s/y Nine of Cups
Chatham Islands
March-April 2011
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New Zealand has several out-island groups and the volcanic upthrusts known as the Chatham Islands
seem to be the most accessible of them. Located about 500nm off the coast of Christchurch, Chatham
Island is by far the largest island of the 10-island Chatham Island group and is almost (but not quite)
"halfway between the equator and the South Pole, and right on the International Date Line".
Covering an area of ~ 347 square miles and with a population of ~700,  Chatham Island was named
after the survey ship HMS Chatham which was the first European ship to locate the island in 1791. The
island is also known by two other names, the Maori name of Wharekauri and the Moriori (original
inhabitants of New Zealand) name of Rekohu (meaning misty skies).
Space shot of the Chatham Islands.
The Chatham Islands website was quite informative and
we used it as a resource for finding out more about the area.
Some interesting Chatham Island facts:

  • Newspaper The Chatham Islander
  • Island radio, Radio Weka (92.1FM)
  • A 45-minute time difference (ahead)
    from mainland NZ
  • No ATMs, but a bank, post office and
    a few shops in the main town of Waitangi
  • Main industries are farming, eco-tourism
    and crayfishing
  • 18 species of birds are unique to these
    islands because of their isolated position
Next stop...Opua, Bay of Islands...right back where we started
from and where we "tie the knot" for our NZ circumnavigation.
Come on along as we haul Nine of Cups and get her ready for her
next passage. Maybe not as interesting as exploring exotic places,
but we've gotta work sometime.

Besides,  if you work with us, we'll let you come to Fiji!

In the meantime, remember we
update our blog and position daily.

