Before visiting New Zealand, our main knowledge of the Hauraki Gulf was that big body of water where the 2000 and 2003 America's Cup races were fought. But it actually is a major cruising destination and marine protected area. The 1.2-hectare Hauraki Gulf Marine Park comprises more than 50 islands and includes Great Barrier Island to the east and Coromandel Peninsula to the south.
Our first stop in the park was at Great Barrier Island where we spent Christmas. There we hiked an impressively well-maintained, but strenuous, track 2,057 feet to the top of Mt Hobson. Along the way were boardwalks, small footbridges, and several suspension bridges.
And stairs--lots of stairs. But the view from the summit was worth the effort. The picture at the top of this post shows the view looking west across the Hauraki Gulf to Little Barrier Island.
We also rode our bikes over an 800-foot pass to the east side of Great Barrier Island and had a picnic lunch at Whangapoua Estuary.
And we enjoyed pints and meals at two pubs in the island: the Boat Club Tavern at Port Fitzroy and the Currach Irish pub at the south end of the island in Tryphena Harbour.
We spent New Year's Eve at Tawharanui Marine Park, on the gulf's western edge. The beautiful beaches there were packed with people on that sunny day, and we hiked all over the park enjoying the view.
We did another excellent view hike at Waiheke Island to the old battery there. The panorama below (click on the image for larger version) shows the view where we stopped for lunch on the way to the battery. Fort Stony Batter was built in World War II as a counter-bombardment battery system. It mostly is underground, with over a kilometer of tunnels connecting three gun pits.
On Rangitoto Island we did a relatively easy climb to the top of island for excellent views to Auckland. And we explored some old lava tube tunnels near the summit.
After spending eight nights at Viaduct Harbor in Auckland, we continued to explore the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, this time at Great Mercury Island in "The Mercs". People who have seen both say Great Mercury Island's soaring white cliffs are whiter than those at Dover.
Along the east side of Coromandel Peninsula, we visited Cathedral Cove--a large arch in the shoreline that attracts boatloads of tourists. In the second picture below, Dirona is the leftmost of the three visible boats. The catamaran just visible on the right is SV Sophie of Seattle, owned by James and Jenna Utzschneider. The two James know each other from Microsoft. It seems kind of unlikely that two people who worked together for years and kept their boats in the same marina (Elliott Bay) could end up anchored together off the same rock in New Zealand.
Our last anchorage before running south to Wellingto was at Mayor Island, just outside the marine park. The anchorage was small, but quite appealing, and we had a great hike around the crater rim and to the summit for views across the Bay of Plenty. The way down into the crater, at Devil's Staircase, included climbing chains and eventually a ladder where it was too steep for chains even.
||Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations and more on a map, with the complete log of our trip through the Hauraki Gulf.
On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://www.mvdirona.com/maps/LocationCurrent.html.
Auckland's Sky Tower stands 1076 feet high and is the tallest freestanding structure
in the southern hemisphere. On a clear day, the views from the tower are
spectacular. Besides several restaurants and observation decks, visitors
also can experience the tower from the outside, either through a Sky Walk or a
Sky Jump. Sky Walk participants are tethered to a ring that circles the permiter
of the tower, and take a full-circle outside tour on the edge, 646 feet up. A
Sky Jump is a bungee jump from the same height to street level. Bungee jumping is popular in New Zealand.
Kiwi A. J. Hackett, invented the activity here inspired by the land divers in Vanuatu.
The pictures below show a Sky Jumper leaping from the tower, viewed from street level.
Below are some views 636 up from level 53. The cone-shaped mountain visible in the distance across
Auckland Harbor is the inactive volcano on
Rangitoto Island that we'd hiked up earlier.
Level 53 also is where the Sky Walk and Sky Jumps take place. Participants are dressed in special jumpsuits and transferred to this
level through a dedicated elevator. For Sky Jump, they are taken to a staging room that is locked from the jump room. One participant at a
time is brought into the jump room and carefully connected up for the jump. Below are a couple of photos of a group in the staging room
while the first of their party makes a jump.
The video below shows the Sky Jump process from start to finish, starting with a group at ground level in their suits,
then with shots from level 53 as a jumper is prepared and jumps, and ending with a view down from the Sky Deck to Sky Walkers and a jumper.
The spool that releases in the bungee cord is cone-shaped with different "gear" levels that decrease the amount of line let out per rotation
to slow the descent near the end.
Sky Deck, at 722 feet up, is the highest of the publically accessible
levels. The views there were even better. In the last picture below, Auckland's second harbour, Manukau Harbour, is visible to the west of the city.
