Sailing in the Bay of Islands

March 12, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Otaio Bay, Urapukapuka IslandOtaio Bay, Urapukapuka Island The Bay of Islands is on the northern tip of New Zealand and offers a great variety of islands (obviously) and bays to explore in a relatively small area. The Bay of Islands opens onto the Pacific Ocean and has abundant sea and land life. It's the site of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the Maoris and British in the early 1840. Many yachts call in here after they've crossed the Pacific Ocean. I have always been curious to sail here so we chartered a yacht for a week in late February 2014.

Our charter yacht was called "Boheme", a 40-foot Beneteau. We picked it up from Opua, spent a couple of hours loading it with provisions and headed out to explore the Bay of Islands. We were greeted by a large pod of dolphins as soon as we entered the bay. There was time to cruise past a few of the islands before we headed for our first anchorage at Opunga Cove, next to the ominously-named Assassination Cove. A group of about 20 ducks quickly came to visit us and were disappointed by our lack of food scraps so they continued to the other boats anchored in the bay.

Piercy Island & The Dog, Cape BrettPiercy Island & The Dog, Cape BrettThe fog cleared for an amazing view The forecast was for strengthening easterly winds and we managed to visit some more islands and saw more dolphins on the way around to Omakiwi Bay. The bay was surrounded by tall trees right down to the sea shore. Gale force winds for the next couple of days meant we stayed in Omakiwi Bay which allowed us catch up on reading, cooking and eating. We could only venture ashore in the dinghy. The lush rainforest had some very large treeferns thick undergrowth. 

Finally the weather lifted enough for us to venture back into the bay and we had a soggy sail back around to Opunga Cove. We could hear owls calling across the bay overnight. We sailed out past Motorua Island and round Motukiekie Island before we anchored in Otaio Bay on Urupukapuka Island. All these Maori names took some getting used to!

Urupukapuka Island is a large nature reserve with plenty of wildlife. We rowed the dinghy ashore and climbed up a nearby peak. It was still quite misty but we managed to see the surrounding islands. As the weather continued to improve, we motored out through Albert Channel. Some penguins greeted us as we continued to Cape Brett. The clearing mist offered spectacular views of Cape Brett and the natural archway through Piercy Island. The sea life was even more abundant here. A giant "bait ball" of fish surfaced near our yacht, probably stirred up by either sharks, tuna or some other large fish. Dozens of birds attempted to catch all the fish in the bait ball. We decided to stay clear of the bait ball in case there were whales nearby which could have easily tossed our yacht around. Roberton IslandRoberton IslandThe bay on the right is where Captain Cook brought the Endeavour on the way to Australia in 1769

We sailed around to Roberton Island, dropped anchor and rowed ashore. We passed lots of people snorkelling in a lagoon as we climbed up to a lookout. This lookout is the hill which Captain Cook climbed to survey the first landfall after sailing the Endeavour across the Pacific in 1770. The sunny weather allowed us to see right up to Cape Wiwiki and across the Bay of Islands. It was a short trip across to Hurangi Inlet where we anchored overnight. My attempts at fishing continued to fail as the fish happily ate any scraps we sent overboard but the smart fish refused to eat anything attached to a hook.

The next day offered terrific sailing conditions. We managed to sail a single tack 10 miles across the bay to Motoroa Island. After a quick lunch stop, we sailed back across the shipping channel and were greeted by another large pod of dolphins. This was the most spectacular dolphin display of the trip. They were jumping in front of several tourist boats and a few swam alongside our boat. We were very lucky! Our sail continued back to Parorenui Bay. We enjoyed a sunny evening overlooking Te Rawhiti Inlet. The sky remained clear overnight and we had an amazing view of the stars since there was minimal light pollution. We could see the Milky Way, plenty of constellations and a few shooting stars. The rarely seen Magellanic Clouds were also visible.

Our last day offered more sunny weather so we continued our cruise of the Bay of Islands and anchored for lunch in Motohawea Bay. The winds died out which was handy for cleaning the boat as we motored back into Opua to return our charter yacht.

It was a very enjoyable week in the Bay of Islands. I've uploaded plenty of photos in the photo gallery.




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