Check back... there's always an adventure
Sailing with Nine of Cups.
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We headed for the Chathams leaving
Dunedin behind. Tairoa Head is background
for a royal albatross floating with the swells.
Birds were abundant en route.Above, an
Artic tern rests on some floating kelp.
Storm on the horizon
Rainbows were as abundant as the birds
and we managed to skirt most of the squalls.
Land ho! Chatham Island in sight.
We anchored after dark. Above, our first
sight of the Waitangi town in the morning
obscured by rain and 30 knot winds.
Day 2 dawned rainy and windy, but the
sun shone through later allowing a
photo of the Waitangi wharf.  40-50
knot winds still kept us on the boat.
In the meantime...while waiting for a weather window to just launch our dinghy to go
ashore, Cyclone Bune (mm-boo-nay) is heading our way according to NZ's Meterological
Service. Red arrow shows location of Chatham Island. What next?
Finally, a sunny day with reasonable winds
and we made it to shore after our 3 day wait.
We met John immediately who helped us tie
up the dinghy safely.
John is a crayfish/lobster trap fabricator and
was hard at work, but stopped to chat, give
us directions AND the use of his truck to
go get parts for our ailing engine cooler.
David and Terry, owner of the garage,
sorted through bins of fittings and parts
until finally Eureka! David found just the
right fitting which Terry gave us gratis!
The garage also provided a needed fuel
filter and the local petrol station had the
diesel engine oil we needed.
All set on boat supplies and parts for
the engine oil cooler repair, we
returned the truck to John and walked
back into town ...a slow trip since we
found ripe blackberries along the road
on the way.
We had lunch at the Hotel Chathams and
met Pete who introduced himself as the
Commodore of the Chatham Islands YC.
Pete would like to do some tours with
visiting yachties. Contact Commodore
Pete, Post Restante, Chatham Islands,NZ.
Pete offered to take us for a ride to Owenga
on the east coast and we accepted his
offer.We drove out onto the Owenga pier
which juts out fearlessly into the Pacific
Ocean. No doubt, it gets quite a beating.
One of the most interesting aspects of the
Chathams is the cultural legacy of Moriori.
Chatham Island is known as the home of the
Moriori tribe, who settled these islands more than
1000 years ago. Probably descended from NZ
Maori, the Moriori maintained a more ancient
Polynesian culture than the Maori because of their
isolation. When the HMS Chatham visited in 1791,
they estimate about 2000 Moriori lived here.
Groups of Maori began arriving ~1835 from
mainland NZ, overcame the Moriori, took their
land and enslaved them. Their language, customs
and people died until by 1900, only 12
full-blooded Moriori remained. The last
full-blooded Moriori, Tommy Solomon (Tame
Horomona Rehe) died in 1933 and is immortalized
in a statue in this park near Manukau Point.
Tommy Solomon - the last Moriori
Near Tommy's statue, we spotted a
couple of weka. Surprisingly, these birds
which are protected on the mainland are
on the menu and can be hunted here as
can pukeko, black swans and ducks.
We visited the Kopinga Marae which
offered outstanding views of the Pacific
and Lake Huro.
Scenic wharf at Port Waitangi
Why visit the Chatham Islands?
Lonely Planet describes the Chathams as " an isolated, mysterious and wild
group of islands, very much off the beaten track."
Need we say more?
Waitangi Bay, Chatham Island - 43S56.88 / 176W33.40 - 19'
Since most people never get here, we thought we'd
provide a  photographic "nickel-tour" of the town. Cups
is anchored at the red "X".
The Info center also housed the Council
Office & Chatham Island Museum which
was small, but interesting.
Waitangi is the antipodes (point
directly on the opposite side of
the globe) of Alzon, France.
The fire station houses the firetruck and
there's also St. John's Ambulance here.
Court House - a visiting magistrate comes
from the mainland 3 times a year.
The ANZ bank is open M/Tu/Th/Fr from
10-2. It also acts as the island's post
office. Left of it is the Waitangi Cafe.
The Waitangi Store seems to have about
everything, but at double-triple the prices
on the  mainland.
The Wharf Road follows the shoreline into
Waitangi township.
We picked up a book at the Info office  called Discover the Chatham Islands...First to See the
by Cherry Lawrie and Jocelyn Powell (ISBN 097509919-1) which was quite informative and
provided lots of social and natural history about the island as well as interesting sights to see. We
also picked up a copy of  March issue of  
The Chatham Islander to get a feel for island happenings.
The Chatham Island Hospital offers a
medical clinic and ER as well as hospital
services. Specialists visit intermittently.
The Nairn River runs through town, its red
tannin  water tainting the bay a tea color.
This sweeping, white sand beach provided
silver paua shells when we beachcombed.
Common wildflowers/weeds  sighted:
great bindweed, yarrow (above),
buttercup, nasturtium, montbretia, ground
daisies, fumitory, clover, hawksbeard and
lots of gorse.
We met a local woman with whom we
became friendly. Ann, her partner, Link and
his son, Peter came for a visit. Their lobster
boat, Bridget Bo, hung off Cups' stern and
David hand-lined the dinghy to and from to
get them aboard Cups. Unfortunately,
lobster season is closed from March 1 thru
April 30...bummer!
Sharks teeth and dinosaurs! Read a National
article about the Chatham Islands:
Dino Fossils Found on Remote South
Pacific Island
Chatham Island forget-me-nots are
out of season. They're spring
bloomers. Sigh! I nicked a pic off
the internet to use here.
Delightfully colorful Chatham Island daisies
were, however, in season.
We decided to walk/hitchhike to Te One
and perhaps to the Te Whanga Lagoon.
Walking allows us to really observe the
area and discover little insights we might
have missed whizzing by in a car.
The cemetery was located on a pleasant
hillside off the Te One road.
From Wikipedia..."The Chatham Islands may be
the only undisturbed remnant of the lost
continent of Zealandia, a vast tract of the
continental thrust of which modern New Zealand
is only the emergent tip. And the whole of
Zealandia, including New Zealand, may have
been under water until 23 million years ago. This
theory, developed by geologists Hamish
Campbell and Chuck Landis, rocks received
wisdom that while New Zealand was once
mostly submerged, some areas always remained
above water, allowing the continuation of
species from ancient mega-continent
Gondwanaland, from which Zealandia split 83
million years ago. If Campbell and Landis are
right, it could explain why NZ has no indigenous
mammals - they drowned."
On Marcie's list of "must-sees" was
the native Red Admiral butterfly.
We were looking for local birds and
spotted a Chatham Island pipit in a field.
We stopped at the DOC office in
Te One and decided with so many
unique birds resident here, we just
"had" to have a CI bird book.
A pastoral view of the rolling hills and grazing
livestock with the lakes in the background.
St. Augustine Anglican Church in Te One is
the oldest church on the island.
There is a pattern of serendipity that seems
to follow us. About every 3-4 months, we
meet someone or something out of the
ordinary happens that really impresses us.

