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In contrast to the opened West Coast, the East is made for sailors

A shifting shoal caught us on an outgoing tide

Onora at her winter quarters.

April 12, 2015

Bay of Islands

35°28S 174°25E

It is Sunday morning and we are on our way to Onora’s winter quarters in Whangarei. We are early. Our slip will not open until the 15th but a bad front is due on Monday and Tuesday so we plan to arrive in the long shallow estuary and hunker down at anchor tonight.

Our Chicago friends, John and Gail Ward who have met us in Labrador, New Caledonia, Brazil, and Norway joined us here for a week. John, a business professor with a demanding consulting practice, arrived after stops in Hong Kong, Schengen, Amsterdam, Paris and Singapore. His air miles for this trip must have matched Onora’s nine year sea miles.

April 14, 2015

Parua Bay

35°46S 174°27E

New Zealand’s first winter storm arrived yesterday and its howling wind is trying to part Onora from her deeply buried anchor while the hurling rain tries to get inside the cabin. We have not been on land for five days. I wish I could say the same about Onora.

Miles ago in Kerikeri, Kelly and I studied the chart and selected this bay to sit out the blow that the forecasters got right for a change. It gives good shelter but is as shallow as a saucer. We arrived at falling tide on Sunday. We carefully followed the chart’s marked channel to discover it had shifted into a mushy shoal. No amount of reversing or swearing could un-stick us.

A small fishing boat offered help and circled us calling out depth readings- just five feet ahead was deep water but, in the draining bay, we would have to suffer the embarrassment of slowly sinking on our side until the tide changed to lift us up again. For the next hours everything slowly shifted and clinked as Onora leaned over until her starboard portholes were under water. We each made a place to stretch out next to a bulkhead lined with pillows, to form a ‘vee’ between the wall and the bench where we sat to read, trying not think about our leaning home, listening to Verdi’s ‘Lady of the Lake’. As the voices soared we sunk, waiting for another trial to pass, knowing how stupid we looked to everyone on shore. At least we possessed the smug knowledge that the boat that came in after us was dumber. Instead of taking our hint it proceeded to get stuck just a few meters from us.

I lay there thinking about being in our car as a child on one of dad’s outings to a piece of property he owned on the west side of Waukegan, grandly named Rush o’ree, the burial place of kings. Dad loved to take the family on a Sunday to the dirt road through into the overgrown trees and thicket. On one late fall outing a cold front descended. Mom and the six of us were in the Chevy driven by dad to view the leaves blowing off the trees in his mythical cemetery. The sheets of rain turned the dirt track to mud. We sunk to the axle.

Dad heroically marched through the mire back to the Sinclair station on Green Bay Road and called for a tow truck. After an interminable wait and several bush bathroom breaks, a jeep showed up, attached a chain to us and sunk to its axle. Next dad called Wetzel’s, our Chevy dealer, which dispatched a shiny tow truck that joined us to make it three stuck vehicles. Finally Wetzel’s sent out its monster tow truck which, using a long cable from its moored position on the road, pulled each out.

Onora finally floated at ten o’clock. We inched back into deep water to anchor in the middle of this bay where we are now being blown about.

April 15th 2015

Whangarei Town Basin

35°43'S 172°19'E

We arrived at mid-day to find a sea wall lined with shops and cafes filled with a crowd enjoying the sunny fall day ready to be entertained by our attempt to wedge Onora into this impossible parking spot. I had called ahead and, as we were to be here for a long term, a spot along the sea wall had been cleared but this basin is the main destination for foreign boats streaming down from the South Pacific Islands before the cyclone season. There were just inches to spare on either side with triple rafted boats both in front and behind us.

As usual Jeannie was able to get the aft spring handed off and cleated. We motored forward on this and glided into our spot to a perfect gentle stop in front of a photographer snapping pictures that appeared on page one of the next day’s Northern with a story about the needed marina expansion. After our grounding this was a welcomed public success.

We are busy taking the sails off and preparing Onora for the winter. In a few days we will return home for the northern summer and reconnect with family, friends and business.

Circa, the Whangarei aluminum fabricator which produced Onora’s body, is happy to see us. They will install solar panels and refurbish some of Onora’s metal and wooden finishing. Both Circa and Kelly are very pleased to see their creation in good condition after so many miles. After eleven years we know we are very lucky. There is no better cruising boat than Onora.




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