On the horizon, I could vaguely make out Rangitoto Island and on the east, Waihike Island. I had a good grip on the tiller and steered the yacht through the swells and unpredictable wind directions as it fluctuated rapidly. The boat leaned dramatically with about a meter on the port side, where I was seated and just half a meter on the starboard side. I thoroughly enjoyed it. There was not time to consider ‘fear of water’. The cool day, the craft cutting across the blue sea and the challenge to keep to the desired direction, all gave me a real high. Exhilaration and adventure. The swells ebbed and flowed as we passed the Noises, a small cluster of islands in the Hauraki Gulf. Darkness came quickly assisted by the dark storm clouds. Temperatures dropped. Finally, we arrived at a familiar place. We sailed towards Rakino Island. On the west coast of North Island, I could make out Kawau Island. The storm raced on either side. Walls of rain stretched endlessly.
I noticed an obstacle. A tug boat was towing a large barge with a very long tow ropes. Our crafts were destined to cross. John quipped, “It’s a long way to go round the barge”. I held the tiller and continued on my course, 188 degrees south. What is the rule of thumb, I asked John. Apparently, the boat with sails has the right of way. With about 300m – 400m, the tug boat changed course starboard side and that allowed us to plough through unhindered. Later John mentions that if a boat had its engines on, the tug boat had the right of way. We had both the sail and engine on?
Finally, we approached Browns Island, just off Musick Point. It was now 8pm. It had taken us about six hours to reach the mouth of Tamaki River Estuary, the entrance into the harbour. John reckoned it is a quick time. I was surprised that there were quite a number of boats out fishing with their lights on albeit a prevailing stormy sky.
I manoeuvred the yacht to windward. Here we go again. I looked up at the wind pointers and managed to retain that position. John pulled down all the sails. We motored into the harbour. John had not came into the harbour this late before and was slightly unsure. He left it to me with simple instructions. Keep the red lights on the left and the green light on the right. I struggled to locate all the beacon light locations. They seemed haphazardly positioned. There are sandpit and shallows during low tides. To prevent boats getting stuck, hence the positioning of the beacon lights. John busily tidied up the cabin and regularly came on deck to see my progress or rather alleviate any possible mishaps. At times, both of us struggled to pin the beacon location. One by one, we managed. However. At one point, I missed and was on the right side of a green beacon. Nervously, I brought the yacht as close as possible to the beacon and was in safe water. I was relieved. John was quick to quip, “don’t muck up now after all the good work”. We returned to our starting point, Panmure Yacht Club at around 9pm. It seemed like a long day. The rain that we were spared, eventually caught up but trickled into a few rain drops. We had been fortunate with the weather today. After anchoring at the wooden jetty, we unloaded all our gear, dingy, food bins and few tools. John and I parted as he prepared to take his yacht to it mooring point. It was 10pm as I headed home with my prized catch, John Dory fillets.
I felt a sense of achievement and savoured my new experience in my thoughts. The experience of a hunter-gather existence (not entirely) by fishing, cooking and feeding. This had certainly been an adventure of a lifetime for me. Out in the open sea, with salty sea sprays on my face, sightings of a whale and in close proximity to wild dolphins playing and taking occasional charge of the wonderful and rustic vessel that gave me this adventure. Above all, I must thank John for making this happen for me.