Even the tower elevator ride was interesting. Through the glass floor, you can watch as the elevator ascends and descends. This video we shot of the
descent looks like something from a science-fiction movie.
We bought tickets that allowed for a second entry within 24 hours, and returned after dinner for an evening view as the sun set.
Whangarei. It's a beautiful town, we enjoy the restaurants, and we have the primo spot in the
Town Basin Marina
in front of Reva's
restaurant. Another advantage of Whangarei is you can get great service work done at reasonable prices.
A broad selection of trades is available in Whangarei and that is a big part of why we ended up coming here.
Dirona needed bottom paint, zincs, and other service items and, for that work, we selected
Norsand boat yard.
Getting a boat lifted out of the water and work done on it is always a bit of a stressful process in that mistakes are always possible. Norsand are professionals and the work done was excellent.
The combination of good availability of chandleries, specialized engineering firms, and specialist in hydraulics, filters, fasteners, etc. make Whangarei a great place to get boat projects done, so we decided to take on a few additional jobs. An important one was the replacement of our house battery bank
after one battery suffered
thermal runaway. The bank is five years old, which is arguably early for replacement.
But they have done far more than the manufacturer-estimated 1,000 cycles down to 50% charge lifetime, so we can't complain too much.
Sourcing the batteries yielded some surprises. We needed
eight Lifeline GPL-8DL and, when buying in that number, price is important. The quotes we were able to get around New Zealand were very fairly uniform around $1,175
NZD (about $980 USD) per battery. Almost all quotes were for the standard New Zealand retail price, without
any discount for buying eight batteries and spending more than $9,400
in a single purchase. The US quotes for
eight batteries were just over $625 USD per battery--more than 35% less. We
expected that the cost of shipping a half ton of merchandise, however, would
exceed the price advantage, so our natural inclination was to not even consider
The interesting lesson here is that shipping can be amazingly cheap. The batteries were shipped from
DC Battery Specialist in Florida to Auckland New Zealand for only $553.18 using sea freight. The disadvantage of sea freight is it is slow, taking just a bit more than 30 days, but it is incredibly cheap.
We prefer to buy locally when we can but, in this case, we saved just over $2,000 purchasing batteries in Florida. The local installation was done expertly and carefully by
McKay Marine Electrical
On the day the batteries were scheduled to arrive, we emptied all non-fixed items from
around the banks in preparation for the install. We had a huge amount down there--the contents
practically filled the cockpit.
We took advantage of having the lazarette emptied to give it
a good scrub-down. Six of the batteries (banks two, three, and four), are in the
aft section of the lazarette, pictured above. The other two batteries (bank one) and the start batteries are port-side in the forward section of the
lazarette, in a cabinet to James' right in the picture below.
When the batteries arrived later that morning, the truck
driver dropped the pallet off just behind the marina office. So far, so good.
The batteries looked correct and without damage after their trans-ocean
crossing. The next problem was
how to get the half-ton of batteries (8 at 156 pounds each) from the parking lot
to the boat. Jennifer has a rule, admittedly violated when moving our 135-pound Mirage M-3si
speakers years ago, that she won't help move something that weighs more than
The Whangarei Fire Department came to our rescue. Two
trucks just happened to be here, and the firemen offered to carry the batteries down
for us so long as they didn't get a call. They made quick work of the job, and
seemed to be having fun with it--certainly more fun than we would have had. And
the emergency call did come in, right after they'd finished the hard work.
In the first photo below, James and Ben Haselden of McKay are sliding out the six aft-most batteries
that make up banks two, three and four. The second photo shows the area after the
batteries have been removed.
A large void area is underneath the batteries, but
unfortunately the only access is through the top where the batteries sit. This
is an unfortunate waste of space--we might put in an access panel at some point.
Because we can switch each bank
on and off independently, a nice design on Nordhavn's part, we were able to do
the whole job without having the boat's power down for more than a few minutes:
bank one supplied power until we had replaced and enabled bank four.
After Ben slid in two of the new batteries for bank four, James hooked them
up and enabled that bank so we could disable and remove bank one.
Standing next to Ben in the third and fourth photo below is
Ben's manager, Denis Crene (pronounced "crane") of McKay, who came
down to help with the job. Denis amazingly could lift one of those 156-pound batteries from the lazarette
and up to the deck on his own--he says it's no accident his last name is Crene.
All eight new batteries installed:
The final result, with the banks labelled and the lazarette
equipment all back in place:
McKay disposed of the eight old batteries for us. From
battery arrival to final disposal, the entire job took only three hours.
Shipping took just over a month, but we weren't in a rush and the total price
was much more economical than sourcing the batteries locally. When looking at purchasing
options, don't rule out sea freight as an ingredient in the solution.
