Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Great Barrier Island and waiting for the storm

We left Coromandel on Thursday (and are indebted to Simon Raine for his random fact No. 436: Roland Gift, ex-lead singer of 80's Hull band Fine
Young Cannibals, has a farm on the Coromandel. Thought you'd like to know) for a wonderful 45 mile sail across to Great Barrier Island, averaging over 7 knots all the way. We'd seen that the forecast that gave strong winds for Friday and Saturday with a long-range warning of something nasty in the wings for next week so decided to make the break whilst we could.
We're very pleased that we did because The Barrier, as it's known in these parts, is beautiful. Do have a look on Google Earth if you get a moment. We're anchored near Port Fitzroy on the west coast (Population 32, 1 shop, 1 bar, electricity only from diesel and solar generators) which is surrounded by densely-wooded volcanic hills and features lots of deeply indented bays offering good shelter from strong winds, something we're going to test in the next couple of days it seems.
The Barrier is a big island (the 6th largest in NZ) and is only 90km from Auckland with regular ferry and air links but it's very much like stepping back in time. The total population is only about 800, though its a popular summer destination for sailors, fishermen and hikers; there's really only one road (with not much tarmac) and the logging and mining industries of the 1800s have been replaced by conservation and leisure. Huge work has been done to eradicate 'foreign' pests such as rats and ferrets and feral grazing animals such as goats so the wildlife population is blossoming and the natural vegetation is returning.
The our sleep in the last couple of nights has been a bit disturbed as the strong winds arrived as promised. We were anchored in a sheltered bay so the water remained calm but sudden gusts of wind would tumble down the steep hillsides, hitting the water with a force strong enough to make it 'smoke' as water droplets were thrown into the air. As a result Maunie would spin around her anchor and heel over in the blasts. The good news is that we have a couple of days' respite now, with sunshine and gentle winds, so today we did a wonderful hike up through the forest to a waterfall, spotting Kingfishers (and their nests in the banks beside the path – we could hear the chicks in one) and being almost deafened by the cicadas in the trees. Tomorrow we'll have a crack at Mount Hobson, though it's a long and tough hike, we're told.
We have to enjoy the calm weather while we can as there's a deep low approaching, the remains of a named sub-tropical storm (giving it a name doesn't mean it's going to be our friend) so Monday / Tuesday will be very wet and extremely windy. We'll batten down the hatches and hope it passes quickly but they are talking about 45 knots of wind on the forecast which doesn't sound great. We think our current spot in the bay immediately south of Port Fitzroy should give us good shelter when the easterly gale hits and then it'll go round to the north before becoming westerly (when we may have to move to another bay more sheltered from that direction). Thankfully the intense low pressure system should move away fairly quickly so more benign conditions should return on Wednesday / Thursday. We'll report back on how it was!

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