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Coda et Finis

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Opua Marina, New Zealand

35 degrees 18.97 S
174 degrees 07.26 E

Welcome to Opua

Photos Opua & Paihia

The promised “a few days” have turned into two weeks and this blogger is only slightly repentant as it’s been such bliss finally being on land again, and this time for longer than a few weeks and with no more extended ocean passages to look forward to!

In fact, as far as passages go, the 1,250 nautical miles from Neiafu to Opua (as the crow flies – the real distance was greater) were relatively benign. We left Neiafu in the rain and for three days it was pretty cold and miserable sailing though we moved along well enough. Then the sun came out again and for a week we zipped along except for a few short periods of light wind, when we kept our speed up by motoring. We bypassed Minerva Reef on the principle of getting as far as possible while the going was good. It was as well we did so, because during the last three days we had to beat into the wind under full throttle to get into Opua. That was a major bore and very, very tiring. We were in good company though, because everyone who entered during that period looked as dishevelled and tired as we did.

Yes, there were the usual hassles, but nothing like the dramas that unfolded around us and which we followed on the radio: one man was in a boat that had a cracked boom, another had hydraulics that had failed, and another was dealing with a toilet that spouted gouts of filth every time someone tried to flush it. Because there were so many boats making the passage at the same time we kept a closer watch than usual and were able to see mast lights at night several times. Before, we’d always been completely alone on the high seas.

We only had minor problems. The small generator that charges the electrics and powers the water maker blew a hose two days into the trip, and since there was no way either of us would have been able to worm our way into the bowels of the stern to diagnose/repair the problem while the boat was heaving up and down, we made do with the water already in the tanks, which was a pain but not a real hardship. The main sail gave us trouble – again – the first time we tried to reef it and when we finally furled the damned thing on entering Opua harbour we both gave a heartfelt sigh of relief. The refrigerator finally gave up the ghost for good after returning from its moribund state more often that a diva in the last act of an opera. During one period when we heeled over so far that the gunwales were under water, the leaks in the deck became evident when sea water began sloshing around inside the aft head and under the chart table. And of course there was the obligatory change of all fuel filters mid-passage when the red dust began to choke the engine. I’ve learned, by now, to strip off to my knickers when helping change these. Skin is easier to clean, and with less water, than clothing!

We entered Opua harbour just as it was getting dark and by the time we had negotiated the channel lights night had fallen. Coming into a port after nightfall is no fun, especially when moored boats alongside the channel don’t bother turning on their mooring lights. We had some trouble finding the Quarantine dock, where we were supposed to tie up for the night, until friends from a boat that had arrived the day before, and who were taking an evening walk, recognised us and shouted directions.

Quarantine Dock, Opua, NZ

The next morning Customs, Immigration and Bio-Security officials came on board and another official inspected the bottom of the hull for invertebrate hitch-hikers with an underwater camera. It was all very friendly and when the Bio-Security woman told us that we would be permitted to sail anywhere in New Zealand if she were allowed to remove all our rubbish and confiscate our lentils, random seeds, honey and any elderly fresh fruit or vegetables we happened to have on board, I had to laugh.

As other cruisers from Tonga came in we heard various stories about people we’ve met during the last months. The wild-bearded French Canadian with the leaky wooden boat I mentioned in a previous entry – we met him in Nuku Hiva – sank two days out of Rarotonga. He and his dog ended up spending two days in his almost equally leaky inflatable dinghy and if he hadn’t had an EPIRB, and hadn’t been within New Zealand controlled waters, he would probably be dead. A cautionary tale…

Since arriving, both of us have been relaxing. A few long walks along the shoreline to the neighbouring town of Paihia have given atrophied leg muscles and eyes starved of greenery a workout. Even The Captain came along! The landscape is reminiscent of the U.S. Both the San Juan Islands near Seattle and the Maine coast have this attractive mixture of protected bays and coves and small, rocky islands on which are nestled wooden houses, often clap-board, painted white or left a natural, weathered grey.

The vegetation is an interesting combination of the familiar and the exotic. Hedgerow and garden flowers and trees that one sees in England: broom, Queen Anne’s lace, roses, calla lilies, oaks and yew, plus those one sees in the south of France: mimosa, wild fennel, and pines, mingle with giant tree ferns, grey mangrove swamps, clumps of orchids in the branches of vast Pohutukawa trees and huge versions of familiar plants like sage and impatiens 5 feet high.

The Pohutukawa trees, especially, are very beautiful. When mature they are the size of very large oaks and right now they’re covered with velvety grey buds which are beginning to flower. Within a few weeks they’ll be covered in blossoms like scarlet power powder puffs and must be a sight to behold.

I’ve also slaked my craving for large hamburgers and am no longer moulting like an elderly parrot. Hair loss seems to be a relatively common stress-related problem for women who undertake long passages, and although I was assured that it’s a temporary phenomenon by the kind hairdresser to whom I wailed about it while getting the first haircut since leaving San Francisco, it was a relief when it stopped falling out a week after we arrived. The Captain has been accepting bids to get the teak decking replaced and for having a new main sail made. The rest of the work – a long list, all making good things which should have been done properly in the U.S. – will be done in Whangarei, about 100 miles south of Opua.

We leave for there very early tomorrow morning, as it’s a 24 hour trip and we need to arrive by about noon so the rising tide will carry us up the river and into the harbour. Once there we’ll find a motel, then rent a car, and then find an apartment to rent for a few months. Then we’ll empty out the boat completely so the workmen will have a clear field in which to do their jobs after it has been hauled out of the water.

And that’s it, really. This will be the last entry in this blog for now, as the minutia of day-to-day life, even in New Zealand, aren’t exciting enough to write about! Thank you all for your encouraging, funny, helpful and always welcome comments.

Love to all from us both,




Written by mnestis

November 28, 2009 at 1:22 AM

Posted in New Zealand

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We arrived in Opua, New Zealand last night (15th November) at 9pm. We left Neiafu early, on the 2nd November at 4pm, so the journey took almost exactly 13 days. The passage was…interesting, especially the last bit during which we headed into the wind for 3 days. More in a day or two.

Love to all,




Written by mnestis

November 16, 2009 at 1:14 AM

Posted in New Zealand