Sailing around New Zealand

Emily is sailing solo around New Zealand on her 32 foot yacht Honey, from Lyttelton south down the east coast, around the bottom of Stewart Island, up the west coast of the South and North Islands and down the east coast back to Lyttelton. The whole adventure is expected to take 3 months. This blog will provide updates as I travel (when I have mobile reception to upload).

Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Dream Run up the West Coast (26-27 February)

I did hove to in the night, or at least Honey spun round in circles as the wind had almost completely died by this time, while I had a reasonably good sleep for four hours north of Jackson Head, drifting about 2 miles in towards the coast over that time – that was no problem as I was many miles out to sea. Back going again at 5am, and it was motor sailing until about 9am when the SW that had been forecast kicked in and I was sailing without the motor. It was a beautiful day for sailing – winds of 10 knots, which built up to a maximum of about 18 knots, directly behind me, a straight run up the coast (and quite a way west of the coastline), and another lovely warm one. There were few waves or swell, and this built to no more than 2m by the end of the day – enough that my spare autohelm could handle the pace, my main one having a few behavourial issues at present. I was sailing with a preventer on the main sail (to stop me from jibing unexpectantly), and with the genoa poled out. I don't usually pole out the genoa when I'm on my own – it is a spinnaker pole and super big and heavy, and if the weather is anything but light seas it careers around quite dangerously until I manage to get it all attached. But with calm seas, this made for a good chance to get the pole out so Honey could be efficient and balanced as she sailed up the coast.

I was far enough out to sea that with the haze I could not clearly make out the coastline, but the white capped Southern Alps behind looked so big and close – it was a stunning view, spotting all the mountains as they appeared – Mt Cook and Mt Tasman, and then trying to work out the others. It was another beautiful day. I cooked up a good feed in case the sea conditions strengthened, so I had food that I could easily heat up if it got rough. Filling up the fuel tank, I had only used about 25 litres of diesel so far – great, no issues of potentially running short at this rate! And I got stuck into reading Pippa Blake's book about her life with Sir Peter Blake, very fitting reading I thought as I was sailing up the coast, as it was very soon after I went to her book launch that I had the idea of sailing around New Zealand solo.

I made good progress and with the winds not forecast to abate I decided to continue through the night without hoving to, taking small cat naps when I needed to. By this point the swell had built up to 2m and Honey was surfing the waves, cruising along at 6.5 – 7 knots and maxing out at about 9 knots on the back side of the waves. All good and fine, but I wasn't sure how much more of this the little autohelm could take. So I put a reef in the main and partially furled in the genoa, and we were much more balanced and still making 5.5 – 6 knots. This meant I could relax a little and not jump everytime I thought we were going to do an impromptual jibe! It was an absolute dream run. And with a full moon it wasn't dark at night, more like a whole night of twilight, just as it had been the night before. As Tim said, I could have waited a month to get a great run like this, but I had only to arrive in Milford and it arrived!

There were still reasonable winds in the morning, and I carried on sailing until about 1pm when the winds gradually faded out and the swell reduced to little more than a ripple, perhaps 1m max. In the morning a fishing boat came alongside, the first boat I had seen since off Jackson Head, and we had a chat. They came over to find out if I was by any chance the missing yacht “WeiWei” that has been at the start of the marine bulletin for several days now. When they realised I was on my own, they thought that was “legendary” and were very impressed by how fast Honey was sailing – about 5 knots in winds that had abated to about 10 knots. They were out fishing for tuna and were heading back into Westport and back up to Nelson for the weekend before they came back on Sunday night to go back out fishing. As they headed away I heard a “wahoo”, they landed another fish. A milestone for this morning was to get cell phone reception – last time I had it (except when I picked up reception for a few hours from a cruise ship in Stewart Island) was when I was sailing past the Nuggets just south of Balclutha almost 7 weeks ago. So back into communication, I have spent much of the day sitting out in the sun on the cabin top, motor sailing with the wind dropped off to too little to just sail, talking on the phone, texting, checking emails and looking for whales. The fishermen this morning had said that I should see some whales up the coast, but unfortunately none were there or perhaps I didn't have my eye in and missed seeing them.

It was another absolutely beautiful and warm day, with “zero-eighths” cloud cover. Being well out to sea meant I could not see the coastline, but I have been able to make out the line of the mountains all day – the Paparoas and the mountains to the north. It has also meant that I have been able to take cat naps without concern of running aground and less likelihood of colliding with any other vessels. Most vessels travelling up and down the coast seem to be running in closer to the coast, and the tuna fishermen are on the banks further out to sea.

I spoke to Mum and she has been following my progress closely and has arranged to take the day off on Friday, and her and Kai will come up from Blenheim and spend the weekend with me in Tasman Bay – fantastic! This means I may potentially have a change of final destination on this leg – perhaps Totaranui or one of the bays further south in Abel Tasman this evening. It will depend on my timing and the weather conditions there, as I don't want to be negotiating around an area that I don't know and that has many rocks in the dark! Still with the progress I'm making, I should have time to find a reasonable anchorage in Tasman Bay during daylight hours.

At about 11pm the winds from the south west picked up again, so I have been able to sail without the motor, which makes a nice change from the droan of motor sailing. But then as I approached Kahurangi Point at about 1.30am, leaving sea area Grey and entering sea area Stephens, the winds dropped off completely with my speed dropping from 5 knots to 2.5 knots in the time it took for me to heat up the jug. So back again motoring. The winds have picked up a little now from the south east, enough to get perhaps 1 knot of sail assist, but it is still motor sailing. I am now running about 3 miles out from the coast towards Cape Farewell, about 15 more miles and I will be on my northern most point on this leg. By this time it should be light so I should be able to see all of Farewell Spit. Having never seen it before except from a seat on the plane, it will be great to see it up from relatively close out to sea. Unfortunately with it being dark, I have not been able to see the beaches of Kahurangi which I am told are beautiful, just the sillouettes of the hills visible. Running only 3 miles out to sea I don't plan to sleep at all – too little margin for error. But at this rate I should be able to drop anchor in Golden Bay or Tasman Bay by about 6pm, and then curl up for a good long and relaxing sleep!

And I'm off – Milford Sound to Tarakohe Harbour, Golden Bay (25 February)

It took a while to get to sleep, the excitement of knowing I was heading off the next morning. I told myself, it will be a few days of being tired and surrounded by blue seas and little else, marking off my progress, so I should really get to sleep, not that that did much to quell my excitement. I did eventually fall to sleep and woke up just before my alarm and hopped into action. Ken arrived at Honey before 7.30am, nice and early to make sure I was fueled up in good time – I was on the way back from the shower (making the most of that luxury). We sorted out my fuel and I had a cup of tea with Ken – a really nice chap, asking if there was anything else I needed before I leave or if there was anything he could do for me, and asking that I call him up on the VHF when I get out of Milford Sound so he knows I got there safely. With everything I needed, there was a little bit of final stowing and then I was off, clearing Deep Water Basin by 9am and steaming out of Milford Sound, again among the stream of tourist boats and kayaks, no planes to farewell me at this time of the morning with cloud hanging over the mountains. With Bluff Fisherman's Radio VHF coverage ending at Big Bay, the northern most part of Fiordland, I reverted to Maritime Radio for my skeds, and will now maintain 0800 and 2000 skeds until I arrive in Tarakohe, conservatively estimated for Friday 1st March at 1700. Meri Leask at Bluff Fisherman's Radio has done a fantastic job of looking out for me over the last few weeks, but unfortunately I could not reach her today or yesterday on the VHF to thank her.

I have had a fantastic time in Fiordland, its a place that I have come to absolutely love. The scenary is absolutely stunning and as untouched by humans as can be, the weather has been kind to me, and the people have been amazing. All the Southlanders I've met have been so welcoming, friendly and will do anything to help, from the cray fishermen, to Rosco and the guys on Aries/Sanvaro, to Billy the Deep Cove Hostel manager, Ken at Fiordland Lobster Company, Meri Leask, the folk at Real Journeys, not to mention the fellow yachties and boaties too. And I had a wonderful and totally memorable week here with Tim, fantastic to be able to share a part of this place with him. And then a couple of days with Dad too which was great. I had only planned to spend about two or three weeks in Fiordland, but that has turned into four, and I'm sure I'll be looking back and saying those were the best weeks of my trip!

