Monday, December 6, 2010
The Bay of Islands
Opua is the first mandatory stop in the Bay of Islands for boats arriving from foreign waters. It is here where we must check in with New Zealand customs and immigration. Actually, the officials know we’re coming as their airplanes spotted us in the distant waters, and even radioed us on VHF Channel 16 from the sky. But to make sure they know we’re coming - you know government often likes redundancy -- we also were required to email authorities 48 hours in advance of our arrival.
At the quarantine dock, we raised our yellow flag and the officials boarded Kamaya. One of the first things they did was check our Raymarine chart plotter to make sure that we didn’t stop in New Zealand waters along the way. Perhaps they feared we were smuggling Tongans.
Next came the custom’s dog who sniffed the boat for illegal drugs and the man from agriculture took our remaining fresh fruit and vegetables. We had eaten almost all of our food, even the green bananas that I flambéed as we were motoring to the dock. We didn’t have much to give him except for a mostly eaten jar of honey and a withered cucumber.
Tim joked that our cupboards were so empty that they might send us to child protective services for failing to feed our kids. Our fear that they would take our collection of seashells, wooden bowls and other trinkets was unfounded.
A number of people from our South Pacific fleet park their boats in the Opua marina, buy a car and call Opua home, but after a few nights of uninterrupted sleep we were ready to explore The Bay of Islands (called "the bay" by locals) before sailing south to Auckland, the city of sails.
The Bay has fantastic anchorages with plenty of stomping trails, and calm waters to catch up on school. One favorite place where we called home for a bit was Russell, with its classic Boating Club, big green grass and floating oyster barge. Although it used to be a wild west town, it's now pretty quaint and, most important, it has two ice cream stores, both serving the infamous hokey pokey flavor (think caramel mixed with creamy vanilla).
Perhaps the most beautiful anchorage is at Roberton Island, where the great Captain Cook, anchored as well. It's also where Tim scooped up handfuls of green-lipped mussels for dinner.
Another rival in terms of stunning beauty is Urupukapuka Island (try saying that three times in a row).
Just across the bay from Russell is Paihia. Take a look at the glowing full moon --
Here, we do our big shopping at the CountDown, buy duck eggs at the Farmer's market, and walk the tightrope at Action World. Our new friend Christina, who lives in her camper van in Paihia, drove us to the bigger town called Kerikeri where we watched the much anticipated Harry Potter movie. Along the way, the sheep bleeted away happily, confirming that we indeed are in New Zealand. I’m still pinching myself, amazed that we sailed all the way across the huge Pacific Ocean.
Our favorite creatures, the bottlenose dolphins, frolick in the Bay, luring the tourist boats to their show.
We're looking for the flightless kiwi bird and haven't seen one yet. But we did encounter hundreds of shearwaters feasting at the Hole in the Rock. We watched them flutter along the water and then suddenly align themselves in perfect formation.
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