Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Fw: Sailing and natural disasters

--- On Wed, 23/2/11, Jim Donald <> wrote:

From: Jim Donald <>
Subject: Sailing and natural disasters
Received: Wednesday, 23 February, 2011, 11:11 AM

We are writing this in the aftermath of the shocking news of the latest Christchurch earthquake. The first we knew of it was when we were approaching the Hen and Chicks on our way back from the Barrier and we received a text from Perry's girlfriend asking if we had heard and expressing concern about Jim's daughter Charlotte who lives in Chch. By great good fortune Charlotte and Jon and Lucia and Elsie were on holiday in Blenheim and we have since heard a sketchy report that their house is relatively undamaged. Almost unbelievable condidering the scale of the disaster.
So all that was a great relief and it was bizarre listening to the radio news as we were having an exilharating sail in 22knots of wind and hanging on by our toenails!!
We had set off on Feb 7th. and had a reasonable sail down the coast to Kawau. We spent a few nostalgic days there visiting Jim's Grandfather's little cottage which sadly is in other ownership and in a sad state of disrepair. We caught a few small (legal!!) snapper and had dinner with Garry on "Berna Marie" a couple of times - once on the Tiare and once on BM. "Berna Marie" has circumnavigated the world twice! An inspiration for us. We also walked from Schoolhouse Bay to Mansion House and back. Then we sailed towards Waiheke and eventually ended up in Chamberlain's Bay on Ponui Is. Very little wind and motoring most of the way.
The next day we tried to sail but ended up motoring across the Firth of Thames to Te Kouma which is a great sheltered harbour on the western side of the Coromandel Peninsula. We had never been to Coromandel Town before by boat so one day sailed over there which is in a large shallow bay just north of Te Kouma. Deep keel yachts must anchor about a mile from a tidal creek which is navigable by dinghy above half tide so we went ashore once there was enough water and had a fish meal at the local pub which was definitely very less than memorable and stocked up on provisions. A pleasant little town but very geared to tourists and somewhat overdone in our opinion. Then back to Te Kouma and the next morning heading north to Gt. Barrier although with the intention of overnighting along the way. There actually aren't very many possibilities although as the wind was in the east it meant that we could anchor in the shallow bay of Colville where we spent a restful night. We had earlier visited Happy Jack which is an island off the coast but it only has a small anchorage which is sheltered in some winds but can be a trap in others and there was already another boat in there - hence our decision to go to Colville.
The next morning ( the 18th.- Jean's birthday!) we set sail for Barrier. Not much wind until we were clear of Cape Colville and then we had a good sail all the way to Port Abercrombie just north of Port Fitzroy. Got in there late afternoon and anchored in Karaka Bay - no mossies this night but we came back a few nights later and they feasted on us right royally. For 4 days we explored the wonderful Fitzroy area and anchored a couple of times in Port Fitzroy itself where we refuelled, got provisions from the store and had a great evening meal at the Port Fitzroy Boating Club - highly recommended. 
Then when the weather forecast seemed right we sailed for the 43 mile passage to Urquarts Bay, Whangarei Harbour. It was a beautiful sunny morning when we left at 0730 and the majestic scenery of the Barrie behind us, Little Barrier on our port side and the Moko Hinaus some 7 miles to starboard was as unforgettable as ever. Little did we know  that the worst natural disaster ever to afflict NZ was about to happen. The Hen and Chickens Islands were growing on our horizon all day and as we passed between them we had the text from Tracie which alerted us to the shocking event which had taken place in Christchurch.
We anchored in Urquarts and then the next morning came back up to the Town Basin, Whangarei. Collected the car from Hamish and Sara and they very kindly offered us dinner which was great. Still can't take in the scale of the tragedy down south.