Opua to Auckland

Friday morning the weather appeared benign despite the storm warnings in place – then suddenly the sky turned black, the heavens opened and the wind picked up. So we just did some more boat jobs and had a movie night onboard.

Saturday was another showery and windy day so we continued pottering around and, when the weather improved later, we headed to the Opua Cruising Club and bumped into a couple from California that we had met last year. So we had a lovely evening with them catching up.

Sunday morning and it was time to get Morphie ready to go to sea. So we stowed items down below and cleaned her up, filled up the water tanks (as the watermaker remains pickled for now) and whilst I was up in the laundry Richard did the last engine checks. We then had another movie night on board.

Monday morning we bid our farewells and paid our bills, again. We had breakfast in the Marina Cafe and left our slip around 11 am.

We headed out into the bay to find a huge cruise ship anchored in the channel but we skirted around him and then, when we were in open water clear of hazards, we did the sea commissioning of the autopilot. Final job done.

We then ran down towards Omakiki Cove, our chosen anchorage, and thoroughly enjoyed sailing in 20 knots of breeze. Was absolutely amazing….

As we neared Omakiki Cove we realised that the stronger than expected winds coupled with a shift in direction meant that this was no longer such a good overnight option. So we changed course and headed to Otaio Bay on Urupukapuka Island instead. We dropped the anchor and got a good set straight away – yay – very happy.

Sadly we had to anchor a bit further out than we would have liked but a huge motorboat was there – so we were rolling about a bit as the swell came around the headland. Surprisingly, at about 5pm, the motorboat picked up his anchor and left so we quickly weighed anchor too and moved further into the bay to get more protection. It was more comfortable and we enjoyed a nice evening in the cockpit watching the birds fishing before finally roosting in the trees for the night. Meanwhile I cooked two meals – one for the overnight passage to Auckland – as well as the evening’s dinner.

Overnight we didn’t move an inch and we both had a reasonable night’s sleep. At 9am on Tuesday morning we picked up our anchor and motored out the channel.

We headed, on quite a gloomy grey day, towards the Hole in the Rock at Cape Brett (a huge tourist attraction in the Bay of Islands as you can see by the ferries) and enjoyed the sight although it was a bit swelly as we rounded the Cape.

The weather improved and the gloom lifted and we were sailing in a light breeze coming from behind us, so we poled out the genoa. This was the first time we had used the new system and it was much easier than it was previously, so it was definitely worth spending the cash on it.

The swells continued throughout the day and, at one point, we were briefly joined by a pod of dolphins. We enjoyed watching the birds fishing en masse in the ocean too.

There wasn’t much traffic and we enjoyed being at sea and looking at the islands and rocks as we went south.

By the time we went into our night shifts the wind had shifted 180 degrees on the nose and was only 2-3 knots – no good for sailing – so we reluctantly furled the genoa, returned the whisker pole to the mast, and continued under motor alone. I really enjoyed the sunset at sea.

During the evening the shipping traffic increased and we were passed by cruise ships (in both directions) and numerous cargo ships. There was one yacht keeping pace with us for a while but he disappeared into one of the east coves along the way. We were very impressed by the new navigation equipment – it took much less power, it handled the autohelm much smoother than before, and the plotter was great. The new AIS system kept us informed and I particularly liked the way it showed the closest point of approach in both distance and time. Very happy sailors!

Wednesday morning and we were on the approach into Auckland. Auckland is a commercial harbour with a narrow channel so we stayed just outside of it where there was adequate depth of 20 feet below the keel. There were cruise ships, ferries, dredgers, fishermen and even a NZ Navy ship Canterbury underway – and, of course, let’s not forget those pesky power boaters who do insist on crossing our bow at speed, causing us to bob around in their wake.

They call Auckland the City of Sails and check out the AIS signals on the plotter to see just how much boat traffic there is here. Oh yes, and those waypoints were indicative, we didn’t follow that route across the channel, honest!

We enjoyed our first sight of the Sky Tower and were very excited to have finally arrived safely after our first overnight passage in a very long time.

We followed the channel towards our marina – which is virtually opposite the Sky Tower on the opposite side of the bay – and called them on the radio looking for assistance on the dock. And of course they ignored us, as usual, so we continued. We had already had our slip allocated and had downloaded a plan so we knew where to go. We headed into our slip with the wind blowing quite strongly behind us….only to find no cleats but just metal loops….and no middle dock cleat or loop for the brest line either. Damn!!! We managed to get in and tied up but it wasn’t pretty… Not particularly helped either by our neighbour storing their dinghy on the pier between us which we could barely get by.

Anyway….never mind….we have arrived! Woo hoo! We got cleaned up and went to the marina office and found out where all the facilities are – the showers, the loos, the cruisers lounge and the washing machines. And that is all there is here. But the main reason we chose it as our base was because of the ferry dock running a regular schedule over to the City. The marina is a bit tatty at the edges but it will do and it’s nice and quiet.

Back on board and we decided, despite being tired from doing our overnight shifts, that we had to go into Auckland for a beer to celebrate. So we hopped on the ferry, enjoyed the view of the marina and watching the Americas Cup yacht out in the bay, and arrived in the city 10 minutes later. We purchased return tickets and also got ourselves some Oyster-equivalent cards for future bus/ferry use.

We got off the ferry and wandered around and found the information centre – we loaded up on brochures / leaflets on just about everything you could think of, and headed for a walk down the waterfront. We ended up in the Viaduct Marina area and quickly realised why they laughed at our enquiry about staying there…..hmmmm…….think we might have just been too little LOL.

We found an elevated bar called Dr Rudi’s with views over the marina and enjoyed a single very expensive glass of freezing cold draught lager which went down a treat. Both of us, by now, were feeling a bit land sick but that was probably tiredness as much as anything.

We headed off to another bar, this time by the cruise ship dock, and people watched as they were all rushing back to the ships. Feels a bit weird to think that we will be joining those people very soon!

By now we were thinking of having something to eat (and didn’t want pizza or fine dining) so we ended up in a lovely little fish bistro near the ferry wharf and had some happy hour Sauvignon with some smoked herring pate and fish sliders. And very good it was too…. We then headed back to Bayswater Marina via the ferry and so to bed.

This morning, Thursday, and we have decided to have a lazy day and stay onboard so I’m blogging while Richard is reading all the brochures we picked up yesterday. Oh yes and Happy Valentines Day everyone!

Tomorrow, Friday, we are going to explore the City.

Bye for now