Captain's Log: Week 1
Clint's friend John Cook is taking his Warwick cruiser around New Zealand and has invited us to tag along. We catch up with John and his brother Robin to find out how their first week has gone.
Day 1: Departure
With his brother Robin at the helm, John Cook and Horizon III departed at 10am on Friday 2 March as planned, despite less-than-ideal weather conditions: 2-meter (6.5 feet) seas and 25 knots of wind on their starboard side. After reducing their speed to 11 knots, the pair had a reasonable ride and stopped for lunch at the Hen and Chicken Islands, which lie east of the North Auckland Peninsula. The brothers then continued to Deep Water Cove in similar conditions.
“Robin was pleased to see the flat water of the bay, and we anchored up for the night with a few other boats,” says John. After a great meal, some TV and a good night’s sleep, they set off early for Mangonui in the morning, where they would stay the night.
Sunset at 1,300 meters (4,265 feet) deep off the west coast of Kaipara
Day 2: Deep Water Cove to Mangonui
With better weather than the first day but still “well short of ideal,” they refueled at the jetty, where they got to talk to a couple who had sailed across from Brisbane in a 40-foot catamaran.
“I was no longer feeling nervous about our next leg down the west coast in my 70-foot boat,” writes John. The couple had arrived in Tasman then sailed around the cape and were headed down to Great Barrier, and John was pleased to be able to share his knowledge of both places with them. “They had a great trip and were enjoying New Zealand and looking forward to much more exploring before sailing home again.” John and Robin then anchored up for the night in preparation for a 7am departure to New Plymouth, hoping for better conditions.
Day 3: Mangonui to New Plymouth
Starting out at 7am as planned, they ventured into Doubtless Bay, which was rough with strong winds: 25-plus knots on the starboard beam. “We were expecting smooth conditions around Cape Reinga, so we were happy to tough it out,” says John. Rounding the cape with a flat sea and winds dropping off to 10 knots, John was excited to pass the iconic lighthouse by sea, New Zealand’s northernmost point—“only the second time for me.”
Did you know that wearing an earplug in your nondominant ear (the left ear for right-handers and the right for left-handers) helps prevent seasickness? “It worked perfectly!” reports John. The motion of the ocean is “fine on the helm but a challenge when you’re trying to relax on the couch.”
By Hokianga Harbour, John’s excitement had waned, even at 15 knots, so he polished the boat’s lacquered timber interior to pass the time. Handing the helm back to Robin at 7pm, John set his alarm for his second watch at 11:30pm. He enjoyed a good run through the night, only needing to deviate once for a fishing trawler off the coast between Auckland and Raglan before ending his watch at 5:30am. “It was lit up like a Christmas tree, so it was easy to avoid.” The trawler also had an automatic identification system, which brings up details such as speed and direction on the GPS screen. “This should be compulsory for all boats and I believe is safer than radar for this purpose.”
After breakfast, they continued through to Port Taranaki, stopping to watch a pygmy sperm whale basking in the morning sun about 60 nautical miles from shore. “The length to the hump was about 5 to 6 meters [16 to 20 feet], so we knew it would be a monster. Eventually, it had had enough of watching us and upended to submerge, only to reveal another 5 to 6 meters in the water! The tail had a massive span and slipped majestically back into the depths.” Following this magical sighting, the pair continued to port, arriving just 2 minutes behind schedule. “Not bad for a novice!”
After refueling beside a massive cargo ship—“a mobile fuel tanker dangled a fuel hose over the side to our waiting eager hands”—it was low tide and they had no means of scaling the vertical piles. Unable to depart until 7am, Horizon III was by then coated in palm kernel dust from an unloading ship. “Just washed the boat yesterday too … sigh.”
An error that came up on one engine dashed hopes of leaving for Tasman that day. “We decided to have that checked out prior to the next leg, just in case it developed into something more serious.”
Day 4 and 5: Port Taranaki
Forced to remain in Port Taranaki for another three days due to an engine fault that caused them to miss their weather window, Horizon III required a new lift pump on its starboard engine. Ferrying the diesel technician, Tom, to the boat at 7:15am, they managed to get the job done between them.
“Tom was a huge Taranaki boy, and we joked about how we would be able to fit him alongside our engine, as it was very close to our generator.” While everything tested fine after clearing the fault codes, John was left wondering about “the merit in technical engine-management systems that invariably mean that any issues are big issues.”
Paritutu Rock from the Port of Taranaki: “Great views from here!”
To make the most of their extended stay, they planned to climb Paritutu Rock and visit the Len Lye Centre in New Plymouth. But not before sampling some of the local flavor. “Yesterday was interesting. At 8:30am, a huge number of local farmers turned up at the ramp with their boats to go hunting for marlin. How did we know they were farmers? Well, many were still wearing their gumboots, and those who weren’t had the suntan tide mark on their legs where the top of their gumboots would have been!”
Day 7: Port Taranaki ... Still
“We’ve spent the last two days waiting patiently for a break in the weather before cruising to Nelson. Not wanting to waste our time here, we took a climb to the top of Paritutu Rock in 30- to 40-knot winds to get a look at the great views, and it was definitely worth the effort.” Scaling the rocky path in flip-flops, John and Robin attracted “a few interesting looks” from the hardcore hikers.
Within an hour of returning to the boat, they began drifting, dragging their anchor, which meant they had to start the engines immediately, lift the anchor and try a reset. “We laid out an additional 10 meters of chain to ensure we held through the night in 40-knot gusts with a 25-knot base. This is definitely one way to learn about extreme boating—never a dull moment.”
With broken sleep, John and Robin got through Thursday night to visit the Len Lye Centre on Queen Street. “What an amazing building, a real asset to the city. The kinetic sculptures were amazing and appear ahead of their time.” Ten large artworks portrayed Lye’s cultural interpretations and beliefs surrounding evolution. “I would have any of them on my wall at home.”
The all-stainless-steel façade of New Plymouth’s Len Lye Center
They also visited Puke Ariki Museum, which features displays related to the local Maori. “I was fascinated to see the creativity around the ‘tools to fish’ and the techniques employed to catch them. Some were simply ideas such as creating rock pools at low tide to trap fish on an outgoing tide.”
Now the plan is to cut a track to Nelson at 6am on Saturday. “We expect a rough trip till around noon (mid-Cook Straight), when winds should drop to around 20 knots and then 5 knots in the Nelson Marina. Both Robin and I are looking forward to a full night’s sleep.” This will be their fourth consecutive night of continuous high winds. With a projected travel time of 10 hours—“less if we can run faster than 12 knots”—Nelson will see John’s partner, Joanne, join them for two weeks cruising through the Marlborough Sounds.
“For Jo, it’s all about the destination, not the journey, which is wise after the experiences we’ve had to date! This is serious fun though. We’ve had a lot of laughs and lots of little challenges that create an edge to what we are doing. We're forming the tapestry of an amazing adventure in our stunning country.”
View of Mount Taranaki from the boat: “Finally, the clouds are clearing—looking good for tomorrow!