Great Mercury Island

Had the boat home for some usual maintenance chores. I decided that before I take her back up to the compound for the summer sailing season I really should tow her somewhere new to explore.

A quick google earth search and Great Mercury islands was the chosen destination. I haven’t been since I did a lap on a cray boat when I was 10 years old. All I really remembered was it had lots of crayfish.

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I text my mate Shaun who has the skinny on the scallop situation and he replies offering a voucher for a half price dive course! well that’s a no brainer and the timing is good. Dive course completed on Sunday, boat hooked up and being towed towards Whitianga on Wednesday. No point mucking around with these things.

The initial plan was to launch at Kuaotunu but after some advice on crew.org forum I changed to Whitianga. This was excellent advice as the ramps not so great and the scenery between Whitianga and the Mercs is stunning as promised! Thanks fellas.

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Paul and I arrived after mid day and went about setting up the boat. The ramp area is a bit tricky as the outgoing tide was hauling. The plan was to launch on the down current side, turn the boat and motor out before the current washed us into the wharf only meters away. It wasn’t pretty but we got out ok and turned down current to exit the harbour. Outside it was a bit windy so we raised the main with one reef and didn’t feel the need for a jib.

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Two dolphins came by and checked us out, They where huge and looked angry, all scarred up and covered in tattoos’ one even had a knife, “don’t make eye contact I called to Paul”. We crossed Mercury bay in good time going directly down wind, rounded the point and started planning where to drop anchor for the night. The wind was suitable for sheltering in against the coast somewhere south of Opito bay. That was good for me because I wanted to dive Opito before crossing to the islands.

We identified the dreaded Sunk rock and made a point of not finding out how it got that name. By this time its nearly dark and the wind has increased to “quite windy” So we poked our bow into a little nook called Cray fish bay, Its barely big enough to swing a Pack horse but it was offering reasonable shelter and darkness was increasing. Down went the anchor and some rope was let out, not enough to make me comfortable but the “bay” limited the amount of swing room.

We settled in for dinner and a drink, I was still unhappy with the situation, the rocks where close and almost all around us. No room for anchor drag and a wind change would make things worse. Outside just 100m clear of the shelter the wind was howling and picking up water and throwing it into the air like a reverse rain storm! (later reports from another boat in the area stated there where 50 knot gusts).

I crawled into my bunk and lay nervously listening and waiting for the anchor to break out. The wind was swirling around a bit and pulling on anchor and moving us around a bit. I’m running the plan through my head of how I will get the motor started and what else Ill need to do if it happens. Paul on the other hand was the opposite, happy as to have the sails down and be finished sailing in the breezy conditions. It was a complete contrast and we probably thought each other were crazy. I know I’d rather be doing what a yachts made to do vs being anchored in a rocky fish bowl with no room for a mistake.

Paul snored away blissfully whilst I occasionally tolerated it because I had no chance of getting any sleep, sitting up every 20mins looking out to see if we had moved more than an inch. To make things worse the wind started coming around and pushing us towards the rocky beach only meters away. The tide came in and I had to let out anchor rope so it wouldn’t pull off the bottom.  Luckily the wind had reduced considerably. By about 2am either the wind had settled enough or I was to tired to care and I fell asleep. Waking occasionally to tell Paul to shut up and using the opportunity to check again that we hadn’t moved.

I served the crew coffee in bed. (treat your minions well and they will pull the anchor all day).

Next morning was an absolute cracker, virtually no wind and a beautiful day. I rowed round the little bay in Marshmellow, the water was so clear I contemplated putting on my snorkel and seeing how this bay got its name. The bay appears bigger than I’m making it sound but you can’t see the rocks near the boat.

We motored around to Opito and I jumped in with a tank, my first scallop dive with a tank proved a flop. I got about 6 scallops from a whole tank of air.

Oh well hoist the sails and off to Great Mercs we go. We wanted fish for tea and thanks to Paul we had no bait. “we will catch a Kahawai” he said ” we don’t need to take bait”. I told him about the Kahawai rule: when you don’t want one they are everywhere, when you need one they don’t exist. “No, No” Paul said, we will catch one easy….. we dragged that lure almost everywhere and didn’t catch or see a single Kahawai!

The coastline on the East side is just stunning, I had to have a look under water so we pulled in close and I jumped in with my snorkel to look around. I scored two crays for an entrée (1 for the minion) and off we headed to Coralie bay. What an awesome place Coralie is! and only two other boats to share it with. We anchored in close sheltered as best we could from the Westerley breeze. I was so happy and relieved to find a decent anchorage I had no trouble relaxing with a beersie and exploring the area.

A couple minutes after this photo, when we got to the top. The boat on the right, the furthest boat out cranked up their bag pipes and filled the bay….. no the entire Island with the sound of Scotland! It was incredibly loud. I initially thought it was a loud speaker, but later found it was indeed actual bag pipes. I said to Paul we may have a problem if that continues into the night. Plus I wouldn’t be able to hear Paul’s snoring.

Next day we had to be round the other side to meet Shaun by 11, so we motored into the wind and around the northern tip and sailed downwind to find him. Lucky for me he had bought an extra tank I could use, so we both scuba dived for some scallops. This time it was better and we both managed to get a good feed. After mucking around a bit we headed in to find home bay to see if we could stay there the night.

We tucked into a spot with just enough water to stay afloat at the bottom of the tide. Their wasn’t much room in close to the protection of the hills and out of the current. Being in a trailer yachts has its advantages. We had settled in with a cold drink to help us open the scallops for dinner. We had ate sooo many scallops the last few where a struggle.

