Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cruising the Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands
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Opua, in the throat of the Bay of Islands, twenty-one days from Tonga, is a hurricane hole for an international collection of yachts. There is a small store with good ice cream where you queue up for the mini-auto ferry to Russell and not much else. Although Northland and Far North have an occasional hurricane, Opua is tucked in tight.

Rag Baggers, as those sailors who only know how to pull back on the throttle and steer, sometimes call those cruisers packed into Opua for the season, take their sailing seriously. Some are waiting for a weather window to catch the next leg of their circumnavigation, others will head north to catch the currents and winds then drop back along the Alaska/Canada west coast.

There are cruisers and day sailors proudly trimming their sails in the Bay of Islands. For lack of a better description, cruisers live aboard, poke around and anchor out or wharf-hop. Day sailors usually like to race the closest sail boat– even if that other sail boat doesn’t know it’s racing– then hang around the dock or clubhouse at the end of the day and swap rose-colored sail tales.

Sailing on Open Water

Pacific SeaCraft
Dana 24

New Zealand, although it’s the land of top mega yacht racers, is not a cruiser friendly country. We passed Whangarei on our way north. It’s almost impossible to find a slip in the crowded boat basin and most cruisers anchor out. A little farther south is Auckland, the City of Sails. You can anchor or dock at Tauranga, Wellington, Picton or Christchurch. But where do you go from there? Remember you’re straddling the

Roaring Forties. A circumnavigation of both islands is possible with a little good weather and a lot of good luck, but the west coast of New Zealand is so shallow, it’s pretty hard to slip in anywhere if the weather turns ugly. Remember the movie The Piano? Her piano came ashore on the beach in a flat bottom boat. The Piano was filmed on the east coast of the North Island.

If you want to cruise– charter a yacht at Opua, hop in and tour the Bay of Islands. The weather’s warm, the water’s warm and the fishing is hot. Take that fancy sail boat out yourself, or hire a skipper and sit back and enjoy a beer while you burn. New Zealand is close to that hole in the ozone we’ve been watching for years. You can turn to toast in a hurry even on a cool cloudy day.

The Moorings has always been a top of the line charter company. They’ve been in business worldwide for many years and provide quality boats– with or without a skipper. If you want to cruise the Bay of Islands and hang out at the Opua Yacht Club with cruisers from several nations, the Bay of Islands is easy sailing. If you only know how to pull back the throttle and steer, the Moorings has power boats, too.

If you’re traveling by auto or RV, don’t be shy about stopping in at the Opua Yacht Club. It's not fancy– just friendly.

And we made it to Opua– that tiny town in the Bay of Islands with the good ice cream.

Lyn Harris

RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand

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Anonymous said...

is the moorings the only charter co in the bay of islands?

Lyn said...

No. It's the only one I've ever used.

Anonymous said...

did you charter in the Bay of Islands? how's the sailing?
Matt, again

Lyn said...

I never chartered in the Bays of Islands, only day sailed.
I chartered from the Moorings in Raiatea, Tonga, and BVI (twice). You can charter without a captain or if you have the money, charter with a captain and cook. Their boats are always well stocked and in good shape.
The sailings great on the Bay of Islands. It's warm with good scenery.

Anonymous said...

What's the cheapest way to get to the Bay of Islands from Auckland?
I don't want to hitch. I'm a solo female.

Lyn said...

InterCity bus runs from Auckland to Pahia daily. The bus stop in Pahia is in the middle of town next to the wharf.
Travel Pass might give you a better bargain if you're going to Cape Reinga. There's also a, but I've never tried them. If you have a bbh or yha card, check the discount on InterCity. Just dig around. Prices change.