Reaching Aotea Great Barrier Island, ‘the Mecca’ for sailing New Zealand

It is March already. We only have April before the end of the cyclone season and we know nothing about the visa for Australia.

– It can change any minute, I reply.

And if it doesn’t?

– We sail to Fiji and then we’ll see.

We were having this chat first thing in the morning on our last day in Great Barrier Island. We had picked up some light southerlies just after cyclone Dovi and we had finally reached ‘the Mecca’ of sailing New Zealand. We spent three amazing weeks on the calm waters of ‘this natural fortress’ amidst the tumultuous Pacific, 50 nautical miles from Auckland.

The hidden ‘taongas’ of Great Barrier Island, the Mecca of sailing New Zealand

We enjoyed every minute of it. We spent time with old friends and made new ones. We caught and smoked fish. We baked pizzas and we learned to use the chop sticks ‘a la Japonaise’. We kayaked on the flat waters and sailed from bay to bay at ease. We stretched our legs on numerous walks ending on a hill or mountain top. We ‘climbed’ Kauri trees. We roamed the island by car, discovering unique ‘Taongas’ (treasures in the Māori language). We felt very fortunate. We would have probably stayed longer shouldn’t we have had to return to Whangarei on Hatea River to order a replacement pair of glasses for Sorin. 

Memorable moments in Great Barrier Island New Zealand

Sailing towards Hatea river we tried to stop on both Mokohinau and Hen and Chicken islands, but the strong La Niña easterlies coupled with the islands’ topography made our endeavour futile. We checked them out without dropping the hook. It was not our comfort onboard we were worried about, but our safety. When seeing Mehalah’s grimace at the incessant Pacific waves hurling and slamming against the wild rock formations boldly sticking out of the ocean bed, we understood that’s a no-no. We carried on our merry way, sailing to Hatea river.

Leaving Great Barrier Island behind, we reach Hatea River at dusk after a failed attempt to stop In Mokohinau Islands

We love New Zealand but we are determined to end the ‘exile’, despite our host country being most hospitable. The Australian borders are now open to fully vaccinated arrivals, including seafarers! We had applied for a 1 year visitor visa last May. We are yet to hear back. Meanwhile, we are gearing up to sail away at the end of the cyclone season (May/June), to Fiji and then Australia via Vanuatu and New Caledonia if open to sailors. 

At micro level, we feel grateful for the current state of affairs. Not so much at macro level, but our blog is apolitical, so no place for winging. In any case, every day we ought to remind ourselves not to worry about things that are outside of our control. We are most grateful for being away from it all!

La Niña phenomenon started to gradually weaken. Once we ordered Sorin’s replacement glasses in Whangarei, ran our usual errands, pampered our Oyster yacht and enjoyed a few days of marina life after more than 3 month off the grid living, we sailed north towards Opua in Bay of Islands, our ‘exile’ exit point.

A well deserved break for Mehalah, time for grooming and catching up with fellow sailors

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