The shells and off cuts went over board and soon attracted a bunch of stingrays of different varieties. They entertained us while they hoovered up all scraps. Even a seal was hunting in the shallows nearby providing a unique insight into the speed they poses! It was chasing what I assume is small fish, by swimming at full pace in very shallow water, it was quite impressive.

Next morning it was a little grey out and threatened to rain. The wind forecast was predicting headwinds on the return trip tomorrow so we decided to head for Whitianga and perhaps home before that happened.

When scuba diving at Opito I didn’t quite have enough weight and didn’t have anymore. I decided to improvise and make my famous pancakes for breakfast, that should fix the problem for today’s dive.

We motored out in the grey haze and I wondered if I should put on my wet weather gear. It was good giving the outboard a good run, I usually prefer sailing but it’s the first proper use this season so time to blast out the cobwebs. Even though it was early morning, a bit cold, grey and some would say miserable, I was keen for another cray snorkel before leaving. We found a likely looking spot that wasn’t to affected by the westerly wind and chop. When I asked Paul if he is coming he did Not hesitate to decline. We probably thought each other crazy.

I wasted no time suiting up and jumping in. At first it was a bit baron looking but I soon came across a good patch and managed to catch 4. Well I did have a 5th but it escaped, my catch bag hangs off my float and the little clip that keeps it closed is broken. I had been tying a knot for security but it was proving difficult to undo while holding a cray. So this time I didn’t bother tying the knot. It didn’t take him long I dived down and back up once and it was gone!

After a crayfish each for morning tea (keep minion fed) Paul raised the anchor and we moved to a scallop area for a tank dive before heading homeward. The scallops don’t move much and don’t hide very well, they where easy to gather compared to the free dive crays.

I was feeling pretty good about myself from a pretty successful mornings hunting and gathering, satisfying the inner cave man. All we needed now was some fish, maybe Paul is planning on catching that kahawai for bait on the homeward stretch? Like a good minion he pulled the anchor again (with only a little whining) and we sailed out of the bay and headed back towards the ramp.

Conditions where near perfect, flat seas, light downwind breeze. We rigged a basic preventer line (rope that stops the boom from violently swing to other side accidentally) and wing on winged our way southwards.

We threaded our way between the many boats anchored fishing along the coastline and into Mercury bay. “Where’s the Kahawai Paul?” Paul had to go and sit up the front and think about what he had done….

Coming in towards the harbour we dropped sails and and continued on the motor. The tide was dropping and nearing mid tide, I was concerned with the speed of the current in the channel. Apparently it can get quite fast and with only 8hp available I didn’t know if we would get in or not. Turns out the Yamaha didn’t even break a sweat and we cruised back into Whitianga with no trouble at all.

Paul tied us to the pontoon like a pro, the current was cranking and we could only come in bow first facing up current. We soon had Corvina back on the trailer, mast down packed up and hit the road for the journey back to Hamilton.

First yacht race…ever


I got invited to crew on a trailer yacht racing in the winter series held by BOPTYS despite my warnings of not knowing how to race a boat.

Sunday came around and the forecast was bad (IMO) 10knots southerly dying out to variable 5 knots in the morning.
I text the skipper with my concerns that we will be drifting around in a big puddle, should I bring my fishing rod? Is it even worth going….

Skip said “This isn’t some over paid prima donna’s racing, these are real sailors and the show must go on”. I was given instructions to “BE AT THE RAMP BY 10AM”.

I had tricked Paul into coming with me, at least skip could yell at him while I hide in the cab.

We arrived on time, at Okawa bay boat ramp on the edge of a flat calm lake Rotoiti. It was a beautiful day, blue sky, warm and a light breeze holding in.

Race briefing was held, I pretended to understand and then took photos of the instructions.


We motored out through the channel amongst the fleet.



The signal was given for the 5 minute countdown to the start.

Skip ran through all the ropes and controls and technical bits and pieces, it mostly went over my head, I was thinking how simple sailing is when just cruising vs racing. And that I must need a lot more control things on my boat.

I was quite familiar with how a rudder works so made my way down to that end of the boat, grabbed the tiller and held on to it all day until we got back to the dock.

Skip gave the instructions to hoist the main sail, ready the jib, adjust the Cunningham etc etc so I gripped the tiller tighter and tried to look busy steering. 

The sails went up, motor off and we tacked back and forth threading through the other boats as we all  waited for the timer to let us cross the start line. 


30 seconds till start and we couldn’t have been in a worse spot, all the others where coming at us on starboard tack as we closed in towards the line, the timing was perfect but unfortunately the give way rules were against us and we had to turn away and let everyone go through, Skip called tack and we chased everyone else as they escaped around the first mark.

Soon after spinnakers were being raised and boats were disappearing into the distance. We managed to overtake one boat just after the first mark, I thought they must have lots of weed dragging on the keel because our start wasn’t flash.


Skip and Paul were soon preparing for our own spinnaker raising.


I sat driving the boat and taking pictures, far to busy to help. Plus this is the first time I’ve been on a boat with a spinnaker, I was quite happy to just watch and learn.


The spinnaker bellowed full and we took off in pursuit. We caught up and past the Noelex 30 that had luckily left their spinnaker at home.



We powered on down the lake heading for the top mark, reeling in some of the other boats. 


