Coromandel Peninsular to Kawau Island

Thursday afternoon the weather deteriorated even further with gusts up to 40 knots in rain squalls. This caused a chop on the water which then pushed around the corner so our lovely little anchorage was no longer pleasant and we were ‘nodding’ constantly into the waves. So, in a lull between showers, we picked up anchor and moved across the bay to Name Bay, where we joined two other boats. By 6pm we were settled and enjoyed a quiet night on board.

Friday morning and it started much brighter, although the sea state out in the wider Hauraki Gulf was quite rough and marine warnings remained in place. We decided however, in another lull between squalls, we would move around the corner into Coromandel Harbour. This was a tough rolly trip but only for six miles and we had anchor down at noon in East Bay off Waimate Island passing lots of oyster and green lipped mussel farms along the way.

Another lovely spot and again we had a couple of other boats to accompany us. We were also treated to a spectacular rainbow on the other side of the harbour after another squall had gone through. We had a quiet day on board while we waited for the weather to calm down, which it did overnight.

Saturday morning we picked up anchor and moved across to McGregor Bay so that we could dink up the river following the well marked channel into town (which was still over a mile away from our position). It was a beautiful sunny day which perked us up no end. We anchored on a rising tide (there was an eight foot drop that day) and got a good set in sand.

We then headed off in dink on an adventure up the river through the mangroves. The wind was still blowing about 15 knots but it was behind us so we had a good run in passed some boats sitting on docks and others lying in the mud, with lots of cormorants drying out after fishing and some geese.

When we arrived in town we were a bit disappointed that we had to clamber onto a very soft and muddy shoreline and drag dink up above the high water mark – all it needed was a floating pontoon really. We didn’t think we would be able to manage this on our own so Richard left me with dink and went off to the petrol station where he got our propane tanks filled and some extra petrol.

While he was there a young man (called Willow) offered to help us and promptly came across the road and manhandled dink onto the grass. Really friendly and helpful people here in New Zealand! So we tied dink to a post and went for a walk across the bridge into town. But first things first, coffee and a pie LOL.

Coromandel town is quaint with some old architecture and a nice high street. The town’s history clearly pointed to the gold rush as the Assay Office building still existed. We went into the oldest boozer in town and had a cold drink before heading back via the local supermarket where we picked up some fresh produce.

All sorted we returned to dink, chatted with some Australian tourists for a while, and then pushed him back into the water – it was just after high water so it was slack tide and we didn’t have so far to splash. We then took off back up the river. As we cleared the mouth of the river the outboard died. We had 15+ knots of breeze on the nose and we couldn’t row and make way against the chop. We were being pushed further and further into the shallow areas and towards the mangroves. Eventually we hit a mangrove so I hung on for dear life while Richard attended to the engine but it just wouldn’t work. It would start and conk out immediately again leading us to think it was a fuel issue. We were now a bit worried to say the least. We managed to pull ourselves along the mangroves – aided by the odd bit of rowing and pushing against the mud – until we came to the first dock near another slipway back into the river. Richard left me sitting in dink with all our worldly belongings while he sought some assistance.

He walked to the wharf to try and find someone who would give us a tow out to Morpheus and came back with Lance, a liveaboard guy, who had offered to help. I was quite worried about the tide dropping, especially as this part of the river dries out and, if that happens, we are stranded ashore for the night. We really did not want to leave Morphie in her current position unattended as we never planned to stay there the night, it was just a daytime anchorage for convenience. Anyway, Lance took the outboard apart, and found water in the carburettor – so he cleaned the carb, made sure the drain was working properly, checked and cleaned the spark plugs and tried again. Still the same symptoms. So Richard disposed off the old fuel and went back to the garage for more petrol and two-stroke oil. In the meantime Lance had stripped it all down and cleaned it again….so fingers crossed. And it still wouldn’t work so now we really are worried. We only had a couple of hours before the area dried out. So Lance phoned the harbour master (who had the day off) and told him this ‘elderly couple’ needed assistance. Cheek!!! Anyway, the harbour master Stu came by to check the water levels were OK for him to rescue us and return back up the river himself. Thankfully the answer was positive so he went off and collected his pontoon boat. Lance left us at this point and we offered him some cash for his assistance but he was adamant and wouldn’t take it. What a nice man!

He quickly deployed it and towed us back out to Morphie. Phew! Again, the harbour master told us there was no fee for this service as that was what he was employed by the local council to do. Can’t imagine that would be the case in many other places.

Once back on board we emptied dink of all our belongings and quickly picked up anchor and returned to East Bay for another night on the hook. Was quite an experience – oh the shame of having to be rescued! We had an early night worn out by the excitement of the day.

Sunday morning with dink back up on the arch and the outboard secured on the rail, we scared off all the swifts who were having a rest on our bow, picked up anchor very early as the sun came up and by 7am we were underway heading towards Kawau Island. We had loved the Coromandel Peninsular with its spectacular scenery and quaint town. Just a shame we couldn’t have lingered but without a way of getting ashore there was no point…..

On the passage to Kawau we had extremes of weather, from six knots (motoring in flat calm seas) to 16 knots (all three sails out on a close haul) to 11 knots (on a beam reach) to 30 knots in rain squalls and big seas. It was only 42 miles but felt much longer in the cold southerly wind. We also crossed the main shipping lane into Auckland Harbour so we slowed down for a tanker, the Aotearoa Chief, to cross our bow. Whilst on the radio to them we were obviously overhead by Serenity of Swanwick who radioed us to say hi – we met them on the Pacific Crossing – so it was nice to catch up briefly as they headed over to Great Barrier Island. Having crossed the shipping lane, and enjoying some brisk sailing up to 7 knots, we heard two Mayday Relays – one jet skier whose machine was on fire and one boat who had lost their engine. Neither incident were close enough for us to assist but it is always sobering to hear these incidents and rescues going on. Thankfully everyone was OK.

We eventually arrived in Kawau under a cloudy sky and dropped the hook just outside the Boathouse so it was easy rowing distance ashore. We were surprised to see new mooring balls that had been installed since our last visit almost a month ago. Anyway, chilled to the bone, we had quick hot showers before we headed ashore and were joined by Steve and Jo from SV Tamanu in the bar later. We had a lovely evening together and they very kindly towed us back to Morphie at the end of the evening.

This morning, Monday, we were invited for breakfast onboard their beautiful 420 Island Packet and Steve taxied us back and forth as they are anchored much further into the bay than we are. We had another good time and look forward to catching up with them further down the line as we both head north in due course.

We plan to stay in Kawau for a while now as we are going to get the varnishing done – we are ashamed at the state of the capping rail which needs some loving care. So here are some ‘before’ pictures.

Back onboard after breakfast and Richard is starting the preparation for the varnish job while I’m blogging. It takes a while to prepare as we need to get the canvas off (dodgers); remove lines off the deck; moving the spare fuel cans off the rail; raising the blocks up the stanchions and, when the area is all clear, there is the taping up above and below the capping rail and the eyebrow. So I guess we’ll get that done today and start removing the old varnish tomorrow…. Neither of us are looking forward to it but Morphie deserves some care and attention.

Bye for now