Archive for December, 2007


36 Hours in Sydney

December 24, 2007   

12 midnight – I come on watch and stay on for the rest of the day as we will be reaching landfall by 6am. The AIS system and radar show up to 12 ships waiting for pilots to guide them into the harbor.


6am: Sydney Heads as the sun came up a narrow entrance with south flowing current. Arriving by boat in a city is much more enjoyable than by 747. Sydney Bay is narrow with many coves to explore.


6:15: Harbor cruise – the Opera House (smaller than I imagined), Kirribilli point, the Prime Ministers residence, Circular Quay, the Royal Botanical Gardens and under the Harbor Bridge. The stewardess is afraid we aren’t going to fit and the mast is going to come down. I tell her to go up the rig with one of the fenders!


6:30: We manually let down the bow thruster and attempt to engage it. It starts kicking back up into the hull so we rig a line strapping it in place. We dock at ….. to clear customs, quarantine and immigration.


7:00-9:45: Customs, Immigration and Quarantine. Searched by the yellow Customs labs the dogs were cute fitted with little socks so as not to damage anything. The dogs work for 15 minute shift so their attention doesn’t wonder. Up on the dinghy cover, inside the dinghy cover with only their tails showing, down into the chain locker, on the teak and varnished dining room tables etc!


9:45am – 6pm: We have a full day of work on the boat cleaning up after the delivery and getting ready for the owners trip.


6:00-10:00pm: Dinner at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia where a large pre race (Sydney Hobart) party rages on. I spot a friend who raced on Yeoman with me in the Fastnet. The wind has come up and the Rolex flags flutter off the forestay in the wind. We go for a walk along the docks boat spotting and come across Shogun the IRC46 hull 3. I see many differences to the boat which solve some of the issues we found after our miles on Yeoman.


8:00-12 midday: A late wake up for me make the crew a breakfast of English pancakes as we had no lemons for me to make them during the delivery – something I normally do. Rigging chores before going into town – the main halyard needs to be shortened and reloaded on the captive winch.


12:45-3pm: Drop the chef and stewardess in town and park in the Domain. Carols in the Park is that night the stage is set, people stream into the park and a little village of tents has sprung up on the grass in front of the stage. It is humid everyone tucks into their picnics I grab an ice cream. Quick walk through the Art Gallery and then onto the Botanical Gardens walking along the water front to the Opera House. Bats are hanging in the trees, many different birds fly around the gardens and there are lots of interesting plant species to look at. It is a Saturday and the gardens are teeming with people. Back in the car around Hyde Park and navigate myself back to the boat 20 minutes out of town.  

3pm: Change into airplane cloths, leaving my uniform onboard, eat yet another beautifully prepared lunch by our chef and off to the airport for a 24 hour flight.


4pm: In a very long queue at the airport to check in don’t get to the ticket counter until 10 minutes before the flights scheduled departure of 6pm. The flight is overbooked I am told I am on standby (along with 7 others) not something I want to hear. I find the supervisor and tell her I am happy to go on QF31 via Singapore (overbooked as well). I tell her I have flown standby for 25 years and would love to make it out that night but understand the flight is in an oversold situation. My concern is my ticket says not eligible for denied boarding compensation – not something I want to read I keep silent about this. The check in agent is under pressure one seat and she has to choose who goes everyone stands in front of her listening to her conversation. She picks me saying I deserve to get on after 25 years of standby but says can’t guarantee a good seat. I am happy to sit in the worst seat in the plane I just want to go home. She hands me a ticket – joy of joy it is a business class ticket all the way back to London I run through customs, security and sweating arrive at the gate. We sit on the plane at the waiting for a connecting flight with 40 passengers to land. We take off almost 2 hours late I look out the window (very happily I am seated in business) and am able to spot the yacht I sailed in on at her dock in Balmain – thank you for a safe trip I murmur in her direction. Goodbye Sydney.