So far today I'm making great progress, mostly motor sailing. The winds have tended to be very light north west, for a while I was making 4 knots under sail alone, but mostly it has been too light to sail without the motor. If I get anything much under 4 knots, progress is just so slow so I motor and sail. I had originally thought that I would anchor in Jackson Bay tonight, but my plan now is to keep going and hove to at some time in the night for a few hours. This cuts a small distance off my overall journey, and will mean I travel a little further out to sea, which will be some comfort when I do decide to stop and hove to. But at the pace I'm travelling, with Big Bay and Fiordland already disappearing behind me and Cascade Point and Jackson Head appearing on my starboard bow, I should get a reasonable distance beyond Jackson Bay before I need to stop – I guess that means I've left Southland behind and I'm now heading into West Coast territory. It's another very hot day, with the barometer reading 1032 hPa, virtually no swell, with the sun now blazing late in the day. This means I've been able to do a lot more than can usually be done on a coastal passage – I don't normally unpack the computer when the boat is rolling from side to side. While I have been sitting watching the mountains slide by, I've cooked up the crayfish I was given yesterday and feasted on that for lunch, things aren't all bad!

Spectacular Milford (24 February)

I didn't sleep super well last night, waking up at 3am and hearing the wind whistling outside – it had been so calm in the evening before I went to bed, where did this wind come from? And then I realised, Bligh Sound has the second steepest sides of all the fiords (second to Milford), it was a beautiful clear night and with a large high pressure system above – this must be katabatic winds. Fortunately they didn't come to much and I held firm in the anchorage all night. I left soon after sunrise, bound for Milford. There was a small puff of wind that helped me out of Bligh, and then another day of glassy calm seas all the way up to St Annes Point at the entrance to Milford. It was also very warm and not a cloud in the sky, so another day for shorts and t-shirt – the auto-pilot steered while I basked on the cabin top, taking in the views as they unfolded. There is a shallow area just before St Annes Point where there were some cod or cray pots – great, another good spot for fishing! Half of Milford Sound is a marine reserve, and the other half has a cod fishing ban, and as I'd almost finished my previous cod it was a good chance to restock. I drifted around on this spot for the best part of two hours – not a great catch to show for my efforts – a smallish cod (not undersize but small by Fiordland standards), a large Jock Stewart and a butterfly perch, plus many many of the red “bait fish” as I call them. But it was lovely being out there in the sun all the same. I trundled into Milford filleting the fish and cleaning up as we went. It didn't take long before I saw the steady stream of tourist boats, travelling out on the south side of the sound, and back in on the north side. There was still no wind until I rounded Dale Point and then the day breeze hit – time to put up the headsail and I sailed in at about 7 knots with around 30 knots of wind, tourist boats and kayaks all around me, and about four planes overhead, no kidding this place really is touristy. But when you look at the fiord you can see why, it is absolutely spectacular with sides so steep that I reckon if you took a running leap off the top of some of the mountains you could land in the sea without hitting the sides. And some stunning steep waterfalls too.
I headed straight in to Deep Water Basin where the fishing boats tie up (and where visiting yachties can tie up too), and found a suitable berth. With noone about, I went for a wander and came across a chap from Real Journeys loading his van – he gave me a rundown on where things are in Milford and gave me a crayfish for dinner. I wandered back to Honey, and then met Ken from the Fiordland Lobster Company who looked after the berths at Deep Water Basin who had just arrived back from being away for the day. He took me for a quick tour of Milford and dropped me off at the Milford Lodge so I could check the internet. It didn't take a long look over the weather forecast to work out that tomorrow looks like the opportunity for me to set sail north – yippee! No time to update my blog, it was almost 8pm by this stage and I had a bit to do to get ready – I wanted to make sure I was gone in the morning before the day breeze set in. I spoke to Tim and he had been thinking exactly the same thing, so tomorrow it was. I quickly ran round to Ken's place to ask him if it would be possible to get fuel at about 8am in the morning, getting him out of bed, woops! He wasn't concerned even offering to run me back round to Deep Water Basin, and said he could make it that time or earlier. I walked back, needing the time to stretch the legs on land before I departed, and busied myself with the other things needed to be done – filling up with water, recharging my cordless drill, having a late dinner and the luxury of a shower and stowing away things on Honey. Then it was time for bed and a good night sleep, as there may not be much sleep for the next few days.

Another Day in Paradise, Bligh Sound (23 February)

I headed out from Alice Falls soon after sunrise, and tried a bit of fishing on the way – I needed something for dinner. A Jock Stewart (which ended up as bait) and a dog fish later and I gave up, with plans to find somewhere else to fish before the end of the day. There was a nice breeze in George Sound, so I unfurled the headsail and sailed out at a reasonable pace, with some really large dolphins following Honey very closely for part of the way. And then the wind died out completely, so the sail was furled back in and I motored out of the sound and onto Bligh Sound, glassy calm with a small swell all the way. This was meant to be SW 15 knots and 25 knots offshore, but again it appears the wind didn't eventuate. And it was hot, I had to get into shorts and T-shirt, I think this has been the warmest day since I left the southern part of Stewart Island. As I turned into Bligh Sound I eyed the point I was passing – Chasland Head with a submerged rock just off it – this looks to be the perfect place to catch dinner. The line was down for less than a minute when I got a large cod which I reeled in, that would do me for two large meals. Being greedy and dropping the line again, I snagged and lost the tackle, so headed on in the glassy calm waters into Bligh. As I rounded Turn Round Point, the wind picked up and it was a quick sail down the sound, so quick I almost missed Kellys Anchorage as I had my head down filleting the cod. A quick look and it was too windy and tight for me to be comfortable attempting to anchor, so I headed down to the end of the sound and anchored up in Bounty Haven – another beautiful spot, mostly out of the wind, but this equals hundreds of sandflies, about 5 of which are walking across the computer screen now! I was famished, which was sorted out with a couple of very large cod sandwiches, then settled into an afternoon of enjoying the sun, drying out some of my damp squabs and even washing my hair – a real luxury.

Tomorrow is onto Milford Sound – this I am told from other yachties is mega touristy, it will make quite a shock from the peaceful and remote areas I have got used to over the last 6 weeks. If I'm lucky I may not be there very long, I would be happy if I was there for only a night – I need to fuel up, fill up the water tank, check the long term weather forecast, and if I can it would be nice to do a load of laundry, and then if the weather is right I could head up the coast to Golden Bay. I suspect though that there will be a few days of waiting until a suitable southerly arrives that I can jump on the back of and sail north.

Alice Falls, George Sound (22 February)

If I thought getting onto the anchorage at Anchorage Cove was difficult, it was certainly easier than the work I made getting off of it. With the wind blowing me onto the line connecting the stern and bow lines, this got neatly wrapped around the prop several times as I was casting off the bowline. Securing myself back on the mooring, I got into my wetsuit and got to work undoing the line and unwrapping the wee tangle I'd made. With that complete and the wind reduced, I got off the mooring successfully the second time and made for Alice Falls at the head of George Sound, getting there a couple of hours later than planned with my delays leaving Anchorage Cove. With the exception of the Luncheon Cove anchorage on Anchor Island, Dusky Sound, this I believe is the most beautiful anchorage I have found so far – a small cove with a waterfall (Alice Falls) splashing down into it (photos to follow once I can get them off Tim's camera). Once I had anchored (successfully this time) and had lunch, I made my way up the side of the falls to the lake at the top, Alice Lake. I had been told there was a red Indian style canoe hidden away in the bushes which I could take for a trip across the lake. First I went along the wrong side of the lake searching for it, but then found it easily when I searched the other side of the falls. The lake looked very small but I paddled along until it opened out into a very large and blue lake surrounded by mountains. When I saw the size of it, I thought I would only go only half way across, but ended up crossing to the far end where the Edith River enters the lake. Oh well, I was committed now to paddling back, and it was a bit of a slog with a head wind! (When I got back to Honey, I checked on the chart and the length of the lake was 1.6 nautical miles, around 3 km, so with a return trip I had paddled double that). And then I had to drag the very heavy canoe several metres up the steep slope so I could leave it where I had found it, that took even more effort, tug-o-war style heaving! I got back to Honey at 7.30pm and tucked into what I felt was a well-deserved dinner.

