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Sailing the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand

Picton Castle sailed from Prince’s Wharf in downtown Auckland on a sunny morning after the recent gathering of beautiful Tall Ships we had joined. Now we were going to sail the famous Hauraki Gulf. It had been a long time since we had sailed among islands close together, sailing in the daytime and anchoring at night.

We had been going deep-sea for some time. We had seen plenty of blue water in the last few months and now we were in some of the most beautiful cruising areas of the world and we were keen to find out more for ourselves. Once off the dock at Auckland the gang got sail on the ship and she started to pick up speed. A goodly number of local yachts joined us spontaneously and sailed along with us we sailed east through the islands at the entrance to Auckland Harbour or, as it is called, Watemata Harbour.

It really is quite beautiful sailing around here. One can only imagine what the first explorers coming from Tahiti, Raiatea and Rarotonga, sailing their big double hulled Vakas back about 900 or 1,000 years ago must have felt. The story is told that after discovery by bold explorers, New Zealand or ‘Land of the Long Cloud’ or Aotearoa was settled by a large armada of Vakas that drew together from many islands in and around Tahiti and Raiatea, at Muri lagoon Rarotonga, Cook Islands and set out from there together to make for what we now call New Zealand. This is a voyage of about 1600 miles. These were and remain some islands to behold coming in from sea. Lush, high majestic mountains with broad forested and grassy areas. Endless excellent bays and coves for boats and fishing. For folks looking to settle a new land, this must have been very attractive indeed, magical perhaps.

We sailed along in among these dramatic islands of volcanic cone of Rangitoto, Motutapu, Motuihi in the freshening afternoon SW breezes and sunny skies and the smooth seas of the protected Hauraki Gulf. You often find an island called Motutapu at the mouth of a significant harbour in Polynesia. Motutapu Island; a bit redundant as ‘motu’ means small island by itself. “Tapu” or Taboo, of course, translates roughly to ‘sacred’, not really ‘forbidden’ per se, but certainly something that demands respect.

We were sailing along fine and all hands were getting some practice steering in amongst close islands. This is quite a bit different than steering offshore and deep sea. And it’s all good. Soon enough we sailed around the north end of Waikeke Island and found an anchorage in Man O’War Bay along with the lovely Barkentine Spirit of New Zealand whose captain had advised us of this fine anchorage. The ‘wai’ or vai elsewhere, in Waikeke means water, so there must be something to do with water here, perhaps a good spring. We came to anchor, furled sails and settled in for the night. A stunning beautiful anchorage with little pebbled beaches and green woods and fields working their way up from the shore to rolling hills, one could be in Ireland, or Nova Scotia or right here in the Hauraki Gulf.

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