Nordhavn delivers an unusually complete fuel manifold with
far more flexibility than most production boats. In fact, the manifold is
sufficiently complex that some new owners can find it difficult. More than once,
I've heard of an owner accidentally closing the return path for the main engine
or generator, leading to fuel leaks or, worse, engine fuel pump failure.
Even with the unusual flexibility offered by the Nordhavn
fuel manifold, we found it didn't do some of the things we wanted it to be able
to do so we made fairly substantial fuel manifold modifications on Dirona. Some
of these modification were driven by us extending some of the applications of
the manifold and some were driven by us operating the fuel systems a bit
differently from some. Let's start first with how the standard manifold works,
look at the most common operating modes, and then at the manifold changes we
made and why.
Most Nordhavns come delivered with a separate day tank to
feed just the get-home (also called wing) engine. One of the most common causes
of diesel engine fault is dirty fuel, so having a separate fuel tank where no
fuel is even placed there unless first proven to be good via use for days in
the main engine adds considerable security. The wing engine has a separate,
known clean fuel in addition to its own mechanical control system,
transmission, prop shaft, and prop. It shares almost nothing with the main
engine, reducing the likelihood of a correlated main and wing failure.
In addition to the day tank feeding the wing engine, there
is a supply tank which feeds all other engines on the boat. The supply tank is
always the fuel source for the engine(s) and generator(s). There are also
multiple bulk storage tanks. On Dirona, we have two side tanks of 835 gallons
each, a supply tank of 65 gallons, and a day tank of 15 gallons. The day tank
feeds only the wing engine, and the supply tank feeds all others engines and
generators. The bulk tank contents are moved into the wing or supply tanks
prior to using the fuel.
The picture above shows the fuel transfer manifold on Dirona
when it was delivered in early 2010. It's similar in functionality and design
to the manifold delivered on most Nordhavns, although many have more tanks,
engines, and generators. The lower manifold is the transfer manifold and the
upper is the return manifold. All engines, except the wing, draw fuel from the
supply tank and return it to the return manifold. The fuel transfer pump sources
from the transfer manifold (the lower one). This transfer manifold selects
which tank the transfer pumps draws from. The return manifold gets the output
of the transfer pump and the return from all engines except the wing. It's this
manifold that sets which tank the return goes into. Understanding how the
systems are laid out, let's look at how they are typically used and why some of
our usage models are different and the design extensions we implemented to
support these other operating modes.
The most common operating mode for Nordhavns is to choose
one of the bulk fuel tanks to draw fuel from and to open the valve at the
bottom of that tank to gravity feed into the supply tank. The return manifold
is set to send return fuel back to the supply tank. Since the supply tank
bottom is below the bulk tank bottoms, the supply tank won't run out in this
mode. As the fuel draws down, the selected bulk tank gets lighter and the boat
will eventually start to list away from it. At that point, the gravity feed
from the first selected bulk tank is closed and another is opened on the other
side. This keeps the supply tank full and keeps the boat relatively well
To further improve the trim, some owners chose to have all
the bulk tank gravity lines open. This has the advantage of pulling them all
down equally but there are two downsides: 1) you might want to more more fuel
on one side to correct a list (perhaps the dinghy is down) and 2) having tanks
on both sides of the boat connected allows fuel to move side-to-side which
isn't ideal from a stability perspective. Consequently, I don't recommend
running with more than one of the gravity feed lines open at a time.
Another variant of the single-gravity-feed-at-a-time model
is to return fuel to the bulk tank that is currently gravity feeding into the
supply tank. The tanks will all run at the same levels in this mode of
operation, and it can allow cooler operation. Here's why. The bulk of the fuel
the engine draws from the supply tank is not consumed, but is used to cool the
injectors and other fuel parts and the warmer fuel is returned. If just the
supply tank fuel load is in circulation, that fuel will heat up. Whereas, if
the entire bulk tank and supply tank fuel load is in circulation, there is much
more fuel and much more fuel tank surface area to cool and the fuel will run
cooler. Modern engines measure fuel temperature and take into account changes
in temperature when computing the amount to inject, and cooler fuel does allow
just slightly more power. This mostly is irrelevant but just barely useful
enough that, if you do chose to gravity feed as most do, I recommend
transferring back to the bulk tank that is currently gravity feeding rather
than directly back to the supply.