Motoring up to George Sound (21 February)

It had rained hard overnight, but as the morning dawned the rain lifted and it was beautiful and calm at the mooring. The forecast was for N 25 becoming SW 25 knots in the morning, so I wondered if it was windier outside the sound – that should make for a great sail up to George Sound. I left the mooring and suddenly it started raining hard but only on Honey – oops, I had reversed the back stay into an overhanging tree which was obscured by the bimini! With no further mishaps, I motored up the still calm sound with fish jumping in the clear water. I was quickly out at the heads and turning NE towards Caswell Sound and George Sound beyond. But there was no wind at all – the Northerly had died away, but where was the SW? I motored towards Caswell Sound, looking to the SW expecting to see an approaching front. As I approached Caswell Sound it had still not arrived and I thought about ducking in to take a look at Caswell while I waited for the winds to arrive, but then decided to carry on motoring out to sea – I was then in the best place for when they did finally arrive. I had no wind the whole way up to George Sound, bar the last mile when a stiff easterly was coming out of the sound and straight on the nose – no great sail for me today. As I turned into George Sound, the wind strengthened to about 30 knots and came straight at me on the nose – I presume this was a day breeze, but I'm a little mystified that it was coming out of the fiord and not heading into it like a usual day breeze. As my speed dropped to less than 2 knots, I pulled out the headsail to get some wind assist to the motor and tacked in at a slightly faster speed. The day breeze in George Sound usually reduces further into the sound, but there was no sign of this happening. Rather than keep beating into the wind and moor up at Alice Falls at the head of the sound, I stopped at Anchorage Cove. This was two thirds of the way into the sound and sheltered, although it was still gusting into the anchorage which made for some tricky maneovering. There was a fixed bow line joined to a stern line, the depth was only a little over 2m and it was a tight spot. I managed to grapple hook the bow line, zoom back to the helm to reverse Honey around – a gust almost had her landed on the island, and throw a line over the back. It was lovely and sunny and warm, but the sandflies were out in force – this doesn't make it easy when its too hot to be completely covered up, but you need to be to avoid hundreds of bites! Once I was sweltering, I retreated into Honey and busied myself with some chores inside.

Lovely Sail to Charles Sound (20 February)

I motored out to Blanket Bay in the evening of the 19th February, a quick trip with the day breezes having done their dash. A reasonable night sleep on what has become my regular mooring to pick up, and in the morning into the Blanket Bay Motel to fill up with water and burn my rubbish. A chatted to a couple of older chaps were staying there for a couple of days, and left them having a leisurely breakfast. The forecast was for Northerly 20 knots, so I wasn't sure how far I'd get, but I planned to nose out of the heads at Thompson Sound and if necessary head back to Deas Cove. The wind hadn't yet built so it was an easy motor out through Thompson Sound. Outside the sound, the wind was around 15 knots of NE, I had been hoping for the wind to be slightly from the west so that it could be one tight reach up to Charles Sound. But on the nose it was, so I pulled up the main and let out the headsail and settled in for some tacking up the coast. It was a lovely sail – one large tack out and back in and one smaller one took me to Hawes Head at the entrance to Charles Sound, passing Nancy Sound on the way. The wind quickly got up to around 20 knots but the direction stayed reasonably constant. Heading into Charles Sound I expected to need to motor to the mooring, but the day breeze took me within half a mile of the mooring, which was down in Gold Arm on a fixed line tucked behind Catherine Island, a beautiful wee spot. With a great day of sailing (on the nose I wouldn't normally say that's great, but given I didn't have far to go and was under no time pressure, it was great), I tucked into a very late lunch/early dinner. The only slight downer to the day was damp sheets – some water had somehow again got into the bilge below my berth, so I had a wee job of bailing and drying the sheets and squabs as best I could before I curled up in bed for the night.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Doubtful Sound, with Dad (17-19 February)

It was a lovely sunny morning, but unfortunately Tim's time in Fiordland had come to an end and he was catching the first bus over the Wilmot Pass. He packed up and popped over to check what time the bus left, then came back saying it was leaving in five minutes – I rowed him back to the bus and we said quick good-byes, and then he and the bus were gone. I didn't have long on my own though, as Dad arrived 30 minutes later, we had a cup of hot chocolate and then were off. I had thought Dad would be with me until Wednesday, but there was no early enough bus on Wednesday to get him back so he would only be with me until Tuesday afternoon. It would be a quick trip and there was much to see! We headed down to Hall Arm – this is the deepest arm in Doubtful Sound and absolutely stunning, with high mountains surrounding the whole of the arm. It was sunny the whole way and glassy calm. We arrived at the head of Hall Arm and with no wind, floated around in one spot and had a good lunch, and then headed off back out Hall Arm to Blanket Bay. The wind picked up as we left Hall Arm, and we motored up passing to the east side of Elizabeth and Fergusson Islands. It was slow going with the wind on the nose, but we made reasonable time and decided to head into Bradshaw Sound and back up to the spot I had stayed with Tim two nights before at Macdonell Island. We had a good sail down Bradshaw Sound, and it was again lovely and calm on the mooring. A dinner of steak, salad and wine followed, and a restful night on the mooring.

Monday was another absolutely lovely sunny day, glassy calm when we left the mooring and headed down the Gaer Arm where we moored in the same spot as Tim and I had moored two days earlier. This was very close the mudflats, which rise quickly – its a bit of a trick to be in shallow enough water to not have to let out all the chain, but deep enough so as not to drift and get stuck on the mudbanks. We headed out in the dinghy up to where the Camelot River entered the sound. It took a couple of attempts to find the right branch to follow, with Dad pulling the dinghy across a couple of spots where it was too shallow to motor (I had my leaky seaboots on). It was a really lovely trip up the river. The Camelot River is a sizeable river, and we passed first scrub with rather tame (or at least completely unscared of humans) geese and paradise ducks, and then thick bush on either side, and high rock banks as we got further inland. We went about a mile upstream until we reached a point where it shallowed and the hillsides opened out again, when we turned back and headed back down to the sound and Honey. The wind was starting to pick up and we headed out of Gaer Arm, having lunch on the way and looking for a spot to do some fishing – it was going to be fish for dinner so we needed to catch something. The wind had really picked up down Bradshaw Sound, to about 25 knots and there were few if any sheltered places to fish. We motored out of Bradshaw Sound, with Dad snoozing in the cockpit on his 2 day cruise on Honey, and we looked for a spot to fish at the start of Thompson Sound. It was still blowing hard down Thompson Sound, but we pulled into the side and Dad tried a go at fishing with me working to hold Honey in place. No luck there, only a few “bait fish”, so we thought we'd try the opposite side of Thompson Sound where hopefully it would be a bit more sheltered. Again it was me helming Honey while Dad fished, with no less wind and no luck, except a couple of Jock Stewarts – perhaps that would have to be dinner. I spied a spot on the chart across the other side of the sound, close to where we had first tried, and suggested we try there. There was no shelter, so I was motoring Honey to keep her on the “spot”, but it was successful – Dad caught us a decent sized cod, which would provide us a good feed for dinner! We headed to Blanket Bay, Dad filleted the cod and we had another lovely meal of cod, salad and wine. A cray boat “Zayla Jay” was tied up at the wharf and another yacht “Zanadoo” arrived and moored in Blanket Bay.

