After nearly 10 days on the hard in Whangarei, SV Avalon returned to the water on the morning of Thursday, April 21.
It was 8:30am as Avalon rolled majestically yet agonizingly slowly through the boatyard, gently cradled in the thick canvas arms of the giant Marine Travelift crane. Her freshly painted black bottom and polished white sides accentuated her graceful curves and sweet lines.
Like a caged beast at the zoo, Avalon was intriguing up close and personal, out of her natural habitat; but she belonged back in the wild, running with the frothy waves of the South Pacific and breathing the fresh salty air with her three triangular lungs.
There was a universal sigh of relief as we lowered her safely into the water. We started the engine, checked key systems, and then slowly motored away from the haul-out dock as the Marine Travelift simultaneously released Avalon from its grip.
The beautiful beast was free!
We motored up the Hatea River, with plans to spend two nights at the Whangarei Marina in "Town Basin," a nice re-developed section of the city of Whangarei, before heading back down to Auckland.
The short cruise to the Whangarei Marina was pleasant. It was a beautiful sunny morning. As I have mentioned before, the city has done a nice job creating the “Hatea Loop” which is a long running path and park around both sides of the river just on the edge of town. We have walked along the path quite a few times, and it was great to now see it from a different perspective as we slowly motored by, waving to joggers and dog-walkers.
We passed under the breathtaking drawbridge called “Te Matau a Pohe,” or “the fishhook of Pohe.” As you might guess by the name, the drawbridge has two large arms that resemble fishhooks used by the local people, serving as a reminder of the cultural and historical connection between the river, coast, land, and native people.
We called the bridge operator and requested permission to pass under the bridge, and then waited patiently for the bridge to pivot up into the sky allowing our 70-foot tall vessel pass underneath.
Arriving at Town Basin and the marina therein, we docked in front of the marina office, executing a difficult parallel-parking type maneuver to fit in between two giant 50-foot catamarans.
We stayed here for the next two days, taking care of final inspections (i.e., refrigerator) and repairs (outboard engine for the dinghy).
It was fun to be in the center of town on such a great boat. People would walk by and take pictures or ask questions. “Where are you from? Where are you going? What kind of boat is she?”
After doing boat jobs and errands during the daytime, in the evenings we continued our routine of visiting a few favorite establishments in town. Mean’s Vietnamese Café for fantastic spring rolls and chicken fried rice. Turkish Delight Café for tasty salad with lamb. And McMorrissey’s for Guinness, live music, and pool.
On Saturday, after joining up with an additional crew member Rick and his girlfriend, the four of us departed for a 2-day, 90-mile sail down to Auckland. With childlike giddiness (and with GoPro in hand), I enjoyed going under the drawbridge again.
On day 1 of our passage to Auckland, the wind cooperated nicely originating from the north/northwest. We enjoyed a nice sail (mostly on a reach) down the coast. We anchored in Bon Accord Harbor, off the shore of Kawau Island. We had been running a bit late and did the anchoring in the dark, which was made even more difficult by the crowded harbor. It was a holiday weekend, so a lot of people had decided to take their boats out and visit this anchorage, apparently.
Sunday morning, we woke up and made our way to Auckland – arriving at Pier 21 in Westhaven Marina at dusk. We lucked out with our approach through the busy harbor. It actually wasn’t that busy. Again, maybe this was due to the fact that it was a holiday weekend and most boats would be returning on Monday, not Sunday.
We tied up at Pier 21 and tidied up Avalon. We intend to stay here for the week, revisiting some maintenance issues, picking up our final crew member, going on some shakedown/practice day sails, and provisioning for the long passage north.