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New Zealand: Bay of Islands to Auckland

Written by Cathy Siegismund
November 2001

After our 0300 arrival in Opua, we were fairly wired having achieved another cruising milestone, arriving safely in New Zealand. I made cheese omelets as we hadn't eaten very much over the last few days, and we would have to give up our eggs and cheese to the quarantine officer. We then used our adrenaline high to clean up the boat some, as the quarantine and customs officers could show up as early as 0800.

As I worked on cleaning up the cabin, Ken worked up on deck. All of the pounding had left most things on deck unscathed, but it did jostle our empty jerry jugs a bit.

Our empty jerry jugs were jostled loose on the side deck from the waves washing over the boat during our 2-day beat

After getting the boat looking respectable, we went to bed at about 0430 and still had trouble getting to sleep; we were very happy to be in New Zealand.

The customs and quarantine officers showed up the next morning at about 0830. Both were extremely polite and friendly. The quarantine officer took our trash, emptied our vacuum bags, took our cheese, some salami, our dried milk (because it wasn't in its original US packaging), and powdered eggs. They would have taken any fresh eggs and popcorn if we had any. Despite all of the discussions in the tropics, they didn't take any of our canned meat, canned seafood, canned milk, peanut butter, woven baskets, or woodcarvings. We heard from other boats they were taking animal and dairy products, even canned, from the UK.

After we had cleared into the country, we moved into the new and very nice Opua Marina.

Felicity in the Opua Marina

We enjoyed long hot showers, washed the boat and washed a lot of salty laundry in the wonderful facilities of the new Opua Marina. We hung out with Drew and Vernita and explored the nearby towns of Russell and Pahia. One of our first stops was to visit and make a donation to Russell Radio.

Des, of Russell Radio, who has helped innumerable boats safely make the passage to and from New Zealand

Des' house with it's telltale antennae

We found the Bay of Islands, a popular holiday and cruising area in New Zealand, a beautiful place that reminded us a great deal of the San Juan and Gulf Islands of Washington and B.C.

Lovely view of the Bay of Islands from Des' neighborhood

We explored the very cute and historic town of Russell which is a short ferry ride from Opua and Pahia.

Ken, Drew and Vernita on the Russell Ferry


Town of Russell


Many historic bed and breakfasts and homes line the waterfront street in Russell


Town and beach in Russell

Storefront displaying the Polynesian Weather Stone, fact or Kiwi sense of humor?

Ken and Drew in Russell

Drew and Vernita making friends with a local kitty at a Russell pub

We enjoyed the town of Pahia as well. We will want to return to the Bay of Islands to really explore and enjoy this lovely part of New Zealand. However, we were anxious to get to Auckland and get settled. We also decided we wanted to spend Thanksgiving in our new marina home.

On Sunday, November 18, Layla and Felicity motored out of Opua. We had decided instead of making an overnight passage of the 120-mile trip to Auckland, we would make two stops down the coast and see a bit of the area. Also, only being two days in from our Tonga passage, Vernita and I had decided we'd had enough overnighters for a while.

We pulled out of our slip in the Opua Marina at about 0930 with sunny skies and calm seas. We had a pleasant 35-mile motor through the Bay of Islands and down to Whangaruru, our first day's stop.




Bay of Islands

Cath in front of a large rock island off Cape Brett, the Cape that borders the Bay of Islands

Lighthouse on Cape Brett

We ended up motoring all day and pulled into the well-protected bay at Whangaruru at about 1700.

Well protected bay of Whangaruru

Layla had been right behind us all day and as we entered the bay, they motored past us to drop the hook.

Drew and Vernita aboard Layla

Photo by Vernita Lytle

Ken and I equally delighted to be on our way to Auckland

Once Layla had dropped the hook, we rafted up, as we have done many times. We enjoyed a sundowner in the cockpit followed by a rousing game of Canasta.

Felicity and Layla again comfortably rafted up for a quiet night

The following morning we awoke to sunny skies with a bit more wind. We enjoyed another lovely day of some motoring and some sailing during our 39-mile trip to Smugglers Cove, a small bay outside the river entrance to Whangarei.

Layla sailing by us in route to Whangarei

Whangarei is a medium-sized port where most oil tankers make port in New Zealand. We motored past several freighters anchored outside the entrance to Whangarei channel.

Freighters anchored off the entrance to Whangarei

Layla again dropped the hook and we rafted up. Smuggler's Cove is open to the south and west, but as we had north to northwest winds the small bay was well protected.

