JANUARY , 2013

December 19, 2012 – January 30, 2013

We had a wonderful five weeks at Great Barrier Island.    We spent almost the entire time on the mooring at Whangaparapara Harbour.   We did take a side trip to Waiheke Island for two days as we had some shopping to do, but soon went right back to our friends.

In that time we weathered two deep lows (former tropical cyclones) that came down to New Zealand from Fiji with gusts of wind up to 50 knots.  For the second storm, the water in the harbour was a maelstrom with the southwest wind whipping the tops off the waves and covering the boats at anchor or on moorings with a thick layer of salt.  We happened to be up the hill at a local resident’s home that evening for dinner and saw the wind shift happen.  He has a beautiful view of the entire harbour and it quickly became not a pretty sight: an awesome one but scary!

We looked at Tony and Carol at that point and we all agreed that we better get back to Bella Via and Argo before it got much worse.  It would not be a calm ride across the harbour in that wind.  The surf at the wharf was so bad that Mary and Carol could not safely get into their dinghies.  We decided that we would walk back up the road to a small beach and we would be picked up there.  Tony couldn’t get near us in his larger aluminium dinghy so Paul surfed in close and we waded into the water and climbed aboard.  At that point Paul brought us to Tony’s dinghy and we transferred over as it was larger and potentially dryer.  Paul would then be able to go faster by himself in our lighter dinghy and get it up into a plane.  Whew!  We made it back with a minimum of spray; just wet clothes from our wade in the water.

For the most part New Zealand was having wonderful summer weather.  We spent our days socializing with Tony, Carol, and Des and enjoying the early morning badminton games.  We went on several road trips and also met up with a few cruisers out of Auckland that we had met last year.  Paul, with Tony’s helpful knowledge and machine shop, worked on several boat projects.

This is our friend Des, a tall, lanky fellow who lives by himself in this very small catamaran.  He once had a larger sailboat but he decided that he wanted to downsize to the simplest boat that he could find.  He spends most of the daylight hours on shore tending his very large vegetable garden.  When he is on his boat and the weather is fine, he can be found sitting on the bow.  We have seen him sitting like this quite often in the three years that we have known Des and we just couldn’t resist taking a picture surreptitiously.
On one of our road trips we stopped in to see local artist Charmayne Dobbs who was working on a commission for the Whangaparapara Lodge.  The new owners of the lodge wanted her to create wire sculptures of several New Zealand birds and a whale.  Here she is with Mary’s help, showing the enormous wing span of the gannet (our favourite bird).  Charmayne said that getting the proportions correct is essential for success.
Here is Charmayne in her workshop with a sculpture of a kingfisher.  Charmayne Dobbs teaches small groups and makes to order and can be reached at


We reluctantly left Great Barrier Island on Wednesday, January 16.  We said goodbye to our friends with anticipation that we will be able to return in April for a couple of weeks.  We had a date for a haul-out on Friday, the 18th, and the weather forecast, while not perfect, was better to travel on the Wednesday.  It was a very long day – 11 hours of sailing close-hauled with the wind much stronger than predicted.  We dropped anchor in Whangarei Harbour just outside Marsden Cove at 2000h.  We had dinner at 2100h and went straight to bed. 

The next day we went upriver and anchored across from Norsand Boatyard.  Paul went into Whangarei by dinghy that afternoon and purchased enough fruit and vegetables to last for two weeks.  After that time we are leaving the boat at Norsand Boatyard and travelling home to Canada for two months.

In the last two weeks we have antifouled the bottom of the boat, cleaned, waxed and polished the topsides and deck, arranged to have the anchor chain re-galvanized, met with Colleen from Colleen’s Canvas who will fabricate new plastic windshields for Bella Via, and removed the galley sinks in preparation for fabrication and installation of a one-piece stainless steel bench top and sinks while we are away. 

We had time for some fun while we were working.  We celebrated our 8th anniversary as liveaboards on January 22 and Paul’s birthday on the 23rd.  We went out to Tutukaka for one night to Melva and Hilton’s place to see ham radio friends who were visiting from Australia.  Dave and Margaret from ‘Freespool’ stopped by for a dinner and we spent two nights at the home of our new friends, Robin and Sue.  Of course all of these side trips to people’s homes means that we need to be picked up by our hosts and brought back to the boat as we do not have a car.

It’s January 30 and we will be leaving the boat on Friday, February 1.  It’s time for our annual visit back to Canada to see our family and friends.  It’s also time to meet our grandson, Miles Christopher Major! 

We are also hosting a fundraiser in our home town to help our Tongan friends on Lape Island raise money.  We are holding a pasta dinner, slide show, and silent auction on Wednesday, February 20.

We have grown to know and love these people of Lape Island and we have observed their efforts to make their lives better.  We will return to Canada with a bag full of their handcrafted items for the silent auction.  This silent auction will be in support of their efforts to install flush toilets in every house.

If you live in Windsor and would like to attend, please contact us through yachtbellavia@gmail.com  and we will connect you with a ticket seller.


    Journal 2012