|April 27, 2004
Gulf Harbour Marina, New Zealand
Dear friends and family:
We’re in the final countdown before we depart from New Zealand. This morning we actually managed to wrest ourselves free of Auckland, on the way to Opua, Bay of Islands, where we will finally clear customs and leave New Zealand. The forecast was for light (10 knot) winds (although from the wrong direction), scattered showers, and minimal swell. We planned to motor into the north winds, and make it as far as Kawau Island tonight. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had another idea, and we ended up with 25 knot winds, waves crashing over the bow, and heavy rain.
Above: Gulf Harbour Marina, among the really big boats. Sequoia is just to the right of the blue-tarped boat. Photo by Joe Carr
|So we diverted to Gulf Harbour Marina – a place obviously populated by the rich and famous. The harbourmaster came out to meet us in his Zodiac, and he led us into the marina and showed us our slip for the night. We are nestled among some huge boats, and on the surrounding shores are architecturally uniform towers, evidently full of posh condominiums. This is still commuting distance from downtown Auckland, but from what I’ve seen it would be an awful commute.|
|The last few weeks have seen us pare down our pre-departure
list of must-dos, ought-to-dos, and "it would sure be nice if…" Of course we
didn’t get everything done, but enough to safely depart. It was hard to tear
ourselves away from our new friends, the grocery store, the car and the
handy chandleries, but the weather is getting nastier as winter approaches,
and we obviously need to be in the tropics.
Left: Craig checks the fit of the never-used storm jib on our newly installed inner stay.
|We had one last outing on the boat, a three day trip to
Coromandel Harbour on the west side of the
Coromandel Penninsula. The first
day of our trip was Easter Monday – the end of a four day weekend in New
Zealand. Westhaven Marina had emptied out over the weekend – evidently this
is the traditional "last fling of summer." So they were all coming back to
Auckland on Monday, as we were headed out. We had the 30 knot wind behind us
all the way, and we passed literally hundreds of boats fighting their way
upwind back to Auckland. When we found our anchorage, it was still quite
full – evidently lots of people had nosed out into the wind, and decided
that an early Tuesday morning passage was preferable to what was facing them
midday on Monday. By the time we woke up on Tuesday, they were nearly all
We had driven before to the eastern side of the Coromandel Penninsula, but the view from the water is entirely different, and of course this time we were on the western side of the penninsula. We had a lovely pot-luck dinner with the folks on C’est Si Bon and Storm Bay. We deployed our folding table to full "banquet mode" (which can seat 8 people) and spread out a lavish feast of barbecued chicken, garlic bread, salad and a very chocolatey dessert. We also had a dinghy excursion together into the town of Coromandel. It’s a very tourist-oriented town, but fortunately most of the tourists seemed to have gone for the season. We sat out in the sun and had coffee in one of the sidewalk cafes.
Above: Margie & Chris of Storm Bay, heading toward the town of Coromandel from our anchorage.
Below: Norbert & Trudi of C'est Si Bon, enjoying the companionable pot luck dinner aboard Sequoia.
|Evidently we got a really good deal on that car we bought back in
January, because we had two different parties that wanted to buy the car –
for the exact same price we originally paid for it! It was like having a
rental car for free for four months. I hope the buyers – our Australian
friends Chris and Margie – have as good luck selling it in a year, when they
are ready to take off cruising again.
We also sold our wireless modem, on the Kiwi equivalent of e-bay. So now that we’ve given up the modem, we are officially unconnected from the internet (and suffering withdrawal pangs). From here on out, we’ll check internet cafes here and there, but otherwise we’ll be using Winlink (powered by high seas radio) to make email connections.
|Our new crew member, Joe Carr, arrived yesterday from Victoria, B.C. He will accompany us all the way to Fiji, and stay on a few days after that. We let him spend only the better part of one day in Auckland, and then we took off this morning. He’s learning the ropes quickly and is a welcome crew member. Joe is cooking dinner tonight, and I’m really looking forward to that!|
Above: Our landing place at the Coromandel jetty.
|In two or three days we should be in Opua, where we can make
our last run to the grocery store, get our last internet hit, and clear
customs – all before departing for Fiji in the first available good weather.
Best wishes to all our friends and family
Craig & Barbara Johnston