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.
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.
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.
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…
Caffeine kicked in as a small shower came through.
Heading out towards the gulf, the sun started to rise and break through the clouds.
Paul looking cheerful after a great nights sleep.
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.
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.
Eventually we had to pull the lure in, more kahawai than ocean there was, it was becoming a chore.
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…