You’d think two families consisting of four adults and four children – two boys aged 12, a girl aged 11 and a boy aged eight – would be a crowd on a yacht, but that wasn’t the case on our 43 ft Robertson and Caine catamaran. The kids crowded on board at the Moorings dock at Opua, and screeched with delight. There were four cabins downstairs, each with a double bed and an en suite bathroom. At deck level, there was a very comfortable dining area and galley, and outside, a larger area for dining, reading or just admiring the view. While the dads did the briefing, we unpacked all the provisions, bought at a Kerikeri supermarket.
We even managed a last cappuccino before sailing off into the sunset … well, it would have been sunset, except it was raining! We cruised across to Matauwhi Bay, dropped anchor and settled into shipboard life with a glass of fine New Zealand sauvignon blanc while the kids fished from the stern.
The Bay of Islands is an aquatic playground, with 144 islands to cruise around and explore, as well as quaint seaside villages like Paihia and Russell to visit. After a peaceful first night on board, we sailed to Russell to get more supplies and to have a look around. Russell is an historic town, with a rich European and Maori past. Although once known as the ‘hellhole of the South Pacific’, nowadays it is serenity at its best.
Motuarohia (Roberton) Island was our next destination, and proved to be one of the highlights of the week. We anchored near the shore, and it wasn’t long before the allure of the beautiful, clear water proved too much. The children leapt off the side of the boat, swam around to the ladder and jumped off again, shrieking with delight. We all swam to shore, and then discovered three other little bays on the other side. We walked up to the lookout as well, which was rewarding for its unbelievable views.
Opunga Cove was our resting spot for the night. The kids took out the dinghy for a spin, played frisbee on the beach and then fished, attracting a brace of ducks, complete with cute ducklings. At dusk, the sound of bagpipes filled the air played by a man on a neighbouring yacht, the haunting notes a fitting accompaniment to the setting sun.
The next day we went adventuring, heading out to Cape Brett and the famous Hole in the Wall. The seas were a bit choppy so we didn’t try and sail through the hole, although many tour boats do it every day.
We pulled in to Motorua Island, mooring in Waiwhapuku (Army) Bay, a lovely bay in the channel between Motorua and Motukiekie. There were bush walks on this island, but we were having too much fun swimming around. Legend has it there is a glass bottle buried somewhere on the island claiming it for the French!
After another perfect night at Opunga we went to Paihia to get some more supplies. This is a busy tourist town, with boutiques, cafes and tours around the Bay of Islands, including the Treaty Grounds of Waitangi, which are a must. We bought what we needed, had a fantastic pizza for lunch, then headed back to our floating home, ready to head to Otiao (Indico) Bay on Urupukapuka Island. This island has three beautiful bays, Otehei Bay, Oneura (Paradise) and Otiao, all of which are protected.
The last few days we spent at Omakiwi Bay on the mainland. It was paradise, with the weather beautiful, the water a gorgeous turquoise and the company good. The kids took the dinghy out for a spin, we walked up a track to get a good view of the island, then played cricket on the beach. Once back on the boat, we played cards with much yahooing, and then the dads let the kids jump off the boom (only under intense supervision), while the mums watched nervously.
It was all too sad to take the yacht back to Opua. We had all thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and at no time did we hear the kids say the ‘b’ word that parents hate (bored). They jumped off the boat, swam under the boat, fished, played cards, read books and jumped off the boat some more. We oldies did much the same, with a bit less jumping off the boat.
Many evenings, we would sit on the foredeck, wine in hand, chatting about nothing or everything, and missing not a thing about our real worlds. Isn’t that what a holiday is all about?
Coral Princess shows families the best of the Bay of Islands
If sailing is not your bag, let Coral Princess Cruises introduce you and your family to New Zealand’s beautiful Bay of Islands in total comfort and unmatched style.The five-night Bay of Islands cruise aboard Coral Princess' purpose-built luxury expedition vessel, Oceanic Discoverer, explores the hidden coves and spectacular coastline of the far northeastern tip of the North Island.
Cruising through the Bay of Islands reveals the many natural attractions such as the Hole in the Rock, a rock tunnel etched by wind and waves; Deep Water Cove, Keri-Keri Inlet and Urupukapuka, the largest island in the Bay of Islands. Carrying a maximum of just 72 passengers, the Oceanic Discoverer provides all the comfort and facilities of larger cruise ships, and is small enough to access remote sites inaccessible to larger vessels.
On board facilities include a large sundeck and spa pool, reference library, lecture lounge, two cocktail bars, a boutique and dive shop. The Oceanic Discoverer’s purpose-built excursion vessel, Xplorer, and fleet of inflatable Zodiacs, allows passengers to intimately explore the secluded bays and inlets of this remarkable destination. In true expedition style, the itinerary may vary to take maximum advantage of opportunities to view wildlife, have a swim, or visit local attractions. Children aged three and under travel for free, and children aged between four and 14 cost 50 percent of the adult rate when sharing with their parents. Voyages depart from Auckland and Paihia from December 2007 to March 2008.
All hands on deck
Sailability makes sailing accessible for everyone, even raw beginners!
Ever wanted to try your hand at sailing, but were put off by the cost or its elitist image? Sailability, an international non-profit volunteer-based community sailing organisation, encourages everyone to hit the water, experiencing the joy of sailing regardless of age or ability.
Most Sailability branches sail Access dinghies, a revolutionary craft that’s almost impossible to capsize. Designed by Melbourne boat designer Chris Mitchell, these cute little boats allow novices of any ability to sail with little or no tuition. For a small annual fee, members can sail without the expense of buying or maintaining a boat. Each activity is accompanied by a safety boat in case anyone gets into trouble.
There are more than 50 Sailability groups in Australia, including 24 branches in NSW. Members range from raw beginners to Paralympians who sail for recreation, therapy or even competition.