Spring Passage



Judging the weather pattern to look about right, we departed from Hobart on 27 August. As much by luck as that of judgement we hopped onto a perfect westerly air-flow under one of those big highs drifting across the Tasman Sea from Central Australia. In the midst of our fast reaching we hooked a beautiful 25 lb. Albacore, whose fillets we were still eating when we arrived in New Zealand. Though we were threatened by a vigorous front about two-thirds of the way across, we had held north enough to be out of the worst of it. A day and half of motoring as the high passed over the top of us, brought Cape Reinga under the headsail, as evening fell and the lighthouse began winking at us. We caught the fair tide around the top of the North Island and sailed into Opua the next morning after nine days for the 1400+ mile passage – just beating a change to strong southerlies. It was all very auspicious. We were efficiently cleared in without the crowd scene of officials, which had greeted us in Fremantle.





After a very sound sleep we rediscovered Opua’s thronged CBD and caught up with some friends and acquaintances we hadn’t seen for six years, including fellow OCC Rear-Commodore Nina Kiff and husband, Tony. Having handed over all our fresh fruit and veg to the MAF officer, we hiked the well remembered track to Pahia to replenish. After the aridness of mainland Australia, Tasmania had seemed lush, but that was nothing to the green and flowered bush of Northland New Zealand in spring. It was very beautiful.





Having refreshed ourselves in Opua, we headed for Auckland to begin what we knew would be a long paper chase to establish residence and a base in New Zealand. We had a pleasant trip down the coast, enlivened between Cape Brett and Whangarei by several squalls and made a visual delight off Cape Rodney and Kawau Island by the phosphorescent trails of dolphins whipping back and forth under the boat for several hours during the night. We arrived in Auckland in the small hours after another satisfactory passage.

We then launched into a range of entirely unaccustomed ‘landy’ exercises. What ought to have been simplest turned out to be most difficult. We opened a bank account locally and then found that for a variety of frustrating reasons it took a week to transfer any funds into it. In the meantime, however, we did find and buy a car, with all that that entails.


We also began the arduous process of re-establishing ‘Sunstone’s’ ‘Endorsed’ IRC Rating, for which the boat was required to be weighed – EMPTY. ‘Sunstone’ has not been completely empty since we bought her, 26 years ago, and probably wasn’t even then. Ten years of world cruising has certainly not reduced her contents – as we found out in removing everything. It took ten days, during which we filled two rented storage units. We conservatively estimate that we removed a ton and half from the boat. Our newly acquired little car has already had its springs sorely tested.

In the midst of all this, we did find time to celebrate the tenth anniversary of our departure from England to begin this adventure. What a good idea it was!











Inevitably, the weighing was eventually scheduled a week later than we had first hoped. Leaving us to live in an empty boat. Many think that we live a minimalist existence as it is, but that week made us realise how little you really need around you to live perfectly comfortably – especially when you consider the millions who live with far, far less their whole lives. The break gave us an opportunity to take our new sails out for a test run. We had also been looking for an opportunity to explore the countryside north of Auckland, particularly along the Mahurangi River near Warkworth. A good forecast confirmed the plan and we took our car for its first proper outing. In its flush of lush, spring green, the rolling country was beautiful, particularly where it met the arms of the river, which penetrate to the east and west of its generally north to south valley. As might be expected, one area we were particularly interested in, the Pukapuka Peninsula, turned out to have been bought up by a half dozen or so million/billionaires and turned into a gated estate, closed to the hoi-polloi. At least its only defences were the normal agricultural wire fences and a sign asking passers by to ‘respect our privacy’. Unlike gated communities elsewhere there were no guards in evidence – gun-toting or otherwise.





After all the preparations, the measuring and weighing went off quite smoothly on a bright, calm Sunday in the Viaduct Harbour, at the Team New Zealand docks. Our own part in the operation took very little time, but inevitably the whole thing was time-consuming with five boats to deal with. The pauses in the process gave us a chance to go to watch the All Blacks play the French in the Rugby World Cup. However, we, like virtually all New Zealanders, would have been happier if we hadn’t watched, when the team lost in a hard fought but scrappy match. The French progressively gained the upper hand with a dogged and skilful defence. The only consolation was that England had beaten the Aussies earlier in the day. When ‘Sunstone’ swung back into the water after her final lift from the crane, the measurer pronounced her to be 10100 kilos empty weight, pretty much confirming the figures from her IMS displacement.






All that remained was to reconvert an echoing shell to a home – via the intervening step of total chaos and aching backs. The delight of messing around in boats.