A few hundred meters from the top mark the wind drops right off and changes direction, causing the spinnaker to collapse and almost back fill. Almost Simultaneously the fleet drops the spinnakers and we all set in for the crawl towards the bouy. 

We tried to capitalise on the slightest puff of a breeze with full concentration.


The light wind had gone so light at one stage we just sat waiting to move, I wished I had bought my fishing rod.

We argued over which way we were supposed to round the bouy. My phone had the photo of the course but it was inside the cabin and I dared not let the tiller go with fear of not getting it back again.

We eventually got around and slowly crawled back towards the finish line beyond site in The distance. 

A wind line appeared a couple hundred meters away and we all wished it would stretch up to meet us, but it was like a mirage. The closer we got the further it appeared to be. 

Eventually we got into the wind and everyone started to take off on different tacks searching for the best breeze and line to pass the next bouys. We tacked our way up the course like the well oiled machine we had become.

Eventually crossing the line and congratulating ourselves on a job well done despite the majority of boats finishing before us. 

A couple of days later the results were in. On corrected time we got first place in the division by 3 seconds!!!!! 

Skip took all the credit for the win, but he only gave 120% out there, I think it was the expert helmsmanship. 

We put the boat on the trailer and enjoyed burgers and sausages from the club BBQ. Thanks heaps to BOPTYS it was a great day and an awesome introduction to racing. 

Clayton’s fishing competition 

The night before I couldn’t decide wether to go sailing or not. I had been watching the weather, 10-15 knot southerlies dying out late arvo and light winds Sunday.

Saturday morning came round and I still hadn’t decided, I checked the Waikato Yacht Sqaudron website because I thought a fishing competition was coming up soon. Bugger me it’s today! It was already 8.30am and I’m sitting on the couch in Hamilton.

My mother in law Karen was keen to come for a sail/fish so we headed for Kawakawa. Stopped for the usual bait, ice, food etc on the way.

We soon had Corvina floating and ready. The wind was light and sheltered at the ramp, out in the Firth I could see some white caps from the unhindered Southerly.


We motored out a little and I put up the full sail, the wind was so light we only crawled along trying to get out away from land towards the Open Firth. 

I ended up starting the motor to hurry up and get out to the wind, this is a fishing comp after all and it’s nearly lunchtime already.


Out past the point the wind was strong, stronger than I had anticipated. Some of the gusts would have been well over 20knots, I like these conditions but not with full main and #2 jib. We didn’t have time to go to far so I settled on a patch of birds out in the distance. 


I had to loose some sail, the gusts where making it a bit of a handful. An “unfortunately timed” wave crashed up the side and soaked The mother in law. Oops sorry about that I said.

Karen is not a sailor and had a very concerned look when I said “here drive the boat I’m going up on deck to put a reef in and change the jib” 

I said maybe you should grab the auto helm from in the cab.


I set up the auto helm, explained what to do if I fall overboard – another concerned look- so I put on my life jacket.  Then I said when I call out you pull this red rope and lock it in this cleat. 

I went up on deck dropped the main a bit, called for red rope, then pulled main up. A perfect and efficient reef in, I went and changed to the smallest jib. Corvina sailed along nicely under control of the auto helm the whole time I was gone.


We came across the bird patch and dropped anchor ready for the fishing session to begin.

The snapper where biting hard and fast, every bait dropped was instantly attacked. At first small ones then they increased to nice pannies.


The fishing was going so well it wasn’t letting up. Even catching regular doubles.


I didn’t have time to get many photos. If I put the rod in the holder it would bend over in seconds.

I had to keep my bait out of the water while I tried calling the club on channel 77, is anyone on channel? Where are we meeting? I bought sausages! 

Karen hooked a good one that pulled hard. Up came a Kingfish, only just under legal size so back in it went. Not long after I hooked something heavy. Up came another Kingfish, again just under size by a cm.

I still hadn’t heard from anyone, so out a message on the face book site hoping to find out where we are doing the weigh in.

The snapper continued coming in, then my reel starts peeling line, this ones good I said and it was another Kingi. This time a keeper!


I still hadn’t heard from anyone, back on the radio, hello anyone?? Checked face book, sent a couple of texts.

The bin was looking pretty full, we had planned to bring a good catch home to feed a few hungry families.

We decided to just head into Chamberlains and if not there motor  down the Waiheke channel searching the bays and back to ramp if unsuccessful.

Lucky last bait goes down, and again  instantly it’s attacked. This time it peels string and puts a good bend in the rod. Another Kingie I call out as I battle it up to the boat. But to my surprise a pretty decent snapper comes into view, I’m going to need the gaff please! 


By this time I’m pretty sure I’ll single handedly clean up the entire competition! So I put a photo out saying I have the winner!


A few minutes later I get a text saying it was canceled last week, an email went out!……

Argghhh well, fish for tea and at least I’m off the couch I thought. To be fair I would have released that snapper, I don’t usually keep the bigger ones.

With some effort I pulled the anchor, my arms must have been tired from all the fishing haha that’s my excuse anyway. It seemed way heavier than usual.

We sailed back towards the ramp as best we could going into the wind. 


When we got to Ponui I set up the auto helm, started the motor and lowered the sails. 

Heading across towards the ramp as the sun was setting and the wind dying away, was a nice way to end en epic half days sailing/fishing.


We got to the ramp before dark and put Corvina back in the compound. On the drive home I figured out why I hadn’t seen this email. 

Obviously when they saw my catch they canceled the competition and sailed off into the distance……lol


Next morning I got stuck into the job of filleting the catch. 


