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New Zealand: From Auckland to Wellington 23.1.-8.2.2003

updates: 23.1.  29.1.  31.1.  4.2.   8.2.  

23.1.2003 Whitianga, New Zealand
Auli returned home to Kristiina from three weeks busy visit to Finland on the 19.1. with brother Antti. Monday was adaptation to the 22 C warmth and "wrong" time, but already on Tuesday morning we left Auckland, heading south. Hannu had tried almost two weeks to get south, but hard southerlies stopped him, and Kristiina was waiting Auli and Antti in Auckland instead of Tauranga.
On Monday we also had to find out what was going on with our satellite phone. It had stopped working suddenly (on/off button didn't respond), and a month ago we took it to the local KVH dealer. They couldn't do anything to the phone, and told us that it has to be sent to the USA. Unbelievable! But even more unbelievable was, that the phone was still in Auckland, after a month. The explanation was that they were waiting for a number from US to be able to send the phone. Our visit in the company got things moving, the phone was sent on the next day (hopefully), and we should get it back in 9 days. We'll see...

Hannu wasn't alone during Auli's Finland-holiday. Timo and Jukka came for a week's visit. It contained match-racing on America's Cup boats (the previous Cup-boats, though), driving around in a sport car, hiking in Great Barrier Island and - sailing, of course. When the Finnish visitors left, Hannu got Dennis onboard to sail to Tauranga. This sailing was stopped by a storm, where one trawler capsized and people were drowning. The guys managed to the Great Barrier, but Dennis had to return since his holiday was ending. Hannu waited for better weather, but the wind remained in south, and finally it was more sensible to meet Auli and Antti in Auckland.
Timo and Jukka bought a barbecue for Kristiina. We have been wanting this kind of stainless steel railing-barbecue for a couple of years, but the high price has prevented us from buying it. Nearly every American boat has a railing barbecue, and we have sniffed several envious smells. Hannu waited us with lamb chops, so Auli was able to test the excellent barbecue right away.

The new barbecue has been in use almost every evening.
Thanks Timo and Jukka!

The sailing from Auckland started in perfect northerlies. We rounded Cape Colville, the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula. But then the forecast promised 30 knots southerly winds, and we had to look for a waiting spot. In the evening we motored in to the small village of Whitianga. The narrow harbour bay had 4 knots current running in, and we hadn't a clue of the depth. On the top of one channel buoy was sticking a board with faded phone numbers. Antti used binoculars while Hannu was driving around in the fast running water. A call to the number cleared that the marina was full, but we could find an anchorage in the end of the channel. It was already dark when we got the anchor down. Then it was time to light the barbecue again. The front with rain passed us during the night. We woke up to a noise from the anchor chain. It was under the boat, when flood current and fresh southerly breeze were fighting against each other. When the current turns, we are going to explore Whitianga.

29.1.2003 Napier, New Zealand
We had to wait four days in Whitianga before the wind allowed us to continue towards the south. It seems that south-westerly is the prevailing wind, and northerlies only occur with the fronts going over the islands. Sailing to south will not be easy. In addition, the wind speed changes constantly, putting the reefs in busy work.
Whitianga is a small town with 3500 inhabitants. There is not much to see, if not count one of the many captain Cook memorials. He named the bay as Mercury Bay since he observed the transit of Mercury across the face of the sun.

Our fish luck turned at last - or then we have a real fisherman onboard. We got three 2,5 kg tunas one after another just outside Whitianga. Instead of Rapala the fish took a green-yellow plastic octopuss. One tuna was eaten, the rest was dried according Andy's soya receipe.

Fishing. Antti has the pole, Hannu the hook.

East Point is said to be a hard place with strong current and rips, but we rounded the cape in 30-35 knots tail wind without worse jumps. Local Coast Guard adviced us to seek shelter when I called them and asked how near land we should round the cape in this weather. After East Point the direction and speed of the wind varied greatly - already a familiar manner - and finally died out alltogether. We motored in dusk into a big bay for a good nights sleep. The motoring in calm weather and sun shine continued the next day.

East Point waves in 35 knot wind.