Auckland to Sydney

December 20, 2007   

I am sitting in Sydney Harbor got in this morning at 6am local time. The delivery from Auckland to Sydney was altogether uneventful which was great for catching up on paperwork and indicative of the high standard of work done on the boat at ORAMS. The most excitement was when the freezer started to defrost and the ice cream went runny! This was the result of one of the levers (controlling the water to the cooling pump for the freezer) being turned off in the bilge when the hydraulics guys were working on the vang adjustments. The only wildlife we saw were a few dolphins as we made our way up the east coast towards Cape Reinga.

The picture shows Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve just before sunset established in 1981 and rated as one of the top diving spots in the world it is 24km off the east coast of NZ’s northland. The two large islands Tawhiti Rangi and Aorangi are sacred to Maori’s as they were the scene of a massacre of the Ngati-wai tribe in the early 1800’s. You can’t land on the islands but can anchor off of them and dive.

It is a continuous learning experience for me on how to balance this boat it is very different from a racing boat. Before the winds really picked up we had a small amount of the main up and some jib however, on the waves the boom (despite the preventer) would move in and then flop back out putting a large amount of strain on the rigging. I decided the best thing was to center the main and then was going to get Tim up to do something with the main. He was sitting in the pilot house when I came in as the commotion had got him up. Basically the weight of the boom was such that we needed more main to keep the boom out there however, with the forecast for higher winds we decided to be conservative and furl the main in completely. We spent the night with a handkerchief of a jib out, no main and engine at 1600 rpm.

That night we had the predicted high winds (gusting to 40 and continuously high 30s) and big seas (the spray was blowing off the top) leaving our new stewardess Sally shrieking at a few of the large rolls. Tim mentioned these were the worst conditions he had been in on this boat. On one particular roll the boom touched the water and there was a wave that broke over the cabin top. I was fully interrogated about why the boat would not roll on its side seeing as the mast is so much longer than the keel. I assured her that this boat is built like a ˜brick s*** house being an aluminum hull. I went to bed thinking about the kids rowing the Tasman hoping for their sake that they had cleared the area that we were in see . A guy had attempted this crossing two months ago and died in the attempt it is not really somewhere to be in a row boat.

See a picture taken by a friend of Albatross. We saw a few on the trip they are such graceful creatures. See for more about them.

A week before our departure from Auckland the bow thruster motor had packed it in and a new one was hard to find so the guys at Holton Engineering fabricated a come along system allowing us to manually bring the bow thruster up and down. We checked every hour along with our engine checks to insure that the bow thruster was in the up position. One night we had some heavy pounding from the seas and we grew concerned about the bow thruster door being properly sealed. Luckily for Tim the seas died down so he didn’t have to suit up in dive gear and go over the side to visual inspect the door.

This was my first time to Australia and as we made such good time across the Tasman I was actually in Sydney for 36 hours. Enough time to see the famous Opera house as we entered the Bay and to go for dinner at the CYC the club who runs the Sydney Hobart Race.

It seems silly to have left only 3 days before the start of the Sydney Hobart Race. It is a race that I have wanted to do for a long while however, my family has the Christmas tree all ready in the UK so time to get on a long plane trip home.

Happy Holidays everyone.

Captive Winches

December 19, 2007   


There are a lot of systems on the super yachts. One which has caused a bit of a headache is the captive winch for the main halyard. The winch is located under the galley floor in the bilge so working on it requires doubling yourself over and fitting in between pipes etc. Basically the main halyard wraps around the drum as the mainsail is hoisted. There is a load cell (see picture below) in one of the sheaves feeding the drum which ‘feels’ the pressure on the halyard telling the drum when to work and when not to. There is a ‘shuttle’ which runs from left to right as the halyard is hoisted loading the halyard around the drum in a tight coil. The halyard has to be the right length and diameter otherwise it fills the drum before the main is all the way up.


