After leaving the Bay of Islands we made our way slowly southwards towards Whangarei. There are some wonderful anchorages on the way to take advantage of, our first stop was Deep Water Cove close to Cape Brett at the entrance to the Bay of Islands. This is a small cove in a much larger bay that gets affected by the ocean swell, so most boats try and tuck themselves in as far as they can. And there were plenty trying to do just that.
The cove has access to a trail that leads to the lighthouse at Cape Brett, it was a 2.5 hr strenuous hike each way with many steep hills to climb. The views were amazing but we were pretty worn out when we finally got back to Joy.
Next stop was the protected harbour at Whangamumu, just a few miles south of Cape Brett.
Whangamumu is a large round bay with a narrow entrance, surrounded by beautiful countryside. There are no dwellings here and no road access, just a walking trail. This is where the last shore-based whaling station used to be, it’s hard to believe that this stunning and peaceful place has such a bloody history. Whaling in this harbour started in 1893 by the Cook brothers, when 10 whales was an average seasons catch using wooden row boats to hunt and drive them into the bay where a large net in the narrow entrance trapped them. Whangamumu was apparently the only place in the world that caught whales in nets. In 1910 the station transformed into a processing factory and the purchase of a steam powered boat, the Hananui, substantially increased the catch to 50 a season with its harpoon. Their largest recorded catch was 74 in the season of 1925. A few remains of the old whaling station still exist on the site, a sad reminder of days gone by.
After a few more pleasant day sails and protected anchorages we decided that our last week of exploring before hauling Joy should be spent at Great Barrier Island, about 45 nautical miles offshore. We arrived late in the day and had Nagle Cove all to ourselves with a beautiful sunset.
Great Barrier Island is the 6th largest island of New Zealand, an area about 285 square km, with only 900 residents and no mains electricity or water. Solar panels provide most of the islanders electricity and water is collected from the springs. With no night time light pollution the milky way and stars shine brightly overhead on a cloudless night.
We fancied hiking to the view point at Maungapiti, so nudged our way into the anchorage at Kiwiriki Bay which is close to the trail. As we circled to check out the depths I saw a large fish in the water, as it came under our bow and close to the surface I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a small hammerhead shark about 3 feet long, he came back and forth towards Joy several times as we found our spot to anchor, so I had a great aerial view of him. No wonder there wasn’t anyone swimming in the bay.
The Department of Conservation manage around 60% of the island, so there are many trails to follow, the Kiwiriki trail to Maungapiti look out was classified as ‘advanced’. We tackled it anyway, yes…even with my knees!
The last part of the trail to the lookout involved some rock climbing, with no aids other than a useful sign warning of serious injury or death if you fall. I needed quite a dose of encouragement to get to the top. I was pleased I had, as a nice wooden bench awaited us at the peak for a lunch stop with fabulous views across the island.
We visited several pretty anchorages within Port Fitzroy, from the ports small dock we had access to more trails through the beautiful countryside.
We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Great Barrier Island, it has been one of the highlights of our visit so far, and with our newly acquired ‘advanced hiker’ status it was time to get back down to earth and head back to the mainland and prepare for Joy’s land-time.
With a good south west wind blowing we had a great sail to Whangarei, on the way a humpback whale surfaced a metre away from the boat and then glided past on her back looking up at us. She surfaced again at the bow and went underneath as we sailed on, then she turned around and came back for another inspection of Joy, slapping her tail on our metal hull before disappearing into the distance. Another privileged moment to lock away in the overflowing memory treasure chest.