February – Part I

It turns out that when we entertain friends, move the boat and sightsee like tourists on vacation I have no time to photo triage or blog. We have experienced an enormous amount of jaw dropping scenery during the past 10 weeks. A couple posts won’t do justice to it all, but I have tried to capture some of our favorite moments here.

We spent February and March cruising the Hauraki Gulf, the Coromandel Penninsula, Auckland and Waiheke, Great Mercury Island, Great Barrier Island, plus an impromptu road trip on the North Island. We feel so lucky to have great friends to share this with. Troy and Maureen, Vicky and Chris, James and Maureen, Caroline and Johannes, Alex and Chris, Misti, and Jeff and Melody all joined us for parts of this amazing journey. Here are some of my favorite memories from the month of February…

As part of their Sophie School education, Leo and Hazel have started to help more with the cooking. Mealtime is one of our favorite family activities.

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One day, we stumbled into a biking safety celebration in Auckland and the kids loved having their faces painted.

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In the first half of February, Maureen and the kids joined us for some sailing and beach time on Sophie. We saw heaps of dolphin on the way to Great Mercury Island, one of our best sails of 2014 so far.

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On Great Mercury Island, Maureen and I took Cora on a hike to find the waterfall. We didn’t have great directions so we ended up missing a turnoff across the stream and hiked up a huge mountain road to the edge of a private forest before we realized we were in the wrong place.

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After retracing our steps we finally discovered an unmarked path across the stream and made it to the waterfall.

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Meanwhile, the kids had a blast on the beach. Peachgrove Bay may be their favorite beach in New Zealand. Leo and Hazel were both boogie boarding in style.

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Hot Water Beach

We anchored Sophie on a calm day outside the surf line at Hot Water Beach. The swell was big enough that we couldn’t make it to the beach in the dinghy, so Jamie ferried us in small groups to some rocks at the side of the bay and we scrambled over the rocks to shore. It was almost low tide when we landed so we borrowed a shovel and hurried to dig a hole near the hot streambed. It’s easy to miss the hot water and fill up a cold pool, but we kept trying and eventually found what we were looking for, pink bums and all. I had a hard time standing on the beach in less than an inch of water for more than a few seconds where the stream emerged. Boy is that water hot!

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After digging holes and playing at Cathedral Beach too, were all glad to drop anchor near Whitianga and head into town for a pizza party.

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The kids love riding in the dinghy and I love these shots of the girls with the wind in their hair at sunset.

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On our way back to Auckland, we stopped at Waiheke Island and Maureen and I took the kids on steep climb to the Stony Batter Reserve. We had read that the trailhead was on the east shore of the cove, but at first all we found were trespassing warning signs to stay off private property, the road and beach. Jamie finally located the DOC trailhead and punted the dinghy, then carried each of us to shore so our sneakers wouldn’t get wet. To start, we scrambled up a steep and slippery hillside that showed almost no evidence of a trail except for orange triangle markers on posts every 50 feet or so. These hopped over sheep fences multiple times going up and it wasn’t until we arrived at the top and crossed one more fence that we discovered that our trail was actually closed for lambing. Wish they would have posted that sign at both ends of the trail! Luckily Hazel only had one major meltdown and everyone else marched up like little soldiers without any whining after we promised a treat to all kids who made it to the top. Peanut M&Ms make all the difference on tricky hikes.

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We had read that the Stony Batter tunnels were worthwhile, but this was one of the most incredible places we have seen – a series of World War II pitch dark underground tunnels you navigate using torches (Kiwi for flashlights), and gun enplacements.

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The Batterberry clan also joined us for Sophie School. It was so much fun teaching with Maureen and the kids managed to do a full week of lessons while we were out sailing.

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Hazel and Cora also learned that although sharp plastic toys work great as scalpels when playing surgeon, they should pretend instead of really cutting through skin. Yes, this is Hazel the smiling surgeon and Cora the smiling patient.

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While the Batterberrys and Johnsons traveled on the South Island, we spent a few days on Waiheke before moving to Gulf Harbor where we finally had our watermaker ETD repaired. Hooray, we have unlimited water again on Sophie! While we were there, Caroline and Johannes (formerly of Orkestern) came for a visit and helped us sail Sophie back to Auckland.

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Jamie also replaced a cracked main cabin hatch so all four windows are operational again. And the best part is he got to use this:

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When the Batterbarrys and Johnsons returned, we had a fun grown-ups only winetasting day on Waiheke. You know things are off to a good start when you find pants by the side of the road!

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After the ferry and a bus ride out to our first vineyard, we discovered it was closed for a private function. No problem, we thought. We could just hop through the fence and cross a pasture to the next place. Of course it was raining and I was in heels, but the thick grass didn’t stop us.

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The second one was closed too, but they took pity on us and poured a full flight for us. Then the rain stopped and we continued our fantastic day. Obsidian held our tasting in the work shed complete with tractor. We followed that with an indulgent 7 course lunch at Casita Miro. Amazing!

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We managed to sneak in a sunset walk on the beach before dinner. I love watching the sun go down while squishing sand between my toes!

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Great friends and an amazing place. Who could ask for more?

To be continued…

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