At the refit in New York they put on a new halyard which was a 1/8 inch larger diameter then what was specified – doesn’t sound like much however, this combined with the riggers making it a bit longer than the old one led to the halyard jamming on the captive winch. These things never happen when it is dead calm we were actually trying to reef the main as it had ‘jumped’ the captive winch after overfilling the drum and then shredded the cover. The main mandrel (in boom furling drum) stopped turning as it wasn’t getting feedback from the captive winch so the main had a pocket in it allowing the 25 knots of wind to catch it and slam the rig back and forth. I went up in the climbing harness on the spinnaker halyard taking with me the topping lift from the end of the boom (not easy to get to as the boom was swing around so much). I attached the topping lift to the head of the main (again not easy to hold on to the rig which I was being slammed against it) and removed the main halyard attaching a down haul to it so it could be cleared out of the way. We then had control of the mainsail however, the captive winch needed to be cleared so I spent a few hours in the bilge with a razor blade cutting away the damaged cover and unwinding the halyard from the winch.


On the trip from Auckland to Sydney again I spent some time in the bilge as the halyard is doubling over on itself as it is a little too long. However, we are now aware of the situation so can solve the problem before it becomes stuck and we shred a halyard. In Sydney I will be shortening the halyard and this should fix the issue.

Goodbye Auckland

December 12, 2007   

After 2 months in Auckland it will be a sad farwell tomorrow. I have enjoyed my last two months refitting the boat by week and spending the weekends exploring the NZ countryside. All the workers on the boat created a high standard of work and she is now put together. Today we went out for a test sail that was not sucessful due to a few system failures and I had a steep learning curve. We are going to go for a test sail tomorrow morning at 7:30am and if all goes well we will send the riggers and sailmakers back in by RIB so that we can clear customs and leave immediately. I have a flight to catch out of Sydney on the 20th to make so it looks like my first visit to Australia will involve seeing the Opera House from boat as we enter the harbor and then less than 16 hours later seeing it below me from a 747.

 UPDATE: We have postponed departure until December 15th due to an adverse weather scenario building in the Tasman. This means no christmas tree shopping trip with my newphew Henry 🙁 oh well this is the nature of my job.

Super Yacht Crew

December 7, 2007   

I am lying in my starboard guest cabin after a pretty exhausting week. It started with a Monday night stepping of the rig (finishing at dark 9:30pm) and ended with cleaning the teak until 8:00pm Friday night. We start our work day at 7am and up until this last crazy period of wrapping up we were finishing at 4pm. I decided a 40 hour work week is what life is all about!

For the last week and half since I got back from Mexico I have had a temperature and been really sore. Fever broke last night I woke up drenched in sweat – nice eh!!! Haven’t been sick like that since I can remember last. Last night at 11:30pm the new chef knocked on my door to tell me there was an alarm going off and I had taken Nyquil. Seeing as the varnishers had been in to do the steps up the the pilot house I had to climb out the escape hatch from the crew mess in my PJ’s to get up to the pilot house. Not really a large feat however I don’t know if it is because I am tea total but that nyquil made me feel like I had just been to the knot and shot at KWRW after a large night at the beer tent!

The skipper comes back after 5 1/2 weeks away tomorrow morning at 6:30am and there is a lot to do before we can leave on Tuesday. The bow thruster motor decided to pack it in on Monday so we will most likely have to jury rig it. The hydraulics guy didn’t label the lines right so he has the vang buttons working the halyard tension! Just a few small things that might stop us going sailing! Great project manager I am 🙂 At least the rig is on, the sails are on (mostly), the boat hasn’t sunk at the dock and the white carpets are still white. Looking forward to sailing the Farr 40 in January where there are no bow thruster, furling mains, half halyards with hydraulic rams or lots and lots of teak to clean.

Paige Brooks story of Etchells 667

December 6, 2007   

Paige Brooks sailed in Fleet 12 for a few years before moving to Florida and joining Miami Fleet 20. She sold her San Francisco boat this month and writes in a farewell from the site of the Jaguar Cup: 

From: Paige Brooks

Subject: Re: Scarlett – Etchells 667 – Thank you! (and a little story) On May 2, of 2003 and again in February of 2004, I had two of the happiest days of boat ownership. Buying the boat with Dan Zuiches and Danielle Dignan and then buying it from them. This week I sold 667 to another trio, this time J24 owners who are switching into Etchells and are taking it to Denver. While this is supposed to be the next happiest day of boat ownership and I expected to be relieved, I’ve also found myself a bit sentimental. So this letter is to all of you who’ve helped make the memories and sailed with me on 667. Thank you.

