Great Barrier Island to Auckland and Back; A Sailing Adventure

Sitting in front of my laptop and trying to put the last 5 days into words. Where to begin and how to describe the events, emotions, encounters and those moments when you can step aside and look at yourself and at what you are doing from another perspective; these are the questions in my mind at the moment. Perhaps I just start at the beginning.

It is Wednesday, the 16.11.2011, the location is Tryphena (Great Barrier Island) the time is 0500. I’m packing the rest of my gear and going through the mental list. ‘Do I have everything I need?’ It feels like it’s all there, time to walk down the drive way and meet up with my mate and skipper for the sail from Tryphena (Great Barrier Island) to Auckland. While driving to the wharf – it was around dawn – we encounter a man, with a bunch of picked flowers on the road. We stopped, he was pretty glad to see us, talked a bit about Jesus and wished us well for our journey. At the wharf, while Muzz was rowing to get his 24 motor sailer – Freedom -, the man we met moments ago came down and talked to me for a cool 20 minutes, while I was sorting out our gear. He was in a good mood, turned out he was a fisherman and just got into Tryphena, kept talking about Jesus, politics and wondered why people can’t just live in bliss (so did Cat Stevens – Peace Train). Since I had a few of encounters with total strangers that are very kind and are not shy to wish you well and talk to you about god, peace and congratulate you on living a more ‘simple’ life on a beautiful island, I thought it would be good to mention it here, too. 

Anyway, 0600, Muzz and myself are on the way out of Tryphena Harbour, with 15 knots westerlies. Wow, I haven’t been sailing for a while.

Sailing to town on 'Freedom', 24 ft motor sailer

Muzz has been living on the island for a long time and has seen and done a variety of things in his life. For instance, he used to be a fisherman and has been fishing the waters around the Colville Channel extensively. We work together and it was great exchanging a couple of stories and sailing together for around 9 hours. We were clocking around 7 knots per hour, with the engine on cruise and the main sail up. The wind turned on us quickly and was more or less straight on the bow. Anything below the waistline was wet from the spray from 0700 until we tied off on a jetty in Half Moon Bay (a more and more popular marina and suburb of Auckland in the Tamaki Straight). So yeah, it was dry and warm above the waistline. Someone special told me once that you do not have any organs in your legs, so focus on keeping upstairs warm and you’ll be fine. I’ve adopted that advice many moons ago! Dolphins came to greet us a few times, but they were gone as quickly as they arrived. I’ll take some pictures on the way back, I thought.

Channel Island (a.k.a The Watchman) on starboard side. The skipper and I were thinking the same thing:'Man it would be epic to do a land based fish off that island. The water drops off to 60 m.'
The tip of the Coromandel Peninsular on port side. Flat top island, Fletcher's Bay and the 'Pinnacles'. Some of you have been there with me fishing.
The wind right on the bow and strong. This is approaching Half Moon Bay. One 800k home next to the other, it appears that people love their neighbors….

We arrived in Half Moon Bay, both of us looking like snow men. Salt crusts all over our faces from the sprays. We were glad to tie off and after sharing a couple more stories, my mate Gary arrived to give me a lift back to his place (which used to be ‘my’ place). Always great to see that you can count on good friends. We spent the night on Parry – a lifestyle block in Albany North-  had a couple of beers, a bonfire and I got to catch up with my mate S. Story.

Thursday saw me getting a couple of supplies. A solar panel and charge controller (more about that in a future post), this and that from The Warehouse, Bunning’s and a Kindle. Caught up with the one and only Private Investigator on the Shore, Mr. Pulani. As usual, he had observed dodgy incidents on the Shore. You read it on the front page of the Herald and Pulani is the man who saw it all unfold. We had lunch in the ‘old Albany’ and I spent the rest of the day relaxing. Went out in the evening to meet a new friend; an enjoyable and exciting night.

Gary and myself wanted to sail to Tryphena on Friday, we had to sort out some things on his yacht. The depth gauge was broken since our last trip more than half a year ago. Gary is a keen and a capable man, after an hour or so he had rerouted the signals from the sensor onto his laptop. We had depth, a chart plotter and speed. Good things to have when you are sailing.