The next morning with Zayla Jay off early, we headed over to Zanadoo who were filling up with water at Blanket Bay, and had a chat with them. They were heading down to Breaksea Sound today, having left from Wellington a couple of weeks ago. They had travelled down from Nelson, motoring all the way to miss the SW fronts, taking 60 hours for the whole trip – rather quick for motoring I thought, and were heading from Breaksea to Dusky, around Stewart Island and back up the east coast to Wellington. With Zanadoo at the water pipe and another boat waiting, we decided to head on to First Arm, the first arm of Doubtful Sound directly across from Blanket Bay. We nosed up there to Snug Cove at the end and picked up a mooring where we took in the lovely view and had a cup of tea, before heading back out of the arm and up Doubtful towards Deep Cove. There was very little wind, and after sailing for a few minutes at only 2 knots, we pulled in the headsail and carried on motoring. Only about half an hour later, the wind picked up and we were back sailing. The wind freshened, and we had a lovely sail in 25 knots of wind all the way into Deep Cove, averaging about 5.5-6 knots. Arriving with about half an hour before Dad was scheduled to check in, we had a quick lunch and I dropped Dad off at the bus and followed him up with my gerry cans to refuel. Good-bye to Dad, and again he and the bus were gone and I was again on my own to carry on my way up the coast. All refueled now and I've got a copy of the weather charts for the next few days from Paul, the skipper of Real Journey's charter boat, Patea Explorer. Interestingly he used to work for Westerway Sails in the UK making sails for Sadler 32 yachts, so he may have made Honey's sails – small world! I'm now waiting for the day breeze to die down, and my plan is to head up to Blanket Bay this evening (if it dies out soon). Then tomorrow out of Thompson Sound and up to Charles Sound, skipping out Nancy Sound which I'll pass by. This is a rather short stint of open sea sailing, with most of it running out of Thompson Sound and into Charles Sound. On Thursday, a SW of 20 knots is forecast which should make for lovely sailing up to George Sound, and then by the weekend if all goes well with the weather I should be up to Milford Sound. From there I will ready myself for the long sail up to Golden Bay and Nelson, and wait for a good settled weather window with what I hope will be nice southerly breezes – enough so I don't need to motor and not so much that I can't get any rest, here's hoping!

Beautiful Bradshaw Sound (15-16 February)

It was another late start, we were in no rush with it being another wet although not quite so wet day. We tied up to the Blanket Bay wharf and filled up with water and burnt our rubbish in the furnace there, and then headed down towards Bradshaw Sound. Bradshaw Sound is part of the Doubtful complex and there is no ban on fishing for blue cod, so we were eager to catch a feed for dinner. It was windy, so we pulled into a little bay out of the wind and tried our luck – nothing of any interest but we pulled up some fish that would make good bait. We sailed on down to the end of Bradshaw Sound and alongside Macdonell Island, and found a spot that we thought would be good for cod. Tim picked up three good sized cod and I got a decent sized one, that was heaps for a feed with a lot left over. We also caught some teriki, which made a nice starter before the cod main. We moored that evening alongside a fixed line on Macdonell Island in Precipice Cove – this was an absolutely stunning spot, very sheltered (which does mean quite a few sandflies).

The next morning was fine and beautifully calm, with the waters glassy. We headed out from the mooring and fished in the same spot as the day before. This time Tim picked up another good sized cod, and I got a very large one, the biggest we had seen. My rod and reel had packed up so I had to pull it in by hand. Now we had a heap of fish, and after we had filleted these two plus the ones we had got the day before and hadn't eaten, there was enough fish to completely fill a 2L container – Tim was heading back to Lyttelton with a lot of fish to eat! We motored up to the head of Gaer Arm and dropped anchor for lunch – another beautiful spot which we had all to ourselves, and finally the sun started to peak out. We didn't feel we had time for an explore up the Camelot River, but that was something I could do with Dad. After lunch we motored back out of Bradshaw Sound, then picked up enough wind for a nice sail back up Doubtful Sound to Deep Cove. Deep Cove meant the opportunity for a hot shower at the hostel, always great after a few days without one, and after our soak we headed up to say hello to Billy. There was a French family visiting, sailors who had come down from Nelson a few days earlier and were tied up on the other side of Deep Cove. They had previously sailed out from French Polynesia, and we were again invited for dinner. It was fish – Jock Stewarts crumbed and fried, very yummy, and fresh veges. And for the second time in just over a week we left Billy's place with way too much food in our stomachs!

Back to Doubtful (14th February)

Thursday morning dawned a very wet one, but the forecast was for 25 knots of SW so reasonably good for a sail up the coast. We headed out down the sound with rather limited visibility and quite a stiff head wind. Passing Uncle Uni on our left we carried on with some rather large gusts hitting us, hopefully it would be a bit more consistent once we left Breaksea. As we passed between Breaksea Island and the mainland, we raised the main reefed down fully, and then the headsail. As it turned out, there was very little wind at all once we cleared the entrance to the sound, but a rather sloppy sea. We ended up having to shake out the reefs, and for the last bit of the trip back up to Doubful we had to motor. With sloppy seas and not much wind, we were only catching what wind there was when we were on the crests of the swell, although at least the swell was helping to push us in. Once we got around Hares Ears we pulled in the sails and motored in towards Blanket Bay down the south side of Bauza Island. A warship passed close by us (clearly they had heard we were coming). When we were half way along the stretch next to Bauza Island, the day breeze suddenly picked up and we had a good sail at 6-6.5 knots the final way to Blanket Bay, where we stayed the night, and tried to dry out.

Back to Dusky, with Tim (10 – 13 February)

We stayed overnight on the 9th in Deep Cove and decided on an 8am start out to Blanket Bay to evaluate whether or not we should continue down to Dusky. Gavin and Ro on Pacific Flyer were leaving at the same time, and also heading down towards Dusky. Both boats set off and it was rather windy running up through Doubtful, about 25 knots on the nose and we crawled out at 3-3.5 knots. At Blanket Bay, Pacific Flyer filled up with water and picked up news from one of the tourist boats that it was 15 knots from the NW and lumpy outside the sound – great, we're up for that! We readied Honey to go, and both Pacific Flyer and Honey nosed out to the head of Doubtful, passing through the Gap between Bauza and Secretary Islands. On Honey, we raised the main and headsail, and Pacific Flyer sailed down on their headsail. The winds quickly picked up to about 25 and then 30 knots and we reefed down to 2 reefs in the main and furled up the headsail. With Tim on the helm we had a superfast ride, averaging about 7-8 knots and topping out at 11.3 knots! I don't push her so hard as there is no way the autohelm can handle being overpowered and I don't want to be stuck at the helm. It was raining and poor vis all the way, and we only saw snippets of Pacific Flyer, first off to our right and then crossing in front of us. Being 8 ft longer than Honey she was a bit faster, but we were only about five minutes behind as we entered Breaksea Sound. The wind gusted up to 35-40 knots with willi-wars as we entered the sound (fortunately had just reefed down to 3 reefs in the main and pulled in the headsail). We both moored up next to the barge Uni in Sunday Cove, or “Uncle Uni” as we came to call it, and treated ourselves to a beer and nibbles on Pacific Flyer. That was a good day!

The next day (11th February) dawned and it was time to head down to Dusky. The rain had cleared and it was a lovely overcast day. We headed off down the Acheron Passage and Pacific Flyer stayed to check out Breaksea Sound. It was a stunning trip down Acheron, my first trip down in the daytime so I was getting to see it for the first time too. All the rain meant dozens upon dozens of waterfalls cascading down the rock faces – beautiful! Without wind we motored down until we entered Dusky at the end of the Acheron Passage and picked up enough wind to slowly sail towards Cooper Island and Sportsman Cove. Sportsman Cove is a wonderful wee spot – it has a narrow entrance of only a few metres across and then opens out into a rather large fully enclosed cove – large enough for wind to funnel about in the right conditions but being rather calm when we were there it was lovely and peaceful. We dropped anchor and lunched at the far end with views of the cove surrounding us and the higher mountains of Dusky behind. On leaving Sportsman Cove we motored down Cook Channel on the south side of Long Island down towards Cascade Cove – Tim was keen to see the barge where I had spent a few days tied up, and its a lovely little spot and well protected. After we'd tied up, one of the cray boats “Loyal” arrived, and we moved back onto the rope so they could tie up next to the barge. We got offered crayfish but by this stage had had our fill and had to say no – its pretty tough down here having so much seafood we have to start turning it down!

