We have completed a short passage -- and my first sail aboard Avalon -- from Auckland to Marsden Cove Marina, about 80 miles north.
Here, we will wait until Monday morning, and then motor up the Hatea River to Whangarei where we have an appointment to have the boat hauled out of the water for inspection and maintenance.
We arrived early in part because we left early. A weather front was moving in and we expected wet weather on the weekend. We wanted to sail (and arrive) ahead of that front, so we left mid-week.
We also wanted to allow ample time for this passage. Sailing (or motoring) at 7 knots per hour, we could have made the passage in one day. However, this was Avalon’s first time out beyond the breakwaters of Auckland in over three months, so we knew there might be some complications as Avalon stretched her sea legs.
After all, a sailboat this size is a sophisticated piece of equipment, requiring the skipper (and crew) to not just be a sailor and navigator, but also a mechanic, an electrician, a plumber, and, nowadays, a computer scientist. (The amount of communication and navigation equipment on board is astounding – redundant systems via both fixed and mobile devices, all interconnected via on-board WIFI.)
As expected, we encountered a few issues on this voyage relating to a faulty transmission cable and poor quality fuel (probably due to non-use over the months). We also ran out of propane – which was human error on our part – but I learned that having a microwave onboard is good backup for warm food and beverages!
During our passage, the weather was favorable (sunny or partly cloudy), the sea state was smooth (1-2 foot swells), and the wind was good (10-20 knots). But, the wind direction was unfavorable. The wind was coming out of the northwest, which was precisely the direction we wanted to go. (Remember, with sailing, you have to sail at an angle to wind, not straight into it.) We motor-sailed quite a bit, allowing us to tighten our angle and head more up-wind. Occasionally, with brief shifts in wind direction, we were able to unfurl our headsails one at a time and test them out.
We anchored one night in Bon Accord Harbor on Kawau Island. The anchor drop was hampered by engine failure (due to the fuel issue noted above), so we were not confident the anchor had properly set. We set multiple anchor alarms on our GPS devices, but still implemented an anchor-watch that night. I took the first shift, then Tom and Di generously traded off the late-night shifts without waking me. In the end, we didn't budge; our 60-pound anchor (and 100 feet of chain) held us in one place, though we did swing around with shifts in tidal current and wind.
It was a beautiful, calm night, with stars filling the clear dark skies, serenaded by birds and other wildlife in the island forest.
The next day, we continued heading north. A dolphin joined us for a while, playing in our bow wake.
The approach into Marsden Cove Marina was tricky, with a tight channel, shallow depths, uncertain slip location, and inclement weather. We followed a catamaran and tug/tow into the channel, and carefully maneuvered into the marina. We scoped out our slip, rigged our dock lines, and landed gently alongside.
After tidying up the boat, stowing the sails and lines, and hitting the hot showers, we devoured dinner at the marina’s Land and Sea Café and called it a night.
We will wait here through the weekend, and depart Monday up-river to the boatyard in Whangarei. I may post some details about my weekend activities, but the highlight was walking over 8 kilometers in the dark, along the interstate highway, to the nearest restaurant/bar (other than the overpriced marina cafe) located in neighboring Ruakaka. The bartender was so impressed she offered me a free beer upon arrival. Of course I accepted :-)