Fairwind Charters frequently asked questions

How do I book?
Give us a call or fill out the inquiry form. Be sure to select your preferred dates and boat type.

What experience or qualifications do I need to bareboat charter?
Certification is not mandatory to hire a boat in NZ but we do require a reasonable level of experience in the size of boat you are wanting to charter, preferably (but not necessarily) as skipper. You must have some sailing experience. We can't charter a yacht to someone with only a power boat background. You need to have a reasonable knowledge of reefing and anchoring.
At the time of booking we get you to fill out a resume form and we accept (or decline) the charter based on the information you provide.
Generally, if you think that you have the experience to be skipper, then we probably will too!

How do I get there?
We are based in the village of Opua, about 3.5 hours drive from Auckland city and 4 from Auckland airport. The local airport is at Kerikeri. There is a twice daily bus service from Auckland, but a hire car is usually the most cost effective way to get here if there are more than three in your group. Go to our info page for more details and links to the various service providers.

How far in advance do I need to book?
It depends! The simplest answer is to say that you should make your booking as soon as your holiday plans are fixed. We only have one boat of each type. We don't take bookings more than a year beforehand, but it's common for bookings during the peak season to come 10 months or more in advance. However it is also possible that some boats are still available during high season at any time.

How long should we book for?
As long as you like! A week is probably the most common length of time for people to hire (see our suggested 7 day itinerary). This period allows you to explore the coast outside the Bay of Islands and visit the beautiful Whangaroa Harbour. However, the Bay of Islands is a compact area and it's possible to have a good explore in just three days, our minimum hire period in the shoulder season. There's a five day minimum during high season.
If you are considering a one way hire between the Bay of Islands and south to Auckland you should really allow 14 days (see 14 day itinerary), as it is important not to miss the trip north to Whangaroa first. You also need some flexibility to get the right weather window of the 50 mile open water sail out to Great Barrier Island.

What is the best time to sail?
It is possible to sail at any time of the year in this part of NZ but the most settled weather is over the summer months of December through to March. January is the busiest time of the year, both for bookings and for the anchorages in the Bay, as this is when the majority of New Zealanders take their summer holidays. February is our favourite month as this is the height of summer, yet not as busy as January. March is a close second favourite.
Swimming is really only possible during the summer months, with the water temperature reaching a peak of around 23 C in February before dropping back to a low of about 15 C in July.

What is included in the boat rate?
Most things you need, but we do charge extra for bedding hire and fuel (diesel). See our rates and included equipment.

Why is there a charge for diesel?
We charge for boat fuel as a separate cost from the boat rate because it's a direct expense for Fairwind. The boat rate itself is apportioned between Fairwind and the owners of the respective boat. The fuel surcharge is arrived at by dividing our average annual fuel consumption and apportioning it among the fleet. If you don't wish to pay the fuel surcharge you can elect to refuel the boat prior to your return, although this will impact on your charter time as you may have to queue for the one fuel dock at the marina.

Where can we provision?
We do offer a provisioning service but if you have a vehicle we recommend shopping at Paihia (7 min drive), where there's a supermarket, prior to your departure. The General Store at Opua has packaged goods, including wine and beer, but only a limited supply of fresh produce.
You should provision for the entire time of your charter beforehand as Russell and Whangaroa are the only places to re supply.

Can we eat ashore?
Only at Russell and Whangaroa and, if going south, Tutukaka. The Islands are largely undeveloped. There is a cafe on one of the islands.

Will we see dolphins?
Quite likely. Dolphins are common in the Bay and surrounding waters and in a week of sailing you would expect to see them at least once. They are less common during January because of the increased numbers of boats on the water.

Is it safe to swim?
Always. There are no dangerous fish. Sharks are not uncommon to encounter when diving, but never attack swimmers. Consider yourself lucky to have seen one!

What should we bring?
This is New Zealand - so be prepared for anything! Rain is possible at any time of the year. Because of the outdoor nature of most NZ attractions a good lightweight waterproof hiking jacket and over trousers are recommended. If you don't need it on charter you'll be thankful for it at some other stage of your NZ adventure. Note that there are two PVC rain jackets on each boat.
A high SPF sunscreen and a sunhat. It's possible to get burned even in winter or on a cloudy day.
A good pair of walking shoes is recommended for walks ashore and elsewhere in NZ.
During the summer shorts and a wind breaker are generally all that is required during the day but slacks and a sweater might be needed at night. However, the South Island - if you are traveling further afield - can be cool even in summer so you'll need that polar fleece too!

What not to bring.
Coconut based sunscreen and any 'self tanning' lotion which stains gel coat.
Hard soled shoes or shoes with dark soles that mark gel coat.
Pets. The Islands are predator free and domestic animals are not permitted.
Large hard suitcases are not recommended because of the lack of storage on board.

Is there mobile phone coverage?
Yes. There is voice coverage wherever you are sailing, although some anchorages have poor coverage due to being in the shadow area of the cell towers, however text (SMS) messaging is possible from virtually anywhere. Good quality (3G) data is only available in some locations.

What happens if something goes wrong with the boat while on charter?
If you have a major breakdown that causes you to loose charter time then we'll refund you for the portion of your charter that you have lost. Very often we are able to 'fix' problems over the phone (for instance how to start a flooded outboard) but if you have an issue that we think we can fix on the spot we will come out to the boat where possible to remedy it. If you are outside of the Bay of Islands, or you have an issue that cannot be fixed by Fairwind staff, you will need to come to shore location with road access for a technician to meet you.
If the problem is caused by your misuse (like a blocked toilet) then we will charge you for our time to fix it.

And finally - a common question asked at the end of a charter....
What is the crackling sound we can hear when lying in our bunk at night?
No, the boat is not on fire and nor is it osmosis eating into the hull. It is the snapping shrimp (alpheus novazealandiae) common in our waters.

Fairwind New Zealand Yacht Charters. Main Wharf, Opua, Bay of Islands. Tel +64 9 402 7821  Mob +64 27 478 9994