Bay of Islands, Opua, Aukland
Christmas in New Zealand - December 1999
We spent Christmas and celebrated the new millennium in the Bay of Islands with Jane and Bill, Eve and Keith and enjoyed sailing out to Cape Brett to look at the hole in the rock as well as visiting Motuorahia Island and Urupukapuka to take in the fantastic views from their peaks. Visits to "Romantic Russell" were initially distinctly disappointing at first. However, the lack of feminine charm was soon outweighed when we were able accompany a fleet of beautiful old ladies in the Tall Ships Race including Soren Larsen, Spirit of New Zealand and Tucker Thompson to name but a few.
Now we have ventured as far South as Whangerei and then as far North as Mangonuie. The trips with Chad and Tony and Brenda outside the Bay of Islands has been well worthwhile. If anything the scenery is much more dramatic and it is much more peaceful having left all the tourists behind. We have picked superb anchorages just for ourselves in all sorts of bays and tiny inlets Whangaihi Bay, Whangaroa Harbour, Motukawanii Island, Kerikeri Inlet, Motuoa Island. With consistently warm sunny weather and light winds these waters are idyllic even the water has warmed up enough for ME to swim.
We managed to be at Whaitangi for the celebration of the signing of the treaty between the Poms and the Maoris. This was a splendid day which started with the war canoes paddling past Meniscus as she lay at anchor. The festivities ashore included a number of local and Pacific Island dance and singing groups giving some very entertaining performances. With plenty of Pomp and ceremony the New Zealand Navy marched, drummed and piped the sun down, but we were able to get back aboard Meniscus to watch the finale as firework after firework exploded and burst into a Kaleidoscope of colour above our heads.
For nature lovers this is an awesome place. Politically incorrect "Fairy Penguins" abound. There is a dirth of shellfish from Mussels to Abalone, to Oysters as well as crayfish and Marlin and Shark. Dolphins are probably more friendly here than anywhere else and after numerous sightings I've decided that they do come and play with us! The first big event was in Wariti Bay on Motukawanui Island. As Chad and I motored in to anchor we could see about 5 dolphins frolicking in the shallow waters, charging round then leaping high in pairs before diving, lunging along the surface and leaping again. As we approached a new dimension was introduced and they leapt in front of us then dived beneath us zig zagging under our keel and leaping again, for well over an hour.
The next time that we were invited to join the fun was about a month later with Tony and Brenda as we headed south between Whangaroa and Motukawanui Island. A pod of six dolphins approached and swam in our bow wave so we joined them on the bow and duly applauded and shouted encouragement every time they leapt . I even went down to the stern platform with my mask and snorkel to watch them as they torpedoed in under the hull jacuzzi-ing in the prop wash then moving up to the bow which was clearly where the action was, so that's were I returned. Hanging over the bow with my feet jammed under the anchor chain I was about as close as I could get and as I reached out I could almost touch them. As I did this a new game started and I think the biggest Dolphin bet the others that he would touch my hand with his fin first (I jest not!). They jostled up as close to the bow as they could get and I reached down but just couldn't quite make it. One kept rolling on his side right beneath the boat trying to trust his pectoral fin into my hand. The others came up with their dorsal fins right against the hull. There was still a gap of an inch or two, I couldn't get any lower and they couldn't get any higher or could they? They actually started bumping the boat quite hard in an effort to get that bit higher and at last the big one did it - his fin slotted into my fingers. His grinning face turned up - you could almost see him say "I've won!" and I knew the game was over. As quickly as they'd come, they were gone. Of course I'd tell you about the whales frolicking off Takoru Bay if I really wanted to make you jealous so I won't do that.
We're heading South now for Auckland by the 19th Feb to watch the Americas cup. Well whatever happens it will be exciting to be there when it happens! After that we will haul out and prepare for the return trip to Fiji mid April.
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