Most cruisers in the Pacific head to Australia or New Zealand between November and May to wait out cyclone season, which is how we’ve found ourselves in New Zealand for several summer months. Due to the unexpected need to replace both rudders, we’ve been hesitant to head offshore very far or sail in rough conditions, while awaiting the new ones—which should be ready by mid-April.
Instead, we’ve spent most of our time in the Hauraki Gulf, which thankfully has lots of beautiful places to explore—just not a lot of sailing in between. One of the few exceptions has been getting back and forth to Great Barrier Island, where we spent an idyllic week anchoring in stunning bays and exploring the remote wildness of the island.
Only about 50 nautical miles from Auckland, it’s a world away. No electricity, no running water, no plumbing, and intermittent cell service—it’s almost completely off the grid. The vistas are spectacular, with mountains rising up to 2,000 feet above the water. We hiked as many trails as our kids would tolerate, visited a nature reserve with a bridge to the top of a 600-year-old tree, soaked in natural hot pools, and played on beaches. We also spent a couple nights teaching our kids to play pool and darts at The Boat Club, a local pub with the nicest manager, Phil. That’s boat school, right? His wife, Kay, made the most unbelievable food, including her own version of poutine, which she added after some Canadians yachties had suggested it.
The cherry on top of that great week: we sailed back to Auckland in flat water with 15-20 knot winds on the beam or just aft of the beam, cruising along at 8-10 knots! Oh! And we saw orcas as we headed out. It was just the tiniest bit magical. Only about six more weeks in New Zealand, and we’ll be heading north to New Caledonia and then onto Australia.