After three months of being tied to our Auckland dock, we found ourselves staring at the long Easter weekend on our calendar and knew it was time to head out. While the temperature has cooled a bit here, the days continue to be long and sunny with the occasional rain squall thrown in just to remind us we are still in the South Pacific ocean. It took me a week to stow away all the land-life things that littered the boat: library books, school bags, art projects, shoes. Good Friday arrived and we munched on hot cross buns for breakfast (racks and racks of them were on sale at the grocery store and I guessed — accurately — that they were somewhat of a tradition here). We took off the sail covers, heaved off the docklines and returned to our sea-life.
The wind was light and blowing directly into Waitemata Harbour so we worked our way out by (sigh) tacking. Going upwind displeases Wondertime so but she sailed on anyway. There was a little chop due to the opposing current, both of which slowed us down even more. But as there was only 8 nautical miles or so to go to our planned anchorage we didn’t mind.
After a dozen tacks we were finally free of Auckland’s inner harbour and officially in the gulf. Now, a little background might be in order here: it was morning when we arrived in Auckland last December after our overnight sail down from the Bay of Islands. I was still asleep after my dark early-morning watch and Michael didn’t call me up on deck until we were right off the city’s downtown. Michael himself had only been concentrating on our route through the channel and avoiding shipping traffic and hadn’t fully appreciated the view. This was the first time we’d really seen the Hauraki.
Our first thought was, now we could see why all our marina neighbors went out sailing every weekend! We were in a totally protected inland waterway, chock-full of sailboats but with plenty of room for us all to glide around. We were surrounded by islands indented on all sides with cozy anchorages; clearly the most difficult part of sailing around here was choosing one. It reminded us very much of the San Francisco Bay area but with volcanoes.
Which is where we pointed our bow to drop our hook, in Islington Bay off Rangitoto Island, home of Mount Rangitoto which last erupted only 700ish years ago. The girls joined us in the cockpit for our final tacks toting a packet of crackers with them, both of them looking a little green after watching a movie in our bunk during the sail.
We still had an hour or two to go until sunset when we dropped the anchor in the crowded, but thankfully roomy bay. Michael and I cracked a couple of cold beers and relaxed in the cockpit, taking in the fresh and lovely view around us. Suddenly we were giddy like we hadn’t felt in months, like anything was possible. Here was our family right in our ever so familiar home but surrounded by a completely new world. I don’t think we’ll ever get tired of that paradox.
The original plan was to explore several anchorages in the gulf, maybe to sail over to Waiheke and see if it was really true that you could take your dinghy to a wine tasting. We’ll have to find out next time though as we spent all three of our nights at Rangitoto. The entire island is a nature reserve and is covered with tracks; we did our best to explore just a tiny portion of them. We were successful at reaching the summit with amazing views all around, including our new home-for-now city of Auckland. One of the things that has blown us away time and again in New Zealand is the quality of the public parks, tracks (hiking trails) and facilities and Rangitoto’s summit paths, lookouts, boardwalk and information signs were no exception. We peered into the volcano’s crater, currently covered with vegetation and wondered when it would erupt again. We crept through the dark lava caves formed from the last eruption– like something out of Indiana Jones, or well, Lord of the Rings I should say!
Mostly though we just enjoyed the peace and fulfillment of sitting at anchor in a place we had sailed ourselves to. Why do we seem to forget how much we enjoy this? But isn’t it wonderful that sailing only a handful of miles in a couple hours away from what is becoming familiar can seem so exotic and exciting. Maybe it’s the remembering why we like this so much again and again that keeps us exploring. And the feeling that all is right in our little world.
Video: Sailing in the Hauraki Gulf
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