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Bay of Islands: A life on the ocean wave

Posted by Squiffy on March 20th, 2009

Despite owning a sailing dinghy and having been on boats since I was little, I’ve always been less confident on yachts. There’s much more to consider, it seems. Whilst dinghys are a matter of get in and go, yachts involve scary things such as tide tables, navigation charts, Portland plotters and complicated Rules of the Road. Four years ago, in an attempt to finally get to grips with these things, I took my Day Skipper course and vowed that when I passed, I would charter a yacht and skipper it without supervision. The closest I’ve come so far is taking Dave and a few friends on a flotilla in Greece, where I had the back-up of professional crew and my good friend Kathryn, who also passed the course, on board for advice.

I decided it was time to try it alone. The Bay of Islands is a Mecca for yachties, the weather is good and the charter company hires out dinky yachts which are perfect for a skipper and one crew – just me and my darling DaveB. After a brief run through of the boat, the owner announced that the forecast was for 25-35 knot winds, so ‘you should have a good run’, he grinned. I hid my panic — 35 knots is a pretty much gale force and not ‘pottering about wind’ like I expected. I immediately changed down to ‘storm settings’, hoisting a storm jib and reefing the main sail.

With the wind behind us we raced along until lunch time. At midday, we sailed into a somewhat sheltered bay off Roberton Island to anchor up and eat our sandwiches and, incredilbly, we were treated to an amazing display by a pod of eight dolphins. They went from boat to boat, jumping out of the water, turning over and swimming right alongside us, I’ve never seen them that playful and close-up.

In the evening we anchored off Moturua Island and went ashore in our rowing boat for a quick walk. Back on board we drank a few beers whilst watching more dolphins, and pondered whether we could live a life on the ocean wave. We both decided a couple of days was probably our limit on a boat this size, especially when we had to sleep inches above the smelly toilet. Day two turned out to be a little less windy, so we made use of a bigger jib and set sail home. Due to the wind direction, the boat got a bit of a lean on and I turned around to see Dave had gone quiet and was almost hanging out of te boat. ‘What are you doing?’, I questioned him. Apparently he was acting as ballast to keep the boat upright, not because he was scared you understand, but because he was worried about the boat capsizing and the laptop (and therefore our photos) getting wet.

A few tacks and a sneaky use of the struggling 8hp motor, and we arrived safely home. Thank you to my crew, DaveB who gave me the confidence to go out and was particularly good on the anchor and halliards. There’ll be no stopping me now.


Comment from Naomi
Time: March 20, 2009, 7:23 pm

woo hooo!!!! You go Captain Noll!

Comment from Sarah B
Time: March 22, 2009, 4:46 pm

Is it me or are you looking a bit skinny dear bruva? Love the dolphins.

Have made it home from Beirut safely – amazing place. It’s famous (in this region anyway) for its full-on nightlife and justly so – can’t remember the last time I had so little sleep. I mean, the nightclubs OPEN at 3am!!!!


Comment from daveb
Time: March 22, 2009, 11:39 pm

@Sarah B: Me? Skinny? ‘The camera never lied’, at least not until digital photography was invented. I Photoshop any pictures of me through a ‘slimming’ filter before publishing them. (Actually, I reckon that I’m heavier than ever — damn those daily cheese cobs!)

Comment from H
Time: March 29, 2009, 12:16 am

Hey Dave B, I see you finally located a very orange North Face fleece, I hope it’s as windproof as you’d hoped! haha Nice sunny sailing pics…looks like you had fun :-)

Comment from daveb
Time: March 30, 2009, 6:58 am

@H: Truth be told, the fleece is a little too windproof… if I’m not sailing with the wind blasting at me, I tend to overheat whilst wearing it!

Comment from Sarah B
Time: March 30, 2009, 3:20 pm

@ daveb: cheese cobs, mmmmmm. Justine is here at the moment and she’s brought the New Zealand weather with her. Went to see Coldplay on Saturday night… and 15,000 of us in the Emirates Palace gardens got soaked. This is not supposed to happen here… much love boyo xxxx

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