Sometimes the most memorable holidays are the ones which don’t go to plan.
This was the case with the Norman's recent New Years’ cruising adventure, where the family of four came up against gale force winds and torrential rain while aboard their Whiting 29 'Soul Searcher'.
The extreme weather was the result of a “squash zone” between a high and low pressure, which saw strong Easterly winds set in with vengeance from Coromandel Peninsula northwards.
Sam and Graham along with their two daughters Mackenzie and Charlie (3 and 4) reached the Bay of Islands on 29 December, after setting sail from Auckland alongside many other cruising groups headed out to explore the East Coast.
The 120 nautical mile journey took them two days with a stop at Kawau island, and featured a favourable southerly but significant swell.
Shortly after arriving they became increasingly aware of the severe weather approaching.
“We had a few good days hanging out with our mates and letting the kids run around and explore the beaches, breeze was good for winging so it wasn’t all bad – but I was getting nervous about finding a ‘hidey hole’ where we could shelter up and weather the storm” Sam says.
As the strong Easterlies surged in with heavy rain it became clear they didn’t have many options of “hiding out” as even the most sheltered bays were being battered as gusts swirled over the hills.
Sam identified a friends vacant pole mooring and organised to secure Soul Searcher there before leaving the boat to dry out and wait for the winds to pass through at another friends house.
“It’s a good lesson in making sure you’ve got some contacts in your cruising destination if it’s far from home – and having a back-up plan should the weather turn nasty. In our case it has been awesome to experience how the cruisers have banded together and supported each other with information sharing, food, tools, contacts and knowledge,” she says.
Coming around Tapeka point saw a few memorable moments as they almost lost their sailing dinghy 'Star Gazer' as it surfed down the waves towing behind, and an engine failure had to be remedied.
"The girls were superstars and took to the rough conditions like an adventure where they were super heroes. It was hard for them as they couldn't stomach staying down below, but we made up songs, played eye spy, and hunted for mermaids instead. Mackenzie later told me it was the best day ever," laughs Sam.
The Norman family weren’t the only ones taking shelter during the storm, as many yachts got shifted onto moorings and marina’s filled out with boats wanting to be secure through the wild weather. Not to mention countless campers who packed up their tents and joined hundreds of others on the roads home.
Although not the picturesque scenes their Bay of Islands holidays are usually made of, Sam says it's always fun to keep things interesting.
"The girls have found their sea legs and are confidently walking all over the boat, and are experts at navigating using their lifejackets and harnesses. We've got big plans for the future and sailing offshore with them one day - so it's all good preparation." she says.
Sam and Graham and their daughters Mackenzie and Charlie (3 and 4) live in Te Atatu Peninsula and have owned 'Soul Searcher' which they keep at Half Moon Bay Marina, for five years.