New Zealand Cruising

We purchased Ocean Gem while living in New Zealand temporarily for seven months, before returning to our home in Australia in July 2011. My dream of sailing Ocean Gem across the Tasman in late 2011, took a further two years of planning, training and funding to become a reality.

With Ocean Gem berthed at Gulf Harbour, we had the perfect excuse to escape the Gold Coast in Queensland and head to New Zealand for sailing weekends and holidays throughout 2011-2013. The big highlights were our ability to spend 10 weeks during two summers cruising and exploring to the top half of New Zealand’s North Island.

Our first summer took us from Gulf Harbour, Whangaparaoa to Coromandel, Great Mercury Island, Slipper Island, and Tauranga before heading to Great Barrier Island, Tutukaka, the Bay of Islands, Whangarei, Kawau Island, Tiritiri Island and home.

Anchored at Te Kouma Harbour, Coromandel

My wife and three daughters went from first time sailors to capable crew members who could confidently help manage sailing, anchoring, berthing and a multitude of other nautical tasks.

As a family we enjoyed days of exploring new islands, bays and harbours, reading, swimming and in the evenings, playing cards and drinking hot chocolate.

This was my baptism of fire with repairs and maintenance. I had problems with an anchor windlass that would stop when the anchor was part way up or down. Its amazing how exposed you feel 50 miles offshore at an island, when you can’t anchor a ten ton yacht.

Exploring Great Mercury Island

We also had an alternator that blew a fuse and stopped charging all the house batteries, a bilge pump failure just as one of our three water tanks leaked 260 litres into the bilge and a chart plotter that randomly blacked out a couple times for up to five hours. We had shower pump blockages, water pumps with air in the pipes and lots of strange noises in the night to get used to.

We also managed to run aground on an un-marked seaweed covered reef as we left an anchorage at Great Mercury Island and after five minutes of terrifying my family, managed to reverse off with no damage done.

Sunset in Parapara Bay, Great Mercury Island

The mechanical challenges (despite the frustration caused), taught me about the importance of knowing every part of the yacht, having all the tools needed on board along with plenty of spare parts and fuses for every scenario. Summer 2012/13 we spent eight weeks on holiday in New Zealand during December and January. We flew into Queenstown from Brisbane and then made our way by rental car to Auckland in time for Christmas with friends.

This summer of sailing was to be different to the last, as all three daughters had the chance to take turns bringing friends along for part of the 5 week trip. We had a mixture of friends, boyfriends and friends parents spend time with us and did some great cruising to Rangitoto, Waiheke Island, Devonport, Coromandel, Kawau Island, Mahurangi Harbour, Omaha Cove, Marsden Cove and our favourite from the year prior; Tutukaka, where the marina cafe makes amazing pizzas and banoffee pie. By far the best time we spent this summer was at Waiheke Island where you have the option to anchor on any side of the island, depending on the weather forecast.

Roberton Island, Bay of Islands where the snorkelling in three large rock pools is amazing

Waiheke Island has a population of 8,000 that swells to 30,000 over summer. The cafes, wineries and restaurants give you many civilised choices for eating and enjoying great coffee and its a magic combination when you can return to the sea at the end of a fantastic day ashore.

Our first 2011/12 summer adventure on Ocean Gem was over too fast and we could have carried on cruising for many weeks more if school and work were not beckoning. A second fantastic summer on Ocean Gem made it even harder to tie her up at the marina berth in Gulf Harbour and head back to Australia.

I told myself, next summer will be in Australia and I was determined to sail her across the Tasman in 2013 and relocate her to the Gold Coast in Queensland where I live and operate my business.

A 75 foot high archway at the Poor Knights Islands.

Anchored at a bay in Te Kouma Harbour, Coromandel. The water was crystal clear and very fresh.

One of my favourite places in New Zealand, Oneroa Bay, Waiheke Island

This content is from my iBook – Sailing The Tasman Sea by David Hows, available in the iTunes store for $5.99.  It includes; 206 Pages, 46,055 words, 232 photos and 11 videos.