Tara mulvany


Fog, Open Crossings and Container Ships - Whangarei to Hahei

Posted by Tara Mulvany on March 4, 2014 at 10:15 PM

On a grey misty morning I paddled away from Daman and the Kiwi Logic and headed towards the entrance of the Whangarei Harbour. The fog was so thick I couldn't see further than a few hundred metres, so I aimed roughly in the direction of the southern shore, cutting right through the middle of the main boat channel. A heap of small boats whizzed past me, some dropping behind and others in front, but thankfully none on top of me.


It was a long and boring day, but the sea was calm and there was no wind. Only a thick damp mist that didn't melt away until early afternoon. I kept paddling, aiming for the faint outline of Cape Rodney in the distance. In the evening as the sun dropped lower towards the horizon, sea birds became silhouetted against a glowing sky. I thought about landing, but knew there was a lighthouse on the cape so I kept going. In the darkness I passed the pathetic blink of the lighthouse, making sure I stayed well offshore away from the breakers that I could hear but couldn't see.


Not far around the cape I made my way into a small inlet at the township of Leigh. I paddled into a surreal world; swirls of glittering fluorescent green phosphorescence spinning off my paddle blades, and the haunting calls of the morepork radiating through the darkness. I couldn't find anywhere to land so dug out my phone. With Damans help and google earth, I finally pulled up to a beach at 10pm. After a cucumber sandwich I crashed into a deep sleep. I'd been on the water for more than 14 hours and I'd only clocked around 70km. Why was I so slow? I'm not really sure.


I spent two days camped on a small strip of grass outside a mansion. The owner of the house was really friendly and didn't boot me from his property, instead showing me where I could charge my stuff and fill my water bottles. One sunny afternoon I met with Raewyn, who is doing the PR for my book later in the year. She brought with her all the things a hungry kayaker would like, olives, cheese, fruit and home baked cookies. It was a welcome chance to my marmite and crackers and cheesy pasta.


On the 25th, with the forecast looking good for the crossing to Great Barrier I set off on a calm but dark sea. As the sun began to rise I made my way towards Little Barrier Island. From my rough estimation it was just under 50km to Great Barrier, and Little Barrier was half way. Under an overcast sky I paddled aiming for the southern side of Little Barrier. Although I knew I wasn't allowed to land there, I don't think I would have attempted the crossing without it, as for a long time I couldn't see Great Barrier.


The wind steadily built, and I slogged my way across with a 15-20knot southerly wind. Waves sloshed over me and I made sure to push further south of Little Barrier incase the wind picked up anymore. It wouldn't have been ideal to be swept right past the Islands. 9 hours later I finally pulled up onto a boulder beach on Great Barrier, stoked to have pulled off the biggest open water crossing I had ever done.


I camped that night at a magical place called Smokehouse Bay. It was a rare and golden find - private land open to anyone, but only accessible from the ocean. Equipped with fire heated baths, a shower, swing, picnic tables, a huge smoker for curing fish, washing tubs and wringers and a clothesline, it's easy to understand why so many boats drifted in that evening.


The next day I was lured towards the small town of Port Fitzroy, drawn by the rumour of the worlds best burgers. It was pretty amazing, and a little bit tastier than my cheesy pasta. I spent the afternoon cruising in and out of small bays and under hanging pohutukawa. I made my way towards the top of the Island to a place called Miners Cove, where I ended up onboard the Tara Nui with Chris and Richard, drinking organic pilsners and munching on organic buffalo cheese, organic cashews, organic olives and an array of other organic treats. Then in the last of the light I climbed over the side into my kayak and paddled over towards the beach to camp. I pitched my tent in the middle of the pebbly beach and watched the pink sky fade into darkness.


I lazed around until lunchtime the following day, swimming in a creek nearby, doing some washing and even cut my hair with the tiny scissors on my pocket knife. Then I packed up and paddled away, rounding the northern most point of the Island and slipping onto the more exposed east coast. I paddled under cliffs and then through a tiny tunnel, dodging the breakers that crashed through the gap.


I paddled out to Rikatu Island and set my tent up in front of a big fat DoC "no camping" sign. Then I jumped back in my boat and paddled towards a flash boat anchored in the bay that I had seen an hour earlier and who had invited me onboard. I must have smelled pretty bad because I was hurriedly directed towards the shower, a towel in hand. We feasted on freshly caught snapper, salad and potatoes, and again I was very thankful to be eating something other than cheesy pasta. The owners of the boat were a farmers from Canterbury, and their friends had joined them for a few days of cruising and fishing. As it turned out I actually camped inside a Mai Mai on their property near the Rangitata river mouth on my trip around the South Island. Small world.


From the island I paddled for about 12 hours all the way down to the bottom of Great Barrier and around the corner into Tryphena. It was a stupid move as it took ages to find anywhere to camp, and as it was I ended up sleeping in a ditch beside the road. But I was sheltered from the south west gales that hung around for 24 hours.


On the 2nd of March I made an early getaway and headed out into the Colville Channel, aiming for the Coromandel Peninsula. The sea was calm and there was no wind and it seemed like I was alone. That is until I was halfway across and noticed a container ship heading towards me. I had seen one on the crossing from Cape Rodney, so wasn't overly concerned. I was sure it would pass well behind me.


The closer the ship got, the more I realised that it was aiming directly for me, so I slowed down, convinced that it would slip in front of me. For a while I could see more of the side of the ship so I knew I was sweet. Then it turned for me again. Time to get out my radio. I tried three times to call the ship on channel 16 but no luck. So I did what I do best and paddled as fast as I could forwards. The ship passed behind me, a little too close for comfort, but it was all good. I hit land after a three hour crossing and for the rest of the day paddled steadily south.


Right on dark I pulled up onto a tiny beach to camp, only 10km from Hahei. I set up my tent under a giant pohutukawa tree and drifted off to sleep with the lapping of the waves on the sand, only metres away.


The next morning I cut across the bay, aiming for two rocks about 3km out called the Twins. And that's where I met Ginney, who had paddled out to find me. It was awesome to be in familiar company again and we talked non stop until arriving at Cathedral Cove, where we feasted on cheese and crackers on the sandy beach. Tyrell pulled up a while later with his group of punters, and we scored a hot chocolate complete with chocolate sprinkles on top.


I've spent a few days chilling in Hahei, catching up with fiends and preparing for the run south. Tomorrow is the day that il hit the water again, but this time I will have company for two days. Ginney is going to join me, so hopefully she doesn't leave me behind.. that would be embarrassing! So on Saturday I should hit Mt Maunganui!

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1 Comment

Reply A. D.
7:20 PM on March 5, 2014 
Have a great time with Jess! She is really hoping you don't arrive when she's working as it might be the last time you see her in a while :(