12th February was a wonderful day. Loyal had left early, I hadn't even heard them get away and we had a leisurely start to the day, filling up with water before we left the barge. Another yacht, Noe Noe arrived and we got chatting with them, being aware that they were down here – they're a couple based in Queenstown who have given up their jobs for a couple of years to sail around the Pacific and New Zealand. With their long sailing adventure coming to an end, they are selling their yacht, and returning to their dog and the mountains, but they have another 2 or 3 months to go yet. They had caught up briefly with Pacific Flyer in Wet Jacket Arm off the Acheron Passage that morning. We said good bye and headed around to Pickersgill Harbour and Astronomer Point so that Tim could see where Cook had landed. We moored in the bay at the entrance to Cook Stream, very close to where Resolution had been moored, and took a look around Astronomer Point. We then went out through the narrow gap between Crayfish Island and the mainland that Resolution had passed through – a narrow enough gap that it was only twice the width of Resolution – we figure they must have had to row through a gap that size rather than sail. And we motored the short distance out to Luncheon Cove, navigating our way through Many Islands. We had expected there to be noone else in Luncheon as we thought we knew of all the boats that were travelling around the fiords at that time, but there was a tiny little boat tied up inside – it was “Emma”, a 20 foot keeler that a German chap was sailing in. He didn't say much, we think as much as anything as he didn't have any sandfly protection or netting on his boat, but we understand from some French sailors we met later on that he had come from Wellington, and possibly Germany before then in his little boat. Mooring up in Luncheon, Honey looked like a huge yacht next to Emma! Tim and I had lunch on board and then took the dinghy into the start of the tracks on Anchor Island. This time we took the right fork and had a lovely walk up to Anchor Island Lake – this is a large lake that almost cuts Anchor Island in half. It was a cool overcast day but a great day for a walk. We stopped beside the lake and took in the view before we walked further along until we came out onto a beach on the northern side of the island, and then back the way we had come. We stayed overnight in Luncheon Cove, after having yet another very good day.

It rained a lot that night, and was still raining in the morning so we had a slow start. Noe Noe arrived late morning and now there were three yachts tied up in Luncheon – as Tim said, we may need to start booking slots for a mooring space! We figured there would be only half a dozen or so yachts in Fiordland, so quite funny that three were tied up in Luncheon. We left Luncheon and went a different way out through Many Islands, admiring the incredible view. There were seals lounging on a rock and playing around it, and we nosed on down to Stop Island to see if we could view the wreck “Waikare” which had sunk during a summer cruise in 1910. It was clearly completely submerged, so we carried on passing north of Passage Islands and glimpsing views of the islands north of Anchor Island. There was a good breeze which carried us down the Bowen Channel on the north side of Long Island, but we lost the wind as soon as we entered the Acheron Passage. A motor up the Acheron Passage and it was as beautiful as it was when we had passed down it two days before, with watefalls still spilling down the sides. Rather than stay that evening on Uncle Uni, we thought we'd check out a bit more of Breaksea Sound and we headed up to Second Cove which is most of the way up the sound before it splits into Vancouver Arm and Broughton Arm. We dropped anchor and picked up a stern line, and I spoke to Dad who was keen to come into Doubtful and come out on Honey for a few days on Sunday – I let him know we would be heading back to Doubtful the next day, weather pending.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Tim's here! Deep Cove (8-9 February)

I was up early and across to the start of the track (Dagg Sound end) by 7.20am and motoring out from Crooked Arm before 8.30am, as Tim had text me the day before to say he was arriving today, Friday, at about 2pm! I figured I would arrive by about 12.30pm, time to moor up, shower and do some laundry. It was a nice motor, with a small amount of sailing into Deep Cove at the end of the sound. Deep Cove is a very small community – a hostel, wharves and a couple of houses, and busloads of tourists that come through every day to be whipped out on the commercial daytripping boats. I tied up next to Pacific Flyer, the yacht I had seen motoring out of Crooked Arm the day before, with Gavin and Rowena on board, and Gavin and I went ashore to the hostel manager's house where we had been invited for a cup of tea. No sooner had I arrived when Tim's head popped up at the door – he had taken the earlier ferry – it was fantastic to see him!! We spent the rest of the day doing the laundry, getting cleaned up and catching up on the last 3 weeks before being invited to dinner at Billy's with Gavin and Ro and a German girl Susannah who was staying at the hostel. Another lovely dinner of muscle soup and venison stew – yum, I'm sure eating well on this trip. And then Tim and I headed back to Honey for the night.

It has been a wet day so far and we have done not too much apart from fueling up and having a cup of tea on Gavin and Ro's yacht. Our plan is to head to Dusky Sound if we get a chance before the SW winds pick up late tomorrow and then work our way back up to Doubtful Sound for next weekend, that's if I let Tim leave! We're yet to decide, but we may head out to Blanket Bay this afternoon – the spot tracker should let you know where we get to as I will not have internet access until back here or otherwise Milford Sound where I should be in a couple of weeks.

Dagg Sound – Three Times! (7 February)

A late start in Blanket Bay, and a yacht appeared to top up their water supplies, Tau Hana – this was the first yacht I had seen since Half Moon Bay in Stewart Island. They were a group of three who had sailed down from Auckland and were now sailing back stopping at some of the fiords on the way – we exchanged stories and they headed on their way, and I headed to Crooked Arm, the second arm in Doubtful Sound heading south from the main sound. The wind started to pick up and it was a nice sail into the start of Crooked Arm, passing first one of the passenger ferries and then another yacht – Pacific Flyer. The second yacht I had seen since Stewart Island, I waved madly as they motored in the opposite direction. The wind died out half way down Crooked Arm and I motored the rest – it is a long arm, about 8 miles, and then cautiously approached Haulashore Cove at the end where there are mud banks that rise up rapidly. Many a yacht have been caught on these with the keel bedded in deep but the stern well out. I dropped anchor, had lunch and then headed out on a walk from the cove into the head of Dagg Sound, thinking that I may quite likely not get to sail in there.

The walk was about 45 minutes long each way, a really nice well marked track for half the way and then a very large slip had come through several years ago (the slip must have been close on 0.25 mile wide), and this was covered in grasses with biddy-bids, before too long I was covered and struggling to pick my way. I made it down to Dagg, with the voracious sandflies I didn't stay too long and picked my way back to the start of the well marked track when I noticed the spot tracker was no longer secured to my pack. Oh no, how would I ever find it in those long grasses! I retraced my steps and realised it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack, so I made my way quickly back to Honey to make a call on the sat phone and retrieve the GPS coordinate so I could locate it. Back on Honey, I rang the Sounds and Di answered and quickly got the coordinates and was a little confused as to why it was transmitting when I didn't have it – whew, I now knew where it was. Retracing my steps it was close to the Dagg Sound end where it had fallen off, so I retrieved it and back again to Honey. That was two trips along the track and I was satisfied I had seen Dagg Sound. No sooner had I got back onto Honey when I heard Aries and Sanvaro talking clearly on the VHF – I knew they were close and they weren't in Crooked Arm. As it turned out they were at the head of Dagg Sound and invited me for dinner – a third walk for me to Dagg Sound. I arrived at the Dagg Sound end where I was literally swarmed my sandflies. I was picked up in Sanvaro and we motored at speed for a few minutes until the cloud of sandflies were blown away and we tied up to Aries. A lovely meal awaited – cod sushi, paua slices, paua patties and then a full pork dinner with all the trimmings, then baileys to celebrate Rosco's birthday. With it pitch dark by the time the mains arrived, I was invited to stay the night which I decided was a far better idea than spending the night somewhere lost on that track among the biddy-bids and the sandflies!

Skyscraper Mountains – Doubtful Sound (6 February)

t was a beautiful morning for a sail up to Doubtful Sound. I untied from the barge soon after 8am and had the sails up before I headed out of Breaksea Sound. There wasn't much wind, not even 10 knots but I was doing 5 knots so must have had the tide helping me along. I passed Coal Bay and thought about starting the motor as my speed had dropped considerably, and then the wind picked up. Before long I had a lovely sail to Doubtful at about 6 or 7 knots – reefing in gradually as the wind picked up to 25-30 knots so that the autohelm could still handle it when I needed to take a break or check the charts. I rounded Hares Ears into Doubtful Sound soon after midday so it was a quick trip up, and then motored in to Blanket Bay at the southern end of Secretary Island. Blanket Bay is an interesting spot - there is the “Blanket Bay Motel”, a spot used by fishermen to store their fish and a place where someone used to live for a few months of the year so there was even a cafe there at one point. Now the building is still there, a water supply and a load of wekas, plus a large waterfall across the bay – this is where I moored for the night.