We chose to not gravity feed to the supply tank even though,
as described above, this is an easy to manage and reliable way to operate the
fuel system, and it would keep the fuel cooler. Instead we chose to explicitly
pump fuel from the appropriate bulk tank to the supply tank every four hours rather
than gravity feed. This is a slightly more manual operating mode but has some
advantages that we really like. The first advantage is if there is a leak on
the engine, at the filters, or in any of the fuel lines, you can't possible
loose more than the volume of the supply tank. If you are gravity feeding, you
could lose the entire bulk fuel load and could end up out of fuel and risking
environmental damage via a large fuel spill. Avoiding this is important any
time but even more important when doing long ocean crossings sometimes more
than 1,000nm from the closest shore. Having no fuel when days from shore could
really be a disappointment.
The second advantage of the explicit fuel transfer system
is all fuel has to pass through the transfer filter before it gets to the
supply tank. Given the uncertainty of fuel quality world-wide, we really like a
layer of filtering prior to the fuel even getting to the supply tank. The
combination of keeping the bulk fuel locked up and safe from leaks and the
additional layer of filtering makes this operating mode important to us. It is
a bit more manual work but it feels worth it. This is the source of the first
fuel system modification we made. The standard fuel pump, a Walbro 6802, is
incredibly slow at 43 gallons per hour. In fact, so slow that this way of
operating the boat can be frustrating. So we replaced it with a Jabsco
VR050-1122 pump capable of 822 gallons per hour.
Like many modifications, when you make one change, it can
drive others. To accommodate the transfer rate of this pump, we needed to go
with a much larger transfer filter. We went with Racor FBO 10, pictured below, which is commonly
used in bulk transfer commercial fuel management applications. This filter has
the advantage of supporting large transfer rates but it also has large
filtration area so few filter changes are needed.
One of our goals is to be able draw fuel from the supply
tank and return it to the supply tank while polishing one of the bulk tanks.
The standard manifold design doesn't support this. The engine return goes to
whatever tank the transfer pump is returning into. Unless you are
gravity-feeding, polishing one of the bulk tanks while underway has the
downside of the supply tank being completely pumped out every 30 to 60 minutes
and runs the risk of running the main engine out of fuel. So we made manifold
changes to support what we wanted.
Dirona's manifold pictured at the top of this post supports many extension
from standard. The first to address the issue we just brought up. If you look
closely you'll see that we can polish fuel from a bulk tank back to the same
bulk tank but still direct the main engine fuel return to the supply tank.
There is a bypass that runs between the engine return and the supply tank fill
that allow the main engine to return fuel to the supply tank while still being
able to polish fuel in any other tank. This bypass hose can be seen running
through a valve on the right side of the manifold.
Another addition we made to the manifold is provision to
drain pump out of the supply tank. We have added a hose from the bottom of the
supply tank into the transfer manifold allow the supply tank to be polished if
a fuel problem is encountered. It also allows the supply tank to be pumped out
if there is a need to service it or some of the fuel lines in that area.
Because we can pump out the supply tank, and the supply tank is below the wing
tank, we can actually pump out the wing tank as well by first pumping the
supply tank level to below the bottom of the wing tank and then opening the
wing and supply return manifold valves and allowing the wing tank to drain down
into the supply tank. We think it is super important to be able to pump out,
service, or re-filter the fuel in any tank and especially the wing and supply
tanks. These changes allow the supply tank to be directly polished underway and
supports draining the wing and supply tanks if needed.
The next extension is to allow Dirona to carry more fuel in
those rare times when greater range or higher speed over long distances are
needed. Dirona as delivered is capable of around a 2,400nm range and this is
more than enough for 99% of all she will ever do. However, there are times when
very long crossings are planned or when we want to run faster on a passage that
is within range. The nicest solution is to put more tankage on Dirona but it's
impractical to install more and it's probably not worth the space compromise
that has to be paid every day for the entire life of the boat just to get more
range or speed on a long crossing. You may only need this greater range every
few years and yet more tankage take up more space all the time. Our solution is
to run on-deck fuel tanks
when we do want to run more or ran faster. This is more of a hassle but, since
the extra fuel is rarely needed, it feels like a better answer on a small boat
than giving up more space inside the boat. Our longest run has been 2,600nm ,
and having more fuel made this much more practical. But, in five years, we have
only needed this additional capacity once and only used it twice. On-deck fuel
bladders are a good compromise when you don't want to give up more space and
very rarely need more fuel.
To make the bladders easier to manage, we have a bulkhead
fuel fitting in the cockpit plumbed into the fuel manifold at bottom left (and pictured above). When
we install the bladders, we install a short length of fuel hose between the
bladders and the bulkhead fitting using cam lock snap fittings. This allows us
to drain the bladders without going on deck and without having the fuel intakes
open to potential water ingress. When we are ready to draw them down, we just
turn on the fuel transfer pump, select the tank we want to pump into, and the transfer
pump quickly does the work. This has the added advantage of putting all bladder
fuel through a filtration phase before bringing it into the fuel tanks.
