1/12/2014 – Our stay in the Bay of Islands

We quickly settled into shore-based life and hired a car for 7 days. This proved to be a bit of a mistake as, apart from a trip to the bank in Paihia to collect our debit cards then onwards to Kerikeri for a quick supermarket shop and SIM cards from Vodafone, we only used the car once more, to source gas refills at a filling station. We had been warned that Calor propane tanks would not be refilled, we had also heard they could be filled if they were pressure tested each time at a cost of NZ€45 each. In the event local knowledge suggested a filling station which might oblige! The next week was busy, with seminars in the afternoons run by the Island Cruising Association, social events in the evening and a few morning trips. The highlight for me was 9 holes of golf on the spectacular Weimata Golf Course with views over the water, dolphins frollicking near one of the tees, very interesting holes and good company. I hadn't touched a golf club since March 2013 but didn't embarrass myself. The Opua Sailing Festival ended with a BBQ on Roberton Island on Sunday. The Bay of Islands is a lovely cruising ground with lots of anchorages to suit different wind conditions, all very close together, stunning beaches though the water is rather cold at the moment even by British standards, some great walks with spectacular views, allegedly very good fishing and not many other boats at this time of the year. The really busy season is from Christmas until the end of January. From Roberton Island, also known as Matuarohia Island, we went through the Albert Channel out of the main area of the Bay to Oke Bay on the mainland a short distance west of Cape Brett where Firefly joined us. Cape Brett is an imposing headland, giving its name to the sea area in the New Zealand shipping forecasts. The bay was well sheltered and was the start of a 14km 8 hour walk to Cape Brett, only suitable for very fit people. That's us discounted then! At the top of the hill, overlooking the bay to the north we found a graveyard with mainly Maori names and one very different memorial stone. I'll only quote a couple of lines but I have photographic proof: "So I blaze another spliff for you Spray can throw up a hit for you" I can't see such an inscription allowed in a graveyard in England! We also met an Aussie from the only other boat in the bay who had met John's brother on a delivery trip from the Med to the Solent over 10 years ago, just to prove what a small world it is. From Oke Bay we returned via the Albert Channel and anchored in Opunga Cove together with Brizo and Firefly. It was a pretty bay backed by a lovely sandy beach and a few well cared for houses. It was then time to return to Opua for an Ocean Cruising Club pot luck supper at the local port representative's house. Saturday was our last full day in Opua and we cycled along the newly opened trail to join the vintage railway at Taumarere Station for the trip to Kawakawa, on a train hauled by a 1927 4-4-0 pannier tank engine built in Bristol. The main highlight in Kawakawa is a visit to the public toilets designed by Hundertwasser, a riot of colours and shapes not to mention a wall made of bottles. Our stay in the Opua area has come to an end for this year and we cast off late Sunday morning heading south towards Whangarei. Joyce

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