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February - March 2006
The following account is provided by Wolfgang and Christeen Tolle who were our guests in February/March 2006.
In February of 2006, Christeen and I embarked on our first visit to Shear Madness in New Zealand. We had previously visited her in Australia, in the Whitsunday Islands and in the Cairns/Port Douglas area. After a long trip from Washington, DC through Los Angeles and Sydney, we finally arrived in Auckland. We loaded up our duffel bags, grabbed a taxi van, and followed Bradley’s specific instructions to meet him and SM at a specific slip in Westhaven Marina. Thank goodness his instructions were so precise! Little did we know how big Westhaven Marina is. After having successfully navigated that maze of ships, it was a great feeling to step on board. Things really started to look very familiar and it felt a bit like coming home.
Despite the long journey from the U.S. we decided to go out for dinner in Auckland that evening but then crashed on our first night on SM. The next day Kathy arrived, also from Washington, DC. In fact, she had taken the exact same route we did, just a day later. We did a lot of grocery shopping with Bradley to provision the boat for our sail, and then picked up Kathy at the airport. The next 2 weeks we sailed around the Hauraki Gulf region and visited islands such as Kawau Island, Waiheke Island, the private Mercury Island, the Coromandel Peninsula, and Great Barrier Island, almost always anchoring in some secluded bay. Several things struck us in comparison to the times we spent on the boat in Australia. Among these are that both the weather and the water were much colder. We were told that we were unlucky with the New Zealand summer in that it was unusually cold. We had some great warm days, but also evenings and morning where a fleece jacket was necessary and sitting outside wasn’t very comfortable. The water also was much cooler and without a wet suit it was a bit daunting to get into the water. On one occasion Kathy and Christeen swam from shore to the boat after a hike but only after 30 or so minutes of discussion about how cold the swim would be!
We also noticed how hilly New Zealand is. Every time you go ashore in New Zealand, the first thing you seem to have to do is to climb straight uphill! One better like hiking in New Zealand because it is certainly more challenging than a casual stroll. Sailing is also more challenging. The Great Barrier Reef provides a natural barrier to the waves; in New Zealand the Pacific is coming straight at you and the weather can also change rather quickly. But the time was exciting and flew by way too quickly as it always seems to do. We also had some interesting adventures.
On Great Barrier Island, we finally found a mile long beach (no climbing!) and it was there that we crossed an estuary that fed into and is fed by the ocean, depending on the tide. Kathy and Bradley found some great clams and decide to go back to the boat before I (Wolfgang) ventured on. But when I returned to the estuary, the tide had come in and I couldn’t cross it anymore to get back to the boat! It was 6 p.m. and night was fast approaching, which meant no one would be able to see me at the beach where I would need to be picked up by dinghy. The only way back to the beach was a 15-mile trek around the estuary. It was either that or sleep overnight on shore. Luckily, I found a very nice local Maori (only 1,500 people live on the island) who drove me around the estuary and I made it back to SM before it got dark! Phew!
We didn’t do well with fishing this time, although I caught a small Hammerhead shark which we, of course, released. But, it was scallop season and we did get some delicious scallops. I also got to be crew (actually more like weight!) on a BMW-sponsored race boat one afternoon. We had perfect sailing weather and it was great fun, especially to see the competent crew at work. And the last evening before the departure home several friends with boats met in a bay. We anchored together, prepared some salads, fresh fish and meat, loaded up the gas grills and went ashore. We had a wonderful evening on the beach with great friendship, great food and stars twinkling overhead. What a great conclusion to a great return visit – it couldn’t have been any better. Christeen and I hope to be back soon for another adventure, most likely when SM sails to some of the South Pacific Islands.
Wolfgang & Christeen Tolle