Layla and Felicity rafted together in Smuggler's Cove

We again enjoyed dinner with Drew and Vernita. We turned in fairly early as we had a longer day ahead of us to make the final 54-miles to Gulf Harbour Marina just north of Auckland on the Hauraki Gulf. After going to sleep in the flat calm bay, we were surprised to be awaked at 0200 to rocking and the sound of fenders being squeezed between the two boats. Worried about getting the rigging tangled, Ken, Drew, and I held the boats apart while we cast off. The weather was still calm, so we dropped the hook a little way from Layla and went back to bed. The only thing we could come up with is that a freighter had passed by our little bay on its way to or from Whangarei and its wake set the two boats rocking. Both boats had minor damage on the wood caprail from stretching lines.

The alarm jarred us out of bed four hours later. We set off on a very still and beautiful morning for a quiet motor to Gulf Harbour.

On our final let to Gulf Harbour, motoring along the coast on glassy seas

We were treated to a visit by dolphin, which couldn't have been a better finish to our first season of cruising. The water was so glassy calm we could clearly see the large pod of dolphins as they swam with the boat and played in the bow wake for several hours.


I never tire of watching the dolphins; and they apparently, never tire of playing with boats and occasionally watching us

We got our first faint view of the Auckland skyline across the Hauraki Gulf in the early evening of Tuesday, November 20.

Distant view of the Auckland skyline

We even caught sight of a couple of America's Cup boats match racing. We pulled into Gulf Harbour Marina at about 1700.

Approaching Gulf Harbour Marina

We were helped into the dock by two of the Gulf Harbour staff. We checked out the marina some, and then Drew, Vernita, Ken and I grabbed a cab to head to dinner. We actually ended up having the cab take us to a car rental place that was still open and rented a car for a few days.

We had a great Thai dinner and then returned to the boats to enjoy a quiet night in the marina. Over the next couple of days we explored the area around Gulf Harbour and drove into Auckland.

Gulf Harbour is a nice marina, but is pretty far from Auckland and didn't have much within walking distance. Before we got too settled, we decided to check out some of the downtown Auckland marinas. 

Bayswater is across the harbor from Auckland. It was a little bit more expensive than Gulf Harbour, but was smaller and rather reminded us of Elliot Bay with a nice view of downtown Auckland. It has some nice features, like an 8-minute passenger ferry that leaves from the marina and goes to downtown, nice showers and laundry, and a lounge open from 6am to midnight with a TV, daily newspapers, and best of all 3 PCs with free internet access. Bayswater is in a residential area and not really walking distance to much, unless you count the ferry to Auckland. It is however, only a couple of miles between two towns we really liked: a Bellevue-like Takapuna (with a Starbucks!) and a sort of Fremont/Wallingford-like Devonport.

Westhaven, the largest marina in downtown Auckland, has a 3-month limit on liveaboards, was quite a bit more expensive and although in a great area for boat work and marine service browsing, was in a rather industrial area. It was an easy decision for us to move to Bayswater. 

Gulf Harbour was very cool about our decision to move. We enjoyed Thanksgiving with Layla in Gulf Harbour, having ordered the smallest turkey you've ever seen from a local butcher.

Photo by Vernita Lytle

Ken ready to dig into the Thanksgiving feast on Layla

The next day, we motored in 20-30 knot winds across the Hauraki Gulf down to Bayswater, and an amazing number of sailboats out including the Kiwis out in dinghies and Friday night racing with their spinnakers.

Downtown Auckland

In the week we've been at Bayswater, we've mostly been enjoying city life, have enjoyed watching the America's Cup boats practicing in our backyard, have been exploring our new neighborhood and nesting. We've looked at cars, including attending one of the auctions where pretty decent cars were selling for amazingly cheap prices. We've found a gym we like, have ordered phone/ASDL/TV hook-up for the boat, signed up for a PO box, and of course have gone to the movies and had some lattes at Starbucks.

We're currently working on turning the cruising boat into a rather small condo that will likely stay tied to the dock for at least the next six months.

We're looking forward to spending a nice Kiwi Christmas with our friends on Layla and Green Ghost who will be in Bayswater with us over the holidays. Rainsong will also be in Bayswater, but Jason and Tam are flying home for the holidays.

Have a great holiday season and thanks for following our cruising adventures! We'll keep the log going as we go land-cruising around New Zealand as well.

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