New Zealand: Oct 99 - Sep 2000

Two years and about 25,000 miles got us half way round the world. We were excited about the prospect of our year in NZ. Though we had a great time in the tropics, it was a delight to climb into our sleeping bags in the cool of the night and we looked forward to some very varied cruising - and some racing too. In the meantime, we savoured the delights of the big city, the availability of most anything material that our hearts desired - and we spent money like water. The irony was that despite its position on the 'far side of the world', New Zealand seemed to us in many ways very close to England, in climate and culture - but thankfully not in cost of living!


 Two weeks in Auckland were packed. After 50,000 miles our cruising main was becoming unreliable, so we splashed out on a new one. The liferaft, dinghy and EPIRB were all serviced. We bought wet suits and other boat and personal effects, including such items as socks and underwear - oh for M&S! We finally met Ross and Deb Stevenson, or rather were kindly met by them on the Customs dock at midnight when we cleared in - the first of many kindnesses. Les and Mary Wright, Vicky's god parents, also made us very welcome.


Having been told repeatedly that we were heading for NZ much too early, we were delighted with the wonderful weather in Auckland. We were able to put on hull varnish and paint the coach roof. We also smugly and quite unfairly smirked over the slower, much less pleasant passages experienced by those sailing at the 'proper' time. By 22 October, 'Sunstone' was ready to race. We had a full crew for the Coastal Classic, having been joined by John Webber, owner of a series of S&S boats, and three members of the RNZYS youth squad, Andrew, Ryan and Scott. The Race itself was delightful, with brisk to strong, shyish kiting almost all the way from Auckland to a few miles short of Cape Brett. The majority of the NZ fleet are designed for just this kind of thing, planing most of the way. But the wind sank with the sun, giving a light beat through the craggy gap between Cape Brett and Piercey Island and on into the Bay of Islands to Russell. We finished the 120+ miles in about 20 hours, during which the crew, trimmed brilliantly throughout, spurred on by Ryan's non-stop banter. Though we didn't cover ourselves with glory, we didn't disgrace ourselves: 16th out of 55 in ORC Club, halfway down our PHRF Class and 2nd Vintage yacht. With 210 boats in the very small town of Russell and a winery, Lindauer, as the major sponsor, there was a notable booze-up for the remainder of the weekend.





We spent the last week of October gently exploring Russell and Opua, as the latter absorbed the scores of cruisers on their way down from the islands. As Fi arrived at the beginning of November we splashed out on a hire-car to meet her in Auckland and also to see some of the sights which we had missed. Our return to Auckland also gave a chance to celebrate Vicky's birthday in style with cruising and NZ friends. Fi brought English weather with her. After a dank visit to Rotorua, we made for 'home' and the start of our proper cruise in the Bay of Islands. We were amazed that despite the scores of cruisers in Opua, hardly any went exploring. We repeatedly had beautiful anchorages entirely to ourselves throughout the Bay and in Whangaroa Harbour further north, where the scenery is spectacular, but the anchorages conveniently sheltered and shallow. Cruising in the Bay is restful and undemanding. The distances are short and there is always shelter within two or three miles. There are also wonderful walks on the Department of Conservation's well tended tracks. Poor Fi bore these treks up hill and down dale with wonderful fortitude, founded on a naturally cheerful disposition and a certain amount of scotch each evening.


Following Fi's departure to the more civilised arms of Ross and Deb's hospitality, we hauled 'Sunstone' out at Doug's Boatyard in Opua for a long-needed coat of bottom paint. We took the opportunity to get biking again, often biting off more than we could chew in the local hilly terrain. For light relief, Tom had an impacted wisdom tooth extracted and a broken molar crowned. Once back in the water, with a clean bottom and an enthusiastic crew, we did our bit to uphold the cruiser reputation for racing by winning a local 'rum' race, the prize disappearing down the throats of the crew the following day. As the year drew to a close, we visited a few more anchorages in the Bay, contemplated on 27 years of marriage and prepared ourselves physically and psychologically for our impending cruise to Fiordland and Stewart Island, where they have real weather most of the year. We were looking to leave any time after Christmas when the weather looked at least a little promising. It would not be at all surprising if we spent New Year at sea - and perhaps that would be most appropriate.






As it turned out we left immediately after Christmas, having spent a delightful Christmas Day - Southern hemisphere style - on the beach, in good company with Phil & Janie from 'Tsolo' and Ian and Helka of 'Segera'. We were recovering on Boxing Day, but made it to Whangeroa Harbour and on 27 Dec set off for Milford, via North Cape and Reinga. Our departure coincided with the first big Tasman high of summer, so there wasn't much wind at first. A front threatened to overtake us on the eve of the new millenium, but thankfully held off. As predicted we spent New Year's Eve at sea and on a pitch-black, rainy night, took the ten minutes around midnight for a noggin. In the morning the news confirmed what we'd expected, that the millenium bug was a figment of computer consultants' imaginations. We made a grey, but calm land fall just north of Milford Sound and entered between its striking cliffs on the afternoon of 1 Jan 2000. To be greeted by seals, dusky dolphins and clouds of the famous fiordland sandflies.





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