When all was in order, we set sail once again, leaving Gulf Harbor after fueling up. This was to be an overnighter all the way down to Tauranga. We were weather-hopping; trying to make quick runs down the coast in between weather patterns that would make for rough seas. If we timed it right and had winds as predicted, then we would have a good trip down. Well, we planned it to suit the weather gurus, but in spite of our best efforts, we had fair winds for only half the day. Because it was to be just one overnight, our bodies were not prepared for the shifts and watches, hence we both stayed up late and then just began taking short relief periods. The winds had become very slight and the night turned black as pitch. Because it was so dark we had chosen to divert eastward around the Mercury Islands instead of navigating through them. Sometime during the wee hours we made the turn to head back south after having cleared the islands, and a short time later the bashing began! Yes indeed, the gods of the winds and seas turn on the agitation cycle and we got slammed. Because the seas had been so slight and the winds so fair during the first 12 hours of this leg, I was (against all good & rational judgment), unprepared below decks for the onslaught. I had been asleep when it hit. I was jolted out of my short rest by three terrifying events that occurred seemingly all at once: I was thrown from the bed, something crashed in the salon, and most frighteningly something above me made a tumbling and then loud thud sound. I flew up the companionway in time to see Frank recovering from being tossed across the cockpit (yes, he was tethered in). He groaned as he told me that we lost another board from the companionway. We were still varnishing the one that had been commissioned in Opua. This newly lost one was the middle board with the beveled glass and the IPY logo etched into it. Well, it wasn't the worst that could happen so we just shrugged and then got down to business trying to get the boat and ourselves re-secured. But the tidying job was not to be. Rough conditions persisted until we arrived at the channel into the Bay of Plenty as daylight peeked out over the horizon. We sluggishly made our way into the anchorage at The Mount, set the anchor and went down for a much-needed sleep. Mahurangi limped in about an hour later and did the same.
Arising late morning, we did what we could to straighten up and get our thoughts together. We decided to find a custom Plexiglas or acrylic shop in the area to cut us a plank for the companionway. We had only intended to make a stop at Tauranga long enough to get some rest and then continue southward, but with our repair needs and those of Mahurangi, we stayed around for three nights, which is not hard to do in this beautiful area. It is like a little La Jolla with its beautiful beaches, trendy shops and restaurants.
We made the best of our time in Tauranga/Mt. Maunganui, by hiking up to the top of the mount one day and then soaking in the salt water spa baths in the afternoon, browsing shops, taking long walks into town and of course eating great food while waiting for parts to be delivered. We also spent this time re-strategizing. Studying the weather and sailing forecasts for continuing south we finally threw in the towel and decided that, rather than beat ourselves and our boats up trying to sail down we were going to fly to the South Island. We set about looking for airfares and travel routes and dates for our over land journey. We booked a flight to Wellington for Feb 1st, giving ourselves plenty of time to get the boats back up to Gulf Harbor. We also decided there would be no overnight passage back, so we arose early to make a day sail over to Mercury Island. We ducked into a pleasant enough harbor, however, found out that the bay was private, Maori-owned, and we would need to obtain permission to go ashore. We didn't see that there was much of interest for us here so we spent a quiet evening on the boat and made an early departure for Great Barrier Island's Port Fitzroy. The winds were slight so it was a sail/motor/motorsail day. Upon approaching GBI we received a hail on VHF 16 from Bill and Val aboard Ivory Quays. They were out fishing and promised to join us in Port Fitzroy that evening for dinner. We found GBI much more crowded with various sizes and types of watercraft as we meandered through the pass, but that's alright there was still plenty of room in this popular area. We got anchored and then went ashore for a nice ling hike. That evening we spent with Earl, Marsha, Bill and Val at the boat club having dinner and catching up with each other since last seeing them. Then the next day we moved the boats over to Smokehouse Bay, where you can smoke your freshly caught fish for free. Frank and the others went to shore for happy hour while I stayed on board to finish my book. The next morning, Earl and Marsha left for Auckland but we stayed on and toured the Barrier Gold honey factory with Val and Bill. Of course we bought all kinds of Manuka and Kanuka honeys, oils, balms and soaps. Then after lunch we moved the boats over to yet another big harbor for an afternoon hike, guided by Bill and Val. I cannot say enough times how much we love hiking New Zealand's beautiful trails! At the end of the day, we bid adieu to our fiends and went to bed early. We needed to get a good early start for Auckland's Gulf Harbor before the office closed for the day.
Arriving at Gulf Harbor on Thursday, January 28th, after a perfect day of sailing, we managed to get the same berth we'd had previously. And as a bonus we received an email from Jan and Dave (Baraka), saying that they were flying into Auckland today and were going to pick up their car, "Caraka", which had been left with their Kiwi friends during the cruising season*. We arranged to meet them for dinner on the 29th. I spent my time at Gulf Harbor doing laundry and my part to prepare Destiny to be left closed up for a month. Frank of course did his part on the outside and with the systems. We enjoyed a great dinner with Jan and Dave, Marsha and Earl on Friday night, and as we said goodbye, promised to try to rendezvous again in the South Island. Jan and Dave were driving down from here and were booked on the ferry from Wellington to Picton just a few days ahead of us.
* Dave and Jan had left us in New Caledonia to sail to Oz. They had put Baraka on the hardstand in Brisbane and flown home to Seattle for a couple of months, and then flew to NZ to land tour for 2 months before returning to Baraka.