When we were looking for somewhere for Alisa and the boys to be parked on board Galactic while I went to Canada for the marine science conference, a friend suggested Savusavu, the delightful port where we cleared into Fiji.
Alisa and I instantly knew why Savusavu wouldn't work - there was no beach.
A beach is the first thing we look for in an anchorage, our great go-to for two very active boys who are growing up without a backyard to scamper off to. The beach is where Elias and Eric don't have to worry about sharing the space on board Galactic, don't have to worry about being too loud or too rough for the parents who are always hovering over them. On the beach we give them very free rein to run and scream and be themselves.
We just spent three days anchored at Urupukapuka Island, in the Bay of Islands. And the beach was perfect - great sand for running, plenty big, and sticks everywhere for turning into swords and lances.
The Bay of Islands has a chamber-of-commerce sort of name that makes it instantly recognizable to sailors in the South Pacific. Everyone's heard of the Bay of Islands.
In the flesh, it's a tiny place that struggles to serve the demand that reputation places on it. There are only six islands, seven if you count Moturoa. In a month or two, at the height of summer, the anchorages will be heaving.
For now, though, they're not too crowded to enjoy. Urupukapuka, just like Moturua, where we spent some time last season, has fantastic walking tracks all over the place, and a selection of archaeological sites from the days when these steep islands held the fortified homes of a warlike people.
Some walk, others ride
Boys and tree ferns.
Any place for a sword fight
We had a fine time in Opua. We spent neither time nor money in the yacht supply shops. We were lucky enough to catch up with a few acquaintances from past seasons who also washed up in New Zealand with the turn of the season. But when we made the short trip to Urupukapuka and dropped the pick, we felt the instant relief of leaving, of trading what you're got for something new.
Since these pictures were taken we've left both Opua and the Bay of Islands behind and started our trip south, into our second season in New Zealand. We don't have any plans to sail north from New Zealand next year, so it's quite possible that we'll never see Opua again. It's funny - for all the traveling that we've done over the last few years, we rarely have such a definite feeling of leaving a place behind for good.