Doubtful Sound is dramatic with its very steep shear cliffs and moutains. Sailing through, I find myself constantly craning my neck to view the peaks rising high above from only 100m or so from the path that Honey and I are taking. It is really quite spectacular. It is also quite a lot more commercial than Dusky or the other sounds I have been to so far – quite a number of charter boats, luxury gin palaces and even a few other yachts that stop by to get fuel before they carry on north or south.

Absolutely Beautiful – Dusky Sound (3-5 February)

It was wet wet wet today, the first lot of rain since I'd been in Fiordland and it certainly made up for it – it was definitely bucketing down! I had planned to leave Chalky at 6am, but with the dreary rainy start it was still dark so I didn't get underway until 6.30am. I had good winds leaving Chalky – as I approached Providence Rocks (the rocks off Cape Providence at the northern entrance to Chalky), the wind got up and I reefed down expecting that this was the start of the winds I would face around West Cape. But then once I was out of Chalky, the winds dropped to very light and from the west – so I shook the reefs out and even had to motor. The winds dropped off completely once I passed West Cape and with flapping sails I dropped them and carried on under motor power. There was little swell and calm seas, not what I had been expecting at all for this part of the coast!

As I rounded South Point I called up Meri on Bluff Fisherman's Radio to let her know I had arrived into Dusky (there is very little VHF reception within Dusky), and then made a beeline for Cascade Cove. With the rain still coming down heavy and the clouds hanging low making for very poor vis, I switched on the radar to be safe. Dusky has lots of islands, the fishermen say there is at least one for every day of the year, and in fact I was passing an area that is named “Many Islands”. Once I headed a short way in, the clouds lifted, the rain stopped and I had wonderful views of the stunningly beautiful Dusky Sound. It was mirror calm with moody clouds hanging over the steep sided mountains and waterfalls dashing down the sides. Cascading waterfalls marked the entrance to Cascade Cove and I tied up to the barge in the safe all weather anchorage, all set for the gale force winds due with the SW front the next day.

There was a very large boat moored in Cascade, I'm guessing at least a 120 foot gin palace, and before too long the tender from the boat (around a 20 foot run-about) came up to the barge. They were a group of Australians in their 30s that were sailing (or motoring) around New Zealand with the owner. (The boat was originally from Fremantle). They had expected to see a number of small yachts like Honey but I was the first they had seen in Fiordland, and they were impressed that I was on my own and what I was planning to do. Very kindly they asked if there was anything at all that I needed. As I was running low on diesel I said it would be fantastic if I could get a gerry can topped up if they had diesel to spare. And an hour or two later back my gerry can arrived with 20L of diesel, which they would not accept payment for. (As they were heading south I later gave them my copy of the Stewart Island Cruising Guide, which I found a must for sailing around there).

Hiding from the rain (and the sandflies – they were thick in Cascade), I stayed inside Honey tied up to the barge for the remainder of the afternoon until I was joined by seven blokes in two boats – Aries (a converted fishing boat) and Sanvaro (a hard-top roughly 25 foot run-about which had been improved over the years for fishing and diving). They anchored next to the barge and invited me over for dinner, which I glady accepted. They were from Invercargill and on their annual fishing and hunting trip in the Fiords, a week long trip that they had been doing for the last 20 years. After a lovely dinner of marinated fish, paua patties and baked cod and some lively conversation, I was invited to join them the next day and go for a dive. Sounds like too good an opportunity to turn down, and about midnight I returned to Honey with the prospect of a much better day than being hunkered down on my own waiting for the SW 40 that was forecast.

The day started with the engines on Aries being fired up at 8am. I jumped out of bed and got ready to go, no time for breakfast but I got invited to join the blokes for breakfast as we steamed out of Cascade. The first stop was Pickersgill Harbour where Cook anchored Resolution in 1773 and set up an observatory on Astronomers Point. There was a small cruise ship that had travelled overnight from Stewart Island already moored in Pickersgill Harbour, so we went ashore before their scheduled time to visit Astronomers Point. This is an interesting spot as there is still evidence of some of the tree stumps and it is I think the only place in New Zealand where there is now regenerated bush from over 200 years since white men first arrived. We walked up a track that followed Cook Stream and then returned to Aries as the first lot of cruise ship passengers arrived.

I was first up for diving and out we went in Samovar to the south side of Long Island opposite Pickergill Harbour. I got fitted into Johnny's dry suit – he was almost exactly the same size as me so it was a perfect fit - and then some quick tips on how to dive with a dry suit and a reminder on what I need to do as it had been several years since I last dived! I dived with Rosco, a very experienced diver and the skipper of Aries. He was patient although I picked it back up quickly and we landed right on the crays. Despite a constantly leaking mask and holes in the gloves I was using, I got a couple of crays and it wasn't long before we had a full catch bag. It was beautiful down there – I saw black coral (which is white underwater and turns black if its taken to the surface) and a lot of different fish – including a school of teriki and a number of cod. We didn't go far – it dropped sharply and we were diving in 15-25 m depth, and there were many crays that we left. With a full catch bag and not much air left we surfaced and then Phil and Pete dived, followed by Johnny. Although they were dropped not far from us, they didn't have much luck and only came up with a few crays each. By this point the SW had arrived and it was quite a lot cooler, so we returned to Aries to warm up and for a lunch that had been prepared by today's non-divers – left overs from last night in bread and savouries – that hit the spot.

Fishing was planned for the afternoon – we headed further down Cook Channel looking for an uprise (somewhere where the depth of water reduced rather quickly, which brings nutrients up and you are likely to find groper). It was Jeff's day, and he quickly caught two very large cod and then a good sized groper. Except for one or two cod, the rest of us didn't have much luck. We headed back west of Pickersgill Harbour to try our luck there and picked up another few cod and tried to pick up the VHF window off the west end of Indian Island – we picked it up briefly, enough time to let Meri know that all was ok but insufficient to be able to pick up a weather forecast. Then it was back to Cascade Cove, and again I was invited for dinner. Rather than cook up the days catch, it was a wonderful feast of a roll of beef with horseradish sauce and gravy, brocolli and cauliflower with blue cheese sauce, potatoes, corn on the cob and beans and carrots – this was the best feed I'd had in ages and I gobbled up the whole of my heaped plate. This was followed by Mum's christmas cake that I had not yet started, which received much praise, and then with Johnny and Phil making plans for deer hunting early the following morning I again went back to Honey about midnight. What a fantastic day!

The next morning Sanovar was gone before 7am in search for the deer, and Aries left about 9am. We bade farewell with plans to stay in contact on VHF and catch up before they leave from Deep Cove in Doubtful Sound on Friday, and also a promise of some crays that they have in their cray pots! I readied Honey (filled up with water that was at the barge, topped up the diesel tanks, etc), went for a quick look through the bush and followed a small track up to the stream behind the barge (followed by my entourage of sandflies), and then headed for Luncheon Cove on Anchor Island.

Entry into Luncheon Cove is through Many Islands, quite a narrow passage with submerged rocks scattered about. Following the route in “Beneath the Reflections”, one of the must-have books for Fiordland, I made it in with no problems and anchored in Luncheon. This is another interesting spot – it received its name from Cook who dined on crayfish when he stopped here in 1773. It is also the site where the first European vessel in New Zealand was constructed, and also the first European house. These were constructed by an 11-man party who were dropped off by Captain William Raven of Britannia in 1792. They were left there to seal and with sufficient resources to build a house and a vessel if for some reason Raven could not return. As the story goes, they were picked up by Raven 10 months later by which time the vessel was near to completion and left on the stocks. Two years later when the Endeavour was old and leaking, it was disbanded and the vessel was completed and sailed away as the Providence.

