We arrived at Opua in the Bay of Islands 17 days ago and the time has absolutely evaporated. Our checking-in process was less sacrificial and traumatic than we had been anticipating. Arriving at the Quarantine Dock, our engine's "reverse" gear went out of service. We could only go forward but thanks to the bow thruster were able to get tied up. We hadn't been at the Q-dock long before the Customs official arrived along with, Immigration, Bio-security and the drug-sniffing pup. All in all the staff were very friendly and hospitable toward us. They checked a few of our lockers and asked lots of questions and then in the end we lost some black-eyed peas and my lovely red coral. We were even given a welcome gift and an adorable woven tote. We know other boats who reported to us that their experience was not as smooth as ours. Some had their boats nearly taken apart – entirely searched and one having seat cushions ripped apart and so on, but not
the case for us. After clearing in we managed to get into an end berth with the aid of our friends from Charisma and BeBe, and then quickly got ourselves cleaned up in time to attend dinner at the Opua Cruising Club. The Club was hosting a week-long rally to welcome the many cruisers arriving this season. We missed the first day of the rally (free pizza!), but this night was all-you-can-stuff-yourself seafood. Oh my! We feasted on New Zealand Green Lip Mussels, plump oysters on the Barbie and so on and on. Every day and night through to the following Saturday was packed with dinners, shows and cultural events. One of our favorite evenings was an historical event at Waitangi, the site where the Maori people signed the treaty with England. The show was presented entirely by Maori descendents and depicted their history and the history of New Zealand's beginning, performed in both English and Maori. Saturday evening was the rally's finale dinner,
awards program and door prize drawing. We won second place for the largest fish caught during the passage. First place went to Steve on Orca III for a 7ft 9 inch Black Marlin. Unbelievable! Who says sailors can't fish!?!?
We rented a car and did some touring of the northern part of the North Island. Throughout all of our drives around we have found New Zealand so far to be magnificently and stunningly beautiful. The landscapes and vistas are intensely green with rolling hills, large ranches of cattle and sheep, abundant flowering trees and plants. We never tired of driving and looking. On Sunday we drove south to Whangarei (pronounced Fawn-gah-ray), to visit Jaime and Christine from Morning Light. They will stay in the Town Basin Marina there for the NZ summer season. Although Whangarei is on a river inland quite a way from the ocean, it reminded us of Annapolis along the waterfront. Nice town with great shopping, restaurants and ambience. Another day we took a drive northward through the wine country up to the town of Keri Keri, and did some grocery shopping at the big stores there. Another day we took the ferry to Russell with our friends Ken and Wendy from Cop
Out. Russell is home to quite a variety of artists so we browsed shops and strolled and ate and ate, then on the way back to the ferry stopped at the local oyster farm to buy fresh oysters. We went back to Ken and Wendy's boat and snarfed up the oysters wishing we'd bought more than 2 dozen.
While in Opua we frequented a local restaurant called the Blue Water Bar and Bistro. Rather than a bar and bistro this place is a gastronomic delight. Its Owner-Chef Mathew Lee and his wife Shana have done an incredible job of bringing top-rated gourmet fare to a little seaside village. The first time we dined there, Matthew came out of the kitchen to visit with us. We discovered that he is a finely trained chef who is willing to prepare special tasting menus on request. We told him that our friends Andy and Melissa would soon be arriving on their yacht Spectacle, and we wanted to plan a special dinner with them because they are our "food snob friends". Matthew was delighted and so we made the plan. Andy and Melissa were only in town for 2 nights before they were scheduled to catch their flight back to L.A., thus we spent both of those evenings with them eating our hearts out at Blue Water, closing the place down both nights. Matthew and Shana
treated us like VIP's and we showed our appreciation by spending like VIP's! On Saturday, Blue Water hosted a Texas BBQ and Blues night with NZ Blues Artist, Bullfrog Rata and his band The Undergators. Lots of our yachtie friends were there with us including Steve (Orca III) and Glen (TDM), who were encouraged to jam with the band. Steve on harmonica – he owns 33 of them – and Glen on his Sax. What a great night! We knew that this would be the finale for many of us as we began to depart for various other ports along and throughout NZ in the upcoming days and weeks. Frank and I left Opua on Tuesday to begin our journey down to Tauranga. Our first stop will be Whangaruru (Fawn-gah-roo-roo), then over to Great Barrier Island.