I was up early this morning. The previous night, I had organised all the food items. I arrived at Panmure Yatch and Boating Club around 7 am with a husky packed with our three day sustenance. On the horizon, a thick blanket of cloud. In contrast, above my head, a clear blue sky and the day warm. It was a mixed day, parallel to my emotions. A three quarter moon was setting in the west and the sun rose behind thick clouds in the east. Anchored boats bobbed gently in a windless day. While I waited, I wondered if I was at the right location. Perhaps there was another pier. An elderly man mentioned that there was another one further inland but suggested that I wait here as it is only for small boats. I did not know how big John’s boat is.
Sea gulls rested on the rustic wooden jetty. Young men and women rowed swiftly on streamlined row boats with their coaches pushing them with loud speakers on adjacent motorized boats. They were exhausted at the end of their practice. Bodies slumped and mouths open breathing profusely. The sun was still hidden but the sky was brightened.
Silently, John anchored his boat or rather his yacht at the end of the pier. The tall mast was prominent. It’s just past 7.30 am. My excitement soared. Before we set sail, a few chores needed to be done – tools, gear, and essential equipment including the fuel containers, safety raft and its bulky motor. For me, my essential husky. From a tap at the pier, fresh water was filled into the yacht’s tank. Finally, we set out of the pier around 8.15 am. The wharf is on the Tamaki River. Despite the name, it is actually an estuary and a harbour within Auckland City. Almost immediately, John asked me to steer the boat. The instructions were simple, steer within the green markers on the left and the red markers on the right. With the motor running at 5 knots, within the harbour, it was straight forward. It was my first time. In the beginning there was a little bit of nerves but once I got the tiller (the equipment that controlled the rudder, hence the direction of the boat), I was relaxed.
The watery path zig-zagged from bank to bank passing by other boats that have been moored along this narrow harbour, the Half Moon Bay ferry terminal and more importantly the shallow sandpits. It just a short time, I became confident with the controls. Eventually, we were out at the mouth of the estuary with lovely views of Auckland city skyline in the west and Rangitoto Island, an active volcano in the Hauraki Gulf. There were very few boats out and about this cloudy morning. Our journey headed north-east and edged slowly towards Browns Island. It is almost a barren island with a few remaining trees. It is however a volcanic island. On my right is the familiar Musick Point, a great place to view the entire Hauraki Gulf. My family used to come here regularly. There was no wind. The sails could not be used. We gently passed Motuike Island, a popular spot for day trippers; Motutapu Island, a reserve and perhaps only visited by conservation officers. As we passed these islands, a majestic view of Rangitoto lsland appeared across a narrow channel. Although in open water, wind was still lacking. We passed Rakino Island, with a small settlement. Just north of Rakino are the small cluster of uninhabited islands, The Noises. Vegetation clung onto these rocky islands bashed by salt water. Just amazing. In the distant east, blurred views of Waiheki Island.