The World's Best Mooring
You can rest easy now; the debate is over. The best mooring on the planet is in New Zealand's Bay of Islands at 35˚ 18' S, 174° 7' E. What, you think yours is better? Tell us why and win a party!
I awake in darkness and silence and almost imperceptible motion. The boat rocks and bobs an inch or two. On land, even such small movement would be cause for alarm, but on a mooring, boats are always alive like this.
At first light, I summon the will to leave my warm cocoon of bedding, wrapping myself in a sleeping bag for the five steps I take to reach my clothes in the main cabin. High pressure and clear skies have finally followed the worst spring storm that New Zealand’s seen in decades; it was caused by a giant low that sat in the Southern Ocean for a week, and the storm brought snow at lambing season, which decimated flocks. Clear nights are cool nights, and the pre-dawn cabin is 41 F, which is about as cold as it ever gets in the Bay of Islands.
Cool air against bare skin burns, but not for long.
Scandinavians tell me that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only improper clothing. I could add long underwear, but Levi’s and Polartec are enough until the sun brings warmth, though I do sometimes use a sleeping bag as a lap robe. Even in midwinter the temperature usually rises above 55 F, and today, in early October springtime, it will reach into the 60s F.
Dressed, I step to the companionway.
This morning, I’m facing the mountain to the east. Only 2,000 feet high, it’s small for a mountain but too big to be a hill in this country of hills. It’s sometimes shrouded by fog or cloud; this morning, its silhouette is razor sharp. One of the great pleasures of life on my mooring is watching light and shadow change on hills and water during the day.
A quarter of a mile away, silhouetted against the rising sun, is tiny, gumdrop-shaped Pine Tree Island.
The story is that early last century, a local settler planted seven pine trees on the islet, one for each of his children. He and they are dead now, but each time I look that way, I remember his loving gesture. And the roots of those trees are all that still holds the eroding island together.
A quarter of a mile in the other direction lies Opua Marina, the company from which I bought my mooring six years ago, after sailing across the Tasman Sea following the completion of my fourth circumnavigation in Sydney, Australia. I paid the duty on The Hawke of Tuonela, too, so that I don’t have to take her out of the country every year, although I’ve sailed to French Polynesia and back, to Tonga and Fiji and back, and made an 18-month fifth circumnavigation since then. Often during that circumnavigation, I missed my mooring and wished I were back on it. I’ve found unexpected contentment here. But contentment isn’t enough, and after a while I find myself thinking of the open ocean again.