Last days in Opua and passage to Whangarei

View from Urquhart Bay

We intended to leave Opua for Whangarei last Saturday, but
the New Zealand weather was not cooperative. It was rainy and
squally Saturday, so we planned to depart Sunday. The wind came
up too strong Sunday and Monday, so we deferred until Tuesday.
Tuesday had gale force winds, so we sat tight. We learned
caution from the experience of one boat that left Sunday morning
and returned four hours later, saying the seas were too rough.
And then our friends Ian and Catherine on Afriki left Monday
morning and found that they needed to seek a sheltered anchorage
within hours.

We left Wednesday(yesterday)about 11 am, after things calmed
down after a night of high winds. It is about two hours to sail
among the islands of the Bay of Islands and out the Albert
Channel and finally come to the open sea. Conditions were not
too bad, so we headed southeast down the coast into a 15 knot
southeast wind. Big ocean tacks took gave us various
perspectives on the eastern coastline of the North Island. We
had hoped to get as far as Whangaruru or even Tutukaka (names I
mention only because of their sound), but decided to pull into
Whangamumu. It is a bay at the bottom of a bowl of steep hills
without houses, and we were the only boat there. We were
surprised to be the only ones in such a beautiful place. We
thought that Whangamumu would be more protected from the ocean
swell that Whangaruru, and today was forecast to be a better day
to sail — wind from the southwest, fair skies, slight seas —
so leaving the bulk of our trip south for today seemed reasonable.

But you cannot count on weather forecasts in New Zealand.
The swell came up just as the sun set on us in Whangamumu and
the boat started to roll like crazy. It did not stop all night.
We got up at 6:30 am to begin our trip south and the predicted
southwesterlies, fair skies, and smooth seas turned out to be
easterlies, lots of rain, and large swells. The easterlies
turned into light and variable wind, but rain showers and large
swells continued for the day. Nonetheless, we made it to our
destination. We now are anchored in Urquhart’s Bay at the mouth
of the Whangarei River (South 35 degrees 50.5 minutes East 174
degrees 31.9 minutes). This may be as far south as we will ever
get with Sabbatical III.

We can only proceed up the river 14 miles to the town of
Whangarei on a rising tide. We will leave Urquhart’s Bay at 10
am tomorrow to arrive at Riverside Drive Marina for the 1 pm
high tide. That is where the boat will be hauled and stored out
of the water while we are back in the States. Our friends on
Vera have been in Whangarei for two weeks and we are looking
forward to seeing them.

The delay in Opua meant that we were there for my birthday.
Both Risho Maru and Yara made me birthday cakes and we had a
very nice birthday party on Sabbatical III. The extra days
allowed us to socialize more with all of our boat friends at
this very pleasant marina. We cannot walk 50 meters without
running into a dozen people we know. A trip to the marina
office or the chandlery can take an extra hour or two when one
stops to greet everyone you know on the way, and exchange
stories about recent and planned passages. Nonetheless, we spent
most of every day getting Sabbatical III prepared for her
season at rest. I pickled the watermaker and changed lots of
filters and had the main sail repaired, while Laura cleaned and
organized. There is still a lot to do before we leave on
December 11. We are amazed to think that tomorrow’s short trip
up the Whangarei River is our last passage on Sabbatical III
until next May. We have not spent even a single night off of
Sabbatical III for a whole year, and in spite of the recent cold
nights, think of her as our most comfortable home.