|Sockdolager leaving Port Fitzroy - taken by the good folks on Legacy
Great Mercury Island, at 5000 acres, is privately owned by two of the richest men in New Zealand, Michael Fay and David Richwhite. They allow visitors to explore the island (except for their private compounds,) and also let folks use their moorings, which we took advantage of.
|The bay at Great Mercury. Sockdolager second from the right. Michael Fay's house top left.
We were alerted to the availability of a mooring by a couple whom we got to know over the next several days - Jim and Gail Morgan, aboard a nice wooden motor yacht called "Big Spree". Jim was a crayfisherman in the area starting in the 1970's and is now retired. They also owned a sailboat for a several year and used it to go back and forth to Tonga and Fiji. Their stories about learning to sail had us falling out of our seats.
They like to fish for (and eat) scallops now, and they took us out one day to show us how it's done. Basically you dive down and pick them up off the sandy bottom. They have a "hookah rig" - a compressor with a long hose. After 20 minutes of diving Jim came up with 73 scallops. Yum.
|Jim Morgan with his bag of fresh caught scallops
We had a big rain one night so I took the opportunity presented by a dinghy full of fresh water to take a bath.
|Fresh water bath!
After several days we were invited ashore to have tea with Michael Fay. Jim and Gail used to work for him and had been telling him about our adventure, so he told them he wanted to meet us. On Easter Sunday we got a tour of the compound and visited with Michael at his house. He was the man who backed New Zealand's first America's Cup campaign in 1987 and was quite a charming host.
Too soon it was time to move on again. We went around to what turned out to be one the most beautiful little bays on our whole trip. I went snorkeling, probably for the last time. And using my newly learned technique - caught more fish!
|Last snorkel for a while (sting rays lurking below)
Part of our goal was to arrive in Tauranga with an empty fuel tank (so no fuel would be onboard while on the container ship). But with no wind, it didn't look like we'd be able to make it without a fuel pit stop. The little port of Whangamata, on the east side of the Coromandel Peninsula, was right on our way so that's where we headed. Getting in there requires crossing a sand bar, which means it's really shallow. You only go in when the tide is high and the swell is low. We just made it, arriving at half-tide with just a hundred feet of water free of surf, and with a four knot current against us. Karen got us in just fine, but it was a bit nerve-racking. Later we took a walk to the beach and saw people surfing in the exact spot we'd sailed in several hours before.
|Whangamata bar entrance
The next day we motored to Tauranga, where we had another tricky entrance. Not a bar this time, but another strong current exiting a big bay caused big seas. More nervous energy expended. We anchored for the night near the marina entrance in a continuing strong current, and the next morning were escorted by the marina's launch to our slip at slack tide.
|Sculpture welcoming us to Tauranga harbor
Thus end's Sockdolager's sailing in New Zealand. Distance traveled since leaving home: ~9950 nautical miles.
A bright spot amongst the mixed feelings about the end of our sailing in foreign waters was meeting up with Nick and Alex Kleeman from the boat "Saltbreaker". These are a couple of brothers from San Francisco who took off around the same time we did, and have been having a lot of adventures in a way I think you must be young to have. We'd last seen them in the Tuamotus. Their mother was visiting and they'd just hauled their boat to do a bunch of work on it before deciding what to do next. We had them over for dinner (to eat up the stock of fish left over from my last bout of fishing) and to play music and tell stories.
|Playing music with Nick, Alex, and Mom from Saltbreaker
|Karen rocking the house
After a week or so in Tauranga figuring out what to do with our last free month before having to haul Sockdolager and get her ready to ship, we took the bus to Auckland to pick a rental car to start a month of exploring on land.
|Sockdolager at her last anchorage in New Zealand
To be continued…