And had some much earned Kingfish steaks for lunch.


The fish are out there, and sailing to and from the chosen fishing spots is a really fun way to go about it.

Night circumnavigation-Waiheke

Late Saturday morning I text Paul and asked if he was feeling crazy. Instant reply comes back confirming such.

I thought a night-time lap of Waiheke Island would be a good idea, We missed out on doing the Gulf classic so this should make up for it. A loose plan was made, Paul would pick me up in the afternoon and we would take the Catalina 7.

Instead of rushing around getting my things together I had a sleep, I had been doing night shifts and decided that I might need to be awake a lot later on so it made sense. Eventually Paul turned up and I chucked my gear in the Paj, as we backed out I remembered the key to the yacht hatch lock was inside the house. But unfortunately so was the house keys. Thinking quickly I remembered the spare “yacht key” was in the garage and that was luckily unlocked.

We headed off towards Kawakawa bay, Stopped at Wendy’s to fuel up for the mission ahead. On the way to the ramp Paul helped me remember that I had also forgotten the Gas bottle! Oh well no hot drinks or food it’s not the end of the world. As Paul was mocking me for being so forgetful he said what next the motor….. OH ummm yeh good point!

I thought gee lucky the boat is already up there, I would’ve forgotten that too! While I was making excuses for the amnesia, Paul came up with a solid plan. Take the outboard off his Moonraker 23, which is a 4 stroke so also take his fuel tank.

We got to the compound at Kawakawa bay and used Paul’s key to get in, yes I forgot mine. I used my spare “yacht key” to get into the cabin.

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We loaded up, pillaged Pauls boat for anything else I managed to leave behind and launched the boat.

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We motored out, raised the sails and shut the outboard off. The sun was just going down and the breeze was nice 10-12 knots from the NE. We decided the best plan was keeping Waiheke to port so headed close hauled out into the firth keeping all of the islands to our port.

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As the sun set we sorted out our safety gear and torches and anything else that we could possibly require. I said we should call up Coast guard radio to register the trip report (TR). As always I held the mic and thought about what I would say before calling them.You learn the radio talk if  you do radio operator license. Its easy and cheap, I did mine online with an Ipad through Coast guard boating education and I can recommend it. It is actually illegal to operate a VHF radio without this qualification unless it’s an emergency.

“Coast guard radio, coast guard radio, this is Corvina, Zulu Mike Xray 2137 over”.

“Trip report, leaving Kawakawa bay, 2 POB, destination Kawakawa bay” ??? oh wait that won’t make much sense will it???

Paul and I chatted about it then decided to just explain what we are doing and let them worry about the TR details. I called up Coast guard radio and explained it, The operator offered an alternative to a TR, He said we could do a SAR watch. This is where you make times you will call them to say everything is good.

If you don’t call, they will make attempts to call you and if unsuccessful an all out “Search And Rescue” mission will be launched. The operator made double sure that we understood the serious implications of such a watch and made sure we understood and agreed. We gratefully accepted and scheduled our first call for 3 hours later.

We got far enough north of Waiheke to be able to tack west and clear the island. The wind was now slightly behind us and we sped up heading towards HoruHoru rock (Gannet) a few miles away.

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We closed in on The rock, as we discussed which side we should pass all of a sudden Paul’s face changes as he stares into the darkness unable to speak. Shit I though we are about to run into the bloody rock!

Turns out a pod of dolphins had come in at full speed all lit up by the luminescence! It looked amazing, they darted in and out completely illuminated from head to tail, You could see the streaks of light from 10m out as they darted around the boat.

We had turns at going to the bow as they swam as close as possible to the hull in the bow wash. I layed on deck almost within touching distance, they would roll over on their side and look up at me as if they understood what they where looking at, I’m  not sure they did but it felt good thinking that.

I snapped off some photos, below is my best photo…..Don’t adjust your screen that is it.

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We where getting closer to the rocks and I still hadn’t figured out what side to go. Paul pointed out an island and said that’s the rock, it was way to high to be some rock. I explained it was obviously an optical illusion and that it was a distant large island way over towards Auckland.

5 mins later Paul made me have another look at my distant island, it was indeed the actual HoruHoru rock and it was indeed very close to us! ok let’s make a turn like right now and go around that.

I got a photo of the rock, it’s actually a lot bigger than I had anticipated.It should be renamed the title is misleading. Again don’t adjust you screen that is the photo. Night photos with a phone are not my speciality.

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We continued on with our speedy down wind sail, calling up at our pre scheduled times and having a chat with our guardian radio operators. They sounded genuinely interested in our little adventure and it was great sharing the enthusiasm with them each call as we updated our position and let them know how it was going.

The leg across the top of Waiheke was going really well,the wind had increased to 15 plus knots and a small swell had developed. We surfed down the waves watching the dimmed plotter for a top speed each surge. We had turns at having a kip. Paul said wake me up when we get to the channel between Waiheke and Motuihe. I had every intention of doing that because the chart shows its pretty rocky and I’ve never been through there and he had. I didn’t see any other boats out, not even a commercial boat. The ocean was ours.

We sailed down the channel with one eye on the depth sounder, one eye on the chart plotter, one eye on the nav markers and one eye on the many reefs.

Auckland came into view and I was stoked to see the Auckland skyline all lit up. I managed a slightly better night-time photo this time. If you use your imagination you can see the sky tower.

