November and December in Northland

Bob and Tim’s arrival in Opua was followed by a frenzy of cleaning Pipistrelle, organising minor repairs and of course catching up with friends and cruisers, some of whom we had not seen since for nearly two years but had kept in touch with.  Tim departed by plane from Kerikeri regional airport on 14th November before his onward flight from Auckland and home via Australia, after what he called a wonderful trip.  Just enough time for Bob to ensure the boat was spotless and reprovisioned for Elaine’s arrival on 17th November in Auckland.  She had returned via Korea and Fiji, where she had an overnight stop to recover from some of the effects of jetlag.  After two months apart, it was fantastic to be together again!

Us with Whangarei in distance

Us with Whangarei in distance

We took a circuitous route back to Opua, taking two days and travelling by car – the one we had left in storage for the time we had been ‘up in the islands’ as the Kiwis say.  Our first stop was Gulf Harbour where we stayed in the GH Lodge and dined at the restaurant in the marina where our friends Ellen and Wolfgang from Abora joined us.  Next day we explored the pretty Tutukaka coastal road just north of Whangarei that winds past stunning scenery from forest to beaches and after a night in Tutukaka, rejoined Pipistrelle.

Ocean Beach, Whangarei Heads

Ocean Beach, Whangarei Heads

After a few days on board allowing Elaine to catch up with various friends, we took off in the car again to Kerikeri where Ian and Wendy of Remedy who had finished their circumnavigation in 2011 were house-sitting and invited us to stay.  And some house it was, set in a rural area, with a large covered terrace and landscaped gardens reaching to a small lake complete with landing stage.  We took the opportunity of visiting the Stone Store and Kemp House.  Kerikeri was one of the first places settled by Europeans in the early 19th century and the Stone Store provided storage space for the Kemp House mission.

The Stone Store

The Stone Store

Kathryn and Anthony from Cobalt joined us one afternoon for the 10 km hike from the Waitangi national reserve to the Haruru Falls along a scenic track including a boardwalk over mangroves. We first met in May last year in Opua.  They sailed on and off with the previous owners of Pipistrelle, Stephen and Katherine, from Madeira the whole way to NZ!

Horseshoe cascade

Horseshoe-shaped cascade

Nina and Tony Kiff hosted the annual Ocean Cruising Club gathering at their house, a very sociable evening with guests being asked to ‘bring a dish’ and chatting about their recent sailing exploits.  Shortly afterwards, we left our mooring in Opua and headed out to the Bay of Islands en route for Whangarei.  It was good to be sailing again in such beautiful surroundings.

We revisited Urupukapuka and walked on the island the day it did not rain, battened down the hatches when it did, and moved to Waipipi Bay when it started blowing hard and visibility was reduced to about 50 metres due to low cloud and more rain.   However, with a break in the weather, we sailed out past Cape Brett and then south to Tutukaka where we anchored overnight and then on to Whangarei Town Basin.  This picture of Bob in his foul weather gear is not for show!  Sunshine was interspersed with heavy showers and it was cool.

Dressed for the weather!

Dressed for the weather!

Whangarei Town Basin at sunset

Whangarei Town Basin at sunset

Arriving on 8th December we were able see various tradespeople before they finished for the Christmas/New Year break – 3 weeks being the norm – to organise work for February when we will return.  Thanks to Heribert and Hildegard from Wasabi who were passing through Whangarei and gave us a lift in their van, we collected our car from Opua.

Elaine with Heribert and Hildegard

Elaine with Heribert and Hildegard

The weekend before Christmas was Elaine’s birthday, and since it was special this year, a separate blog has been dedicated to the occasion.

Christmas Eve, Santa duly slid down the mast with stockings but got soaked in the process.  The Christmas morning gathering for champagne and canapés was held not on the pontoon as expected but indoors at the marina office.  But that did nothing to dampen spirits.  We took our traditional Christmas Day walk – in the rain – from the nearby Whangarei Falls with its 23 metre cascade to the AH Reed Kauri Park and back feeling refreshed and ready for our Christmas dinner on board.

Raindrops abound!

Raindrops abound!

Whangarei Falle

Whangarei Falls

Boxing Day saw us driving to Russell at the invitation of Heribert and Hildegard to stay with them at the quaint cottage they had rented for the holiday overlooking Opua.  With them we drove to Flagstaff Hill which has spectacular views over the Bay of Islands, Paihia and Russell.  Christ Church in Russell is the oldest in the country dating from 1836.

Russell from Flagstaff Hill

Russell from Flagstaff Hill

The oldest church

The oldest church

A day of fine weather in the company of great friends, followed by a delicious barbecue and a comfy bed!  And, as ever, Elaine revelled in being able ‘to get her German fix’ as Bob would say!

The Pohutakawa or New Zealand Christmas Tree

The Pohutakawa or New Zealand Christmas Tree

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