In the racing we were met with challenging competitors – sailors who’d raced etchells for more than 20 years, who’d competed at the top level of the sport. We learned a lot and had a lot of fun, thanks to the tough competition.

One race I won’t soon forget:

During the Simpson Cup, a “gear buster” of a regatta, we were sailing downwind in front of the St. Francis when our vang broke. Kers yelled over to us to pull in our vang and when I said “it’s broken,” he yelled back “well sit on the boom then”. And so I rode the boom the rest of the way down to the finish line, bouncing along with each wave. This was also the weekend I met another kind former Olympic sailor Kent Massey, visiting from Santa Barbara to race Etchells, who took time out from catching up with friends to take me outside, throw a leaf on the water, and teach me about tides and currents. Sounds silly, but it instantly worked in explaining what ‘current protection’ means.

With three partners, you have the benefit of always having crew. Without three you have to find them. Jack Roosevelt jumped on early and brought with him Ethan Doyle. They were both aboard the first (and only, so far) time I death rolled. They also sailed me to a win over Shark Kahn, just after he’d won Melges Worlds. Boy did that feel good.

Matt Carter who helped a lot with suggestions on bow work, did bow for my good friend Roy Haslup and me for the Mosely Cup. Bill Clary who sailed Etchells in Marblehead and Ashley Perrin, who’s got tons of blue water miles, alternated on the boat for Roy and I most of the time. All of you are great to sail with – great advice, great motivators and great sportsmen. Melbo, Bryan, Dr. Bill, John Sutak, and Randy Smith have all been great encouragers and competitors from SFYC. Thanks!

In September of 04, we raced the boat in the Etchells North Americans. Roy, Ashley, and a girl from Oregon sailed with me. This was my first big fleet event. As a less than practiced team against tough competition, our goal was not to be last, which we fortunately accomplished. Ashley, the amazing boat handler and worker that she is, did bow for us all day in tough conditions and worked on boats late into the evening during the whole week. She taught me a lot about boat repairs – gelcoat, fiberglass, trailer care, standing rigging, deck work, and more over the course of my last summer in SF.

As most of you know, I’ve moved into a new partnership in 1055 in Miami. At North Americans this year, we (my new partner Chris and Randy Smith) finished well up into the top half of the fleet at 19th, managing to beat a few pros and all the women skippers. One of my SF friends commented in a congratulatory email that it made me the fastest female Etchells skipper in North America. A good general feeling, but at the moment, there are only a few of us. Contrary to recent reports, the class is growing, and I’m seeing more women out there as crew and as skippers, which is great.

Thanks so much to all of you who made learning the boat such a pleasure. While I’m glad to sell Scarlett, I will enjoy the memories and most of all I am thankful for your friendship!


The Innerview – Ground Control

December 5, 2007   

Ashley Perrin is a 24-year-old professional sailor. We met in Brixham, England as she is Ocean Planet’s shore team manager.  Ashley has over 35,000 ocean miles to her credit. Including; Fastnets (3rd), Double handed Round Britain (2nd), two Mackinacs, Pac Cup, double handed Atlantic crossing, Dubai-Muscat Race, Cork Week, Cowes Week, America’s Cup Jubilee, Key West, SORC, numerous cross channel races and Pacific coast races along with Caribbean circuit and women’s match racing circuit.  Recently, she was America True’s project manager for their Volvo Campaign along with being their Volvo Sponsor manager. She is the youngest ever-elected member to the RORC and is a special member of the SFYC. Currently, she is in Florida participating in the Osprey Cup.   On top of being very good at what she does, she is one of those people you like to work with, professional and down to earth. MoMP.

You are the Shore Team Manager for Ocean Planet. It’s no secret that the program has limited funds.  How much more difficult is it from your perspective for the team to first, be competitive then remain competitive as the race goes on?