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We turned east and made our way along the southern end of Waiheke on the home stretch. The wind was still from the NE and blowing well. At around 4am the wind increased and some drizzle came in, Considering the forecast expected rain most of the night we had been pretty lucky. I put my jacket on and swapped with Paul for his turn catching a few winks.

As I sailed across the southern end of the Waiheke channel the wind whipped up strongly, funneling its way down the channel and smacking into us and making it pretty choppy. I had to wake Paul and ask for some help. We where way over canvassed and needed to do something. We made a rule that we wont go on deck alone during the darkness. Paul jumped up and dropped the jib, this made it far easier to handle. Paul jumped back below and I continued across the channel towards Sand spit passage. Paul suggested cutting across on a more direct route to the ramp but I was to chicken to attempt that shallow area in the dark.

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The sun came up as we where nearly at the spot when it went down the night before.

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I called in our final scheduled radio call at 6am and thanked them greatly, we are lucky to have such a valuable safety service available to allow us to have such adventures. I think all boaties should join the Coast Guard, for the yearly fee you really do get a lot of value. They are a charity so maybe this weekend instead of putting 20 on the chiefs, send it their way…

https://www.coastguard.org.nz/make_a_donation_site_info.html

I was absolutely stuffed getting back to the ramp, what an epic trip it was. I had a ball and enjoyed every second, Night time sailing is awesome and a must do. Just take a better camera and remember to bring the outboard, and gas bottle, and keys…….

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Coromandel with the big bro

My brother Travis was over from Western Australia and keen as to get out for a sail. Our initial plans for a big mission had to be postponed so we settled on short trip across to Coro.

We picked up Corvina and soon had her in the water rearing to go.

Sails up and heading in the right direction.

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Travis hadn’t sailed for a number of years because in Geraldton WA its either blowing 150 knots or zero.  When he was busy eating a bag of chips I gave him no instructions, left him with all the controls, tightened my life jacket and buggered off up the front to enjoy the action.

It must be like riding a bike because he was instantly at home on the helm.

IMG_3751I wanted to take Travis to Elephant cove to see if he remembered much about going there when we where little.

We trolled a lure past Tarahiki island as we made our way towards the destination. The breeze was perfect and we made good time with a comfortable beam reach all the way. The area had just had some big rainfalls which caused some road closures and flooding. The water was surprisingly clean but there was lots of floating debris. We had to keep an eye out for the larger logs to dodge but most of it was smaller sticks etc. Only the odd bump was heard.

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Coming towards the cove I decided we should try towing the lure in close to the Black Rocks (just north of Elephant) We managed to catch lots of the sea weed drifting around amongst the debris.

We pulled around to the side of the cove to catch a snapper on the jig, only one keeper but that’ll do. Then into the cove to put the anchor down. About this time I started to get symptoms of a migraine with the eye thing happening, I used to have them terribly when I was a teenager.

We cooked up some hot soup and toast and assessed the weather. Unfortunately it wasn’t suitable for the night so we hatched a plan to head down towards Waimate or Whanganui and try get there before dark. Travis manned the helm as I sat feeling sorry for myself.

We settled on the northern side of Whanganui and arrived just before dark.

I was feeling like crap so did my only chore of setting up the anchor light and then climbed into my bunk with a bucket to prepare for the worst.

By about midnight I was feeling pretty good, managed to avoid having a full on migraine of the old days. The morning rolled around and it was a beautiful day and the crew where feeling great.

Breakfast time and a loose plan sorted, head south to find a beach of some sort.

We sailed southwards and found a good looking beach.

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Dropped anchor and decided on the best way to access the beach. But first I had to put away the fishing line, turns out a fish was on! I battled as it dragged me around the boat until I was able to land it.

With the beast subdued we went back to figuring out how to get ashore.

  • Option one – pump up the inflatable dinghy and row in
  • Option two – Harden up and get wet

I put our gear into a waterproof bag, then threw it overboard. We were committed now.

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I swam ashore while Travis waited to see if any sharks where hungry. When he was satisfied he soon followed.

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We wandered up the hill and had a look around.

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We swam back out dried off, Pulled anchor and started making way homeward.

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The wind was coming directly from the ramp so we had to put in a few tacks but that was all good as we had tons of time and got to enjoy more sailing.

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It started to get a bit rougher as we gout towards the middle.

So I gave Travis the tiller and I hid behind the spray dodger.

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Kawakawa bay in sight as the day nears an end.

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Travis went up on deck so I pulled the main in tight and leaned her over to try scare him. He wanted more!

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We got about 3miles from the ramp and the wind practically died off.

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We had managed to use only sails for almost the entire trip and really wanted to make it back under sail power. So I shook out the reef and changed to a bigger headsail. After a few minutes the breeze slowly increased and with our new configuration we where making very good progress once again.

The sun disappeared and the moon came up as we headed out to make our final tack south towards the ramp. What a blast it is sailing at night, I need to do this more.

Back at the ramp after a long and most excellent sail across the gulf.

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Man o’ war overnighter

Paul, another member of the club and myself had decided to sail in the Gulf Classic race as a two man crew the following weekend on his Moonraker 23. We thought we should go out for a sail and figure out how we where going to make it around the course without crashing.

The initial plan was to take both boats and have a sail together on each one. But after some minor maintenance 0n both of our yachts we decided it was to much hassle to launch both. We settled on taking the Catalina 7.

We where quickly in the water, a short 2 minutes of motoring clear of the ramp the sails went up and the motor was off until our return to the ramp.

