Coromandel Epic (Te Waka Nui Goes East)
During the weeks leading up to our planned voyage to the Coromandel, we were getting together all of the equipment that we felt necessary for a short to medium length voyage.
A checklist was made containing all of the safety equipment we needed, such as Radios, GPS Positioning, Flares, Phones, and GPS PLB (EPIRB).
All had their distinctive requirements, and would be needed in the case of a sinking boat.
We placed a big emphasis on the requirement to have a few extra days worth of ‘rations’ to cover us in case the weather (which would be monitored right up to the hour when we launched), turned sour, and we needed to make haste to one of the many islands along our way, and stay until weather improved.
During this preparation time word started to get around about what we were planning, and many of the people that we regularly talk to offered their assistance with advice, planning, or equipment.
The Week Before.
A week out, and I was still drilling holes into the kayak, fitting Railblaza Starports, and sideports, screwing and glueing.
It was at this stage, I was starting to feel the level of commitment, as I was reading the Forum notes from those that had gone fishing and had reported catches of some monster snapper.
Each time I was asked to go out, I had to keep the ‘big picture’ in the back of my mind, and each time I respectfully declined the many invites to get on the water, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I could post my ‘mega trip report’ on the kayak fishing forum, and everyone would know what my reasons were.
The final week.
As the departure day loomed, the trip was coming together, and equipment was finally getting ticked off the list, dehydrated meals, soup, noodles, cookers etc etc..
The list was getting full and without that list, I don’t know where we would have been, (we almost forgot toilet paper, and just think of getting stuck on an island in the middle of nowhere and not having anything to well you know..
Because of the business of the leadup week, I did not have the time to do an ‘on water test’ of the kayak with the rodholders and fishfinder / chartplotter installed, although a short intermission on the Wednesday with Grant Dixon of Fishing News for some snapshots and a brief rundown of the layout of ‘Te Waka Nui’ (the Big Canoe – roughly translated), gave a small level of comfort in respect of the vast (the kayak as used in the trip) 23 Railblaza Starports dotted all over the boat.
The Night Before.
Final plans and trip reports were confirmed, the weather checked again for about the 40th time.
Mark, my ‘Crew’ for the journey came to the house and we laid out all of the gear that we needed for the trip, and again checked off the list (and I cannot stress enough how good lists are), layout all of the equipment on the floor of the lounge, taking note of how much paraphernalia, we were in fact taking.
We did a dummy run of packing the gear into the kayak just to be sure that everything would fit within the hull of Te Waka Nui, therefore reducing the need to stow any gear on the trampolines, which could be a hinderance in the event of a capsize or a big fish hookup.
One of the big issues with kayak touring is balance, and even more so with a sailing kayak. With a standard touring Kayak, the heavier items such as water canned goods toolkits etc should be packed in the centre of the kayak, but with a sailing kayak, this CG (centre of gravity) or balance point needs to be slightly aft, to avoid broaching and prevent (or reduce) submarining (the bow of the kayak spending most of the time underwater).
With Te Waka Nui it has to be said at this point that I am a bit bigger that Mark (crew), so it wasn’t such an issue, but it was something to keep in mind.
Now as we checked off our list, we packed all of the gear into large plastic bins, which we closed and packed in the garage ready to go.
Now anyone that has planned an epic might know how it feels, the night before, trying to get to sleep, with a thousand things going around in your mind, thinking about weather routes, plans, timing and of course, going through the lists in your head again and again.
Sometime after midnight I drifted off to sleep to be woken by the horrendous sound of the alarm clock droning out ‘its 5am its 5am’ repeatedly until I beat it into submission.
Shortly after 5am, Mark arrived and we set to packing the car for the drive to Maraetai.
It only took 15 minutes to get the kayak loaded onto the roof, and stow all of the ‘pre-packed’ gear into the boot of the wagon.
We did however come across a small issue once we had got everything loaded, we forgot to leave a space for my wife who was going to come out with us and see us off (and of course drive the car down to collect us in 2 days time).
Rather than spend the next hour re-packing to allow for extra space, we resolved that the best idea was to take two cars and leave one parked along the way.
After checking the weather again, plans and trip reports (including a computer printout of the map course we intended to take, revised based on the weather conditions) were advised to 3 different people at this stage, with times of expected departure and expected arrival, (with a safety margin of an hour added for comfort).
We arrived at Maraetai at 7:30, unloaded and started setting the kayak up, and stowing all of the drybags, as we had practised.
