Fiordland Part Two: Doubtful and Dusky Sounds
28 February 2012 | Pickersgill Harbour, Dusky Sound, Fiordland New Zealand
The wild coasts and inner fiords walled by dramatic, pristine, forested peaks in Fiordland continue to amaze us. Fifteen fiords, mistakenly named sounds, make up the vast Fiordland National Park, the largest in New Zealand. Those in the north, including Milford Sound, are narrow and steep-sided. Those further south are lower with wide open mouths. Yes, the word fiord is spelled with an i here.
Most of the sounds have a single entrance but there are two complexes where a boat can enter through one sound and exit via another. The calm waters and multitude of anchorages inside provide a safe haven compared to the often blustery conditions outside. Thompson Sound runs mostly NE to SW where it joins with both Bradshaw Sound that branches inland and Doubtful Sound that protrudes inland to the SE or out to sea.
We spent two weeks in the Doubtful Sound complex, mostly in Deep Cove at the head of Doubtful Sound. The plan was to motor up, have a look at the spectacular scenery, top off the fuel tanks in Deep Cove and leave the next day. But we made friends with Billy, the manager of the trust, and he had all kinds of things for us to see and do and eat. We hunted possum, took a dip in a cool, clear pool, ate the biggest spiny lobster either of us had ever seen and went searching for kiwi at night. When our starter motor failed he arranged for a replacement that arrived in less than 48 hours.
Twenty miles south of Doubtful Sound is the entrance to Breaksea Sound and the Dusky Sound complex. Breaksea runs ENE and splits into two narrow arms, Vancouver and Broughton. The Acheron Passage connects Breaksea with Dusky Sound running south along the eastern side of Resolution Island. Wet Jacket Arm slices inland about halfway down the passage. Dusky Sound is the longest in Fiordland at 43.9 km. Its entrance is quite broad and scattered with dozens of small islands and many hazardous rocks. Captain Cook named the area Dusky Bay as he passed by during his first voyage in the Endeavour on March 14, 1770.
We had a fantastic day sailing down from Doubtful to Breaksea. With following winds 15-30 knots accompanied by fog and intermittent rain, it just seemed right for this part of the world. At the head of Breaksea several dolphins frolicked at the bow until we pulled into Third Cove anchorage.
The next night we stayed in a tiny ribbon of water sheltered between Stick Island and the mainland where we anchored and tied a sternline to shore and a line from midships to the island. Viscous sandflies attacked what little bits of skin were exposed around my ankles and hands as I cleaned the mussels I'd gathered while kayaking around the rock strewn shores of impenetrable bush. It seemed a very long way from civilization.
We made our way to Dusky Sound along the glassy water reflecting the land on either side until we rounded Long Island and steered down the narrow Cook Channel. Captain Cook sailed this section in the Resolution during his second voyage in 1773. He charted the area and named many locations.
We spent several nights tied to a mooring outside Luncheon Cove, a safe and quiet anchorage where he dined on crayfish, thus the name. At the moment we are anchored in Pickersgill Harbour which he named after his third lieutenant, Richard Pickersgill, who found it. A snug little cove, trees drape both sides while a stream empties into the end. Cook backed his bark in, tied to shore, and stayed a month.
Nowadays there is a boardwalk to Astronomer Point where Cook established an observatory and forge to repair the ship's ironworks. A track follows Cook Stream up to Lake Forster, named after the German scientist on board. It doesn't look like we'll have a good window to get to Preservation Inlet or across to Stewart Island in the next few days so we'll continue to enjoy this outer area of Dusky Sound. Hiking, mussel and paua (abalone) collecting, snorkeling and kayaking will keep us busy. What's a little rain �...?