This morning around 7.30 am, storm clouds with a reddish tinge appeared in the east behind Barrier Island. The sheltered bay was very calm and no wind. The sky above me, however was blue. A wonderful sight indeed to wake up too. This spot, under the prevailing conditions, oozed tranquillity. The surrounding ascending mountains were fresh green. I mentioned to John about the cold night. John asked ” did you not bring a sleeping bag?”. “Why did you not inform me”, I replied hastily. John just laughed!
After breakfast, John and I hopped into the rubber dingy and headed towards land. My first step on the island. I was surrounded with dense vegetation which included Pohutukawa – New Zealand Christmas trees, shrubs and pines. This is Smoke House Bay “retreat”. On one tree, a lone Wood Pigeon was perched unperturbed by intrusion. John informed me that this place was converted into a fisherman’s “home” by fisherman. A small convenience with a heated bath and shower, a washing basin and a toilet. A little treat.
Thick black clouds began to build up above the island as we headed towards FitzRoy Harbour. Our approach towards the harbour was on a very calm sea punctuated with pools of lively birds feeding frantically on the surface. Fish seem to jump out of the water, unsure if they were predators or prey. Perhaps this might be a good place to fish later. The sun struggled to shine through the dark mass of low hanging black clouds. This small but picturesque outpost offered a lifeline to fishermen and boat operators. This friendly post had a convenience sundry store, a fuel station and an information hut. Local transport is available to venture into other parts of the island. A weekly ferry arrived here from Auckland.
John refilled his diving tank and restocked fuel as I managed to get some sugar for my daily coffee fix. As we returned to Smoke House Bay, our dingy bounced off the glassy surface. There was hardly any breeze. There was doubt about the weather as dark clouds now covered the entire sky above. Mid-day was approaching. Back at the boat, I prepared lunch. Pre-cooked noodles topped up with scrambled eggs, slices of smoked chicken and a green salad. John seemed to like it.
After lunch, we cruised out of the harbour to locate a good diving spot. John anchored just meters off a rocky coast with a vertical mountain slope. Deep crevasses scared the mountain face. John, without any hesitation, told me to take him out on the attached dingy. I had no previous experience in either paddling or motoring one. I was a little anxious but keen to give it ago. With a crash course on manoeuvring the dingy, John dived underwater. Seemed like he was more confident that I was. Alone, bobbing in the rubber dingy with the incoming waves, I was excited but still nervous of all what if questions. Forty five minutes later, we were back on the boat. All went well. My confidence around water is boasted. John returned with one crayfish.
Once the anchor was retrieved, I took control of the tiller to find a good site to fish. The hook was baited and the line dropped into the water. I caught a snapper. It was too small and was released. The wind blew gently and the sea was rather calm. The wind constantly changed directions. Over the radio, they mentioned that the Easterlies would dominate. However, we were facing the Northerlies! We mover the boat around. Although there were bites but none took the bait.
With the setting sun behind us, we headed back towards Fitz Roy Harbour and eventually to a sheltered bay to moor for the night. We wanted to get out of the expected Easterlies.
Tonight’s dinner was pasta with masala fried prawns and a mixed salad. For supper, we had coffee with muffins. Yet again, the Milky Way was on full display. It was magnificent. The atmosphere quiet, the boat was motionless and only the occasional sounds of the water lapping against the boat. Tranquillity as it was meant to be.