The weather was looking fantastic, with the sheltered beach at Maraetai looking at glass with the full tide lapping gently on the shore.
My wife arrived shortly after, and we took a series of ‘pre departure’ photos.
As mark and I got loaded, we noticed that the water level we up to the top of the scupper holes, reflecting how low were were sitting in the water, and how much the kayak was loaded up for the trip.
Departure. (Leg One of the Trip – to Passage rock)
As final goodbyes were said, and ETA’s were revised, we set off a little before 8.00am.
The water was flat, and a slight breeze had us skimming along at about 3.5 Knots.
We could see in the distance some small whitcaps but they didn’t show promise of being anything to worry about.
Once we got a reasonable speed going, one by one we got the fishing rods rigged up and the lures into the water.
Fin Nor had provided a small selection of rod/reel combo’s for us to use for the crossing, and immediately we sensed the quality of what we had been provided.
First out went the Marquesa combo’s, which went out on the furtherest part of the outriggers, placing the lines some 20 feet away from each other.
As we worked our way inward, next we put the Offshore 4500 combo, then the Biscayne 80 combo, and finally the heavy duty Biscane Overhead reel with a surface Lure.
The five line combo was set up with a mixed feast of Rapala, Williamson, and sundry other mixed lures, covering a variety of species types, including tuna, kawhai, and Kingfish.
Once out, we set up a nice crusing speed of about 4.5 knots, carefully checking our course against the chartplotter on the Lowrance Elite5 DSI sounder / plotter.
After a few Minor course corrections (due to chasing the ever fluctuating wind), we got our first and only fish on running lures (why explained later), a small kawhai, which after thing about the ins and outs of using it for bait, or live lure, we returned to the see to grow a little bigger.
Nearing the end of Waiheke, we came across a big yellow pole sticking up out of the water in the middle of nowhere.
As we got closer, we could read the writing which was clear.. ‘Marine Reserve’, and after checking the plotter and the Navionics map, I confirmed the reserve as the Te Matuku marine reserve, which covers Passage Rock, and the Te Matuku Estuary.
We pulled the lines in and, not wanting to call ourselves into question, we waited until we were well outside the estuary at Sunday rock before we re-deployed the lines again.
Wind dies. (leg 2)
As we got close to the Marine reserve, the wind dropped off to next to nothing, leaving us to pedal (you read it right, the Hobie Tandem Island has Pedal power to get the craft along under light (or nil wind conditions).
This push pull system utilises a skulling or finning form of propulsion similar to how a penguin makes its way through the water, and the patented Hobie Mirage Drive is a very efficient way of propelling this laden vessel through the water at an average speed of 3.5 Knots.
Now this is the point where most paddle kayakers say hey, that’s not traditional kayaking, you are in a pedal craft, with an 8.5sqm sail.
In answer to those traditionalists out there, whilst the Pedal kayaks may be more efficient in terms of motive power, and torque, when you have a fully laden kayak, with two people on board, after two hours of pedalling, you do get rather tired.
Between the two of us we shared out the pedaling, having rest breaks, by dropping our speed to 2.5 knots and alternating paddling responsibility.
The water was calm generally, but with a small chop of less than one foot, and after an extended pedalling time, we started wishing for some of the 10 – 12 knot wid that we had seen on the various forecast websites.
Small respite (leg 3)
As we neared leg 3, our departure from the Waiheke Channel, we started to feel the SE Wind as we got a temporary respite from the pedalling with about 6-7 knots of wind allowing us a bit of time to catch my breath and check the lines.
It was however short lived, as, when we neared the channel between RotoRoa and Pakatoa, we were again in the lee of the wind and waves, and another 20-30 minutes of pedalling before we could see the wind and swell of the Firth of thames.
The views as you complete each section of this trip have to be said, must be unparalled in the world, with the islands, beaches, boats of all shapes and sizes, and the distant views of some of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand.
As we passed a number of small craft fishing in the Waiheke Channel, we received some very strange looks from those fishing, but we always received a friendly wave.
One can only assume what they were thinking as we pedalled past them, I am sure it would have been something like, ‘where did they come from’ or ‘where are they going’, but always I am positive that they would have been thinking ‘what sort of vessel is that?’.
As we neared the firth, we did a final check of equipment, making sure all was tied down, checking the hull for any leakage, and making decisions as to the conditions as we saw them in front of us.