We walked and walked towards Te
Whanga Lagoon, but no rides materialized
UNTIL...a truck stopped. Pat Smith
introduced himself and when we told him
we were heading towards the lagoon, he
asked if we'drather visit his farm and take a
bush walk along the Te Whake Lagoon
which bordered his property. Oh my!
Pat's farm was just beautiful with
livestock grazing peacefully as we drove
across the paddock to his home.
Pat showed us some of his carving work
incorporating traditional Maori designs.
He also had a collection of 30 million year
old fossilized shark's teeth, which were
apparently highly prized by the Moriori  
and used as gifts on important occasions.
As a token of friendship, Pat gave us two
first day covers from New Year's Eve
1999 and New Year's Day 2000.
Chatham Islands...first to see the sun, first
to see the new millenium. Also, four
shark's teeth...unbelievable mementos of
Chatham Island.
Black swans, seemingly hundreds of them, swam
gracefully all the Te Whanga shores. Pat called to
them and they answered immediately. He's been
farming this land for over 40 years and designated a
portion of the farm as a reserve. The reserve area has
been cleared of introduced species and weeds as
much as possible and mostly native plants grow here
The close proximity and lack of fear in
the black swans was absolutely thrilling.
The Chatham Islands black robin  has
been rescued from the brink of
extinction. At one point, only one
breeding female, Old Blue, remained.
No, we didn't see any, but there are
about 200 now located on Rangatira
and Mangere Islands near Pitt Island.
Nicked a DOC pic  to share with you.
These Pacific mollymawks showed no fear
as they paddled up to the dinghy to check
out David...and vice versa.
More of Pat's handiwork...a
carved flute
On the drive back to the Waitangi Road,
we encountered a Chatham Island traffic
jam. A neighbor was herding cattle down
the road, getting ready for the livestock ship.
On our walk back to Waitangi, we spotted
these windblown trees... proof that the
windy Chathams are deserving of their name.
The Chatham Islands are first and foremost South Pacific islands. Locals are independent and
self-reliant. They refer to "New Zealand" not the mainland, when
talking, as if it were another country. The (unofficial) flag of the
Chatham Islands displays a map of the island with the Te Whanga
lagoon depicted  in white. Behind the map is a the rising sun.
The flag was designed by Logan Alderson (a former New Zealand
police officer) in 1993, and we're told it has been used in the Chathams since then. Rumor has it
that at the 2005 opening of a new marae on the islands, which included a rare visit by the New
Zealand Prime Minister, the Chathams flag was clearly seen flying from a flagpole over the
Chatham Islanders are called "wekas" in the
same way New Zealanders are called "kiwis".
In 1991, the NZ Post  
commemorated the
Chatham Islands  
Bicentennial with a
special 2-stamp issue.
David finished his
hook display  and
mounted it in a
shadowbox. It
hangs on the saloon
wall. It's dazzling!
Right, a closeup of
one of the hooks.
En route to Chatham, we chatted on the
radio to the freight, Baldur, pictured above.
They were en route to Timaru in NZ with a
load of Chatham Island livestock for sale.
They returned a week later for another load.
We netted a good haul from our
beachcombing on the Waitangi Beach.
Of special note, the silver paua which
were plentiful here.
Port Hutt, Chatham Island - 43S48.71 / 176W42.36 -28'
With northerly winds predicted, we moved to
Port Hutt, 10nm across Petre Bay. "Silver
Lining", whom we'd met back in the Bay of
Islands, arrived in Waitangi and joined us in
Port Hutt to wait out the winds.
Port Hutt is privately owned and there's not
much there: a few houses, a pier and a small
seafood processing factory.
The Thomas Currell was used in WWII as
a minesweeper and later moved to Port Hutt
as a fish freezer. Now she lies rusting with
trees and greenery growing from her bow.
Several conical peaks appear on the horizon,
remnants of volcantic activity and basalt
eruption dating from 30-40 million years ago.
They're  known as the Northern Volcanics.
Lobster traps ready to go back into the
water when the season opens again.
With permission, we walked up over a hill
through pasture land for views of the bay
which we shared with local cattle and
sheep. Not much bird life...some Chatham
Island pipits and Australasian harriers.
