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Lord Howe Island - Auckland - Waiheke 29 January

The whole time we were in Lord Howe, the weather alternated between sunshine and light rain, and it had usually stopped by the time we donned our emergency raincoats.  But as luck would have it, this morning at 06:30 a.m. the rain was constant.  It was a struggle to pack up the plane without all the bags getting too wet. We had to leave early as we wanted to arrive at a reasonable time at Waiheke island, and there is a 2-hour time difference between Lord Howe Island and Auckland. The local time for  landing   in Auckland would therefore be about 9 hours later than the local time for Lord Howe take-off. The customs and immigration officer, Mr. John Garrett, was there waiting for us as promised, and the departure formalities were quickly done.

Then Flemming asked me where the 'Little John' and my Tupperware 'potty' were. We had had to use both of them on our way to Lord Howe and I had taken them to the loo on arrival to empty them out.  I couldn't remember bringing them back to the plane so we had to unload the plane again in the wind and rain in order to check whether they were underneath everything.  It was a fruitless search and they were not to be found in the ladies in the terminal either.  It was to be a long flight to Auckland so we had to have some means of peeing on board.  Then we remembered that Ray had brought his own container for that purpose which he's never had to use, and Flemming found a special peeing funnel for ladies in the back of the plane. We are still in flight as I write, and I haven't tried it yet, but hope it won't be necessary! [It wasn't..]

The wind was still around 20 knots gusting to 35 knots when we took off. However the ceiling was only around 600 feet in light drizzle, so the 800 foot hill south of  the runway was in the clouds. Due to the poor visibility, we were also worried about a little island about 200 feet high right on the departure path beyond the end of the runway.  As common at unmanned Australian airstrips with IFR approaches and departures, we were departing from an MBZ (Mandatory Broadcast Zone, 15 NM radius and ground to 5000 feet) equipped with and AFRU (automatic frequency response unit with a recorded message: 'Lord Howe MBZ'  if no transmissions for 5 minutes). As could be expected, there were no other aircraft around at that time of the morning.

After leaving the MBZ frequency, we called Brisbane on HF and it was immediately re-confirmed that there was no other known IFR traffic around. Take-off and climb out were remarkably smooth and it wasn't long before we topped the lower layer of clouds. The sea has been blanketed in cloud for most of the way, which - as Earthrounder Polly Vacher said when she took off over the Atlantic for the first time - gives one the reassuring illusion of having a soft runway on which to land! We had a 20-30 knot headwind all the way, quite a bit more than the 10-15 knots of headwind forecast, so the flight time came to  just under 7 hours compared with 5:45 with no wind. We had plenty of fuel reserves, so no sweat. We had excellent HF radio contact with both Brisbane and Auckland over the Tasman sea for the first 6 hours, and VHF radio contact with Auckland for the last hour.

At Auckland International Airport, we were told to park near the big birds.  Honey-Mooney isn't even as high as their bellies!  As in Darwin, the quarantine officials were there and we dutifully waited with the cabin door shut until they had come with their spray cans.  This time they did more than a symbolic spray.

We were escorted the 500 metres to the terminal where we filled in the arrival cards, then to be told that they wanted us to take all our luggage out of the plane and show it to customs.  I waited inside while the men took trolleys back to the Mooney to transport it all.  This all took much longer than we'd envisaged, and we had a welcome party waiting for us in Reeve aerodrome on Waiheke Island.

After a nice but short 10 minute VFR hop we arrived at Reeve about half an hour late to a wonderful reception.  Several nationalities were represented, waving the flags of France, Switzerland, Denmark and New Zealand.  Ray's partner Audrey had arranged it all. As soon as we stepped out of the plane, some of the local Maori community (Piritahi Marae) started singing a welcome chant and performed a haka. The three of us felt quite emotional as we stood there listening to them, with a sea of faces watching us. Then the chief greeted us first in the Maori language, then in English and offered a prayer of thanks to God for our safe arrival.

After that it was time for a glass of bubbly and we chatted to all the friends of Audrey and Ray who were eager to know about the trip. Urs Bauer, a Swiss photographer living on Waiheke, took shots that he will send to Swiss newspapers.    Since we were too busy at the reception to take our own photos, he kindly provided us with some for our web site.

We are now staying at Ray and Audrey's lovely house with a wonderful view of Oneroa beach and bay and the Coromandel peninsula in the distance.   When the moon comes up at night, its reflection shimmers in the water.

Apart from doing the 100 hours maintenance,we are starting to prepare for the next stage of the trip across the South Pacific.  From Geneva to Australia it was FSI (our agent in Germany) that looked after all the flight authorizations.  From now on, we will be doing the work ourselves.  We are hoping that for Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Kiribati it will just be a routine job.  The challenge will be to get permission to enter and fly in the US.   Since 11 September, they have not been letting private foreign aircraft in.


Audrey Megson and Ray Sherwood; Waiheke Island Maori Community; French Club of Waiheke, especially Danielle and Roger Fillion; Peter and Norma Green who manned the bar; Urs Bauer.

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Crossing the west coast of the North Island on a long final for runway 05 at Auckland.

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The little Mooney bird parked at Auckland International amongst the big birds.

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VFR over Auckland with a view of the Rangatoto volcano

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Approaching Waiheke island.

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Flemming greeting the local Waiheke Maori chief, Kato Kauwhata
Photo: Urs Bauer.

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Flemming chatting to local pilots. Photo: Urs Bauer.

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Danish and New Zealand flags at the reception in Waiheke.
Photo: Urs Bauer.

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Enjoying lunch at Audrey and Ray's terrace.

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The gorgeous view of Oneroa beach and bay from Ray and Audrey's terrace. Coromandel peninsula in the distance.

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