We didn’t really have much of a plan other than staying somewhere for the night and returning around high tide the next day. checking the latest wind predictions we decided to stay around the eastern end of Waiheke.

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Heading across the channel the sounder was showing plenty of fish life. As per the ABC’s of sailing  (Always Be Catching) we hove to and dropped a jig, Unable to slow the drift speed enough for the jig we un-hove to and trolled a lure under sail power.

The reel screamed, I grabbed the rod and Paul sailed us away from the reef structure and slowed the boat down to 2 knots while I battled against something with a bit of pull. It was such a beast I thought I had hooked “Godziwaa”.

I was stoked to see a kingfish coming along side. We measured it, I was real happy it was of legal size (just).

I wasted no time throwing the lure back in and gybing to go over the same spot. The same spot delivered again, Pauls turn for the rod while I sailed us clear and slowed the boat by pointing high.

This time though it turned out to be a Snapper, quite strange to get one on a lure being trolled at 5 knots. Still a very welcome catch.

 

There is something really satisfying in catching fish whilst sailing the boat, having to work with the sails and wind direction to help land a fish vs the easy way of using the outboard motor.

Its also so much easier with another person, sailing with a crew member has its benefits..

Again we chucked the lure back in the water, spun around and lined up the spot. And again Paul was hooked into another fish. This time it had a bit more grunt. After a short fight the fish came into sight, another healthy looking Kingfish!

We decided we had plenty of fish (and the chilly bin wasn’t big enough anyway) so released the lucky Kingfish to fight another day (I know where it lives).

 

With dinner sorted we continued north and did a lap around Tarahiki island. This is worthy of a lap and a future visit. It has quite interesting nooks and tiny bays amongst the rock formations.

As the sun started to set, we made a plan to head in towards a possible anchorage for the night. knowing the sun is faster than the boat I turned on the Nav lights and looked forward to my first little night sail.

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Initially we sailed towards a bay on the eastern side of Pakatoa where a couple of bigger boats where anchored. I have stayed on the side open to the Gulf before and was not keen to be woken by a rolling yacht so headed in further towards Man O’ War bay.

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We headed into the bay in a gentle breeze as the sun went down and it got darker and darker. I was surprised how easy it is to sail at night. I thought the dark would hide everything important, but the half moon was enough to show silhouettes of the land and the boats and markers became easier to recognise with their lights.

Although it was a short night sail I am hooked, I will be doing this again.

We went right in close to the anchored boats off the Winery, put in a tack and headed south into the third bay down near the mussel farms. Anchor and sails down I filleted the fat little snapper and cut some steaks off the unlucky Kingfish.

That night we feasted on pan fried Snapper fillets and Kingfish steaks.

 

I have a belief that these shallow bays and channels hold good numbers of Bronze Whaler sharks in the summer months. I can imagine them casually swimming around under all the anchored boats watching people happily diving off the deck and swimming around the boats.

The Bronzies have no interest in the boaties swimming, I get in the water without hesitation. They are there for the food and warm water these shallow bays produce. I’m sure the sharks also welcome the food scraps the many thousands of boats discard over the summer period.

Being an ABC yachtie I decided to prove my belief, I borrowed the unlucky Kingfishes head and pierced its lip with a hook. I lowered the bait down below the yacht and put the rod in the holder with the clicker on. I went into the cab to mix up some batter for dinner, Less than two minutes had passed when Paul informs me that my rod is going off!

I slowly pushed the lever drag up to get a solid hook up, this thing was strong it peeled line off like nothing. It was as if the drag was off, the reel screamed as it just powered away. I had lost about half the line off the reel (over 150m) when I decided to increase the drag past my preset maximum pressure. I depressed the stopper to allow the lever drag to go right up to the reels limit.

Thankfully the line didn’t break and the monster slowed its pace down and eventually came to a stop. I said to Paul I’ve got him stopped he’s mine. I stated to get a few winds back on the reel as I turned it, then a few seconds later……Ping the line parts! It was a clean cut.

To be fair I didn’t prove anything. It could have been a big stingray, I have caught them before and highly doubt it was but cannot be sure. Consider this matter as ongoing.

 

Turns out Paul had smuggled a chainsaw aboard, and spent all night using it. My hunting buddy also brings his “chainsaw” into the bush, I always insist on him setting up his tent first so I can set mine up a good 30m away! unfortunately the Catalina 7 doesn’t have 30m between bunks.

The next morning (couldn’t come fast enough) I raised the sails and we sailed off the anchor out towards some morning fishing.

Me getting some much needed caffeine as I pondered what stopped me from smothering out the chainsaw with a pillow. Solo sailing has its benefits…

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Caffeine kicked in as a small shower came through.

Heading out towards the gulf, the sun started to rise and break through the clouds.

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Paul looking cheerful after a great nights sleep.

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We sailed out to a reef and tried some fishing at anchor but only caught tiny snapper. So decided to tow the lure around for awhile, We headed back into the Waiheke channel and back out between Pakatoa and Rotoroa.

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Paul said there is a fish over there, So we sailed over and he and caught it.

we headed towards the ramp trolling the lure and hooking Kahawai every time we sailed through one of the many schools on the surface. There was so many schools of fish on the surface the birds didn’t know where to concentrate the attacks.

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Eventually we had to pull the lure in, more kahawai than ocean there was, it was becoming a chore.

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We had a good sail back to the ramp, even though it was a head wind all the way we where able to get there in just two perfectly planned tacks. Along the way it was decided that the Catalina 7 was the yacht to enter in the race, according to Paul it appeared to be the quicker yacht.

