We arrived on November 10th to Whangarei, New Zealand. We had a beautiful sunny day for our arrival and Paul (who had sailed here before) said it was the prettiest he had ever seen the area. When entering a new country, it is important to remember to fly the “Q” flag (a plain yellow flag) from the mast – indicating you are “quarantined” until you have been cleared into the country. We put it up as soon as the sun was up.
Before describing our interesting customs experience, here are some photos from the passage. The following album includes photos of Raoul Island, the many humpback whales we saw there (including a great telephoto sequence of a breaching whale), and pictures of New Zealand as we approached and arrived in Whangarei:
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The nearest customs clearance location for us was at Marsden Cove Marina (a new marina not currently shown in Google Earth). They have a brand new set of docks and a clearly marked customs dock. We were told on the radio to park behind another US sailboat called “Roger Henry” from Montana. The skipper on that boat helped tie our lines as we smoothly glided into position.
We had only been there 5 minutes when the customs officials arrived. They were very professional and asked to come aboard. I sat down with the customs and immigration official while Karen worked with the bio-security/agriculture official who checks over our food and looks for signs of bugs, etc. The customs process went very smoothly at first. I had all the paperwork in order except for a form I thought we didn’t need. He quickly helped fill out that form for me.
He asked some questions about our route. I mentioned that we had stopped at Raoul Island to wait out a storm. Apparently he was waiting for me to mention this. He immediately indicated, in a quite stern manner, that we had neglected to properly contact NZ customs. I explained how we contacted the Raoul Island conservation staff as soon as we were in radio range. And that they indicated normally boats are not allowed to anchor unless they have prior permission, but that if we are sheltering for a storm it is permitted (which is also what we read on the charts). We did not go ashore and complied with their rules of not fishing in the area. He made it very clear that there is normally a detailed process required for getting permission. I understand his points. They don’t want boats showing up in this protected island sanctuary without their prior knowledge. He indicated the island staff would be instructed to make sure to help any boat sheltering to contact customs prior to anchoring there. Apparently it is a very rare occurrence. He said since it was clear we stopped for a storm, and obeyed the rules, there would be no further action required. They might fine a boat who tried to stop without such circumstances.
After the Raoul Island discussion, the rest of the customs process was handled very professionally and thoroughly. They were done in less than an hour. They welcomed us to the island and gave us a package from the marina with local information and a bottle of wine with plastic glasses. Very nice!
We immediately left the customs dock and had a beautiful trip up the river looking at the scenery along the shores up to Whangarei. The river gets quite narrow when you arrive to the Town Basin Marina – where we soon had Tahina docked. Shortly after arrival, we took the opportunity to hook up a hose and give Tahina a thorough cleaning. After our 6.5 day passage there was a layer of salt all over the boat. It took us two hours, but Tahina gleamed in the late afternoon sun! A while later, we got dressed and went into town to find some dinner. We decided after our “Do you have pizza on board?” event, that we should have pizza as our arrival celebration dinner!