day (thank you NZ Metservice forecasts), Migration motors past the Te Papa Museum on our way to Pelorus Sound. (Photo by Andy Lawton)
Spinnaker sailing across Cook Strait. And no foul weather gear!
Pelorus Sound was beautiful. There were hardly any boats to be found.
But I wasn't happy. I'd had a tooth pulled in Wellington and things weren't right. We needed to find a dentist.
Now it was blowing hard. We had an exciting sail through the Sounds to the tiny town of Havelock.
Look how little jib we have unfurled. We were doing 7 to 8 knots.
Havelock is the green shell mussel capital of the world. Most of the mussels farmed in the area are processed here. Some escape, like this one on top of the fire station.
With a population of 400, Havelock wasn't the best place to find a dentist. The marina harbourmaster was extremely helpful and got the word out. Within a couple of hours, Vic showed up at our boat offering his van so we could drive to Nelson the next day.
It's a beautiful road through the mountains. The dentist in Nelson saw me right away and fixed me up.
The elegant old inn where the dentist has her office. The view across Nelson from the front porch made it almost worth seeing the dentist. Well, not really.
After taking care of my tooth, or the hole where my tooth had been, we headed back out into Pelorus Sound. Unfortunately, the delightful weather had been replaced with a rainy southerly gale.
St. Omar Bay provided excellent shelter from the wind, but not from the cold. We spent four days huddling below wearing wool caps and scarves. This is the middle of January which is summertime. Just so we'd feel like total wimps, while we were shivering, there were Kiwi children out waterskiing.
The gale finally blew through, the warm weather returned, and we sailed west toward Tasman Bay. Along with a hitchhiker.
Between Marlborough Sounds and Tasman Bay is French Pass. A narrow strait which can have currents up to 8 knots. That can be dangerous so we took this passage very seriously.
INTO THE WARM
Tasman Bay is a different world. Sail 25 miles and you go from the cold to the warm just like that. We rendezvoused with our friends Ken & Wendy on s/v Cop Out in Croisilles Harbour. This harbour is seeded with scallops every year and Ken and Wendy had offered to show us how to dredge for them.
Still lots of mussel farms, but calmer waters and warmer temperatures. (Photos by s/v Cop Out)
Ken prepares the little dredge.
We had good teachers. Look at all the scallops!
Now comes the hard work: cleaning them.
Ready for the galley.
Time to relax while dinner is prepared.
By the next day, Migration was squeezed into a berth in Nelson. And we mean it. The berth was about 30 feet long and the riprap was only a few feet to starboard.
FRIENDS AND PENGUINS IN OAMARU
Our friends Betsy and Richard of s/v Qayaq had moved to Oamaru, between Christchurch and Dunedin on the east coast of the South Island. They were going to be heading back to the US soon. We left Migration in Nelson and jumped aboard a bus for some adventure on land.
A bus to Picton, then the Tranzcoastal train to Christchurch. After that... a failed attempt at hitchhiking.
But the next day we got a ride from Tarsh in her Russian-made Lada named Enchi-lada.
It was great to see Betsy and Richard. We had three fun days of touring together.
Betsy and Richard, and sunflowers. (Sunflower photo by Richard Spore)
Elephant rocks. (First 2 photos by Richard Spore)
Lots of posing at the Moeraki Boulders. (Photos 3 & 6 by Richard Spore)
When we form a band, this will be the album cover.
We visited a wildlife preserve. New Zealand has some great birds.
(Photos by Richard Spore)
More wildlife photos.
"Hmmm, could there be anything scary on this trail...?" Photos by Richard Spore)
Another New Zealand bird.
There is a lot of wool in New Zealand.
Kiwis do Botanic gardens really well. Even small towns like Oamaru have beautiful gardens. As well as the rare Southern Pompom Tassle-Duck.
THE ABEL TASMAN We returned to Migration and headed to Abel Tasman National Park. Abel Tasman is one of the most popular parks in NZ. It's filled with islands, birds, bays, seals, penguins, forests, and quite a few tourists. But on a boat, you can get away from the crowds on shore.
