Great Barrier Island

The bays of Port FitzRoy were blessedly calm. It’s been a rare thing for us to have a truly calm anchorage and we could have stayed in Port FitzRoy for at least a month.

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Great Barrier Island is ideal in so many ways it’s hard to come to terms with the shortness of our stay. The whole island is off the grid. The village of Port FitzRoy has a general store with post boxes, a medical clinic (no shoes required, even for staff), a boat house, library, a dive shed, and an information kiosk. These buildings are all wired to the generator at the general store. Houses outside the village are on solar, wind, and small generators.  They also have an impressive recycling program.

We spotted our dreamy, dream property a couple hundred feet aft of our transom. It was a classic little cottage with solar panels, wind generator, rain catchments, a big garden, a dock, and a boathouse.  Dang.

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A large fraction of the population spend their mornings outside the general store welcomed by the wagging tail and friendly scrutiny of a beagle mix in a work truck.

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We met a couple of circumnavigators in their 80s who were still sailing their home built 40 ft kauri-wood sloop. They had just popped over from Waiheke for a Port FitzRoy meat pie. Peggy confessed that she feels like more of a passenger these days.

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Other salty codgers were practicing their singlehanded mark roundings.

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Great Barrier attracts an intrepid collection of sailors. We spent an evening with Joy and Charles, who took their six (!) kids cruising to Tonga a couple years back on a boat smaller than ours.  Our jaws dropped as they told us the tale of losing their boat (but keeping all of their kids safe) when they went airborne off a wave in a mid-winter gale and imploded the main bulkheads, 350 nm north of NZ, on the way home from Tonga.   They were dismasted but then picked up by the French navy.  The boat was unsalvageable, so Charles was forced to scuttle his own boat as the French videotaped the process to prove they had no hand in it. “The French do not sink New Zealand boats, they told him“ official policy following the internationally condemned sinking of the Rainbow Warrior by French commandos in the Bay of Islands.   Now they own Vingilot, a roomy Cavalier 45 centercockpit with a beautiful blond interior.

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The island is really known for miles and miles of ferny hiking trails. We did stop the boat projects long enough to explore one of them that led us to a gorgeous but chilly series of waterfalls and swimming holes.  After testing the waters neither one of us braved the chill.

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But having learned our lesson in the Coromandel, we could not let rare favorable weather pass us by so we quickly hauled anchor one afternoon and struck out for the north. We slipped past the Needles with fine sailing weather but it forced us to add Great Barrier Island to our long list of kiss and run places deserving more time.

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36°10.70’S 175°20.60’E 2-Apr-11 02:30 UTC

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