From our house we look out to a headland promontory which was a Maori, fortified Pa site in days gone by. The fact that this was once so is clearly evident when you walk up to the knoll on the ridge of the headland. There is evidence of dwelling and storage pits and palisade levels as well. It is at once clear why such a site would be inhabited by Maori in pre-European times. The views are unbroken for 360 degrees which means that you can see anyone approaching from any direction. The proximity to exceptional fishing grounds at the mouth of a significant tributary to the harbour makes the site absolutely perfect for supporting a reasonably sized population, worth defending.
|View from our home in Rawene|
At the foot of this steep, grass covered headland is a long mangrove covered island called Motukaraka. (Karaka is a species of native tree with large, glossy, dark green
leaves and large oval berries that are a brilliant orange when ripe. These trees thrive in coastal, subtropical Northland. Motu means Island in the Maori language).
Since Julie and I bought this property over 3 years ago, I have longed to sail over and explore this inaccessible region of the Hokianga Harbour's northern coastline, so clearly visible from our house.
The tide is full at midday on a full moon so, with an extra high tide on the ebb, a great sailing forecast, Westerly, 10-15 knots and everything prepared, I slipped Lookfar into the water at 11.30 am and set off. (My survival kit includes a water bottle, a knife, spare rope, food, and cell phone carefully sealed in a zip lock bag and a snap lid plastic container all loaded in a plastic pail which doubles as a bailer).
It was one easy beat with the 10 knot westerly wind on the port bow laying the mouth of the Tapuwai river where Motukaraka island lies.
The scenery is spectacular with virgin native rain forest reaching down to the coast in many places, interspersed with the green clearings of old settlements and farms visible along the shore. My layline points to the beautiful red and white, native timber church of "Our Lady of the Assumption" with its polished silver steeple that proudly presides over the tiny settlement of Motukaraka.
(Please see the previous post for images of the church and the farm house I mention here)
Passing the settlement close by I sailed on the incoming tide right into the Tapuwai river mouth with Motukaraka island passing on my port hand side.
Once into the inlet proper with a beam wind, we sailed on to the cemetery, attracted by the huge white, wooden cross on the western bank of the Tapuwai river. (Tapuwai means sacred water in the Maori language. I may yet find a link between the name and the cross).
I was determined to navigate the narrow channel between the headland and Motukaraka island. The tide was still on the rise as we made our way on starboard tack into the narrow channel.
This close to the mangroves with our tiny Optimist rig the wind was very fluky indeed so, as a result, there was much tacking from one mangrove covered shore to the other. Eventually we rounded the gentle bend in the channel heading now in a southerly direction with the wind on our starboard beam. I was heading for the landing of an old colonial farmhouse, which is also visible from our house. I pulled Lookfar high up the gentle clay incline and dropped the sail.
I retrieved my food, water and cellphone and made my way up the track to the old dilapidated farm house. From there I climbed the steep grassy slope to the crest of the Pa site I mentioned earlier.
What a sensational view!
Looking west towards the harbour mouth.
East, south east
East: Exactly the same view as ours only in reverse. For the first time I was able to see back toward our home (on the middle ground peninsular of Rawene below the prominent hump on the skyline to the right of this image).
I called Julie on my phone and asked her to look my way through her binoculars. Yes she could see me waving my hat, through the clear air, over several kilometers.
It is a wonderful feeling to be able to cobble together a tiny sail boat and make a trip like this. I find it very satisfying. I return to an earlier, much simpler time in my life when trips like these were the norm for me.
I had intended for Toroa to fill this role but since my illness I've lost some of the energy and physicality needed to keep and handle such a vessel.
Down the grassy ridge and back to Lookfar before the sea breeze comes in and the tide begins to flood. 20 knots of wind against a 4 knot tide makes for a choppy and uncomfortable ride in a small boat.
Lookfar, homeward bound.
Photo by Julie Holton
Lookfar, almost home: Photo by Julie Holton
I can lift Lookfar bodily out of the water and haul her easily up the grassy bank at home.
As for fishing? Well I had my hands full on the return trip so I left my lines for another day.
I think I will construct a small canoe stern rudder to keep us on track down wind, the paddle is OK but does require some muscle to keep on course in the puffs.