Exploring the Bay of Islands

We had arrived in Opua in the middle of the night, in the rain, and in an unfamiliar marina. But, knowing that we were safely docked alongside, I slept like a log. Maybe the celebratory arrival beer helped.

The next morning, the Customs, Immigration, and Bio-Security officials stopped by our boat to check us into New Zealand. Once approved for entry, we departed the Q dock and headed to our temporary slip on H dock in the Opua Marina.

After tying up and tidying up, we headed to the Marina Café for the classic “Big Breakfast” and a beer. We didn’t care it was 9:00 am. We were safely on land after over a week at sea.

Coincidentally, the Opua Cruising Club was hosting “Cruisers’ Week.” We immediately registered. The week involved a tour of the boatyard, presentations by vendors (marine engineers, plumbers, electricians, sail makers, etc.), and an evening dinner cruise aboard a power catamaran to tour local anchorages. More importantly, each day there was at least one event with free food like BBQ burgers, smoked fish, or gourmet pizza. And most importantly, the whole week kicked off with a ‘princess-themed’ party at the Club on our first night after sailing the high seas! So we were ready to party!

So that first night, Saturday night, we created wrap-around skirts from some excess material SV Avalon had on board, and headed to the party. As silly as we thought we looked, we ended up being on the tame side of costumes. Some of the cruisers went all out with dresses, makeup, and other props. It was fun meeting people and hearing their seafaring stories.

For the next week, we participated in the Opua Cruising Club events, and certainly ate our share of food. Nicky departed a couple of days after our arrival. I moved off the boat and booked a room at the Marina Cove Bed & Breakfast for four nights, just a 20-minute walk from the marina. It was great to have a big bed, and one that didn’t roll from side to side. My hosts Mike and Wendy were super welcoming and generous, bringing me fresh bread, fruit, muesli, and yogurt for breakfast… and a bottle of wine for the evening on my private balcony overlooking the Bay of Islands.

One day, I took a long walk from Opua, to Pahia, to Russell, to Okiato, and back to Opua. I’ll write about this in a separate journal entry.

At the end of the week, it was time to say goodbye to Opua and the Bay of Islands, and sail down the coast of New Zealand to our ultimate destination, Marsden Cove Marina.

We made the journey at a relatively leisurely pace. After a short day sail, we anchored at Motuarohia Island (still within the Bay of Islands region) for the first night. We took the dinghy ashore for a quick hike to a great viewpoint. I tried to imagine what it would have been like for Captain James Cook who discovered this island in 1769, when it was inhabited by an estimated 300 Maori people.

The next day, we sailed around Cape Brett and headed south toward Cape Bream, passing the Poor Knights Islands on our port side. Rounding Cape Bream, we waited for two big commercial ships to navigate the narrow channel before we entered.

Rounding another turn or two, we then peeled off to starboard and entered Urquhart’s Bay where we anchored for the night. This enabled us to make the final entry into Marsden Cove Marina in daylight, but more importantly, at the right tidal height and current.

That next morning, we weighed anchor and motored slowly up to Marsden Cove Marina. It was a great feeling to pull into the familiar slip at A dock (after a quick stop at the fuel dock to top off the tanks) where we had started and finished four other ocean crossings in the last two years.

As per tradition, we headed into the Land & Sea Café for a “Big Breakfast” and a flat white. No beer this time. Returning to the boat, we did a series of boat jobs – the most important of mine was to pack up my stuff. I’d be disembarking and taking a bus south for two weeks of exploring New Zealand on land.

In the evening, we made the short walk through the developing neighborhood and checked into the best AirBnB in Marsden, run by hosts Mike and Jennifer. We’ve stayed with them numerous times in the past, and they are always so gracious. Tonight, we enjoyed a dinner of fresh fish and salad, and pavlova for dessert!

After a good night’s sleep, and a lot of internet time to plan my upcoming two weeks, I had a final breakfast at Land & Sea, and then headed to the docks to say goodbye to Tom, Di, and Avalon.

Mike and Jennifer then drove me to the bus stop – which turned out to be a dirt parking lot next to a gas station. I bid farewell to my hosts, and waited for the bus south.

A new adventure was about to begin…