AP Our overall budget is comparable to other boats in this race, such as Pindar and Hilfiger, but we differ dramatically in our design. Pindar and Hilfiger are based upon the normal Open 60 design ethos (sail plan and width) and both have already been around the world. Ocean Planet has taken a different approach it is a more radical design. Ocean Planet’s radical plan requires a larger R & D budget than our competitors, resulting in lower repair and maintenance budget, creating a challenge for our team.

Since Bruce is newcomer to the Open 60 scene, he was able to take this approach without risking his reputation in this arena. Other skippers have in the past been slightly radical but only in one aspect of the design at a time i.e. Yves Parlier went with a rotating mast a few years ago with the large side spreaders but the rest of his boat was not much difference from the norm. Success of a program like this would be better supported with funding from a major sponsor than the very generous donations of many individuals. An easier proposition financially for a non sponsored boat would be a Open 50 as they cost 40% less even though they are only 10 foot smaller.

If money weren’t an issue, what one thing would you add or change to Ocean Planet’s program? 

AP A full time shore support team would be a tremendous help.   Typical programs have several people with different expertise, working full time. Since Bruce stopped in Spain, his South African stopover is shortened, putting additional pressure on us to turn the boat around for the next leg.  We’ve got a new main and hardware to install Cape Town, in addition to autopilot, engine servicing, rewiring navigation lights, fixing a disturbing crack in the hull, leaks, rigging. All in around 20 days.  This is a lot of maintenance work for a short-handed crew.  I am grateful that Jason Winkel of Argo Rigging will joining me in Cape Town.

What’s the hardest part of the job, waiting and watching while the boat is racing or the work when the boat hits port?

AP The hardest part is the work when the boat hits the dock. I would rather be sailing, than being a spectator.  In Brixham, England, I worked 18-hour days for 14 days straight.  There never seemed to be enough time to complete all the tasks and repairs.  Due to the time difference, I’d finish working on the boat and then have answer 20 emails a day regarding the boom shipment, battens and other communication from the U.S. So when my workday ended in the UK, the US workday was just starting, creating both a UK and US work schedule for me.

How much does sponsorship play into the fact that the French, British, Italians and Kiwis are dominant in Ocean Racing?

AP Sponsorship does not dominate as much as you might think. Sponsorship is hard to find in the world. The French dominate the Open 60 circuit, and the Kiwis lead the Volvo 60 circuit. The French are more into single-handed sailing. It is understandable if you’ve ever sailed on a fully crewed French racing yacht; it’s like sailing with 10 skippers!  (I’m half English so I’m allowed a French joke every so often J) 

Managing the masses on the dock.

The French, British and New Zealanders have another advantage over the Americans. They sail in more varied and tougher conditions than the Americans do on average. England has a huge variety from big Atlantic swells on the west coast to short breaking waves in the shallows of the North Sea, and accelerating wind through the Dover straits. Add in man made hazards like oilrigs, the busiest shipping lanes in the world, a few fishing boats and you have a big obstacle course.

We also have races like the two handed Round Britain race. This has been a training ground for big names in offshore sailing: Steve Fossett, Robin Knox Johnston, Chay Blyth and Ellen MacArthur. The race has four 48-hour rolling stops in remote places like Crosshaven, Barra, Lerwick, (which is as far north as Cape Horn is south.) and the attrition rate of the fleet is high. If you survive the rugged storms battered west coast and dodge through the oilrigs and sand banks on the east coast you then have to fight the gales in the Channel. Despite this race being a full circle, you spend 80% of the 2000-mile race going upwind as the low pressure systems keep on moving through.

I think that these nationalities produce more ocean racers because their racing schedules include predominantly offshore races. Some of the RORC weekend races across the English Channel can be very rough indeed. Typical European sailors do that sort of thing almost every weekend. Our winter races require getting up at 5am on a Sunday. We travel at over 200% of the posted speed limit down the M3 to the boat to wash the ice off the deck with salt water so that it doesn’t refreeze. On the other hand, US sailor typically race inshore on their weekends and if there is ice on the deck they are smart and just don’t go out OR go ice yachting!! 