We've mostly gotten good fuel, but there have been a couple of
times over the last fifteen years when we've bought some expensive water, or
picked up some fuel with lots of foreign matter. We buy fuel all over the world
and the good news is that bad few is fairly rare. But it does happen. Our
defense against it is mass filtration with lots of spare filters. The way we
use the boat, fuel will be filtered at least four times before reaching the
engine injection pump: 1) through the transfer filter to the supply tanks, 2)
through the primary filters to the main engine, 3) through the first on-engine
filter, and 4) through the final on-engine filter. We have a lot of filter
spares on board, with more than 40 of our primary filters stored away. If we
get bad fuel, we probably have the filtration to be able to manage the problem.
The final issue is complexity and human error. Nordhavns
have very flexible fuel transfer systems but with flexibility comes some
complexity. On Dirona, we have extended the design but, with those extensions
comes some additional complexity. It's hard to avoid. And where there is
complexity and potential tired boat operators, mistakes can happen. The most
common mistake is to close an engine return valve or close the return manifold
tank connection. This causes the running engines to not be able to return,
which will very quickly lead to leak or pump failures. You can disable an
engine quickly this way. Another mistake is to accidentally pump fuel
We battle complexity and potential error every way we can
think of, including posting the fuel transfer diagram at the manifold and
having all valves brightly and clearly labeled. We have also calibrated the
sight gauges in our all our tanks and installed redundant digital tank level
monitors. We have installed a digital fuel transfer timer and both calibrated
it and labeled it for the number of gallons transferred per minute. So, if you
are moving 17 gallons, you can see exactly how many minutes of transfer time is
needed, substantially driving down the risk of mistake. But it is still possible.
To catch mistakes in either direction, we also have digital level indicators on
all tanks, a high-level alarm on the supply tank, and low level alarms on the
wing and supply tanks.
Finally we label all fuel transfer valves as normally off or
normally on to make it clear where they should be in normal operating mode.
But, even this isn't enough. In a storm with only two people on the boat, there
is a risk of getting tired. And, if there is a fault at the same time, mistakes
get harder to avoid. So, we tie-tag all valves open that need to be open to
avoid the blocked return problem described above. The only way to close a valve
that could hurt an engine is to go and get wire cutters and cut the tie tag
All these design changes give Dirona a flexible system that
can polish fuel while operating at sea, can't lose all the fuel in a fault,
supports easy service, and helps manage human error while still offering a
fairly flexible system.
Even after travelling through the South Pacific,
New Zealand's Bay of Islands is a standout cruising destination with many sheltered anchorages,
walking trails to viewpoints, and several nearby towns for provisioning or enjoying a
in the Bay of Islands, was our first landing in New Zealand
1,200-mile run from
The crossing has a reputation for rough seas, but we had a pretty easy run between two low pressure systems. New
Zealand has strict biosecurity regulations, and entry there was the most
difficult of every country we've travelled to in the South Pacific. But it
wasn't as bad as we were expecting.
We knew that we couldn't bring in any fresh produce, but had heard
rumours that Quarantine would take our flour, rice and even spices. They
mainly, however, confiscated any honey, ginger, garlic, eggs of any form
(powdered, cooked or fresh), popcorn kernels and any meats (cooked or raw) not
in their original packaging. We were surprised to able to keep some
USDA-approved meat from Hawaii. The most difficult aspect of clearing through,
of course, was having to
put our cat Spitfire into quarantine. He's never spent a night off
the boat since we took delivery, and Dirona felt empty without him.
They took good care if him though, and he was back on board in ten days. Spitfire is now an official New Zealand resident, and can
stay longer then we can.
After clearing through, we spent a few days exploring and reprovisioning at the
nearby towns of
Russell, and enjoying the water-view pubs and restaurants there.
We also explored the Paihia area by dinghy, to
Haruru Falls along the Waitangi River and suprisingly far up the
We later spent a few nights anchored in and exploring the Bay of Island proper.
The New Zealand Department of Conservancy maintains excellent walking tracks
throughout the country. We're really enjoying the tracks here--the scenery and
views they provide access to are amazing.
And about 25 miles north of the Bay of Islands is Whangaroa Harbor, with excellent protected anchorages and
even more impressive views from several tracks.
The picture at the top of this post was taken from
Duke's Nose while we were anchored at
Rere Bay. The pictures below
were taken from
Whangaihe Bay and
St. Paul's Rock.
Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations and more on a map,
with the complete log of our trip through the Bay of Islands.
On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at