The firth, 13Nautical Miles to PapaAroha (leg 4)
As we entered leg 4 of our trip, which would see us leave Rotoroa Island, and pass tarahiki island before crossing the next 11nm of open water, we felt the immediate rise in the wind and the accompanying waves.
As the wind picked up, Mark reefed in the sails 2-3 turns, reducing the sail area, allowing us to keep the speed down and avoid any hairy situations, and as our trip proceeded, I felt that I had forgotten something.
After an hour running along the beam sea, coming up into any wave that looked a bit bigger than the rest, I noticed one of the Fin Nor Marquesa’s peeling out line at a slow pace.
As Mark pulled in the line, we had realised the fundamental flaw of trolling 5 lines in the beam sea.
As we would come up into the odd wave, to lessen the impact of any beam force and reduce the risk of capsize or damage, the lines were slowly knitting themselves into a ball of a colourful twisted mess.
We had to stop, and sort it out.
As we sorted it out, we pulled in the sail 90% leaving enough to give us a little steerage and keep us into the direction of the wind and the waves.
We soon realised the nature of the mess as all 5 lures became visible in the same ‘chunk’ of ‘twine’.
Although we made haste at untangling the ball of lures, nylon, and braid, it became obvious within the shortest time that it wasn’t going to happen, and line would have to be cut.
We made the most of the line, saving all we could, and cut the lures off first, followed by the braid.
The Crew was starting to feel the motion of the waves, as he hurridly worked with the lines, in the up and down up and down motion of the now 2metre sea, and this kept on until we were well underway.
Having saved as much of the braid as possible, after about ½ hour of ‘bobbing’ we stowed the rods for what we thought would be the rest of the crossing, concentrating on sailing the boat in the direction of our destination.
As we sped off, we went back to having 2 -3 turns of sail on the mast and were making a good average speed of 5 knots (Over water) which was clear from the Lowrance Elite 5 DSI.
We felt the power of the wind and the water as, from time to time, Mark was in the air as we crossed over one of the bigger waves, which passed by without much attention.
The front position in a tandem Kayak is usually reserved for the Crew, and is usually the wettest part of the boat, and there is no exception with the Hobie Tandem Island.
Mark was either sitting in the air or sitting back watching the bow go under water, (submarining) and without the addition of the hobie sprayskirts, it can sometime be not a bit of spray, but in these conditions, it can be compared to a bucket of water being thrown at you every 10 or so seconds.
At this point I have to mention what were wearing, as without the proper gear this trip could have been very uncomfortable.
NZ Watersports (formerly Boat Bits) had worked with us to equip the crew with Hydrophobic gear by Zhik. This Water repellent gear, seemed to pull moisture away from our skin, and leave it warm and dry. This teamed up with a Musto Dinghy Jacket, had us sitting in comfort despite the conditions.
As we neared Coromandel, and our destination, the wind and waves eased, and we again decided to try our luck with the trolling lures, this time, opting for the safer option of running a 3 lure spread.
Another 2 Nautical miles and the wind died off to a wisp of a breezes, and we resumed paddling again.
After another ¾ of an hour of paddling, and sensing the thought of hitting land without anything to show for the trip (as relates to fish), we decided to throw out the drift chute, (not as though wwe needed it though), and throw out some softbaits to tempt our luck.
The Downscan Imaging on the Lowrance proved itself invaluable as we approached Papaaroha, showing not just bottom structure, but giving us an almost photorealistic picture of what was midwater and on the bottom. It was so good that you could almost see the fish changing their minds….
Although I got the odd strike on my rods, it was Mark who soon had his rod tip bent over almost touching the water, and after 5 or so minutes, we had dinner in the net, and after the ¾ hour pedalling break we pedalled the last 400 yards to the beach.
As we unpacked the seemingly never ending plethora of sleeping gear, accommodation, food, etc etc from the kayak and sat back looking over the trip with a nice hot cup of tea, we marvelled at the time we had and the journey which we will never forget.
My most sincere thanks to Electronic Navigation (Lowrance / Uniden), Railblaza (rod and accessory mounting), Protobuild (rod holder mounts), Thompson Walker (Fin Nor), and NZ Watersports (formerly Boat Bits / Takapuna Sailing Centre), the suppliers of Hobie, without which this adventure would have never happened.
(photos can be seen here...)http://www.kayakfishingnz.com/forum/vie ... f=8&t=6301