Friday, April 22, 2016

Back in the River

We are back in the Hatea River and will be heading back to the Whangarei Town Basin Marina when they have room at the inn for us! For now, we'll enjoy being at the mouth in Urquharts Bay. But before we got here, we did enjoy more time in Great Barrier.

We made our way out of Kaiaraara Bay and went around to the southern part of the island and into Whangaparapara Harbour. The beautiful black barquentine "Spirit of New Zealand" was anchored in the middle. We have a friend, Simon, (whom we met with his partner Barbara aboard their beautiful old yacht in Vanuatu), who works aboard the ship. We had called "Spirit" a few days before and knew he was aboard. As we went by, the captain of the vessel yelled out that Simon was ashore. He recognized the name of "Astarte" and new we were friends. Classic NZ friendliness!

We decided to anchor in a very protected spot called "Graveyard Bay." Sure enough, you face a graveyard. We had the place to ourselves and it was a lovely very calm spot – though pretty deep. Once the anchor was secured, we launched the dinghy for a trip ashore and a walk to the hot springs. The DOC brochure said it was an easy 45-minute walk to the springs. So we set off and we climbed...and climbed...and climbed. Easy? We kept going uphill and after an hour we came to a park entrance – but no hot springs. It seems we missed a path (the easy way). It was getting late so we decided to turn back and head to the Whangaparapara Lodge. At the Lodge, a pretty place, Archie, the proprietor told us where we went wrong bit said it was much more than 45 minutes...that just takes you to the entrance to the track that leads to the hot springs. Oh well, we did earn our cold beer. At the lodge, we did run into an acquaintance hat we met on our 2012 Pacific Passage. We chatted with Sondra from the Brazilian boat, "Santa Paz." We saw Lucas, her partner aboard as they were anchored quite close. Four more boats were anchored in our private little bay and it was now quite cozy.

Before heading back to the boat, we stopped at the "Spirit of New Zealand" and saw Simon. We clambered aboard for a brief tour of this training boat. It is not designed as a sailing training ship but rather a team building and educational vessel. It has a crew of 6 paid; 8 volunteers and in this case 40 teenagers. It is a beautifully laid out boat and a flash engine room! It was a brief walk through as the boat was about to pull anchor and leave. It was great to see Simon.

The next morning, we got a sunrise start to our trip to the "Hens and Chickens." These islands are not very protected so can only be visited in fair weather which we were predicted to have. We motored with no wind for awhile. Motor sailed for another bit. Sailed for awhile. And then motor sailed again. The winds were light and variable and there was a swell...and because of the swell, we decided to keep going to the river and pass on stopping at the "Hens and Chicken." We anchored around 4 pm and felt like summer vacation was over! We enjoyed our time in the Hauraki Gulf islands of Waiheke, Tiritiri Matangi, Kawau and Great Barrier. We saw lots of new spots and visited favorite old haunts. We also got a fair amount of nice walks/treks in during the time. We saw great land birds, penguins, dolphins and even some whales. Bad news – no fish caught!

After a good night's rest, it was time to hike the Urquharts Bay trail. It was a beautiful sunny day but not too hot. The almost four mile trek took us over hills to the other side to see the gulf and we took a side trip to Busby's Head. This is a high rock overlooking the river entrance. Great views! We also went by the WW II artillery placement and watch station. Another good walk that tired us both out...lots of uphills!

Now we are making our lists for projects in Whangarei to get ready for going back to the islands. Michael fixed the leak in the water heater this morning – a long tedious project – but its done and off the list. We only have a few weeks so the list has to start getting smaller not longer.

Its a holiday weekend here – ANZAC Day on Monday Hopefully we'll be able to get a space in the marina by Tuesday.
At 4/22/2016 9:54 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 35°50.86'S 174°31.87'E

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