Anchor Island is one of the pest-free islands in Fiordland and I rowed ashore to go for a walk up to Anchor Island Lake, a short walk of about 30 minutes up. It turned out there were a number of tracks on Anchor Island and I took off for an explore heading west, armed with my handheld VHF thinking perhaps I may pick up reception from the top of the island. Following a myriad of tracks I made my way onto a couple of the hill tops on the island and had a fantastic panoramic view of Dusky and the coastline (but no VHF reception). It ended up being a longer walk than I had planned, I was away for close on 5 hours and running out of time I headed back to Honey for some food and a call on the sat phone with Tim at 7pm – I would walk up to Anchor Island Lake that evening or first thing in the morning before I left.

And then a change of plan. I spoke with Tim and he has time off work for the whole of next week to join me in Fiordland!! He provided me with an update on the weather and it looked like the best time to travel up to Doubtful Sound where he would meet me on Saturday was tomorrow. Puysegur's forecast was for Northerlies on Thursday and Friday, picking up to 50 knots on Friday afternoon. So I was up-anchored and on my way out of Luncheon Cove by 8pm, heading for Sunday Cove in Breaksea Sound where I would stay overnight and then catch the favourable wind forecast up to Doubtful in the morning. It was at least 3 hours to Breaksea Sound going via the Acheron Passage that runs inside of Resolution Island between Dusky and Breaksea Sounds, so I knew it would be well and truly dark when I arrived. The main hazards were when I was leaving Luncheon Cove and Many Islands, so I was comfortable with travelling the route under radar.

I was joined by a school of very large dolphins as I passed along the north side of Long Island before Porpoise Point. There were dozens of them, swimming along under Honey, and some very playful ones jumping literally about 5m into the air – it was a lovely evening cruise down Dusky! Darkness fell as I entered Acheron Passage and it was pitch dark before I got too far along – I could barely make out the mountains marking Wet Jacket Arm, the sound off to the east of the passage about half way down. As it is not a particularly wide passage, less than 0.5 mile in some spots, and I could not see the sides in the dark, I kept my eys most of the time glued on the radar. But it was a lovely starry night with the milky way and a shooting star making a grand showing. It was almost midnight by the time I rounded the end of Acheron Passage into Breaksea Sound and found the barge that I was going to moor next to in Sunday Cove. Maneovering into the cove, avoiding the craypots and tying up in the dark was fine, thanks to the spot light. However no sooner had I tied up and set the spot light on the barge, it toppled into the water and slowly sank 20m to the bottom – oh no, something else I would need to ask Tim to get me when he came down. I headed into the cabin to check over the route up to Doubtful and got to bed about 1pm.

Chalky Inlet (1-2 February)

It looked like it was going to be a good day to set off on the 2nd up to Dusky, so the focus was on making sure all was ready for the passage past West Cape where the forecasts often seemed to give winds of 10-20 knots more than other parts of Puysegur. First off I nosed off to the other end of North Port where the wreck “Stella” is lying, and pulled up some cod for lunch. Then it was back to the mooring where I filleted the cod the Stewart Island way, and cooked up a feed of fish and kumara chips – yum! I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up on odd jobs on the boat, cleaning and tidying and making sure I was ready for the short but likely rough trip up to Dusky. And then the weather update came through with Northerly 25 knots, not a good forecast for a trip north so I resigned myself to spending the next few days in Chalky. This was the first day where I saw not a single other person or boat – Honey and I were the only ones in Chalky that day.

The next morning I decided to head down to the end of Cunaris Sound (one of the two sounds in Chalky) to have a look-see. It ended up being reasonable for sailing – gusty as it is within the fiords, one moment I'm puttering at 1-2 knots and then a gust arrives and I'm leaning over and ripping up to 7 knots. The gusts got me most of the way up the Sound, until the wind turned to be on the nose and I motored the rest of the way into Cliff Cove. There was a sheltered spot around the corner with a stern line to anchor up to and I dropped anchor and pulled back very close into the bank. A little too close for comfort as the wind turbine (which is now not working) and solar panel kept getting tangled in the bushes! I still had about 5m under the keel though – the fiords are very steep sided and generally that shape carried on under water. I left Honey for only a few minutes and took the dinghy into the tidal basin at Cliff Cove, getting swept in quickly and then needing to get out of the dinghy and pull it out. This looked over into Long Sound in Pressie, although I didn't try and find a portage through to the other side.

As I was coming into Cliff Cove I picked up the weather forecast and it was now variable winds for tomorrow – fantastic, my opportunity to get up to Dusky! So I decided not to stay there long (and also because I was a little concerned Honey would end up really tangled in the bushes. I headed back to North Port so I could get underway early the next morning and shoot up to Dusky.

Round to Chalky Inlet (31 January)

This morning I was woken by the helicopter landing on the top of the barge at about 7.15am. Rex, Casey and Floyd had been up early pulling up the crays from their holding pots and stacking them into their containers to be choppered out to Tuatapere. With this complete, we bade farewell and they headed back to Bluff and Shannan headed out to start his cray potting. The fishermen here are certainly a hardy and tough bunch as one of the tails they recounted was rounding Puysegur Point in 103 knots (I can't even imagine wind that strong, hurricane force starts at 64 knots)! But they are also amazingly welcoming and generous – they took me in while I stayed at the barge, and left me crayfish legs and all their spare vegetables when they left, as well as lots of generous advice and checking up on me on the VHF.

With Southerly out in the straits, Rex advised on the VHF that it was a good day and I should be fine to get into Chalky Inlet and off I set. It was calm in Pressie, only about 10 knots and I sailed out to Chalky, a bit windier as I got around the corner, 25 knots and on the nose. I motor sailed up to North Port and picked up one of the moorings recommended by Danny, one of the fishermen who'd stayed a night at the barge. This was a great little spot, with a bit of wind coming through keeping away the sandflies. I spent the afternoon moored up and catching up on the last 2 weeks of washing.

Exploring Pressie (30 January)

The next morning I was again woken by the fishing boats engines, and by 8.30am despite a late and drunken night they were all steaming off, either to check their cray pots or to head back to Bluff. I heard the final antics of the night being retold on the VHF (and the story of Pee-pee), and then took a lovely short but hot shower on the barge. (Casey, one of the fisherman had told me how to operate it and said I was welcome to use it which was fantastic!)

First off I headed to Preservation Lodge in Kisbee Bay, where the fishermen had said they would likely welcome visitors as they don't get many. There was a new caretaker and no-one had met him yet. He made it very clear that casual visitors and boaties were not welcome there, stating he was under strict instructions from the owners to not let any boaties in otherwise things may get stolen! There was a lady that had joined him for his 3 month stint as caretaker at the lodge – she was in her 70s and had come away seeking one last big adventure. Three and a half weeks in, and she promptly told me that although she hated to give up, she was unsure if she could last the full 3 months there as she was finding him intolerable! She was a kind lady who gave up a lot of her time volunteering, and I told her about the fishermen and that I know they would be happy to assist in her escape from there. After inviting me in for a forbiden cup of tea, she walked me back out to my dinghy and bade me farewell – it would be interesting to know if she contacts them, although she appeared an independent lady so I'm guessing she'll call a helicopter out to extract her before too long. (I heard enquiries being made re a helicopter flight a few days later on the VHF, so I assume she made it out).

Next stop was Isthmus Sound where I had planned to moor and then take the dinghy to a track to the disused Tarawera smelter and chimney, built in 1911 to serve the gold mining that was carried out in the inlet at that time. But by this time the wind had got up and was gusting into the anchorage and I decided I wasn't happy leaving Honey there with me not on board. I headed back to the barge to be safely tucked up before the storm forecast for that evening hit. When I arrived Southerly (fishing boat with Rex, Casey and Floyd) had already returned from a very short day, and soon after Glory Days (with Shannan, aka Shitbox) arrived from Bluff. I was asked about my visit to Preservation Lodge – Rex was rather amused as he is good friends with one of the owners. They are planning to head over there and park themselves one day with a couple of crates of beer, and see how the caretaker likes it! With another evening of beers and banter, I headed off to bed.

