Getting Established in New Zealand

Posted by John

We plan to stay in New Zealand for the cyclone season, which is five or six months. Whether or not we keep the boat in Opua the whole time we don’t know yet. We planned for at least a month in the marina and a month in the boatyard for rudder repair and bottom paint, but we don’t know which boatyard yet, or exactly when. We may move the boat south to Whangerei where there are more boatyards to choose from, but that requires sailing back out in the ocean. Not high on our list right now, especially with the currently wet and stormy weather. They say the nice weather starts in January so we shouldn’t expect to get anything done between Christmas and February when businesses close for vacation.

When given a choice I tend to prefer shiny new things and the Bay of Islands Marina is as new as things come. The section we are in, H dock, just opened this year. They’re still putting in the lawns. Just about every boat service you’d want is located right here, including: sail maker; mechanic; canvas shop; ship chandleries; stainless fabrication; fiberglass repair; electrical workshop; cafes; general store; laundry; even an insurance agent where you can buy the $5 million NZ personal liability policy that the marina requires. And for those who are looking to unload their boat and fly back home, there’s a boat broker.

The cruiser’s lounge is second to none with Wi-Fi, television, cushy chairs, sofas and bean bag chairs (bean bag chairs, like from the 70’s!), a large conference room table convenient for spreading out, and even a separate “quiet” computer room.

During our customs check-in the biosecurity inspector confiscated our popcorn and a few other things, but otherwise went pretty easy on us. We were worried about the boat bottom and any invasive species we might’ve picked up since scraping the barnacles off in Tonga. We’d heard they sometimes stick a camera under the boat to see what’s there, but the officer just looked at the waterline and what he could see of the rudder and thought it looked good.

The only hiccup we had was getting from the customs dock to our slip. The wind and an unexpectedly strong tidal current made it difficult to bring the bow around and into the slip. Sometimes we really do envy the boats with bow thrusters. But soon a small crowd had gathered on the pier to shout encouragement and take our lines, as well as welcome us to New Zealand.

We’ve had little down time so far. The Bay of Islands Cruising Association and Opua Cruising Club have been putting on a two-week welcome which started with a New Zealand orientation and continues with seminars on various topics, barbecues, pizzas and van trips to town. We’re tired just from that. We’ve also managed to start cleaning out the boat, figure out who sells which bakery goodies, and have removed the sails and given them to the sail maker for repair. We’ve also been discussing where we want to visit and what we want to do while here. The time is going to pass quickly.

Marina building with upstairs visitors lounge
Opua General Store
It may still be the South Pacific, but it is certainly not the tropics
Opua wharf with abandoned rails

Our new gated community