Stranded on boat by La Niña phenomena at Mahurangi Harbour, NZ

– I am bored to tears here.

– And what can we do?

– We could sail back to Waiheke. But, what to do in Waiheke? We already spent a month over there, Sorin dismantles his own suggestion.


We sailed to Mahurangi Harbour from Waiheke Island on 1 January. With a short break in Kawau Island to hide from cyclone Cody, we were there almost until mid-Feb.

Beautiful Kawau Island, New Zealand

We have done all the walks around the Mahurangi river banks, we went on dinghy trips up the river to Warkworth to re-provision. We even cycled up and down hills 20km to Warkworth and back. We’ve got to know the area like the back of our hand. One local friend even joked that we should now qualify to run for the Warkworth’s mayor position.

Wondering around the Mahurangi river banks and fooling around in Warkworth

One night a freak event disturbed our zen. The strangest of things in the sailing life. Very low clouds had veiled the bay where Mehalah was the only boat at anchor. We had been in Lagoon Bay at the entrance of Mahurangi harbour for more than 2 weeks.

We’ve just finished watching a movie. When turning everything off we hear birds squeaking around Mehalah. Very unusual for the time of the evening. I grab a torch. On reaching the cockpit in pitch black the humidity was unusually thick and heavy. It felt like a huge invisible palm was pushing me right back down. I resisted. Like a deflected arrow a smallish seabird, most likely a petrel, flies straight in the light. It seemed to be struggling with something. Definitely not at ease. The squawking emerging from the pitch black continued. Not wanting to interfere with these obviously distressed birds, I swiftly made my way back down. What followed was a nightmare. 

The low clouds that veiled the bay and Mehalah’s windex (wind indicator) knocked down by one of the disoriented birds

The anchor light must have been attracting a disoriented flock of sea birds. The strong onshore winds will have blown them our way whilst they were looking for their home? A strong vibration when hitting the rigging was followed by a bang when the bird would plummet to the deck. Minutes passed. Then again. And again. All this whilst we were trying to fall asleep, worrying about how we would care for the injured birds should they make it to dawn. I was spared of the pain as Sorin returned the casualties to sea before I could see them. Poor things! It felt like we were taken prisoners by some gentle creatures that were harming themselves forcing us to ‘witness’ their ordeal.

After the Mahurangi regatta at the end of Jan we were keen to move on east to Great Barrier Island but we couldn’t.

Dazzling display of class and grace at the Mahurangi Regatta 2022

Since 2022 is deemed to be a La Niña year, the wind gods do not care about our plans. We were caught in their anger since the beginning of Feb. We are witnessing an ongoing duel between Eurus (consistent easterlies specific to a La Niña year) and Boreas (strong northerlies, remnants of tropical storms), each only slightly giving way to the other in their dizzying duel around Aotearoa. Enchained to our floating chairs, we became unwilling spectators to this play of forces. Until…the cyclone Dovi’s trajectory got locked in to exactly were we were (left picture below). We knew that we have to try and get out of its way. Fast! We sailed South East to Te Kouma Harbout inside Coromandel Peninsula, where we would be better protected.

La Niña easterlies give way to strong northerlies brought by the tropical storm Cody

Hurray! We lived to tell the story.

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