Sunday, March 22, 2020

A quick stop at Poor Knights Islands

At the end of our 3 week exploration of New Zealands Northeast corner we stopped at the Poor Knights Islands: a marine reserve located about 30 miles from our "homebase" in Whangarei.

The anchorages at the Poor Knights are marginal at best.   Thankfully, the wind and swell were quite low for two days straight.  We dropped our anchor on a pile of rocks and set out in the dinghy to explore.

The first thing we noticed were large blue trevally that seemed to be attracted to our boat.  The next day I snorkeled in 3 different locations and several times they followed me around like puppy dogs.  When I was swimming around our big boat they pulled right up beside me and seemed to be expecting something.  I think they might be fed scraps from the scuba dive boats that frequently visit the reserve.

It was strange to have kingfish and snappers rise up out of the gloom, swim right toward me, and then mosey along their way.  Those gamefish are quite shy elsewhere.  I would have to sneak along and pop up from behind a rock to get a glimpse of one outside this reserve.

There are several interesting features above and below water owing to the island’s volcanic origin.  In one location we were able to run the dinghy through a 100 yard long tunnel that went right through the center of an island and out the other side.  A short dinghy ride took us to a huge opening in the side of a cliff: Rikoriko cave.  It’s claimed to be the world’s largest sea cave.  Three years ago I dove the entrance of the cave with a local scuba operator.  After we surfaced, the huge dive boat motored right into the cave for a brief tour and a few horn blasts.  The ceiling is an almost perfect dome and the echoes are incredible. 

I took Michelle inside with the dinghy and impressed her with echoed shouts, whistles, and various rude noises.

Looking out from inside Rikoriko Cave

We circumnavigated the Islands with our dinghy, poking around in the little coves, caves, and cuts.  At one spot the ocean swell would pump pressure into passage and then compressed air and water would come blasting out.

A local friend of ours showed me a photo of his boat sailing under arch rock – which was right next to our anchorage.  When we first arrived I took our boat slowly through the arch while watching depth and looking for hazards.  The path was clear and easy but it was still unusual and unnerving to be surrounded by rock on all sides.  I checked the height of the arch with the drone and it was 30 feet higher than our mast but it still looked like we’d strike.

When we left the next day I wanted to get some drone photos and video of us passing through the arch.  Michelle was at the helm while I operated the drone.  Just as we were entering the arch it got too stressful for her.  I parked the drone in the air and took the boat through again.  Thankfully, the drone has great battery life and it just hung there for 5 minutes.  As we came out the other side I picked up the remote and got of few good photos.

We had to head into Whangarei so that I could make a dentist appointment before our one-month trip through New Zealand’s South Island.  Little did we know that all of New Zealand would be in total lockdown in less than a week.   We are disappointed but feel very fortunate to be in the company of some wonderful neighbors here at the marina.

I can’t say enough good things about the New Zealanders and their handling of this crisis.  The government has had a consistent, practical, and compassionate message. 

To view all photos click Here.

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