s/y Nine of Cups
Exploring Bay of Islands and Northland
December 2009 - February  2010
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Like Ireland, there are no snakes in New
Zealand, but there are certainly a lot of spiders!
A Cruiser's Christmas - December 25, 2009
When we're not at home with our family
for the holidays, we opt to spend time with
our cruising families. Christmas 2009
dawned a gloriously sunny, warm day.
Along with several other cruisers, we
organized a huge feast and party to
celebrate Christmas. Everyone contributed
in some way, shape or fashion. Some folks
cooked, some mashed potatoes, some
sold tickets, some played music, some set
up, some decorated, some carted stuff
around, some carved and served.
Everyone pitched in and everyone seemed
to enjoy the day and the feast.
We used the Opua Cruising Club as our
"venue", but the kitchen was not available to
us which was a challenge.
Nicole on "Taraipo" diced bread cubes and
veggies to make huge trays of stuffing.
Since we couldn't use the kitchen at the
OCC, everything had to be prepared on our
boats and carted to shore. Above, Emmy &
Eric of "Nataraja" haul turkeys, gravy and
stuffing ashore.
Eric was our chef and he took his work seriously.
Using three BBQs borrowed from various
locations, plus two land ovens, he managed to
cook 8 trays of stuffing, 6 turkeys, a huge 8.5 kg
ham and gallons of gravy and  served at 5pm
sharp as promised. Everyone was impressed!
Aly on "Loon 3" (left) was in charge of
decoration and set-up. Along with Besty on
"Qayaq", they gathered greens, flowers, shells
and other natural items for centerpieces on
each table. The results were fantastic!
Bobbi Jo on "Hypnautical" lent a touch
of elegance as she entertained with
Christmas carols on the Celtic harp.
This was a time for meeting up with old friends
whom we'd seen throughout our Pacific
crossing. Above, Gabor & Isolde on "Kestrel"
enjoy some holiday cheer.
Eric poses with the glazed 8.5 kg ham.
The smell of roasting turkeys and ham
had folks coming in off the sidewalks
asking to buy tickets for dinner!
Larry from "No Regrets" carves up the turkey.
The photographer seemed to be in good
spirits, too!
A Yankee Trade / Gift Grab was a hoot
after dinner. The most traded gift...a pair of
Kuna molas! The least traded...an old,
used oil filter wrench. We got some new
DVDs and a book in trade for dinghy nav
lights. Great fun and lots of laughs.
Merry Christmas 2009!
In all, we had nearly 60 people
for the celebration, representing
34 boats and 10 countries.
Russell, Bay of Islands - 35S16.49 / 174E07.61
We had been at the Opua Marina for
nearly 1-1/2 months and it was time to
leave. On December 27th, though all of
our boat chores were not complete, we
headed out into the Bay of Islands...not
far, just about 5 miles, but a world away.
Though we had visited Russell before via
the ferry, we opted to anchor near the
Russell Boating Club in Matauwhi Bay to
finish up necessary boat tasks and
decompress a bit. We didn't go ashore
for three days and didn't mind it in the
least. Russell was originally a fortified
Maori settlement which spread over the
entire valley, then known as Kororareka
('sweet penguin').
The pleasant and friendly Russell Boating
Club. Downtown is just a short walk from the
Boat Club.
Above, Russell Wharf, a ferry dock with
regular passenger service from Paihia across
the Bay.
One of the prettiest sights in town was the
Christ Church and cemetery, the oldest
church in New Zealand (1847).
"The Strand", a lovely path which runs
along the Russell shore, offering cafes,
boutiques and shops of all kinds.
Russell Radio is well-known among yachties. A
volunteer communication service, they've been
assisting local and offshore vessels since 1951.
Christmas seems to be a non-event in New
Zealand. There is little of the commercialism
we see in the US. In the local "Warehouse"
(think K-Mart), only one aisle was
dedicated to Christmas decorations and
wrap. In the local supermarket, a small
corner of the store had Xmas stuff, but really
not much at all. It's a summer holiday here
and most folks head to the beach for a BBQ
with family and friends.
We went back to Opua and anchored out for
a few days to replenish the larder, take hot
showers and get rid of trash. Then we headed
north about 35 miles to Whangaroa Harbour
for some hiking and, believe it or not, more
boat work. Working on your boat in exotic
places...yup, that's cruising.

Whangaroa Harbour is quite large  with lots of
nooks, crannies and coves to provide
protection from which ever way the winds
might be blowing. Constant fronts passed
while we were anchored there and though the
wind gens hummed, we nary felt a ripple.

We alternated days for work and play. The
best hike was from Lane Cove near the
Duke's Nose to Totara North.
Waitepipi Bay, Whangaroa Harbour - 35S00.34 / 173E44.20
We were anchored in Waitepipi Bay, (the first
arm to the right when entering the harbor), but it
was a short dinghy ride to the trailhead at Lane
Cove in Rere Bay just under the Duke's Nose.