Boat sorted, an overnighter done and feeling confident, that was all the sailing preparation we needed.

We got this, Bring on the race!

***Note – the race was postponed due to high winds and local flooding and neither of us  able to attend the new date. Always next year I guess…

 

Coromandel – island paradise

Left the ramp on Thursday morning with a loose plan of sailing over to Coromandel somewhere.

Other than that my plan was to have no plan and just go where ever and make decisions on the fly according to the weather and see where I end up.

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The mornings forecast was for westerly 10-15 knots. Perfect breeze to propel the little ship across to Coromandel. It was an easy down wind run making good speed Heading directly for Te Kouma harbour. The wind slowly shifted around to the north west but had little effect, I was making such easy progress covering all that water without any effort.

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I think they refer to it as “Champagne sailing” No waves, no swell, perfect breeze, boat not heeling at all, Sails not needing any input, self steering doing all the work. If I fell asleep, I’m sure Corvina would have sailed herself right into the anchorage at Te Kouma, Or at least up onto the island in front of it.

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Then I thought, why have a perfectly easy down wind sail when I could be having to work to keep on track and moving forward? so I changed course and headed for another destination I have been wanting to get to, Elephant Cove.

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Destination getting closer, but still plenty of daylight to explore the area.

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The wind was dropping and so was the tide. I lowered the sails started the motor and headed in to explore a group of islands off Amodeo bay.

It was bang on low tide, an excellent time for a look around underwater.

When one has no plan, one cannot claim the perfect timing of the situation. But I sure made the most of it.

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I anchored in 8.5m of water, suited up and jumped in, initially I had planned to check the rocks for Paua and maybe get lucky and stumble upon a cray,  but I was soon distracted by the empty scallop shells on the bottom. After a few dives to the bottom I managed to find a live one. They where scattered far and few between but I eventually gathered enough for a feed.

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Back on-board I had a snack of Laksa soup and toast before pulling anchor and heading off again.

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Sailing away from my target destination, the wind was still only a light breeze and I had plenty of time to get to the anchorage. I wanted to head around to the east side of the island’s to see if the Gannet’s where working in the hope of some easy fishing.

The Gannet’s where absent, But I did spot this ominous looking dorsal fin on the surface.

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Turns out it belonged to this group….

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Some where doing flips showing off, unfortunately it was some distance away and without a zoom camera and good timing I couldn’t capture the action, best I managed was this little fella.

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Heading for my chosen anchorage for the night Elephant Cove in the distance.

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The wind slowly increased and no surprise it was blowing directly from the Cove, meaning I had to tack back and forth working my way towards the island.

It took awhile working my way upwind, I could have chosen the easy down wind at the start of the day, but I was glad I chose this option. Time was on my side, all I wanted was to arrive at the anchorage before nightfall.

I observed about 4 or 5 yachts progressively leaving Elephant cove and heading south. Oh bugger why are they leaving?

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I re-checked the forecast, it seemed ok for the night there. West/nor west winds. In my mind Elephant cove faced the south, I only had a casual glance of the chart a few days prior. I haven’t been their since I was knee high to a grass hopper, I couldn’t remember anything about the place. Maybe the cove is getting a little swell forcing the other boats to leave for a more comfortable spot?

It was getting late in the day and I was committed to going to Elephant cove. At worst I would go in for a look, if it was terrible then I will just make a new plan on the fly as per my carefully thought out plan!

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I approached the island, it wasn’t quite the “cove” I had thought it was, more of a bay facing south. It was sheltered sort of, but suffered from a strong breeze funneling between two islands.

I wasn’t convinced this would be the best spot for the night, The nearest alternative anchorage was a good distance away, I needed time to think.

I dropped the sails and the little green jig in the 20m just off the rocks.

Almost instantly the line pulled tight, I had hooked into to a solid fish that put up quite a battle on my light gear.

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Turned out to be a decent snapping fish.

Dinner well and truly sorted. I still needed to decide what to do. I could almost see across a low narrow rocky beach into the next bay to the north a little. Hmm what’s around there I wondered?

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I motored around the corner to check it out.

 

Looks promising I thought as I rounded the point. Is this the actual Elephant cove? I was convinced it faced the south, but checking the chart confirmed that it is in fact Elephant cove.

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Only one boat was in their, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, cool plenty of room and peace. On the other hand why did everyone leave?

I lowered the anchor, and admired the view, It’s a really nice spot and worth the extra effort. I was still a little weary of the wind and theoretical protection this spot would offer.

The conditions inside where ideal, just outside the entrance the wind ripped past causing white caps, would a swell develop and cause a rolly night at anchor? occasionally a gust twisted its way in and spun the boat around. Most of the time The launch next to me faced in the opposite direction. I was confident I was anchored far enough away that we couldn’t swing into each. I decided to stay the night and face what ever comes of it, if it gets to bad I’ll move.

I extracted my hard earned scallops from their shells, knocked a fillet off the snapper and enjoyed a super fresh seafood feast courtesy of the Coromandel.

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With a full belly I slid into the vee birth to continue reading my mint condition Francis Chichester before drifting off to sleep.

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The anchorage turned out to be ok, a bit rolly for a few hours and swinging around a bit with each gust. Around midnight it seemed to get better or maybe I got to tired to care.

