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We decided it was time for a bottom scrub while cruising around Waiheke Island as we were getting fed up with other Yachts overtaking us so we hauled out in Half Moon Bay Marina which is just down the road from Roger’s Uncle Dick and Auntie Pat.  Roger hadn’t seen them for over 25 years so it was a lovely family reunion also with his cousin Carol. It was a shame we hadn’t arrived a few months earlier in time for Uncle Dick’s 90th Birthday party…
 



Once we had scrubbed, antifouled, re-provisioned and done all the Laundry, we left Auckland to sail back to Waiheke Island and had a great sail across the Gulf at 7.5 knots. Clearly the clean bottom was making a difference although we had been told that the reason all the local boats were passing us previously was that they all sail with their engines on in light winds as they don’t like going slowly  !!!



From here we sailed onto Great Barrier Island, another super cruising area with many anchorages although our favourite was a little place called Smokehouse Bay where a previous Landowner has left a legacy whereby visiting “Yachties” can use the fresh water, firestove water heater, smokehouse and 2 bathtubs – one of which is on the beach… we were clean again !!




We wanted to sail further South so after a couple of weeks we cut short our time in GBI to make the day trip across to Great Mercury Island. Another great little place where the Owner lets Cruisers tramp over half of his Island and provides a few Mooring Buoys in the inner harbour for when the weather blows up. (The NZ authorities did actually issue a Tsunami Warning whilst we were there).

 



We enjoyed a pleasant albeit windy week there in various anchorages and the boys loved the “White Beach” anchorage where they just ran and ran……








Our next trip was a 340 mile passage to Napier the planning of which revolves around clearing East Cape in the right conditions. Luckily, we got our weather box right and had a nice sail arriving in Napier after 3 nights at Sea just in time for their “Art Deco” weekend which was huge fun with lots of 1930’s cars, blazers & boaters. (16th Feb).







This was closely followed a few days later by the “Great British Car Rally” passing through Napier which was quite nostalgic – a load of old Jaguars, Triumphs, MGs, Morris Minors etc all in pristine condition... An old Kiwi commuting pal of Vicki’s from Horsham now lives in Hawke’s Bay and it was lovely to see Kerry again after some 10 years. She made a fantastic Tour Guide and made sure we visited a decent Vinyard for some wine tasting as well as joining us to watch England thrash the Black Caps at the One Day International. 







We had heard about the Mission Winery Open air Concert and decided to get tickets – this year it was Carole King and Barry Gibb performing. Despite Vicki’s ignorance of Carole King, we had a brilliant time. We had prepared a huge picnic and were joined by Matt & Jean who were touring in their Car before they sailed off to Fiji.










When asked by a NZ reporter about his infamous mane of hair, Mr. Gibb responded that it wasn't that he had lost any of his hair but that his head had grown....

We left Napier a week later (needing a rest) heading for Wellington but we were having such a smooth sail that we decided to head straight for Akaroa on the Banks Peninsular. We arrived at night on day 3 after 343 miles and snuck into the Harbour via an easy 4 mile approach. What a friendly little place…. the local Sailing Club provides Laundry facilities and hot showers and makes you feel really welcome.



While we were there, the two-handed Central Triangle Race was underway which is from Wellington to Akaroa to Napier and back to Wellington which provided some entertainment and reminded us of our old racing days…… We must have been looking longingly at the racing yachts as we were invited to join in with the Club’s Sunday racing and we both really enjoyed crewing without any responsibilities or worries…

We had noticed a bit of damage to our Mizzen Mast in Napier which seemed quite minor and which we thought would be ok if we didn’t raise the mizzen but, looking at it again in Akaroa, we realised that the spreader split was getting worse despite not hoisting the sail. We had to make the disappointing decision not to go further South as we felt that, if we hit big winds off Stewart Island, it could bring the whole rig down which wouldn’t be a good move. 

It was now mid March and we were due down in Queenstown for the ski season at the end of May with nowhere yet booked to stay… We thought it would be a bit of a laugh to hire a dinky little Campervan for a few days so the four of us set off on our motor adventure down to Queenstown… what a scream…






Monty & Basil spent the entire journey bouncing around in the back pretending to be nodding dogs and probably frightening all the motorists behind us every time they jumped up and down.



We managed to find some nice little places away from the Campsites...




We had a whale of a time and found a brilliant House right at the bottom of the Coronet Peak Mountain that was available for the entire 4 month season as the Owners were off to Europe for the Winter.

So, it was back to El Vagabond and awaiting a weather box to set sail. We stayed in Akaroa much longer than intended and enjoyed walking the dogs through the woods every day.




We also met some lovely people at the Sailing Club including Ken & Lynn from Poole who spend a number of months each year in Akaroa and who generously invited us up to Dinner at their home the first time we met them...





It was early April when we finally dragged ourselves away to head about 200 miles North to Picton and the Marlborough Sounds leaving Stewart Island and Fjordland for next season.  We spent a windy night en route anchored in Clifford Bay waiting for a favourable tide to get through the Tory Channel. Good job really as we flew through the entrance with 6 knots of tide …. we wouldn’t have wanted to get that wrong.





We spent the next 5 weeks cruising the magnificent Marlborough Sounds enjoying the fantastic scenery. It reminded us a little of Patagonia except that there are other boats around and little Houses looking out over the water.





We managed to visit 18 anchorages including Ship’s Cove which was renamed by Captain James Cook on 15 January 1770 when he anchored 'The Endeavour' here to replenish supplies of food, water and wood.





He actually returned here a further 4 times on his first and second Pacific voyages and there is now a large white Monument in his memory sitting on the beach.










The bay is also at the start of the Queen Charlotte Track - a 45 mile walking track which runs almost the entire length of the Queen Charlotte Sound. We managed to hike a fair bit of the track but some parts are off limits to Dogs so we have skipped those bits for now.....







We still have lots more to discover here but it was time to leave the old Girl safely tied to a swing mooring for the winter and head off to Queenstown for the skiing……..