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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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…

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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