|How do we get away with it is the
question most people would ask when told of a three day adventure
in the middle of winter that defied the forces of 1. work
and 2. weather!
Work is easy,
don't go; end of story! and as for the weather that is being
able to avoid work at the right time! and on this extremely
sunny and fine occasion both Dave Perillo and I got it right.
After some planning (some call it scheming) during the previous
week we set of on Saturday morning with the usual "gale
warning in force" with the plan of heading to the north
side of Waiheke Island, in our native New Zealand, for a
spot of cruising and relaxing on this isolated and beautiful
part of the island. It was not to be because as we sailed
down the harbour in the sunny but cool morning the wind
gradually increased from the south east until by the time
we got to the Motuhue channel Dave yelled out that it was
too good to waste in the lee of waiheke so lets go north,
getting back might be hard work but lets worry about that
Jaunty goes Surfing
Warkworth is a town known to most by driving
past an hour north of Auckland. Most people would not even
realise that its connected to the sea by virtue of a long
river at the end of Mahurangi harbour (which may be know
to a few of you as being famous for its yearly wooden boat
regatta). So after negotiating the steep confused chop of
15-20 knots against tide in the channel we turned north
for the run to Warkworth. Not much to say for the next 6
or 7 hours except Navigators
sure look good planing and Pathfinders
sure feel good! It was planing all the way down each and
every wave and occasionally over two or three at a time.the
chop which had a pretty small fetch was too short and steep
for the boats to keep planing so they would climb up the
back of the wave in front ready for the next downhill plunge.
Occasionally there were a few waves that heaped up together
and timed with a good gust, gave a huge burst of speed to
keep them going for the next few waves. Exhilarating! Varuna
handled it better than I did as there were a few times when
I thought I was going to go straight through the back of
the next wave at 10 knots but each time Varuna lifted up
on her shoulders and got ready for the next sleigh ride.
Warkworth River at Dusk
Dave in Jaunty was looking very comfortable
with his jib poled out reappearing from behind the waves
as we got closer to the Tiri channel. By this time the south
east wind swell was colliding with a 2 metre easterly ground
swell so there were a few anxious moments as Varuna slewed
about not knowing which hill to slide down, but this boat
is a better sailor than I so letting her find her own course
I kept my eye on the horizon.
Dave told me later he was nursing a headache
that made sailing into the bright afternoon glare a torturous
experience. But from my view he was looking relaxed and
under control as Jaunty with all sails up surfed downhill,
the picture of open boat sailing.
After rounding Whangaparoa peninsula and
turning west onto a broad reach I tried to make out Mahurangi
harbour which I have not approached from the south before.
Eventually Saddle island came into view an unmistakable
land mark at the entrance, I was really hanging on at this
stage as the wind had filled in to a solid 20 knots plus
and with the easterly swell being magnified by the shallow
bay conditions were nearly calling for a reef . An outgoing
tide at the harbour mouth gave some wind against current
fun, but again what a blast as Varuna and Jaunty surfed
into the entrance up past Scott's landing where a busload
of tourists couldn't click their cameras fast enough at
the sight of two classic craft surging down the narrow harbour
at full speed, threading their way between the moored yachts.
I love those 5 knots signs, I think it is the duty of each
citizen to responsibly break at least two laws a day (it
makes politicians feel justified) and this bylaw was one
I had no choice but to flagrantly ignore as the wind howled
directly up the harbour.
Some interesting sights
Where is Warkworth?
We made the end of the harbour searching
for channel markers and as the wind slowly subsided as we
turned west and glided up the narrowing reached of the Warkworth
river. Its a long way up and pretty soon there was no wind!
So after the firing up outboards we both motored up river
past interesting looking tributaries and huge yachts moored
at the bottom of some fortunate farmers paddock, past boat
yards and home made berths in the muddy banks which were
more than likely dynamited out in less politically correct
times finally on sunset we were in Warkworth town basin
which I estimate is 10km or from the harbour entrance. Dave
and I went for a walk searching for gas feeling like space
men in sea boots Dave clutching a 10 gallon fuel tank and
me in all my warm clothes passing of as kind of michelin
man meets scarecrow, still the natives were friendly and
we got gas and headed back to refuel and raft up for the
A 5.30 start cruising with the outgoing
tide with only the stars and a very cold dark morning for
company we motored the glassy upper reaches of the river
until it opened out into the mahurangi harbour. Then we
felt our way literally out of there with honda churning
mud for half an hour and me praying (actually swearing but
they are kind of the same at these moments) for water as
I did not fancy getting out into knee deep mud of staying
there till the next tide. as luck would have it we made
it, I could see Dave having similar thoughts, it was very
chilly that morning!
By the time we got to Sullivan's bay at
the mouth of the harbour the sun was up and a light SE wind
was rippling the bay.In no time breakfast was served, hot
coffee in the percolator and sizzling bacon and eggs. After
a few guesses at what the masses were doing we presumed
they were probably at some cafe on Ponsonby road feeling
sophisticated and dying a slow urban death.
After a very relaxed start we headed out
into Whangaparoa Bay and made for the end of the peninsula.
By the time we were in the Tiri channel the wind had dropped
to few knots so the decision was made to motor to Rakino
Island some 10 kms away.
Heading to Rakino
There was definitely a chill in the air
but the disappointment of not sailing was made up for with
the now strikingly blue calm sea and awe inspiring views
of the Moehau mountain in the Coromandel ranges on a flawless
winter morning, the trip was made in an hour or two and
as we motored into woody bay on Rakino we could see a few
day trippers from Auckland moored in this beautiful bay
protected from the southerly winds and obviously enjoying
the afternoon sun. An opportunity to dry out some damp sleeping
gear and another feast on the beach of fresh coffee, sausages
and a bit of ethnic fare, Dave being italian and myself
Croatian we swapped a few funny stories, fixed up the world
and relaxed for the afternoon. Open boat bliss.
Before dark we went for a sail to fly
Varuna's new gennaker, I was busy rigging up bits of clothesline
and tying halyards off to whatever I could find until I
had the big gold sail flying. A bit of refinement needed
as Jaunty easily sailed past me a couple of times, admittedly
I couldn't control it too well with my jury rigged lines
and I was trying to point up but Dave assured me it looked
great and with a bit of tuning it would be the awesome downhill
Testing Sails (photo Dave Perillo)
Back in the bay we tried a few spots but
the wind was getting in so we headed out into the dusk and
around the corner to North East bay for the night. Spread
out above was the milky way and below on the water swirling
glimmering phosphorescence, which way was up? Sitting out
there immersed in nature the values of city living seemed
absurd. It’s the contrast that helps us appreciate
even the seemingly pointless things that go on around us.
Open boating is becoming part of my arsenal against getting
jaded and waking on a starry morning nestled in Varuna is
about the best remedy for that disease. I could tell by
the silence interrupted only the occasional rustle of Dave's
sleeping bag that a quiet dawn in an open boat is an experience
enjoyed by more than one. Simplicity, silence and serenity.
That and of course a few attempts at killing fish which
wasn't so successful but Dave looked like he was enjoying
himself in that fisho kind of way as he alternated between
snoozing and throwing baits out from 4 am onwards!
After first light we motored the 10 km
to Rangitoto light for a sandbar breakfast of pig n' eggs,
steaming coffee and half an hour of sunny relaxation before
making the hour long trip to Auckland. It was a pleasure
to sit and watch the distant madness in the company of Rangitoto
wilderness and a few hungry gulls.
What a great weekend, excellent boats,
excellent company, great weather and the promise of more