Near Gisborne we met Andy and Lisa after three months. Kristiina and Indefatigable have had separate routes, although both boats are on their way south. We stopped for a couple of hours to chat, and finally also Indy hoisted anchor and headed to Napier after us. It was calm, starbright and beautiful night. At two o'clock it started to blow, at highest 40 knots, and right from the nose. The change was again very rapid and unexpectable. The sky stayed clear, from where did this wind come...? The 50 mile Hawke bay crossing, that should have been a piece of cake, prolonged with hours when we motorsailed onwards in a pumpy sea. But you get where you want in this way, too. Before midday we tied the salt covered Kristiina by the Napier Sailing Club pier.

31.1.2003 Napier, New Zealand
It's only 200 miles from Napier to Wellington, but this strech doesn't have any harbours. In the end is waiting the Cook Strait, famous for hard winds and nasty sea. We were already about to leave, when the forecast promised 50 knots to the Cook Stait. Better to wait. Kristiina and Indy are standing firmly side by side in the Napier Sailing club harbour. It feels odd to wait for better weather when the weather here is brlliant: sunny, +30 C, and a nice northerly wind. But once again, it's better to wait.

Hannu and Andy looking through Alaska charts

Boaters waiting for better weather to continue south

4.2.2003 Wellington, New Zealand
On Saturday we were able to continue our way to south. Forecast promised northerlies for the first part of the trip, and southerlies just when we would be turning to the Cook Strait. Splendid! We all, motorboat Elsa and four sailing boats, left one by one. First we had the wind with us, though it was light. We hoisted the mizzen staysail having then four sails up. After a couple of hours the wind died. No more north winds. We had to motor most of the 200 mile trip. At times the wind was blowing from west, varying from 5 to 35 knots, which meant continous reefing as well as turning the engine on and off. During the second evening we were at the Cape Palliser, rounding it to the Cook Strait. It was calm - in a place where there is almost always windy and often gale forces.The wind squeezes into the sound gathering extra speed. But now we had a gentle southerly breeze, lazy swell rolling the boat, and the sea surface was partly totally calm. Suddenly we saw black lumps in the water. Dolphins? No, seals. Tens of seals. They came nearer the boat, maybe curious, some rolling and splashing around, some even jumping up. You could see that here seals are not hunted; in Greeland the seals run away as soon as the perceive a boat. Dolphins came when it was already dark. We heard splashing and short blows when they swam beside us. During the trip we also saw two sharks and an albatross. Studying the birdbook, we concluded that it was a white-capped albatross, 2.5 metres from wing to wing. It was fantastic to follow the giant bird glide.
Albatrosses are the biggest of all seabirds. Most of the 14 (some say 16) species live on the southern hemisphere, only a few in the North Pacific area. Being gliders, albatrosses cannot cross the calm zone between north and south, they need wind to make long passages. Albatrosses live at sea, coming to land only to breed, and for that they often choose remote islands.

We arrived to Wellington at 2 o'clock in the morning. We tied at Chaffers Marina, which is very centrally located. After one walk, the city seems quite nice. Although being the capital of the country, Wellington (pop. 200.000) is smaller than Auckland (pop. 1.2 million).

Marina is located in the centre of Wellington

Replacing broken kicker fitting by a new one hand made 
by Pekka Sarha. Thanks to Pekka again for excellent work!

8.2.2003 Wellington, New Zealand
The 6th of February was the Day of the Waitangi Treaty, which joined officially the British and Maoris under the Crown in 1840. The Treaty was signed by 500 Maori chiefs from different tribes. The Treaty is bilingual - as New Zealand is officially today. However, the bilingual treaty caused problems with concepts and interpretations. The matter that Maori chiefs signed the paper, was much because the text was not quite as strict in Maori than in English. Especially the land owning and selling land to the settlers aroused controversy, leading to bloody battles (Land wars) until 1870's. The matter has been on the table until 1990's, when Maoris were paid money for the compensation of the loss of their land.

During the weekend, Wellington hosted a rugby tournament, the International Sevens Tournament, played by 16 best rugby countries. The game is here very popular. For an amateur, rugby is like American football without helmets and other "covers". The fast moving sport is fun to watch, the game is over in about 15 minutes.

We missed one weather window, i.e. the possibility to cross the Cook Strait in decent weather. Now the northerly gale has kept us in Wellington. When writing this, in Saturday evening, it's blowing over 40 knots in the harbour and Kristiina is rolling from side to side although fastened with four lines. Because of the currents, there are only two possibilities to leave, but if you want to make the crossing in the daylight, only one: the start should be three hours before high tide in Wellington.

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