You mentioned to me once that in France, shore team captains are looked at differently than in the States. Can you elaborate on that?

AP In France a person who prepares racing boats is called a ‘preparateur’. The singlehanded sailing scene is treated much like the Formula One racing car circuit. The people working in shore teams have the same expertise as the skipper, awarding them the same respect. Single-handed sailing is a team sport. This was evident getting Ocean Planet ready for Leg 2 in Brixham, England. We used over 1000 hours of volunteer services and we couldn’t have done it without their support. I wrote a long page on Oceanplanet’s website to thank everyone, I was blown away by the volunteers efforts.

We all love the classic, “man against the sea” stories.   In France, England and New Zealand Ocean Racers are seen as national heroes.  Why is the attention given to American sailors watered down in comparison?

 AP Inshore racing is the primary form of sailing done in the US and it is not a story about survival. While the general public doesn’t fully understand the details of sailing, they do relate, however, to stories about surviving the elements. Ocean Racing would gain more interest in the US if a personality, which the general public could identify with was successful  like Ellen MacAurthur has been in Europe.  The public pays attention to sailing projects that have well planned and executed media campaigns, like Offshore Challenges did with Ellen MacAurthur.

Round Britain Doublehanded
As far North as Cape Horn is South
Mad dogs and Englishmen J

If anything, what needs to change?

AP In regards to sponsorship there needs to be more structure and commitment from the sailors.  Sailors need to provide more than just offering to stick the company’s name on the boats hull and go sailing. They should be willing to work with the company to maximize the sponsorship both internally and externally. Unfortunately, in the past some sailing sponsors had been used poorly or have not fully understood the projects. In some cases someone at the top management level decides to sponsor but the sales/marketing department doesn’t know itself what to do with the property.  Going forward, there needs to be a more business like approach towards sailing sponsorships.


What are your feelings on “all women teams”?

 AP I am in Florida at the moment racing in the Osprey Cup, a women’s match racing event. The best analogy I can make is why do parents send their kids to a single sex school vs. a mixed? The answer is different for every person. I think women’s teams allow some women to learn without feeling threatened. On the other hand, in order to be the best you have to race amongst the best. At the moment the “best” tend to be guys, since they have more experience, I guess. I don’t believe women’s teams are natural. There is a whole different dynamic onboard, which in my experience, I have not particularly enjoyed. I think co-ed teams are the way to go, in real life situations men and women work alongside each other. There is a catch 22 though in that in is still hard for women to get on certain top boats. However, in my experience if you get on with your job and do it well it doesn’t matter what sex you are, you will automatically earn the respect of the guys anyway. If it is a boat full of chauvinists there is no point in forcing the situation, find another boat.

Do you think that approach helps or hurts women’s credibility in what really is a male dominated sport?

AP I think it depends on how the women on the team conduct themselves as to whether their credibility is affected. Anyone is respected if they admit when they are not as experienced and don’t use excuses for a poor result. In my experience guys are sometimes more willing to answer questions and share their experience than women are. If they are willing to give you advice that is a reflection on the individuals personality not guys in general. 

What are your short and long term goals inside the sport? 

AP In 2003, I am going to concentrate on improving my small boat helming – I will be taking my boyfriend’s Etchells to San Diego for the mid winters. I believe it is the best place to learn and I don’t mind loosing – too much J.  I would like to do some Grade 4 women’s match racing events as skipper with an experienced skipper as my mainsheet person. Match racing is great because you do at least 9 starts a day which means over 25 mark roundings and you get good at getting the boat up to speed fast.

Any big boat racing in your future? 

AP Defiantly that is all I do right now. I’ve dreamed of doing the Volvo since I was 12 and I got almost there last year with my own boat, but things didn’t work out. If I have the energy and the money, I may try to do it again next time round. I had Ellen MacAurthur signed on as navigator and a great co-ed team lined up. So if things work out like that next time, maybe that’s where you will see me next.

When are you going to come to the dark side and start racing multihulls?

