Back on the horse again…Whangamata…here we come!

Honestly…it was hard to get into the mind-set of sailing again after our passage to get here to New Zealand.  I was a little apprehensive and worried about weather conditions going south to Whangamata as the systems here are different and seem to have a short-lived “window” before something else “brews up”.  Originally I wanted to day hop and sail only during the day but cautious as I felt, the weather looked like it would be stable and calm for about 2-3 days so we just sailed straight to Whangamata, 190 nautical miles.

Being so unfamiliar with the weather and seas here, we decided to sail out side of all the little and big islands that surround the east coast of New Zealand.  I didn’t know how the currents and tides would affect our sail capabilities inside all the islands so playing it safe, we just headed out to sea…..

Timing is everything…that’s what they all say….and we wanted to head out of the Bay of Islands, Opua at high tide to get out of the slip without a “shit show” and not be hindered by the incoming tide against us (currents can get up to 2 knots in the BOI).  Additionally, Whangamata harbour is a VERY shallow entrance (1.4 meters at low tide which is equivalent to about 4 feet- we have a draft of 5.5 feet) as the sand bars here shift with the tides and currents and we needed to arrive at high tide to make sure we could get in and not be subject to any currents coming into a new harbour.  So we left BOI, Opua at 7:30 PM and needed to arrive at Whangamata harbour by 8 AM.

I would’ve chosen a more favorable weather window for sailing conditions (with actual and consistent wind) but instead…. scared to get back on the horse again…we choose a window where we would probably have to motor most of the way but it would be a comfortable ride….here is how it went.

Saturday Night December 16th – Little wind, but we finally shut off the engine around 11pm with 8-12 knots of wind on a starboard tack flying jib and jigger (jib sheet and mizzen sails out) with wind at about 60-90 degrees to us. We had clear skies and LOTS of stars.  Unfortunately we had to turn the engine back on in the early morning to keep our speed up above 3.3 knots of speed.

Looking back at Opua anchorage as we head out around 7:30pm
Almost sunset…it’s still about 8pm
Battleship rock….this was where we experienced a crazy current pulling us towards these rocks coming into the BOI…this time around it was much better and we stayed well away from these guys….
Hummm…. so we had a new moon, meaning there was no moon…and we relied on our radar to “see” for us during the night. As we said before, we wanted to stay outside all the little islands as some do not have light beacons on them to let us know where they are. This night we discovered our charts may be off by almost 3 miles. If we stayed on our attended course (the pink line) it looks as if we were headed directly for these cliffs (see the orange blobs…if the charts would have matched up, the orange blobs would be right over the “Cliffs” on the chart). Thankfully these cliffs had a light beacon on it and we stayed well off to the left.

Sunday December 17th – About 5am, we experienced the swell increase and winds head on…it was only about 8-15 knots but it made things a bit bumpy for about 3-4 hours.  We knew we would have variable wind directions (light winds) and at times we had downwind sailing as well. We ran our engine most of the day but would turn it off periodically to slow down.  We did however notice there is a current here that would slow us down or speed us up….all things equal.  

Sunrise…I rarely am awake enough to take these type of photos but since the ride was comfortable it gave way to good sleeping and little stress.
Trevor actually getting a bit of internet…way the heck out here! It would come and go but cool to still get it once in a while. You can see the sea state: very little swell and it was sunny…no rain in sight!
Lots of traffic! Cargo ships, thankfully had AIS (Automatic Identification System) to tell us in advance they were headed in our directions)….we knew we were getting close to Auckland’s port to see so much traffic.
RUSH HOUR! At night we had lots of boats….mostly fishing vessels “actively fishing” which can cause concern….we didn’t want to snag fishing lines or run into any floating buoys even though we were out in 500 feet of water…you never know.
Again, another set of little islands (Hongiora-Flat Island) on the chart, this time without light beacons, not matching up with what our radar was picking up, we changed courses to MAKE sure we didn’t hit land. This time it looks like the charts may be off about 5-7 miles off.

Monday December 18th – As the sun rose, we sailed for about 3 hours with 5-10 knots on a port tack.  We were coasting about 3.3 knots (speed over ground) but we were perfectly timed for getting there in time for high tide so we didn’t mind slowing down and enjoying the peace and quiet of the morning and under sail.  

Sunrise at 6am with Mayor Island in the background.
SInce our charts had potential for being off, we were happy to see the lights of Whangamata off in the distance as we crept forward. Thank goodness there were no squalls and visibility was great!
We finally got enough light and close enough to establish whereabout we needed to head towards land.
Because the entrance and channel are so shallow, the marina had “directions” as to how to approach the entrance and so forth….this is taken from their website…we needed to line these land beacons up to make sure we were headed in a straight line towards land before we turned into the entrance.
Also taken from the marina’s website, this image shows all the sand bars we needed to navigate around….. between the first and second Green (starboard) markers we saw 10.2 feet as the lowest depth…remeber this was at high tide! It gets as low as 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) right about the second green marker (ekks)! We realized we just can’t “leave” this marina…we will have to time it just right to get out.

Finally in the channel…we needed to navigate around piling moorings (rows of pilings that boats can tie in between for moorage). Not sure what happened here….

Following the channel markers to the marina, we found our slip and Trevor did an amazing job and just dropped me off on the dock and we tied up. The first thing we noticed were the BIRDS…lots of them! I see lots of boat washing in our future : )

Whangamata town – After checking in to the marina office and tidying up the boat a bit, we headed into town to take a quick look around.  Whangamata seems to us like a Seaside vacation destination (reminds us of Ocean Shores in the Pacific Northwest)…clean, cute little cafes, souvenir shops, lots of surfing goes on here too.  Not a lot of traffic and a little bit “sleepy”.  We had a small bite to eat and a celebratory adult apple cider for lunch.  We returned back to the boat for a well deserved nap.  

The main drag of Whangamata down town…it’s about 4-5 blocks long, all dressed up for Christmas.

We have plans to have dinner with my sister’s fiance parents (Robert and Pamela) tonight…without my sister and Jake…. We are excited to meet these soon-to-be-family members.

Whangamata…. ready or not…we are here ready to have some fun!

5 comments

  1. I am so enjoying traveling with you two! This link-up with SlowFlight has been a real thrill for my husband, Dick and for me. I am sitting here at 8 a.m., Dec. 19th worrying about how ‘we’ are going to time it just right to get back out of this harbor, avoiding the shallow waters with our 5.5′ depth ………. and then I take a deep breath and realize, “Oh, I am in a black leather recliner in SE Wisconsin.” Rats! Although safe, I thank you daily for making us a part of your exciting life.
    Sue (and Dick) O’Leary………………met you with trevor’s Mom at L’Recif/Vida.
    Our best to you; Merry Christmas, Holiday tidings, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Safe Travels.

  2. Happy Christmas you two!
    We will be spending the Christmas Holidays on SV Zoe 1 out here in the Broughton Archipelago. We wish you all the best Down Under!
    Bright blessings from,
    Sheila, Tom and Brennan Cook, Port Hardy, BC

    1. Merry Christmas or in Maori ‘hararei hari’ to you 3 too! Love that you you be spending time on SV Zoe…thank you for keeping in touch…it warms our hearts : )

  3. Hola,so far away from home,no your home is really Miss Slow Flight. Your last blog was a true look at how much work it takes to keep her up. I’m proud of you both for all you have achieved. Dad

    1. Happy new year to you and Betti… we tried to call but it seems we missed you and you all are in Mexico…how we miss so much about Mexico! Let’s try to connect soon…I know Trevor would love to talk with you. Hugs and cheers and hope this new year brings lots of love and healthy living : )

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