8th February, Tauranga, New Zealand
We have been blessed with beautiful weather ever since we made landfall in New Zealand, the sun has been shining and the winds have been light; our guests and crew have made the most of it, thoroughly enjoying this beautiful country. The people are wonderfully friendly and everywhere is spotless, there is no litter, not a scrap of it to be seen anywhere. We arrive in Tauranga, the largest city on the Bay of Plenty, sailing past Mount Maunganui into the harbour. In the Maori language, Tauranga translates into “sheltered place for canoes” and while we are slightly larger than a canoe, one can see why it is so named.
Tauranga enjoys a warm, dry climate. This has made it a popular location to retire to. During the summer months the population swells as the holidaymakers descend on the city. Much of the countryside surrounding Tauranga is horticultural land, used to grow a wide range of fresh produce for both domestic consumption and export. The area is particularly well known for growing tangelos (a grapefruit/tangerine cross) and kiwifruit.
The Port of Tauranga also experiences brisk but seasonal shipping traffic. We arrive at the pilot station on schedule, at 6 a.m., sailing past Mount Maunganui on our port side and into the bay. The tide here can rip in or out and the port has ‘windows’ of opportunity to avoid the worst of it; our original arrival was scheduled for 6:45, however the tide was building at that time and the port requested that we come in earlier. We have a tight ‘squeeze’ to get in, another small cruise ship docked 30 minutes before us and we have to berth ahead of it. Similarly, our departure time of 5 p.m. is altered to 6 p.m., again to avoid the worst of the current. My personal opinion is that the Amsterdam could have handled the currents, however we have to accede to port authority wishes.
Departing at this later time results in a high-speed run to our next port, Napier, and we ‘wind her up’ to 19.5 knots. The seas are slight and we have a moderate Pacific swell as we cross the Bay of Plenty. New Zealand lies between 2 tectonic plates, the Pacific plate and the Australian-Indian plate; consequently there are numerous volcanoes, extinct and active, the mainland suffers from earthquakes and tremors too. We pass one of the active volcanoes during our passage across the Bay of Plenty, “White Island,” and although the light was fading when I took the photo, cranking up the ISO and the aperture on my Canon, to all intents and purposes looks as if it was taken in daylight, although it was dusk.
‘Puffs’ of ash and smoke were emitting from the peak, it is in fact on an ‘orange’ alert, volcanologists expect a larger eruption soon. The alert has been in being for some time and I have been watching developments by way of the ‘web’. Had I had to avoid it, it would have meant a huge deviation from our intended course and therefore speed (and therefore additional fuel). Everyone ‘in the know’ locally told me that I should not concern myself and we therefore we continued as is.
9th February, Napier, New Zealand
Another glorious day. The harbour is small and becomes even smaller when cargo ships are berthed. Everywhere we have visited during our New Zealand ports has had a large number of ships loading lumber, or to be more precise, logs. Thousands and thousands of tons are exported to China and Japan and vast stockpiles are stored in the dock areas, awaiting shipment. Napier is no exception, as can be seen from the photo, both ships, background and foreground, were busy loading while we were there. Not only logs, but dairy produce, meat, (both beef and lamb) and wool are shipped out of this bustling port.
The city suffered a terrible earthquake in the early 1930′s and as a consequence of the fire that started afterwards, most of the buildings were destroyed (and 258 citizens lost their lives). When the town was being rebuilt, it was decided to design it in the ‘art deco’ theme and so it came to be. There are ‘Art Deco’ themes everywhere, men and ladies dressed in 30′s dress, 30′s cars are on the pier and A-D galleries in the city.
Leaving the port was really interesting, just enough room to move astern into the ‘turning’ basin, (I use the term loosely) ever so gently, too fast and the cargo ships astern beckoned, (that can ruin one’s day, ha! The guests at the sailaway party on the lido deck aft must have had a very good view of their cargo holds). All went as planned and we set sail for Wellington, from which I am now writing.
It is a Sunday and there is a ‘Blessing of the Boats’ ceremony today; all manner of boats (and larger) go in procession out of the harbour, around a small island, (where they do a fly-by of an anchored boat, with the priest on board), are suitably ‘blessed’ and then return. It is watched by thousands of people and is broadcast on local radio; too good an opportunity to miss, we need all the help we can get and great publicity for HAL and so, as I write, one of our tenders, commanded by my 2nd-in-command, Friso, no less, and several volunteers are taking a jaunt around the harbour. We don’t sail until midnight, I hope he can find his way back by then…………………….
Jonathan Mercer is Amsterdam’s captain.