Galley Wench Tales

Exploring the world through the people we meet
and the food they eat.

Wayne making way back to the anchorage on our first stop at Motuarohia (Roberton) island.  It was far chiller and less crowded then.

In the Eastern portion of New Zealand’s lovely Bay of Islands, a mere 7 miles from Opua, rests the purportedly “the most photographed” of the bunch, Roberton Island — Motuarohia is its Māori  name.

Trail head viewpoint, looking East across Motuarohia.

Like RussellMotuarohia’s serenity belies a darker history.  As of 1979, Motuarohia came under the care of the Department of Conservation, though nearly half of the island is privately owned. 

Originally the island’s inhabitants were Māoris.  In 1869 after a bit of gunfire, Captain Cook and his crew were welcomed with food and water, likely helped by a Māori conversant Tahitian aboard.  Eventually the land was sold to John Roberton, who farmed it.  However, after John Roberton died, his widow, Elizabeth Roberton, resumed farming with Thomas Bull.  They did not get along with a local chief’s teenage son, Maketū Wharetōtara who murdered Bull, Elizabeth, her two children and the granddaughter of the Ngāpuhi leader Rewa, who lived with the Robertons.  Maketū was tried, found guilty and hung, the first enactment of the death penalty in New Zealand.

Motuarohia’s sandy shore — at least in this Bay.

Today Motuarohia’s returning to its natural roots, thanks to massive replantings of native trees and shrubs.

Of the four main bays, all offer safe anchorage for visitors.  The largest and most popular is a sand-fringed South Eastern bay, where we enjoyed our our Christmas festivities.  It’s also where the park’s popular lagoons and lookout trail head originates, leading to an exceptional 360 degree Bay of Islands view.

Another cruiser gazes across Motuarohia’s
most popular anchorage site.

On Christmas morning my kayak paddle led to an interesting encounter on the adjacent bay to the West.  Needing desperately to expel my morning coffee, I hauled kayak ashore the broad pebbly beach, searching urgently for a sufficiently private “nature girl” spot to do my biz.  Seeing a road, a dock and a home to my right, I bore past a kayak-strewn grassy stretch at my left.  There was a boardwalk trail beyond it leading upward, and beyond that, a cliff.  Up I went, eventually finding a spot to step off the boardwalk and do, quickly as possible, what was necessary.

Figuring I may as well make the most of the trail, I returned to the boardwalk to take in the views.  A few minutes further it became apparent it was leading to a private home.  In the interest of respecting their privacy, I eschewed the nearby views and made a quick about face, heading back to the beach.

This point divided our anchorage from the bay to the West
that I kayaked into.

Exiting the boardwalk, I encountered a tall fair-haired man wearing a peach-colored golfing shirt, apparently about to tell me something.  Realizing he likely was a property owner, I apologized, explaining once I realized I was approaching a private home and not on a public island trail head, I turned around. 

“Was there a private property sign?” I asked.  “No,” he replied, “though it is private property.”  He admitted when the occasional uninvited visitor showed up, he would decide based on their attitude whether to tell them to bugger off, or whether to welcome them.

Private property view of Motuarohia’s North West cove.

Determining I intended to harm (other than if you consider the real reason for my stop, which I had no intention of sharing – harmful), the man — Murray — offered me a tour.  I paused, both out of private embarrassment and because I needed to return to finish my Christmas lunch preparation soon, but agreed, letting him know I was expected back soon at the adjacent anchorage. 

I hopped in Murray’s proffered Jeep, and he drove up to a home atop the island’s Eastern hill.  Wayne and I noticed Murray’s home from the Western trail vista, wondering if its building materials were delivered by helicopter.  They were.   The view of Motuarohia’s exquisitely transparent emerald-colored North-facing coves was even better than from the public trail head.  “Good snorkeling?” I asked about the Eastern-most cove?  Yes, Murray said.


Closer view of Motuarohia’s North West cove.

thanked Murray, and returned to my kayak, Journey and a Christmas lunch on a the best sun-sparkled day since our arrival in New Zealand.  Much as I enjoyed the cruiser Christmas feast, my true Christmas present was overcoming an embarrassment that ultimately led to an incredible, unexpected view.  Like Captain Cook’s visit, I too am glad my “invasion” was ultimately welcomed.

Location Location
We’re currently anchored at Bay of Islands Waitata Bay (S35.15.355 E174.08.021) near Russell and than 2 miles from Motuarohia (S35.14.120 E174.10.094), just across New Zealand’s Bay of Islands.  We’re about to head over to Pahia to prep for a leisurely, multi-day passage with stops along the way to Whangarei.  If you’d like to see area looks like, watch for some upcoming posts of our explorations in the area just before Christmas.

Cruising by the Numbers
We’re just doing short hops since our November 21st arrival in New Zealand until May 2016 when cyclone season ends and it’s safe to foray further.  We sailed over 10,000 miles this year since leaving Florida in December 2014.