Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Hauraki Gulf

Guest blog from Kathryn Sobocinski

After a long trip from Corvallis, Oregon (Portland-LAX-Sydney-Auckland), we arrived at Astarte a little worse for the wear, but mostly upright and with lots of luggage. Now, we were asked to be the boat mules, but I think it served as a convenient excuse for us to pack an extra giant bag and bring more toys and clothes. This was a tough trip to pack for, with potential weather from bathing suits to puffy jackets, as we continue our trip in the mountains of the South Island. This is my first trip to the southern hemisphere and NZ, and upon landing it reminded me a little bit of Ireland and a little bit of Oregon.

As we walked down the ramp from dry land to the boat, I saw my first NZ wildlife: a large (~1m wingspan) skate or ray cruising the shallows between the floating pier and shore! Off to a good start. Once settled, we decided a walk around the waterfront was a high priority so we could stretch our legs and check out the many, many boats. We were bummed to miss the fish market, as it was closing, but maybe on the flip side. It was nice to walk a bit after being cooped up in metal cans for the better part of the last days—and the fresh air was wonderful.

We got a much needed shower and then Barbara cooked up a wonderful dinner of salmon and salad. It was perfect! And we got champagne! We called it an early night and enjoyed a nice night's sleep while tied up at the marina. We awoke to a good breeze and a not-so-promising weather report, but after getting caffeinated, we untied and headed for Waiheke Island, not too far away. We were afforded a very nice view of Auckland from the water—a compact and modern-looking city, with its own version of the Space Needle. We were feeling at home.

The motor-sail was nice, with periods of fine (good weather) and a few opportunities to see some new wildlife—especially the common salty birds. We were on the lookout for the "rare blue penguin" but did not see any. We will keep looking, but I'm beginning to think this may be Barbara and Michael's version of that thing they tell the kids to go looking for while at summer camp so the counselors can have a break. At any rate, we passed some nice islands and evaded many a fast-moving ferry and were anchored up in Oneroa Bay in no time. We had a sandwich and set off exploring on shore—there are numerous walking paths on the island and the town is sort of touristy, but close by with a full complement of services. I have been suffering a head-cold, so a short tour was all I had in me and we headed back to the boat for a nap and some relaxation. Another awesome dinner (lamb and red wine) capped the day and it was another early night.

Unfortunately, the weather gods were not smiling upon us as we spent the night in quite a roll. This involved employing a few appendages as outriggers to make sure I stayed bed-side. While I slept okay (perhaps jet lag and illness actually helped in this situation), it was clear that the more seasoned sailors among us were not happy with the rolly conditions. After breakfast, we did a reconnaissance walk to the other side of the island to check some of the southern anchorages. This is a hilly island and we did our fair share of up-down, up-down giving the legs a little exercise. We returned to the boat with the decision made to move along. We pulled the anchor and next thing I knew we were dropping it in another bay—I had a nice snooze on the passage! We relaxed in the afternoon and then began our evening activity of the day: craft beer tasting and sausage sizzle! Yum! We saw a bunch of boats headed out for an evening race, but it was just outside the bay enough that we couldn't see much. Oh well. We tasted some very good beers—it seems NZ is almost as ripe as Oregon when it comes to beer-making!

We will soon make a decision on the plans for the day. While I'm recovering, I think Mark is down for the count. This may be the last invite we get if we leave a wake of snot aboard!...but then again, I suspect there may be a need for more boat parts in the future and we have strong backs!

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