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Kestrel 18 cruise to Great Barrier Island

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Hi everyone,


I have a kestrel 18ft trailer sailer and I am thinking of sailing over to Great Barrier Island this summer for a couple or three weeks. Obviously I will have to pick my weather window sailing there and back, but once there I should be reasonably safe in Port Fitzroy, so long as I watch the weather.

Is there water available on the Island and where and is it safe to drink?

What are the must see places?

Any places to stay away from, for whatever reason?

Is it safe to leave a dingy on the beach while you are away tramping some of the tracks (I may or may not take my dingy with me)?

What is the cell phone and VHF coverage like?

How busy will it be? I was talking to a guy from Doyle’s when I picked up my new sails and he said it could get very crowded there. I am planning to go about February or March.

What are good anchouring places etc?

Any other ideas or information would be appreciated.

I have a copy of RAYC Coastal Cruising Handbook, which has given me a lot of information, but it is an old version and I may have to update it. Are there any other books that might be handy?




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You'll find the Kestrals aren't as likely to roll over or fall apart as many would think. I can see no reason why you couldn't sail one to Barrier in the same weather conditions as most boats, normal safety considerations taken of course.


Take good walking shoes, it's a good island to wonder around on.


Anchoring should be easy for you considering you can sneak on top places many boats can't so there shouldn't be any problems finding a bolt hole should the weather turn evil.


Feb March should be less crowded, a good time I'd say.

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The dinghy should be fine , I've never worried about it there. Telecom is useless at Barrier but Vodafone seems to be generally available. l was told that they even put extra resources in for summer.

'They' always say that the water has giardia but the locals seem to drink it. I don't but ?

feb/ march will not be crowded

The Akarana guide is still as relevant as it ever was.

Still nights its better to anchor in the middle rather than snug up to the trees because of mozzies.

You'll love it, I regard it as such a dramatic looking place. Apart from a few well marked or charted obstacles , generally what you see is what you get there rock wise too, some great narrow passes to slot through and you can be secure in pretty well everything ,especially in a trailer sailor if you do stern tie into the trees when its howling.

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Thanks KM and JB.

Your replies have settled the decision (not that it needed settling); I will be going to Great Barrier Island this summer. Now to get everything ready.

I went to Coromandel and Te Kouma last February. It was supposedly blowing a 20-knot westerly on the way over and the Kestrel handled it great. A 28/30 ft keeler came past with just its jib up. So I have confidence in the little boat, but I will still watch my weather, as I am very flexible with my times and I am there to have fun :D .


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The Colville channel can be a bit intimidating especially in an easterly , where the swells come from Chile and then get crunched up a bit , so you might want to factor that into your voyage weather dependent and all that.( if you're going via Coromandel.) Wind against tide can be pretty dramatic sailing there.

Kawau to Barrier has Horn rock right on the direct route so either steer well clear or stop for a fish there.

Paget rock is sneaky on the approaches to Man o war passage so keep to the sides, and that one around the corner from man o war in the harbour to Fitzroy .. Nelson rock? give that room too.

Water is typically Fitzroy and Whangaparapara ,which is a nice harbour to visit.beautiful anchorage in the corner by the graves. Bowling alley bay if its from the north ( great tunnel there) and take the little pass between there and the islets to get back to Fitzroy through the broken islands, plenty of room.

I just wanna go there now.

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Hi All,


Unfortunately I did not get to Great Barrier Island this year. I took the Kestrel out a week before I had planned to leave for Great Barrier Island and the outboard motor packed up, so I decided not to risk going to Great Barrier Island without a motor.

Instead I have just returned from spending three weeks over at Coromandel. I had a great time and went as far north as Happy jack and Waiaro Cove. With a south westerly breeze I was not able to stay overnight at Happy Jacks. The day I went to Waiaro Cove it was low tide (as planned), so I anchoured off the beach and rowed the optimist (which I used as a tender) in. An interesting little cove, an overhanging tree might stop me from getting the Kestrel in at high tide.

I had a great time and with hind sight I probably could have made Great Barrier Island without a motor, but there is always next year.


Thanks to all the comments.


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A large topic swerve..............Aspenforte:


You row the Optimist? Do you have an extra seat of some sort or do you use the "seat" that the mast sits on when rowing?


I'm not overly familiar (as you can tell) with the Opti - sailed Ps/Flying Ants/Moths/Cherubs when I was a nipper :thumbup:


I'm thinking of buying an Opti to tow behind the keeler when I take the grand kids out on cruises so they can play in that when we're at anchor.

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Hi all,

Well I finally made it to Great Barrier Island on my little Kestrel 18.

It was a bit of a sper of the moment decision to go.

On January 1st 2017 I weighed anchour in Islington Bay at 06:20 and headed to Great Barrier.I could always opt out and head to another destination if I felt uncomfortable with the weather. I passed Otata Island at about 09:27. I felt comfortable with the weather so continued on. I could always turn back if things changed. I could just make out a small Island which I guessed was Little Barrier.

On the way I came apon a pod of about 15 odd dolphins. Not sure what type but they seemed quite small ones.A couple swam in my bow wave for a while but I was going in the opposite direction and not moving very fast, so they headed back to the pod. Still quit nice to have them with me for even a short time. The wind did come up and at one time I was down to a storm jib and one reef in the main. The wind did vary strength but never got above 20Kts and I eventually settled for the jib and two reefs in the main. Nice and comfortable. The swell got up to about half a meter as predicted, but ever 6th and 7th swell would be about 2meters but the Kestrel just bobed over them like a cork. No problems. With the northerly wind the highest I could point was to make Mangati Bay so at 19:39 I anchoured there for the night tucked right up in the bay. I knew about the mosquitos, but they were unbelievable. Insect repalant didn't work. But I did get some sleep. Next morning I headed to Port Fritzroy and had a great couple of weeks there despite the strong winds. Lots of boats over for the holidays. I had a relaxing time and really enjoyed myself.

I Headed back on Saturday 14th. I weighed anchour at 05:32 and headed out of Oneura Bay, but the wind was still a little strong so I returned and waited a couple of hours. At 07:13 I headed out again and I was comfortable with the wind strength so headed to Islington Bay. At times the wind died to nothing so I did motor quite a bit on the way back. I dropped anchour in Islington Bay at 20:52. A great sail and a great time at Great Barrier.

I am looking forward to doing the trip again, but if possible I will try for a slightly bigger yacht.

Definitely worth the effort. 

A great way to start the New Year. 

Thanks guys for all your help.



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I was last in Barrier as a fourteen year old. At the time it was easy to jog from the summit all the way back to kairara(?) bay. 30 years on, I'm not sure I could even walk to the top!


I remember there were several kauri dams, which at my age were fascinating.


It took us two full days to get there, sailing in a 60 foot Woollacott schooner. I can still remember my (non sailing) dad crash gybing us right on daybreak. And I still had to do my school work  :cry:

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