Holed Up In Tutukaka

Finally Aluna’s umbilical cord, the mooring line off Okiato Point she has been tied to for twenty months, has been cut and gosh, did we forget how tough sailing can be! It is not said for nothing that when sailing you should never have to be at a certain place at a certain time. Contrary to this popular wisdom we do have a date for hauling the boat on February 24 at the Norsand Boat Yard in Whangarei. This does sounds like an easy forty some nautical miles trip down the coast from the Bay of Islands and I thought that by allowing for a leisurely nine days it would allow a generous amount of time for the wayward games the weather plays with us roaming humans and our ever so practical intentions.

It turns out that Easterlies and Nor’easterlies have been ploughing into the Northland coastline for the last couple days, which are great to sail down the coast, but they are right on the nose for leaving the vast waters of the bay with its many island. Looking further into the eyes of computer models towards the calculated future it only started looking worse with winds turning southerly towards the end of the week. So we decided to give it a go, throwing some nasty petrol into the mix to motor sail us out of the Bay. This does allow for great tacking angles of 95 degrees but boy, does it need some nerves. Apart from hordes of squeezed dinosaurs haunting your conscious, and your carbon footprint swelling to criminal proportions, you just never know when those clunkers conk out. And then there is the noise. But anyway, comfort seems to always have the bigger end of the stick, and after seven and a half hours of that we do find ourselves anchored in lovely Deep Water Cove on Monday night, a bare three miles from Cape Brett and its infamous hole in the rock. And we are ready to tack ourselves towards it the next morning in freshening Nor’easterlies.

Thus we did, again with some help from the petrol gods of civilization. Funny enough the motor called it quits just as we rounded the cape’s ragged rocks and where ready to sail on in relative silence. It occurred to me that the connectors I had installed to bring the shut off switch, oil pressure light and charging wires into the cockpit must be getting shortened out when the motor bay is swamped by some splashing wave. This has been duly noted on the long list of things to fix on board Aluna.

So now we are sailing, the dream of many an armchair denizen, in a choppy sea with this peculiar sensation bubbling up from the stomach, which makes you swear every time you’re out there, you won’t do it ever again. At the same time there are the majestic seabirds around you calling upon you to enjoy your miserable existence to the max. There is the meandering coastline slowly shifting, the ridges of its ranges forming an endless counterpoint of baroque musicality. It is such a different experience to the normality of the land and the fist churning up your entrails catapults you into the acidity of the present time as the one and only reality worth living.

The going is slow. My efforts to clean the immense fouling on Aluna’s twin hulls had been mediocre at best. The aluminum scraper epoxied on a broomstick made the banging tiresome on my wrists and Beatriz reported that inside the hulls my laboring sounded like I was chipping off parts of the plywood hull. It would have been probably better to follow Christian’s joking advise to use a shovel for the purpose. The fact is, there must be still a good amount of not very streamlined contours down there, and with the small mainsail up Aluna bobbs along at three and a half knots, just enough to bring us to the towering sentinels guarding the entrance to Tutukaka Harbour by seven in the evening. I remembered having spent a night in there on our very first sail down this coast a good five years ago. The two meter swell crashing in from the Northeast makes the entrance into the harbor quite adventuresome. Half of its mouth is blocked by foaming rocks. But Aluna weaves her way through with bravery and elegance.

It is not until we have made a 180 degree turn and dropped the hook that we realize how windy it actually is. The idea was to sleep through the night and leave at first light in the morning to finish the last sixteen miles down to Bream Head, the rocky headland off the entrance to Whangarei Harbor. This innocent intention is shattered quickly after consulting the weather forecast. Gale Warning for Cape Brett! An approaching front from the Tasman sea will become slow moving over the North Island on Wednesday, and other inspiring stories can be read on the tiny but astonishingly smart screens of our mobile phones.

After a rocky and noisy night we are now bobbing up and down on short steep chop, waiting out Wednesday and most probably Thursday as well, while Aluna’s anchor bridle creaks periodically and reassuringly, soothing us into believing that anchoring can be safe and that this little metal contraption buried in the sand will keep our floating home from crashing into the black rocks behind us, once the winds will increase to their promised 35 knots late tonight.

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We are catching up on sleep, curing our sunburned faces with the cooling aloe vera jelly and slapping coconut oil on our cracked lips. Departure seems unlikely before Friday and once the rain will set it during the night Aluna’s cozy hulls will be a heavenly cocoon bracing us from a tiny bit of the fearless fury of nature’s wrath that is now upon us.

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