Saturday, 6 February 2016

Out to the Barrier

Historic - Enki anchored off our beach on her way to Great Barrier

We went ashore for dinner - how easy does that sound? 

Andy caught up with us beyond Kawau - then turned back to go fishing

Ahead of us, the Barrier. It can rain over there. 

"It's blowing 38 knots at the Mokohinaus, gusting 44," Alex says, reading off his phone's Coastguard app (how times have changed aboard Enki). It's 3.45 am. People shouldn't be up at this time of the morning, but I'm betting a few others in this anchorage in Port Fitzroy are not sleeping soundly either. In theory, we're well protected from the easterly gale but the roar of the wind above and behind the hills is unsettling, and every so often a rogue 30 knot gust catches the boat broadside on and she skates around her anchor like a dinghy. You need faith in your anchor and chain, and in the mud floor below, to stay asleep during this kind of carry-on.

Forestry Bay in Port Fitzroy - an anchorage for all weathers (and below)

Natasha leaves Port Fitzory 
Brother Nod and his wife Lisa left under blue skies yesterday on Natasha, bound for Kawau. They're locals. They saw the break and went for it. They need to be at work next week. When they weighed anchor, I was paddling about in my kayak, communing with local fauna - brown teal ducks, a kingfisher, pied shags, gannets - and chatting to other boaters, as I do. A little later, on the phone, I assured my goddaughter Frances who was down at Whangapoua on the Coromandel for the long weekend that the sun would soon be out. "Have your bikini ready," I told her. But be quick about it, I thought to myself.

The best way to find out is to ask - Olga was built 19 years ago by the couple who built the marina at Opua

This is the thing about New Zealand. It's a small speck of islands in the midst of huge bodies of water, and its climate is oceanic. Weather passes over rather than digging in. It's notoriously difficult to forecast. The only certainty is its changeability.  'Go outside and make the most of this lovely weather while it lasts', we kids would hear over and over again from my mother - who still refuses to see a movie unless it's raining or threatening to do so. "What a waste" she says at the very thought of spending a couple of hours 'shut up in a dark room' when the sun is out.

It's catchy, that type of thinking. Kiwis tend to rhapsodise about the glittery days. We've had a few this summer. Last Wednesday when we sailed up the west coast of the Barrier from Whangaparapara harbour and into Port Fitzroy via its northern entrance was one. The island's blues and greens were sharp and vivid, the clouds benevolent, the NE wind warm and fresh, and Enki hummed along under full sail, loving it. Around her, the water was busy with seabirds, and fish.

The white blobs are a gannet colony

This is a long weekend - New Zealanders commemorate the signing of the treaty of Waitangi on February 6 - and Frances, like all the other workers who got short-changed by the grim New Year weather, needs another round of wind and rain like a hole in the head (one of my Dad's sayings - it seems a bit brutal on the page).  But you can't beat the systems. You just have to wait for them to roll on by.

Nod and Lisa arrive in Whangaparapara harbour (and below)

The shape of the hills behind Whangaparapara reminded us of the Marquesas

Whangaparapara wharf - fuel available from 10 am-2 pm

That's what most of the boats anchored around us seem to be doing. There's been very little movement in the Forestry Bay anchorage for several days. Fishing boats go out, and come back in again at night, but the yachts are mostly staying put. Among them are a surprising number of international cruisers. We recognise the Dutch-flagged Betty Boop from our stopover at Minerva Reef. There are French and Canadian and American boats too.

Avante's home port is a ski resort in Colorado - the American way

For us, the best part of being at the Barrier these past few days was sharing it with Natasha.  It's been far too many years since I spent any length of time with my younger brother. Nod was always a salty kid, and he's stayed close to the sea all his adult life. He's an naturalist in the old-fashioned sense of the word. A farmer, but a hunter and gatherer too. We dined on snapper and trevally, marinated kawhai and smoked mussels, all provided by the good ship Natasha (the last bought locally, the rest caught by Nod 'n' Lisa). We ate and drank well together.

We walked too, both before the rain turned the tracks to mud, and then afterwards, when the rain had made the tracks slippery and muddied the waterfall above Forestry Bay.

You can't have mud holding your anchor firm on the seafloor without getting a bit of mud on your feet when you go ashore, can you?

The DOC tracks on the Barrier are in great condition (and below)

The only place selling food in Port Fitzroy....

...sells damn good burgers.

Port Fitzroy harbour, as seen from Lookout rock...

...and to the west,  Little Barrier

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