The view of Rere Bay from the trail was beautiful.
The Duke's Nose
We followed the track along the Wairakau
Stream and were rewarded with a great 12km
roundtrip hike and scenic vistas along the way.
View of Whangaroa Harbour from the highest
point on the trail just above Totara North.
A tree weta...large, grotesque-looking insect
that stings is endemic to New Zealand.
There's not much in Totara North, but we
certainly enjoyed the walk.
With a little persistence and just one more hill to
climb, we found The Gumdigger Bar & Grille,
an historic local pub, and stopped for a quick
lunch and a beer before heading back up the hill
for the 6km  trek back to "Cups".
New Zealand Birds
Mangonui Harbour - 34S59.17 / 173E31.93
We moved from Waitepipi to Waitapu
Bay  (35S02.33 / 173E45.41) and
varnished a little more. On a foggy, misty
day when varnishing wasn't possible, we
left Whangaroa Harbour and headed
about 20 miles further north to Doubtless
Bay and Mangonui Harbour. We saw lots
of birds along the way including blue
penguins. The smallest of the penguin
family, blue penguins are also also known
as little penguins or fairy penguins. More
than half of all the world's penguins occur
in the New Zealand region.
A blue penguin. They're shy and don't get
very close to the boat.
Entering Doubtless Bay, we came across a
large pod of dolphins who entertained us royally.
These guys had boundless energy. They
played and frolicked for the sheer joy of it.
Mangonui Harbour was a pleasant place to
anchor and the little fishing town of Mangonui
was quite picturesque.
The entertainment once anchored was
watching the gannets dive from aloft at
breakneck speed into the water for fish.
We anchored right off the town in Mill Bay. This
fishing town's claim to fame is the Mangonui Fish
Shop, allegedly the "best fish & chip shop in New
Zealand". We don't have lots to compare it to, but we
tried it. Good, but definitely not our cup of tea. Too
greasy and heavy for our taste.
Tokaroa Island at Houhora Harbour -  34S49.24 / 173E08.98
Australasian gannets were everywhere in this
harbour. The fishing must have been good.
See more
New Zealand birds.
With settled weather promised, we
headed to Karikari Beach, a wide
expanse of beach and sand dunes in
Rangaunu Bay. Unfortunately, the
weather man and the weather did not
agree and the wind became strong
from the west shortly after we
anchored, putting us on a lee shore.
We upped anchor before even being
able to explore the beach and headed
to a more protected spot about 10
miles away at Houhoura Harbour
where we swung peacefully in front of
tiny Tokaroa Island while a front with
strong north/northeast winds passed by.
Tiny Tokaroa Island isn't much more than a
big rock, but it provided the windbreak and
current break we needed for a peaceful
The entrance to Houhora is a fairly narrow
channel that encircles a shallow lagoon. We
found great clamming (tuatua) at low tide on
the beach just before the entrance.
When the wind changed, we headed out of
Houhora and back to Waitepipi Bay in
Whangaroa for a night and then worked out way
to the Cavallis via a night's anchorage at
Whangaihe Bay (34S59.68/173E48.96).There
seems to be a pleasant anchorage with protection
from the wind most anywhere you look. We
anchored at North Beach with south winds
predicted,  but the wind changed once again and
we sought a more protected anchorage at
Matauri Bay (35S01.99/173E55.13) where we
spent a lovely, calm night watching the campers
on the shore as they watched us. The next day
with north winds now predicted, we headed into
Papatara Bay (Horseshoe Bay) on the south side
of the island where we stayed for several days.
Cavalli Islands -  North Bay, Motukawanui Island 34S59.26/ 173E56.66
The views from the hill above the north
beach at Motukawanui were great and the
beach was wonderful...thick with Cook's
turbans, paua and austral abalaone shells
Papatara Bay (Horseshoe Bay) anchorage was
absolutely idyllic and Cups was all alone.
Motukawanui Island -  Papatara Bay 34S49.24 / 173E08.98
We had heard from several friends that this
area was beautiful, but we just didn't
expect it to be as beautiful as it was. A
track led across the island from the
southern beaches to the north beach and
we tramped across it one fine day. We
were rewarded with excellent views, good
shelling on the north beach once again and
a peek at some of the local flora and fauna.
We saw lots of birds and added several
new sightings to our growing bird list.
The tracks are well marked and very
Ripples on the white sand at the beach with nary
a footprint made a lovely sight.
A white cabbage butterfly feasts on the
nectar of native wild flowers.
We heard the buzz of cicadas constantly, but
every once in awhile, we heard the clacking
of a clapping cicada.
Return to Home Page or continue with us for
more New Zealand exploration.
Low tide at the beach gave us a great
opportunity to look for shells, search for mussels
and clams (no luck) and check out the birds that
were looking for dinner.
We added Oystercatchers and New Zealand Dotterels to our
bird list. Check them out on
New Zealand Birds.
New Zealand 3
South Island
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