December 8, 2013 – January 2, 2014

We started out for Great Barrier Island on Sunday, December 8, but quickly discovered that our mainsail halyard had parted.  We settled back at anchor in Munro Bay and Paul went back to Whangarei by dinghy.  Here he is returning with new rope for the main halyard and two new jib sheets.  He also brought back a case of beer, as he had forgotten to pick some up before we left town.  We spent the afternoon installing the new main halyard and the jib sheets.

We arrived in Whangaparapara Harbour at Great Barrier Island on December 9, after a day-long motorsail due to light winds.  Tony greeted us to the harbour with loud peals of his bells.  We settled on the usual mooring (it’s nice to know the harbour master!) and settled in for a three week stay.  Tony and Carol were off to someone’s house for dinner that evening so we only had time for a quick hello and hugs.  We saved our catch-up for the next day. 

We were fortunate with the weather for the first week.  The wind was very light and almost non-existent early in the morning.  So, at 0630 every morning for 6 days, we were on the badminton court.  Paul gave Mary a much appreciated early Christmas gift of her own racquet.  Another couple, Lindsay and Kay, from Southern Cross have been staying in the harbour for the past several months and they joined the badminton group every morning.

While we were at Great Barrier Island, we continued to clean, de-clutter, and polish Bella Via - the boat now looks as good as it did brand new.  We spent a few days painting – Mary has wanted to paint the inside of the galley cupboards for nine years and she finally did it.  There is now nice white enamel inside and the cupboards look great.  Paul took apart the helm chair so we could paint the base and the steps and then he took apart the electric windlass in the anchor locker and we painted that.  Then, because there was paint left over, he painted the crossbeam and the pelican stiker between the bows.

Then, Paul (with Mary as technical assistant) repaired the stern navigation light which has been problematic for awhile.  Unfortunately, it meant that he had to dismantle the solar panel and part of the dinghy davits at the stern as there was a kink in the wiring, which then led to it breaking.  Paul then greased three of the big winches that we have - just regular maintenance. 

Strong southwest winds for a few days meant that the harbour was lumpy and no badminton with 20 knot winds.  We did brave the elements and cross the harbour by dinghy to attend a wharf party with several locals and yachties. It was a lot of fun as we know quite a few of the locals now. 

Well before Christmas, the boat was decorated, presents wrapped, and the Christmas music playing since December 1.  Our plans for Christmas Day were to be at 'The Green' for lunch - a Department of Conservation campground nearby where we have had Christmas with several people for the last few years.  The plan was to go elsewhere if the weather was bad.

A few days before Christmas we asked several people over for a pre-Christmas get-together of drinks and nibbles.  A great time was had by all.  The fellow on the right in the picture played the bagpipes every night from the stern of his boat ‘Braveheart’ while in the harbour.

One evening just as we were going to bed, we were treated to a carolling session by Aggie (a local) and her family.  They came out on their paddle boards, dressed as elves, accompanied by her husband in a dinghy.

A decision was made on the 24th, based on the weather forecast which predicted rain, to have our Christmas lunch on Argo, where there is lots of room.

Tony and Carol decorated their coffee table (handmade by Tony) with a Pohutukawa branch (the New Zealand Christmas tree) and another guest brought Christmas crackers for everyone.  Very festive!

Here is Carol on the left taking a few minutes out of dinner preparations to speak with Beryl and Charmagne.   There were 20 people on Argo for Christmas dinner and we had a wonderful time.

Mary gave Paul a new lure for Christmas that the fellow in the fishing shop said would be good for catching kingfish.  In three days of fishing after Christmas, Paul caught four large snapper and two large kingfish.  He more than made up for the cost of the lure.  Unfortunately, a week later when we were travelling south to Waiheke Island, the fishing line was cut, probably by something big, and he lost the new lure.

On January 2, we had an early morning badminton game and then said good-bye to our Whangaparapara friends.  On that day the forecast was good for us to head south but, unfortunately, the winds were very light and we had to motorsail.  Our destination was Waiheke Island, in the Hauraki Gulf, close to Auckland.  We figured that with it being the holiday season there would be lots of boats at Waiheke and lots of exposure to our For Sale sign.