I make sure I get up a couple of times to check that the rocky shore is staying where its meant to. It’s very hard getting out of a warm bed to go up on deck in the cold windy darkness. I read a good trick that sailors use to make sure you get up.

before going to sleep, drink a heap of water…. works every time.

Next morning I went back around to the bay I originally thought was the Cove and dropped the jig in for another fishing session. I had some fun watching the jig on the sounder dropping down to the bottom and being retrieved 5m above and then back down again. I could watch it all, I even watched a second object follow the jig up from the bottom, and next thing feel bites. These sounders are Awesome!

I continued working the jig, fixated on the screen like some sort of video game. I watched another fish follow the jig, felt the bites and managed to hook it! Amazing technology.

I observed a few more follows of the jig including bites every time but failed to hook them. I guess even with this seemingly cheating advantage it’s still fishing and the fish still have a say in the matter.

Sorry about the grainy images, I was more focused on the fishing.

Time to head south, the forecast was for a late southerly change. I decided I would take advantage of the nor west winds and head for Te Kouma harbour. It was hard leaving this place, I just as easily could have stayed another night and just explored this little group of islands for a day. But I didn’t want to risk a southerly at that anchorage.

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I sailed down to the next bunch of islands under jib alone and had another Jig through the passage between two islands. No luck on hooking one but got a few bites.

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I dropped anchor in a sheltered bay and chucked a can of chilli into a pot, burnt some toast and enjoyed the scenery. One of the bonuses of solo voyages is that no one complains when you eat chilli!

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The weather started to turn, from the south the sky looked to be getting darker. I downed my beans and toast, put the wet weather gear in a handy spot and pulled anchor.

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As I headed south trying to beat the southerly change the sky grew darker and threatened to rain. The north wester increased in strength, I sailed round the mussel farm at Rabbit Island and turned to go outside of Goat. Making double sure to keep clear of the rock just south of Rabbit. Its submerged at high tide.

 

I learned about this rock when I worked on the mussel farms. Dave the truck driver was hammering along in his launch, he said he watched the sounder go from deep, to very shallow in seconds, so braced himself and next thing it bounced up out of the water and slid right over the rock and back into the water. He went full throttle into the beach at Rabbit. There it sat on the bottom in shallow water. We got the radio call for help and assisted in the recovery, cradled between two barges we took it back to Coromandel town.

The rain came, the wind increased and the tide fought against the wind kicking up some chop. I couldn’t point high enough to go outside of the island off Goat so went through the gap. The extra current lifted the waves even higher, the chart says 3 knots can be present in this gap.

I had great fun surfing down the waves, I got my highest ever recorded speed in Corvina 8.7 knots, might not seem like much, but in a heavy trailer yacht with a full length stub keel it’s probably not bad. I was having a ball, She tracks perfectly down waves and gives me confidence to venture into bigger ones.

Little old Cow island coming into sight in the distance through the drizzle.

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My Nan once said if you can see enough blue sky to make a sailor’s uniform it will clear up.

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A patch of blue broke through, and sure enough within 10 minutes…..

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As I got down towards the cow and calf the wet weather gear came off and the wind started to die away. I checked the forecast which had now changed to  “bugger all wind” for a few hours and then practically no wind tomorrow.

Hmm make another decision on the fly, stay at Te kouma and motor home tomorrow? The ramp is easier at high tide, would need to be there about 0930…or head across to Chamberlains bay on the other side for a closer motor to the ramp?

Next thing I see a bunch of Gannets diving just outside of the Cow and Calf, that settles it Ill go that way. The wind was light but manageable, except I couldn’t sail against the current at anything better than 2 knots. I even shook out the reef I had in all trip. I needed to watch the wind vane to work out where I could point. The wind vane at the mast head had turned, the side indicator things where facing side ways. that’s not meant to do that but what am I going to do about it I thought.

I went below for something and when I came out and looked up it was gone! Grrr, The Gannets where calling and the wind wasn’t helping any, I soon dropped the sails and motored direct for the action.

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I got out amongst the diving Gannets and found they had company.

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I wasted no time in dropping a line, this time trying out my new $26 Kabura jig. I was a bit nervous sending it to the bottom on such light line. It proved its fish catching ability on the second rise hooking a fat snapper.

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I landed the fish with the net, This type of jig has a separate head that can free slide up the line leaving the hooks and skirt, which it did but in the net.

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The wretched thing tangled itself in the net so well I spent 5 mins trying to free it. I ended up cutting the line and re tying it. During this time I drifted off the spot and couldn’t get another fish. Dumb idea these jigs, this brand was “catch” well named in my opinion. I ended up putting my trusty green “net friendly” jig back on.

Near the top of the green jig where the eyes are, is an increasing spot of missing paint. I think they attack it at that spot, unfortunately the hooks are lower down, I might have to modify it.

I left Coromandel and motored in near perfect conditions towards Waiheke.

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Again joined by the friendly bunch…

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I motored along for the next hour or more with auto tiller steering, nearly ploughing into the many small Hammer Head sharks that seem to love cruising on the surface out here. They all got out of the way before I could get a decent picture.

I re thought my plan, instead of staying at Chamberlains to catch the morning tide I may aswell head to Kawakawa and catch the evening tide.

I changed course and within about 15mins it went from beautiful flat water to a 12-15 knot head wind.

img_3263Had a long and slow motor to the ramp but got there in comfort, this boat handles the chop great.

Back at the ramp mid tide, It’ll do.

From land the sea gives little clue of the conditions I had just pushed through.

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All in all a pretty epic trip and a good taster of what is on offer “over the other side”.