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new zealand ~ tropical cyclone june

Posted by on January 23, 2015

January 19 – 23, 2014

the approach of June


Didn’t we go to New Zealand to avoid the cyclones?

Tropical Cyclone June was bearing down on New Zealand, and we needed to find safe harbor before her arrival. Once a brief category 2 storm, it was possible that we would only receive her remnants, but for our own safety, we were going to assume the worst.

The clockwise spinning storm was moving from New Caledonia in a south-southeasterly direction toward New Zealand’s North Island, and we were most likely in for a direct hit.

As the storm drew closer to our area, weather forecasts became more specific to our location. The cyclonic weather event for us would begin with northeast winds to 45 knots. Gradually, the winds would clock to the northwest with winds to 65 knots. It was looking like we were going to experience the strongest side of the storm. (In the Southern Hemisphere, the northwest quarter of a cyclone is the most dangerous quadrant.)

Bostaquet Bay on the southern side of Kawau Island became our anchorage of choice. We did not want to be against the mainland with the 45 knot winds out of the northeast, and we were trying to avoid areas of wind funneling through the hills. Plenty of swinging room was important since we were going to put out all 200 feet of our 1/2-inch chain. And, we didn’t want to worry about anyone else dragging into us.

When we first entered Bostaquet Bay, there were a handful of beach goers and power boaters enjoying the last of the good weather on the northwest side of the bay. There were two other sailboats tucked into the northeast side of the bay. We chose to anchor near the local beach goers. It would only be a matter of time before they would all go home for the day, and then we would have the spot to ourselves. This side would also provide protection from the strongest winds.

Our plan seemed feasible at the time, but as the day progressed, the wrap-around swell from the east continued to build in the anchorage. With the easterly winds, we sat bow into the swell, and we weren’t uncomfortable at all. However, we began to think of our future when the winds would clock to the north. Northerly winds would force us to sit uncomfortably with our starboard beam to the swell. Not fun in a multihull!

The boats on the other side of the anchorage had made the better choice with regard to swell. After observing their side of the anchorage, we made the decision to relocate. However, we didn’t want to crowd the other boats, and we still needed our swinging room. We managed to find a spot against the eastern side of the bay. We were quite close to the rocks, and there wasn’t as much swinging room as we would have liked, but based on the forecast wind directions for that night, we would only swing away from the shore.

a wallaby sighted while we waited for the storm

We weren’t in our new location for very long before we heard Wil call out that there was a monkey onshore. A monkey? As far as I knew, there were no wild monkeys in New Zealand! What in the world was he seeing? We all ran up on deck to see what the “monkey” was.

At first, I could only make out the long, bushy tail. I could see how that could be mistaken for a monkey’s tail. We all took turns looking through the binoculars, trying to figure out what we were seeing. Finally, the animal moved into an open space on the rocks. It was a wallaby!

We had finally gotten to see a wallaby on Kawau Island, and we were all quite excited. We watched the wallaby move around on the rocks until there wasn’t enough light left in the day. Then, we settled in for a long and windy night.

During the night, there were a few fishing boats that were offshore toughing out June’s winds. However, they eventually sought refuge near us behind Kawau Island. We were amazed at how they were able to navigate to the shallower waters amidst the storm.

Throughout the following morning, the winds gradually diminished. A beautiful, calm lull came over the area. Was it the eye of storm? We knew that June wasn’t finished with us yet. The strongest winds were still to come.

looking toward the mainland from Kawau Island

The wind started to shift, but it was still light. We were starting to swing towards the shore, and we knew it was time to relocate. The other two sailboats hoisted their anchors and departed the bay. We had been thinking that we would just return to the northwest side of the anchorage, but their departure had us ponder other options.

After evaluating our situation, we decided to make a break for the mainland where we would be even more protected from the northwest winds. Goldsworthy Bay, just around the corner from the familiar Algies Bay, seemed like a good choice, so we made a run for it.

As we neared the mainland, we noticed two other sailboats in Goldsworthy Bay. They were the same two boats from our previous anchorage. Great minds think alike!

near Kawau Island ~ a calm between wind bands ~ fishing boat arrived during one set of strong winds

We sat out the remainder of Cyclone June in Goldworthy Bay. We were well protected, and even ended up with a free wifi signal that reached the boat!

Later, we learned that the Snells Beach area had been one of the hardest hit by Cyclone June when her northeast winds and waves battered the coastline. Tropical storm force winds had been clocked at 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph / 54 knots), and damage had been left in her wake.

We felt fortunate for our good anchorage choices, and our confidence in our 40 kilo (88 lb) Rocna anchor had grown even more. We had just experienced our first Southern Hemisphere cyclone, all was well . . . and we had gotten to see a wallaby!

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