January 3 – 27, 2014

We stayed at Waiheke Island for over three weeks.  We changed anchorages depending on the wind direction – when it blew out of the north, we headed to the south side of the island, Huhuri Bay, and when it blew out of the south, Oneroa Bay on the north side.  Here are some highlights of our stay at Waiheke Island:

We took this picture from the main street in Oneroa.  There were 180 boats in the anchorage that night.  Paul’s new marketing strategy is to be in the midst of the pack at anchor and to weave in and out amongst the boats before choosing an anchor spot – all geared to more exposure to our For Sale sign.

Paul was working on the foredeck one day when a boat motored by and the woman called out and told us that she was from Chatham – only one hour away from our home in Windsor.  We had Cindy and Steve (her Kiwi partner) over for sundowners that evening.

On a good weather day, this seaplane lands in Oneroa Bay on a regular basis.  Even when the bay was overcrowded it landed and took off shortly after – all very exciting.

Bella Via was 9 years old on January 22, 2014!  She looks as good as new.  As a birthday present, we bought a new barbecue and we won’t be using it.  It has been set aside for the new owners whoever they may be.

Weather, weather, and more weather!

While we were at Waiheke Island, we learned that Cyclone Ian was heading directly for Tonga and it landed sometime on January 12.  We hoped and prayed that our good friends on Lape Island would be okay.  There was quite a bit of devastation to the country but mainly in the Ha’apai Group (the middle group of Tongan islands).  We sent an email to a Canadian acquaintance who is building a house in Hunga Lagoon, which is quite close to Lape Island, and asked him to check on our friends.  Communications were down for quite a while and Barry has to climb a hill and go to the other side of the island to use the internet.  He recently wrote and told us that he hadn’t heard about any damage on Lape Island and when he tried to call Kolio on the VHF someone else answered and said that Kolio is in Nuku’alofa for one week.

The next weekend we watched the weather maps closely as a deep low, ex-cyclone June, was approaching the North Island of New Zealand.  Winds of up to 45 knots, gusting to 65 knots were predicted at some point with lots of rain.  We felt that Huhuri Bay, with its good holding, would be a safe place to be.  The first evening and night was quite noisy as the wind howled through the rigging.  Mary sat up for awhile watching the wind indicator display while Paul slept soundly with the anchor watch alarm next to our bed.  The top wind gust that evening was 47 knots from the northeast.  When the gusts settled to less than 40 knots Mary managed to fall asleep with earplugs and slept soundly until morning.  The wind gradually lessened throughout the next day and stayed north/northeast. 
On Tuesday, January 21, the ex-cyclone was predicted to be directly over top of us and then the wind direction would be northwest then west and then southwest as the system passed over.  At that point the winds were again predicted to be 45 knots, gusting to 65 knots.  We decided to move over to Oneroa Bay on the north side of the island.  We moved just as the wind died out.  We were the second boat in Oneroa Bay, having been passed by a power boat.  Two other boats came in that afternoon.

When we left Huhuri Bay the skies were grey.  Shortly after that we were directly in the eye of the storm with blue sky and very little wind.  By the time we got around to Oneroa Bay the blue sky was gone and the wind was starting to build out of the southwest.

Shortly after dropping anchor in Oneroa Bay Paul went in the dinghy to take this picture of the waves crashing on the shore.

We didn’t get as much wind as predicted (Mary was thankful but Paul called it a bust!).  We managed to capture one of the top wind speeds on camera.

On Thursday, January 23, Paul’s birthday, the forecast was good to head back to Whangarei.  We had an awesome sail all day from Waiheke Island to Bream Head, a distance of 60+ miles, with 25 to 40 knots of offshore breeze.  We started with a full main, then added one reef and then a second reef and kept 7 to 9 knots all the way.  It was a long day but a good travelling day.  We settled in Munro Bay near Whangarei Heads at 1800 and enjoyed a birthday dinner of salad, ribs and homemade apple pie and ice cream.  Mmmmmm!

January 27, 2014

It’s Monday, January 27, and we are now at the Town Basin Marina in Whangarei.  Here Bella Via will stay until early April.  We are flying home to Canada for two months and will depart on Thursday, February 6.


    Journal 2013