Craypotting out of Pressie (29 January)

I was woken with the start of the engines on the fishing boats, it was time to get up and go fishing! I went with Leon and Sam (otherwise known as Pumpkin Head and Poo-poo, and after that night and a few too many drinks Sam was renamed Pee-pee). It was their last day of fishing on this trip, so today was lifting only 80 pots and repositioning them a little further out to sea away from the rocks where the ropes were not likely to get chafed (but close enough that there should still be some crays when they head back out in a weeks time). It was an enjoyable day out, seeing the day in the life of a Pressie cray fisherman! The day started with steaming out to the pots, some were at the entrance to Chalky Inlet so I got some tips on what rocks to avoid, and most were between Puysegur Point and Long Reef Point (which I'd passed the day before). The pots were lifted, their contents emptied and then the pots dropped in their new position. Most of the pots had quite a number of crays (although not as many as usual, the calm weather meant fewer crays caught), but also sand sharks, congo eels, slime eels and the odd fish – some used as bait and the blue cod kept to eat. The crays were sorted, and the rejects sent back to sea. This was a more tricky job than you might expect – the crays were being caught for the Asian market where they were flown in live with the demand being for Chinese New Year. As well as ensuring the crays were not undersized and had at least all but three legs, they also couldn't be oversized, the shell too soft, the flesh too pink, the tail broken, no puncture wounds on the tail, no front legs or pincers missing, no other deformities and they must also be lively. This meant that more than 75% of the crays were thrown back into the water, much to the disgust of Sam! I helped with sorting the crays, but as some of the requisites were rather subjective, I went through a process of weeding out some of the obvious rejects and Sam went through and checked my keepers and threw out another third to half of them. Its important to minimise the number of rejects that get through – on the last trip Leon and Sam had 16% of their catch rejected by the fisheries, which is a big hit on their quota and bottom line take. On the way back in we cleaned up and I filleted the blue cod (and then got shown how to fillet them the Stewart Island way), and we were moored up by 5pm, a nice early finish.

With three fishing boats (and seven fishermen) plus Honey tied up at the Barge, and all of the fishermen close to the end or having completed their fishing for this trip, it looked set to be a big night. I was welcomed to join in with the festivities (the drinking), and made sure to pace myself as they sure could drink a lot and fast! First it was beers and then this was followed by port, and very little food apart from crayfish until later in the evening when Floyd cooked up some great burgers. Rex took a look at my SSB with no joy (still have found noone who knows how to get it going) and both he and Danny gave me advice on anchoring spots as I head further north up the coast. By this time Sam was well drunk and I headed off to bed before it got too much later.

Crossing Foveaux Strait (28 January)

The forecast for the crossing was NW15 knots, except NW25 knots west of the line from Puysegur Point to South West Cape. This meant that I was expecting head winds the whole way, but starting off considerably north of South West Cape I expected to be well east of the mystical line and in lighter weather. To my surprise (and delight) I had variable 10 knots of weather most of the way, it was light Southerly at first which meant a nice sail to start, then it died off and I needed to motor sail, and then with no wind and flapping sails I was just motoring. With the Solander Islands (two islands in the middle of Foveaux Strait) behind me and Fiordland popping up in front of me, I thought I looked on track to arrive a couple of hours early. And then the NW hit and it was a generous 25 knots and very quickly my speed was knocked down to 2.5-3 knots – at this rate I was going to be lucky to arrive before sunset! The next 4 to 5 hours were painstakingly slow and tedious as I looked out at the land to see if I was actually moving forward. It didn't feel like it but the GPS told me I was, just very slowly. Finally I could see Puysegur Point and gradually I inched towards it, and then finally rounded into Otago Retreat – the small and quite shallow passage between Puysegur Point and Coal Island. Weka Island where I was mooring up was directly ahead about 5 miles steam. An hour later I had negotiated myself in and tied up next to one of the fishing boats at the barge, and the fishermen introduced themselves and invited me over for a beer. After a couple of what felt like well deserved beers, some crayfish tails and the promise of cray-potting the following day, I went back to Honey, draped all the openings with sandfly netting (otherwise I was told I would be woken by our little dark friends) and curled up in bed.

The Doldrums of Stewart Island (27 January)

The day started bright and sunny with no wind, quite a contrast from the weather forecast. I needed to leave early in the morning to make it to Preservation Inlet (Pressie), and as I hadn't expected it to be good weather for the crossing of Foveaux Strait I wasn't up as early as I needed to be. I decided instead to push onto Easy Harbour on the West Coast of Stewart Island which would make the push to Pressie the next day a little less. With the tides around South West Cape now being against me, I spent the morning relaxing, getting ready and taking a look around Broad Bay, having a swim and a fresh shower. If I left at 2pm, I figured the tides would be slack and then heading with me. I left at 2 and wondered what South West Cape and Puysegur would have in store for me. Rounding South Cape (the furthest south I would sail, or motor as I needed to with the very little wind) I could see South West Cape in sight. But then it was gone and less than 5 minutes later so was everything within about 50 metres of Honey – Puysegur had thrown light winds and thick sea fog at me! I was now motoring with the aid of the radar and had rounded South West Cape, and then the fog lifted and I had a lovely view of the cape and the passage I was passing through between Stewart Island and Big South Cape Island. I had my sails up and was motoring, but the sails were lifeless and flapping so I pulled them down and motored through at 7 or 8 knots with a generous 2 knots of current pushing me along. It was seriously hot with no wind (I was in t-shirt and shorts, which made a nice change from the wet weather gear). Making such good progress I decided to carry on to Ernest Island in Mason Bay, this should cut off at least an hour from the following days trip. It was in an out of fog and I moored up at about 8pm in Mason Bay ready for the Foveaux crossing the next day.

Wild ride to Broad Bay (26 January)

I had a lovely sleep in Disappointment Cove and woke up refreshed rearing to climb Magog, but unfortunately it alluded me. I moored in Seal Creek and took the dinghy to the start of the track but there was none to find. (The Stewart Island Cruising Guide was published back in 1996 so I'm guessing its now a disused and overgrown track!) Then I went to Evening Cove, and thought I may get a small walk – I was running out of time to go the whole way up Magog. But no sooner had I hopped in my dinghy when a seal lion started doing circles round me – I made it back to Honey quick as I didn't want him to take a nip at my inflatable dinghy, and I didn't want him chasing me when I got to the beach! So I headed off to Broad Bay to be ready to head to Preservation Inlet in Fiordland the next morning. The forecast was for variable 10 knots in Foveaux, and unbeknown to me it had been upgraded to gale force (35 knots) in Puysegur extending to South West Cape. Broad Bay is in Foveaux but no more than 5 miles from South West Cape so it was blowing up for me on the way round – I was travelling with the tide and against the wind, which made the waves stand almost vertical at one point. I reminded myself that I should expect this kind of weather as I'm now in the Southern Ocean! Making very slow headway and taking a salt water shower with the waves coming over Honey (and waiting for the very noisy wind turbine to take off), I eventually managed to inch into Broad Bay. Polaris II (an Otago Uni research vessel, studying the sea lions) was already moored up, I was really pleased they'd made it round and I wasn't there by myself. (I'd seen them earlier in the day and they had said they were coming into Broad Bay). Its still rather breezy this evening, but I seem to be holding fine in this anchorage. With the weather forecast I won't be heading to Preservation Inlet tomorrow, will reassess my plans in the morning – Tuesday at this stage is potentially looking possible.

Dramatic Landscapes – Port Pegasus (25 January)

A reasonably early start this morning from Half Moon Bay, away at 6am, and with the north east behind me it was a good fast run down to Pegasus at the bottom of Stewart Island – at 1.30pm I was pulling in the sails outside of Whale Passage, the northern most entry into Pegasus. It is a beautiful coastline, and when I entered Pegasus it was even better – absolutely dramatic mountain ranges looming up behind the bush and the sea – amazing! I do feel so lucky to be able to see this part of the world which most people never get to visit. I stopped in a lovely little spot called Waterlily Bay for lunch and then headed through Pegasus Passage to the Southern Arm passing some kayakers on the way – stunning scenary. Then coming into the Southern Arm it got better still – crazy rock formations making up the mountain ranges in these parts – I'm looking forward to hopefully having a chance to explore some of them tomorrow! Then into Disappointment Cove where I have dropped anchor for the night, which is nothing like what its name suggests, although I must say I felt a wee bit disappointed that Tim was not down here. The original plan was to try to make it this far by his 40th.