Practice makes champions. Here, sailing a little self-made remote controlled sailing boat.
Notice the radio controlled boat on the right.

We knocked down a few beers at Swashbuckler’s before sailing to ‘Ezzy’ Bay. A bay between Rangitoto and Tapu islands. The latter is called Motutapu, but for the first time I wondered why. Motu means island in Maori. So it is Motu Rangitoto. Yet I’ve never heard Tapu island… Anyway, we gull winged  the sails, cranked the music up and enjoyed sailing. ‘The Spirit of Breaker Bay’, Gary’s 30 ft Easterly yacht hasn’t been out of the marine for more than 6 months. So, the three of us enjoyed the cruise very much.

The Spirit of Breaker Bay tied off at X-piers in Westhaven waiting for her bum to be cleaned by fast sailing.
Auckland is also known as the City of Sails.
A different league.
Leaving Westhaven Marina, with the Harbour Bridge in the background.

Saturday morning, 0500 the alarm goes off, the rain starts. We snooze for a bit until the rain stops and by 0600 we’re on our way to Tryphena. 20-25 knots south westerlies, right on the stern, up to 35 knots gusts. We reefed the main sail and gull winged it all the way to Tryphena, averaging 5 knots or so just sailing. We arrived in Tryphena at 1400. There were some big rollers chasing us on the stern, dolphins repeatedly greeted us, conditions were moderate to rough in the Colville Channel but the yacht handles that easily, she is capable of so much more and some experience is required when being out there in such conditions. Every now and then the heart drops when you start surfing the chasing rollers, when the gusts make you work the helm hard, when you have to walk to the bow to untangle something. But yeah, with every hour of experience on sea you understand that while you might be slightly worried about the conditions, the main thing is to focus at the job in hand and to realize that there is not really a reason to worry at all.

Friday night races in the Waitemata Harbour.
Leaving Auckland.


Regular visitors in the Colville Channel.


A fishing boat on its way to the Firth of Thames. She was gunning it through 2.5 meter swells and 35 knots gusting.
These are the rollers I am talking about. They chase you from behind in such conditions and you eventually start surfing them.
The Spirit of Breaker Bay in Tryphena for the first time.
They say pictures tell a 1000 words. Here they might tell a tale of smooth waters in a calm harbour. That's what it looks like, doesn't it?
She's on a mooring. Safe and sound.

Wow, what a trip. What a good time, what an experience, yet again. I certainly learned that it would be unwise to take anyone out on such a trip unless they have proven that they can handle the sea. What was heaps of fun for us could easily be a trip from hell for others. If you get the chance to sail, go for it. It doesn’t take long until you start feeling comfortable also in bigger seas, but experience is clearly the key when it comes to sailing.

Stay tuned for some more interesting updates.

* Setting up a solar panel system

* Iranium, the missing element in the period table of elements. Yes, I picked up my puppy today.

Iranium having the biggest day of her life.



7 thoughts on “Great Barrier Island to Auckland and Back; A Sailing Adventure”

  1. Great sailing pictures. Looks like you had a good time! Iranium really seems to enjoy the bath. Now let her grow a little bit and you are ready to hunt the wild pigs on your property…

    1. Yeah mate, sailing was good. I’ve got a feeling she’ll grow quickly; we’ll have to see with the pig hunting. She’ll probably make you aware that there is one and let’s you do the job.

  2. Aye Captain Jebus …

    You know what they say: If there is a new element there is always a need for “supergenaue Coupled-Cluster Rechnungen” …

    1. Yes, indeed. Someone has to do the fundamental research. You know what they say:” If you can’t do it, teach it. If you can’t teach it, add a soft d-function or more…’

    1. Cheers Susan, yeah, I didn’t say hello to heaps of people… Next time I try to organize things better and have an evening in the pub and let people now.

  3. Looks like fun Ben. Now you know I’m going to ask if you towed lures behind that boat and castigate you if not! And if I’m not very much mistaken I can see Port Jackson in the background of the big wave pic. You were sticking close to shore I guess. Good work…..

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