Beyond the Bay

Cape Brett Lighthouse

Last year when our anchor seemed cemented in the Bay of Islands, we vowed to return to New Zealand and venture out a bit more.  Of course, back then, Mark had lofty dreams of sailing all the way around top of the North Island and down to Nelson on the South Island.  I’m afraid we didn’t quite make it that far, but we have sailed beyond the Bay.

Cape Brett and Whangamumu 

Mist rising from the crashing waves along the craggy coastline.

Kids love watching the hulls
break through the water
It was a gorgeous day for a sail as we rounded Cape Brett and finally waved goodbye to the beautiful Bay of Islands.  The coastline is rocky and jagged, with the famous Hole in the Rock at the very tip.  The seas were so calm, we could sail between the outcropping of rock and the lighthouse that stands watch atop a grassy hill.  As we rounded into Whangamumu Harbor, we noticed turbulence on the water’s surface.  Birds, small terns, were hopping and skipping over a circle of water that seemed to be boiling!  The kids and I rushed out onto the foredeck to get a better look and saw hundreds of fish schooling on the surface, whirling around in a tangle of open mouths and glimmering scales.  

"Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble" A bubbly brew of schooling fish just off the rocky shoreline.
Wish I could include the audio on this photo!

The following swell was significant as we entered the harbor, and Mark and I both wondered if this would be a comfortable spot to sleep for the night.  But as we motored deeper into the bay, the swell was buffered on the surrounding rocks, ping-ponging until the rolling waves died out completely.  Six or seven other boats were anchored there, and none of the masts were doing the tell-tale pendulum swing that signifies uncomfortable swell.  We dropped the hook and ended up staying for an extra day or two, because it was such a great spot!  

There are remnants of an old whaling station on shore.  We had learned about this industry during out time in Nantucket a few years ago, and it was a chance to build on and extend what we’d learned.  An old rusted boiler helped us understand how the workers would process the oil right on shore to avoid transporting the heavy whale further inland.  Signage displayed old photos of whales being brought right up to the ramp that could still be seen at low tide and the rusted tracks leading up to the boiler were misshapen, but still there.  (Incidentally, this field trip connected perfectly to our bedtime reading book, The Whale Rider!  Love it when that happens!  Here's the link to a study guide that accompanies the movie) 

Michael checking out the "blubber boiler"

Remnants of the whaling station overlooking the bay

A well-kept trail beckoned to us, and after crossing a stream, we happened upon a cascading waterfall.  Michael noticed that we could scale the rocks beside it, so we all clamored up level after level until we couldn’t go any further.  The highest fall fell into a cool pool, a perfect spot to have a snack and dip our feet!

The perfect addition to a bush hike!

Stopping for a plum and toe-dipping!

One of my favorite things about New Zealand - lush ferns everywhere!
View from the summit - look at the white water at the entrance to the bay!
Mid-leap along our beach stroll
The kids collected all the varieties of seaweed they could find.
We'd try to identify them when we got back to the boat.
On the way back, we met a Kiwi family with two small children.  They come to this spot every year as part of their 3-week sailing holiday.  The husband and older boy were hiking up the waterfall to fill their fresh water containers, while the mother and toddler waded in the stream below washing laundry.  It was a simple and touching scene.  

I was instantly convicted of our sailing lifestyle.  We moved on board to live more simple, less cluttered and materialistic lives.  Are we, though?  Whenever I see fellow sailors rowing their dinghies ashore, fishing for every meal, washing clothes in a stream, or carting jugs of fresh water, I feel a pang of guilt mixed with “Are we doing this all wrong?  Are we missing the point?  Have we simply moved all of the conveniences of home onto our boat?”  

And it reminds me.  

I am not entitled to any of these luxuries.

Each is a blessing to be acknowledged, to be thankful for, and to share.  Its funny.  I used to think about how much we'd given up when we moved on board this 44-foot sailboat. Now I'm realizing there's always more to give up and life is a bit sweeter when we loosen our grip.  If only we can view our blessings as a means to bless others.  Matthew 6:19-21.  

The simple sailing life...
Sunset over Whangamumu Harbor


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