Only a quick update as the Internet is poor. Ardea is cruising again! Even the fact of lousy overpriced internet is a boon to me as I feel like a free outdoorsman again since leaving the brackish basin of Whangarei. Though the mangrove-lined shores there certainly brought me nostalgia of my swamp-studying days in Panama, little could compare to the majesty of the natural landscapes we've seen in the last three weeks.
First, a trip to the fjord lands of the South Island where Charlie, Dianna and I hiked the Routeburn track and camped among the alpine parrots and massive fruit doves, drank the pure mountain water and soaked in views of high-altitude lakes, snow-capped peaks, and the unique and spectacular flora and fauna of New Zealand.
Then we returned to Ardea, spent a day finishing up projects and provisioning and started a three-days meander to the coast from the long and winding channel that ends at Whangarei Town Basin. We dove for scallops and saw glorious dorid nudibranchs with bright yellow gill-like plumes wafting in the current. I have been no less than mesmerized by the abundance and variety of life in the cold water here. The rocky intertidal and mud flats are the most obvious, but a snorkel and mask reveal the amazing world of kelp forests and the vast plains of the benthos. Molluscs and crustaceans seem to dominate, but much more is there as well. The discarded shells of dead scallops might house dozens of invertebrate species ranging across many phyla. Really, one doesn't have to look too closely to be impressed.
After Dianna set the at-anchor fishing record in pulling up three red snappers at once using a jig rig and some old salted tuna (from a yellow-fin in Mexico... my how the time flies), we headed off to Great Barrier Island, 45 miles offshore. We had a brief stop at Taranga Island for lunch but the holding was poor. We sailed past sundown and anchored in beautiful Katherine Bay.
We spent three or four days there enjoying clear water full of life, fine beaches and views of native scrub and forest along the surrounding hillsides. The weather has been warm amd sunny, the NZ sun still nuclear.
We moved to Port Fitzroy and enjoyed one of my favorite cruiser outings, the waterfall hike. Dianna departed today leaving Chuck and I, and Ardea, of course. We will move to Smokehouse Bay after this foray with the interweb and enjoy an old fish-smoking facility converted to wood-fired bathhouses for the use of passing sailors. Perhaps there was a consensus at some stage on this Island that we all need a bath (we bathed at the waterfall, though!).
Pictures to come some time.