AP I have only sailed multihulls once in a regatta in Dubai. It was fun – maybe when I get monohull sailing under my belt I will change sides!

Especially in the States, you don’t hear too many instances of people getting rich in sailing.  How do you compensate your income?

AP In the past I’ve worked as a sailmaker and as a shore team manager on race boats, like Ocean Planet.  I know I can always earn money by working on boats and doing deliveries but you’re right, not many people make a lot of money in sailing.  I’ve started a company,, which manufactures and sells duffle bags made out of re-cycled race sails as well as Canterbury of New Zealand clothing. We are always looking for sails with a ‘pedigree’ and can turn them into duffle bags for a boat owner. At the moment working on a new line of products, which I think will be very different and practical.

At what age do you see yourself stepping away from sailing professionally and putting your full attention into “sail” bags?

AP Well I don’t know at what age. I’m only 24 and am not looking at retiring soon. My goal is to blend my love of sailing with something that would allow me to earn a better living. will allow me to be near home while earning a salary I can live with.  It is already keeping me busy. In the coming months we’ll be expanding our product line.  Although, I can’t say too much about that now.

Along with my new business, I would like to perhaps attempt another Volvo 60 campaign. Last year I had a boat and sponsorship lined up but it all disappeared like my stock portfolio! I will continue to race as much as possible, something I want to do concurrently with running  It is out on the racing circuit that great new product ideas for sailing come to mind, not sitting in an office somewhere.

Who’ll win the America’s Cup?

AP Alinghi – they have the experience of performing under fire and their boat doesn’t seem to be too slow.

Thanks Ashley. 

Bay of Islands

December 4, 2007   

Last weekend I rented a car and took a trip up to the Bay of Islands. It is a 240km drive from Auckland. I did my usual ‘gunk holing’ leaving Saturday morning and stopping along the way getting to the backpackers at 5pm. This time I had no Annabelle which was sad but I survived!

As I drove through Wellsford I saw signs for a christmas parade and indeed people were lining the street and they were starting to close down the main road through town. I drove on through and parked on the north end of town after the barricades. Wanting to try and get in a festive mood I sat on the side of the road with lots of families – the kids all excited about the prospect of Santa Claus and ‘lollies’ (sweets or candy). It still doesn’t seem like Christmas though as I have a sunburn and am in shorts and t-shirts all day :-). The parade was small but a noticeable amount of effort was put in by the community so it was fun to see.

Next stop Mangawhai for the saturday market where I picked up some packed lunch then a beautiful beach walk at Mangawhai Heads before getting back on the coastal road. The drive reminded me of HW 1 from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach. Whangarei is a commercial town but the Town Basin is great for boat spotters and there is an amazing second hand boat parts store which I ducked into to get out of the rain.  At Kawakawa I had to get out and check out the ”World Famous” public toliet and also watch some bowling.

At Opua I took the car ferry across to Russell and the Wainui Lodge backpackers both are small scenic towns on the shore of the Bay of Islands. The owner of Wainui Lodge had built the place himself he was a very gracious host and was very worried about my obvious tiredness giving me a lecture on taking time off! I spent the evening exploring Russell which is has a lot of history for a NZ town as it was the first capital of NZ and one of the first European settlements.

 I was planning on some tramping on the Sunday but everyone I had talked to said I must see the Bay of Islands from water. So I did the unthinkable and paid to go sailing (my clients should ignore this comment!). The owner was a Canadian from BC and between a few other crew including his daughter he made the day trip very enjoyable. There was a lot of wildlife to see – the dolphins loved us – and we went for a walk on one of the islands. At 5pm it was time to pile in the car for the trip back to Auckland so I would be back for monday morning work. I took the coast road around from Russell through Oakura to Whakapara. It was a very windy road and a lot slower than the car ferry option back to Opua I thought it would be worth the extra distance as it was meant to be scenic, it was but no more than the main road.

The coast of NZ is starting to blossom with color as the NZ christmas tree (pohutukawa) is starting to flower. These trees are trough and adaptable gaining a foothold in inhospitable rock crevices surviving being drenched costantly with sea water spray.