New Zealand: Bay of Islands to Auckland
Written by Cathy Siegismund
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.