The Hewetsons came for visit. They are very bad at following instructions. We asked for some milk and fresh veggies and they brought boxes and boxes of food and wine. (Some photos in this section by Mike or Izzie)
We didn't go hungry.
Our visit to the rock slide at Cleopatra's Pool was a highlight.
It was hard to pull Alene away from the slide.
They didn't catch anything but they looked good trying.
Can it land on the deck of that boat?
Show us some more leg, beefcake.
Trying to receive text messages in the Abel Tasman is not easy. Even when you use your arm as an antenna...
Hurray! They're gone! Not really. We had an awesome time with the Hewetsons.
GOING DUTCH (Many photos in this section by Patrick & Marion)
Patrick and Marion from Holland, who last visited in the Sea of Cortez (Migrations 4), met us in Nelson.
Patrick must be very dedicated to sailing on Migration as there is no place inside where he can actually stand up.
In Nelson, we came across this attorney's office with specially marked parking places.
One spot per case type.
We sailed back to Adele Island, one of our favorite anchorages in the Abel Tasman.
The island has been cleared of invasive species like stoats and possums and the bird life is spectacular.
Listen to the Adele Island bell birds
Adele Island also provides excellent cartwheeling opportunities. This is Alene's first cartwheel inside a cave.
Abel Tasman is all about tramping. Excellent trails with beautiful views around every corner...
A good number of waterfalls...
And fine sailing.
Good crew are rewarded properly.
1, 2, 3, jump! Try again. 1, 2, 3, jump! OK, one more time. 1, 2, 3, jump! You guys are hopeless.
We finally left Tasman Bay and headed north into Golden Bay.
We sailed up to Farewell Spit, the northern tip of the South Island (are you tired of these descriptions?!). It's difficult to anchor there because of the miles of shallows, so we anchored far away in the south part of Golden Bay and rented a car to visit Cape Farewell and the spectacular area around it.
Are those people way up on that dangerous cliff without a guard rail?
Yep. It's us!
Time for a peaceful walk through a sheep pasture after all that danger.
More fine sailing across the top of Tasman Bay.
Marion wanted scallops for her birthday dinner. So what did we do? Sailed to Croisilles and caught some. But she did have to work for them.
A party that night.
Back through French Pass...
And into the Marlborough Sounds.
What are they doing?
The Sounds were great but we missed the warmth of Tasman Bay.
Our fourth crossing of Cook Strait started out nice and calm with Alene calling her father for his birthday... and ended with a bit more wind.
Back in Wellington we had the typical "beautiful day, storm day" weather. We were docked right next to some of the Barcelona Round the World Race boats. Notice the dismasted one in the center photo.
Though the breed is called "Plush Puppy", that's real dog.
It was time to leave the south. We spent a few more days getting ready for the sail north and visiting some of the city's well-known sites.
You gotta love a city that has sewer covers like this.
Panorama of Wellington from the top of Mt. Victoria
EAST COAST TO THE NORTH
In fairly calm conditions we sailed out of Wellington and exited Cook Strait to the east. Then we turned the corner and headed north. We had 600 miles to go to Whangarei where we would leave Migration for our trip the US.
With Cape Palliser behind us, we are officially out of Cook Strait.
Accompanied by many albatross, we had a fine sail up the East Coast.
Rounding Whangaokeno Island off of East Cape marks an important point on the voyage. The hardest part is behind us!
We anchored a few miles past East Cape. It was here we received a text message from Patrick and Marion who were now travelling around the South Island by land. They informed us of the terrible earthquake in Japan. There was a tsunami warning for New Zealand. We upped anchor early in the morning before the wave was scheduled to arrive. It turned out that there was nothing to worry about in New Zealand but it is much better to be cautious.
We sailed west into the Bay of Plenty. Our destination: White Island.
What is that on the horizon?
Is it smoke?
Wow! Look at that.
We're going to anchor there?!
Yep. Right next to the steaming crater!
White Island, as you have probably figured out, is an active volcano. What an amazing place to anchor. The next morning, we hooked up with one of the tours that come out from the mainland. It was awesome. We hiked all around the crater and the old sulfur works wearing hard hats and gas masks.