The views were beautiful on such a clear,
windy day. The temps were cool, but the
warm sun and uphill walking, made the hike
quite comfortable and good exercise.
We noted lots of pink lilies growing in
various locations through the island. The
locals call them "naked ladies" and
they're imported, of course. We last saw
them at Juan Fernandez Island, Chile.
They're prolific bloomers and spreaders.
Waihere Bay, Pitt Island - 44S15.76 / 176W14.97 - 38'
From Port Hutt, we took advantage of some
northerly winds and headed southeast to Pitt
Island. Above, "the Horns" at Cape L'eveque
on the southwest point of Chatham Island.
Pitt Island or Rangiauria is the second largest island in the
Chatham Islands, originally known as Rekohu.  Pitt
Island's Kahuitara Point is the first populated location on
earth to observe a sunrise in each new year, based on
local time zone.Pitt lies 12 miles (20 km) to the southeast
of Chatham Island, from which it is separated by Pitt
Strait. It covers an area of 24 square miles and has a
population of about 45 people. Pitt Island is very hilly and
its highest point, Waihere Head, rises to 241 metres (791
ft) above sea level. The island has undergone several
name changes over the years. The Moriori, called it
Rangiaotea. In 1791, the Europeans called it Pitt's Island,
and fifty years later this was simplified to "Pitt" Island. The
invading Taranaki Maori called it Rangiauria, a name that
is still in use today.
Chatham to Pitt route
Pitt Island was first sighted by Europeans
when the crew of William R. Broughton's ship
HMS Chatham spotted it in 1791. It was
named for William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham.
The many rock formations around Pitt Island jut out of the sea in interesting shapes and are aptly named. Above, from left, the crenelated towers of the Castle; Sail Rock which definitely looks
like a wind-filled spinnaker when viewed from afar; the Pyramid, named back in 1809. Basalt towers and cliffs viewed from our anchorage in Canister Cove with the Pyramid barely in view.
Strong winds hit us from all sides during our stay at Pitt and it
was necessary to keep on the move. NE35, then NW35
switching to SW45+. The ride from Waihere Bay on Pitt's
west coast around the bottom and up to Canister Cove was
the worst bit with winds gusting to 50+ knots and high seas
bashing us from all sides. A sleepless night in Canister Cove
and fearsome swells had us moving again further norther to
the Tupangi anchorage.We never made it to Flower Pot, the
largest town on the island. We were quite disappointed that
we didn't see many birds on this trip...not even the
emerald-faced Pitt Island shags, but the island reserves here
are for breeding and nesting (wrong time of year) and are
understandably off limits to yachties.
Canister Cove, Pitt Island - 44S20.19 / 176W13.43- 44'
Tupangi Anchorage, Pitt Island - 44S15.46 / 176W09.80 - 55'
Our time at Chatham Island  has come to an end.
As always, our time was too short and we couldn't
stay as long we wanted, but the clock is ticking
and it's  time to head back to New Zealand and
get ready for our passage to Fiji. So much to
do...so little time.

The passage back to New Zealand was  a
challenge. We had no wind (0-5 knots), too much
wind (50+ knots), rarely the right amount of wind
(15-20...lovely) and mostly "on the nose" wind
(NW). We anticipated 4-5 days to get back and it
took us forever  moving at a sea slug's pace and in
the wrong direction.

We suffered a knockdown in a storm just off East
Cape which blew out our mainsail, tore our bimini
to shreds, knocked out a deck stanchion and
generally took our breaths away. Additionally, we
had watermaker and transmission problems which
thankfullly, David was able to fix en route. We
hove-to one night and after the mainsail blew, we
lay ahull another.

The projected 750 mile trip was actually 1,140 nm
by the time we reached Opua and took  12 days.
The Tupangi anchorage looks calm and
serene, but when 45-50 kt winds are
whizzing past you, it's anything but!
Finally, a weather window  which allowed us
to leave Pitt and head back to NZ. A lovely
farewell send-off by the local dolphins.
The chartplotter shows our zigzag pattern
as we tacked endlessly to try to make
some westerly progress.
The best part of the return trip was the
birdlife like the Royal Albatross above
and of course...
the absolutely spectacular sunsets!