Sailing the Barefoot Way in the Bay of Islands

Kiwis have a great relationship with the sea. This comes as no surprise when you learn that New Zealand has more than 14,000km of coastline. Plus, no part of New Zealand is further than 128km away from the sea – just to throw another fact bomb at you there. We just happen to be in Paihia in the Bay of Islands, which is a hub for water-based activities, so naturally, we are hopping on a sailing boat and experiencing “The Bay” the Kiwi way!

Boarding on the beach

Our activity today starts late afternoon – it’s a tour we decided to check out last minute as a rain shower passes and we are left with a sunny afternoon too beautiful to ignore! The meeting point is an unusual one. We meet on Paihia’s main beach, Taiputuputu Pahi Beach (a.k.a. Good-luck-for-trying-to-say-that-one Beach), as opposed to all our other boating activities we have done over the last few days that depart from Paihia Wharf. We see the catamaran sailing boat of Barefoot Sailing Adventures anchor alarming close to the beach – as close as you can get without being on the beach – and immediately it becomes apparent why it is a “Barefoot” sailing cruise!

Kicking our shoes off and getting cosy!

The shoes come off and we walk along the sand to the boat where we meet Rachel and Luke, the Kiwi couple behind Barefoot Sailing Adventures. Like many New Zealanders, they have spent much of their life on the water and it feels like we are just joining them for a quick slice of life. Luke helps us onto the sailing boat where we walk onto an open deck with trampoline-like flooring strung between the two hulls – in short, it’s so much fun to walk on! Rachel is throwing out beanbags all over the boat for us and the other guests to get instant cosiness!

Robin entertains at the back of the boat Robin entertains at the back of the boat
Cheers to barefoot days on sailing boats! Cheers to barefoot days on sailing boats!
Coming at cha! Coming at cha!
Don't mind if I do! Don't mind if I do!

A backpacker sailing cruise

Speaking of other guests, we are joined by a various different groups of fellow backpackers from all over the world: Germany, Netherlands, Turkey, Lithuania, Japan and Canada! (And then there’s us from France and the UK). What an intrepid bunch we are!

Luke and Rachel give us a quick safety briefing before setting sail into the late afternoon sun. Only problem is, there is not enough wind to really get some speed… Awkward! Nevertheless, we are still moving and experiencing the peace and tranquility of sailing. Unlike motor boats, we don’t have a constant droning of an engine in our ears so we can actually hear each other and the tranquility of water sloshing against the boat. Ahhh…

What winter looks like in the Bay of Islands!

Beanbags, drinks and good vibes

We all have our little mingling corners with cushions and beanbags around the boat that move around and come together frequently. The trip is made all the more blissful when Rachel cracks cookies and drinks: beer, soft drinks, hot drinks – it’s all here. We opt for a cold beer to go with our conversations of where around the world we have all been, what we are doing in New Zealand, and where to next.

Laura takes the helm!

Well, where to next is wherever Laura is going to take us! Luke is keen to get us to help out with the sailing, so Laura jumps on the helm and attempts to point us in the right direction. Since Robin broke his arm, she has taken over the driving so this seems to have sparked a new-found confidence that she can drive anything, even a sailing yacht travelling at 3km/h! Hold on tight!

Laura manages to make sure the boat doesn’t crash into any of the 144 islands of the Bay of Islands, while Rachel sits on the boom – the solid part at the bottom of the sail that swings around and threatens to knock people overboard – and tells us more about the islands. On the Barefoot Sailing Adventures’ day cruise, they hop from island to island for snorkelling, paddle boarding and exploring – (damn, if we’d known sooner – we’d be on it!).

Laura mans the steering Laura mans the steering
Sorry mate, there's no more room on the boat Sorry mate, there's no more room on the boat
End of the trip group photo! End of the trip group photo!

Stunning bay scenery

We cruise around small rocky islands covered in barnacles and topped with determined trees, while the backdrop of the inner bays, Paihia and Russell, along with their beaches hang in the distance. The sun hangs low in the sky, reminding us this is the “Winterless North” and definitely the place to be to escape the cold! We are lying comfortably on cruise with our bare feet and a cold beer in our hand, for God’s sake!

Back on the beach and feeling like true kiwis

Our two-and-a-half hour cruise comes to an end back where we started: with our feet in the sand. We say see you later to Rachel, Luke and our fellow travellers then, in the spirit of bare feet life, we head to the supermarket still bare foot. This very act is so Kiwi that we should have got our citizenship right there on the spot!

INAPPROPRIATE bingo at the Pipi Patch

Groceries in hand, we walk back to our accommodation, Base Backpackers where tonight is inappropriate bingo at their bar, the Pipi Patch! Of course, Base is never too far away from the party! Join us tomorrow where we are going to be seeing the Bay of Islands from another perspective: from a parasail at 2500ft!

Laura and Robin

Back with the sand between our toes
Back with the sand between our toes Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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See you tomorrow!

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