February 22, 2016
39' 28.9' S 176' 53.6' E
The mornings arrive later as fall approaches but March is the most settled month, giving us blue skies and warm offshore winds that fill our sails as we glide on settled seas. After ten days of rare perfect weather in the Marlborough Sounds we are now heading North with friendly weather.
Wellington satisfied our need for culture. The Te Papua National Museum devotes just parts of two floors to the national art collection plus a mezzanine to vases gathered by an eccentric librarian, the product of lunch hours rummaging through second hand stores and antique shops. On the lower floor I was captivated by Charles Goldie's early-1900's paintings of tattooed faced Maoris. At the time western culture considered these freaks but now they are almost fashionable.
It was time to leave Wellington but the winds were against us. We could have gone up the West coast and over the top but we had come down that way and returning would rob us of an island circumnavigation. Also, it has been twenty years since we visited the East coast so we waited and enjoyed the restaurants and galleries in the capital city until a South-Westerly arrived.
We left with the sun and sailed the best thirty hours of this year. We entered Napier's shallow harbor at mid-day on a rising tide. Twenty years ago we had not been so smart and became stuck in the mud while the harbor drained and refilled before we could reach the dock.
Onora is too big for most marina slots and it helps, as we had here, to call ahead. Jenny, a helpful city worker in the property department had a spot for us. We arrived armed with directions to find an open space on a dock for a boat smaller than ours. Like Cinderella's evil step-sister trying on the glass slipper, we used Onora's engine to push forward and nudged our rub rails between the pilings while lassoing one to snub us just before our bow reached the dock. We were not only too wide but stuck out ten feet beyond the piles. Once again we are happy we have no paint to worry about.
Napier is the "Art Deco" city having been rebuilt in that style from earthquake rubble in 1931. It is a lovely sun-baked town at the top of a white sand beach that sweeps the length of Hawks Bay south to Cape Kidnappers.
This is wine country with a California feel to it. We assembled our Schwinns and soon felt the pleasure of exercising our underused muscles as we pedaled along the path elevated above a small river on one side and orchards and vineyards on the other. We arrived underdressed at the Mission Vineyard for lunch but the staff welcomed us and a glass of their oaky chardonnay made us forget about our wrinkled shorts and damp tee shirts. We continued on to Hastings for what was a special night for us- a white table cloth dinner and a rare night spent off the boat at a Hastings motel.
March 5, 2016
37'40' S 176'1 E
A persistent slow leak in Jeannie's bike tire put us on an inner tube hunt and lead to the discovery of the Bike Barn three miles away. Fritz, the owner of the franchise, also adjusted my sprocket gear so that I could get an extra five gears. He prescribed a new shifter which did the trick for a couple of days.
Fritz lives on his boat in our marina so he can rent out his house. His son, twenty-three, runs Fritz's other bike shop and owns several houses mortgaged to the chimneys, covering the payments with the tenant's rent. These two are caught up in New Zealand's decade old property bubble.
We had Fritz over for dinner and he downloaded a couple of dozen of his movies onto our hard drive. I don't know where he got them but half are recent and the others are Marx Brothers. We had been working our way through three sets of black and white made-before-I-was born movies purchased at Costco. Each is 50 movies and cost $15. Jeannie had seen enough to know my purchase was not a bargain so we are watching Fritz's hoping we are not subject to Interpol arrest.
If we bike inland from the marina we have Tauranga, a quiet pleasant 'Tidy Town' but in the other direction is Maunganui, a colorful beach village in the full blast of summer. A surfing completion packed the beach with guys in long shorts and bikinied girls with cool attitudes. We hiked past them and the camper vans and up the Mount Maunganui trail where, from the top, we took in the sweeping Bay of Plenty.
March 12, 2016
Great Barrier Island Kiwiriki Bay
After several fine sails and peaceful nights in new anchorages along the Coromandel Coast, we arrived here two days ago. We are now in the Hauraki Gulf just eighty-eight miles from Auckland, anchored in the land-locked Port Fitzroy. We are not alone. It seems that when near big cities other boats, used to packed places, anchor needlessly close to each other and us even though there is space for everyone to spread out and avoid the anxiety of a neighbor disturbing a night's sleep.
We have just a month to return to Whangarei and put Onora away for the winter. It is not far and we will complete projects along the way so we can linger in this paradise. The bow thruster needs attention and the outhaul but these are not major and I am appreciating that the wear and tear, brought on by ocean crossing, that is missing.
- [ Part II ] -