04/01/2012, Stewart Island, New Zealand
Stewart Island is an amazing place! I know I've said this before, but this really might be our favorite place in all New Zealand. It was wonderful to visit the town of Oban after being in remote areas for two months. Fresh fruit and veggies, a restaurant, the delightful museum, and the informative Rakiura National Park Info Centre were all treats. The people we met there were incredibly friendly, inviting us to their homes, feeding us, and offering the use of their wifi and laundry facilities. One kind yachtie suggested we use his private mooring at Ulva Island which is a bird sanctuary. Late one afternoon we were the only people on the entire island.
A ferry service from Bluff and small planes from Invercargill bring visitors to Oban. Water taxis provide access to various places around Patterson Inlet, a large and protected natural harbor. Several well maintained tramping trails lead around and across the northern part of the island. Access to the southern part of the island is by boat or float plane only, and most longtime residents of Oban have never ventured down there.
No tracks or roads lead to Port Pegasus, another large and protected harbor fifty nautical miles south of Patterson Inlet. When the seas are furious outside, calm refuge can be found in one of the many coves inside.
Rugged, wind-swept bush and granite outcroppings cover the land. Sea lions and yellow-eyed penguins swim about in the waters rich in blue cod, paua (abalone) oysters and scallops. During our 10 days in Pegasus we saw 2 other yachts, 2 fishing boats and Southern Winds, the DOC boat with sea lion researchers on board. Many days we were the only boat in whichever arm we were anchored in. Dozens of tiny islands dot both the North and South Arms of Port Pegasus. What fun it was to kayak around the edges and explore the shoreline in complete solitude except for a barking sea lion on a sandy beach or the watchful gaze of a shag standing on the rocks.
Many people say blue cod is the best tasting fish there is. We agree. They are only found in southern NZ but the plump bottom feeders haven't figured out how precious they are or how to resist capture. True to what the guidebook says, they attack any baited hook with suicidal enthusiasm. We even had one jump onto a rock next to us! We scooped him into the kayak, the first time we'd ever caught a fish without a line. Large paua are plentiful in several anchorages hiding among the swaying kelp. At one point I found four in the space of one square meter. Oysters are easy to find and giant scallops were in abundance. I plucked 20, the limit, as quickly as I could dive and surface in 4-5 meters of water. I think we found paradise on Earth!
See more pictures and read stories of our time on Stewart Island at our website: www.tenayatravels.com.
03/09/2012, Evening Cove, Port Pegasus, Stewart Island, New Zealand
It's only an overnighter but one of those passages you don't take lightly. Having a good weather window is essential. Often there are high winds and contrary rough seas. We were told, more than once, to leave for Stewart Island if a Gale Warning was not in effect for the area. Highs and lows barrel across the Tasman Sea, often stacking up when the first slows over the South Island and creates an area of enhanced winds in Fiordland and Stewart Island which funnel through Foveaux Strait.
Puysegur Point is the south westernmost point of land on the South Island and also sits at the western edge of Foveaux Strait. The area is notorious for high winds, steep waves, strong tides, shallow depths and hidden rocks.
We decided to give Foveaux Strait a pass and sail directly from Dusky Sound down the western side of Stewart Island then up the east side a short distance to Port Pegasus. In doing so we rounded South Cape, one of the five great southern capes. Only Cape Horn is further south, a detail our nerves would not let us forget.
As usual for important passages, we consulted Commander's Weather, a routing service. At one point Brynn wrote to say they had not forgotten about our request, there was just no good window in sight. Good thing we were happy as clams in Dusky Sound! Eventually Oliver said we were good to go. A big high was coming and we'd have two really mellow days. It would probably mean motoring but we were fine with that. So off we went at 0700 on March 9.
We were certainly surprised when the weather report that evening said there was a Storm Warning for Puysegur. Area Puysegur covers part way down Fiordland to the bottom of Stewart Island. Not a Gale Warning, a Storm Warning. Where did that come from??? All we could do was ensure the boat was ready and Jim got plenty of sleep. Fat chance of that!
I heard some fishermen talking during my watch and they didn't think it would amount to much during the night. Jim relaxed when I told him that. It seemed the worst weather would be northwest of our position and arrive once we were safely anchored. Indeed, the winds never exceeded 10 knots and we had a very easy passage and arrived with our batteries fully charged.
We rounded South Cape on March 10, the same day that Captain Cook did 242 years before us, on his first voyage of discovery. Tenaya is anchored at Evening Cove in the South Arm of Port Pegasus with two sternlines tied to shore. It's a wildlife reserve with topography and vegetation completely different from Fiordland. As we entered we passed a rare yellow-eyed penguin lazily fishing who barely acknowledged us and a sea lion bull that chased us, or greeted us, I'm not sure which. There is only one town on the island, Oban, and it is further north. No roads or tracks come anywhere near Port Pegasus. It is completely isolated. We are looking forward to exploring this remote and picturesque area of granite domes, low hills and shallow valleys, scrubby brush and boggy earth.
02/28/2012, 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 �...?
02/06/2012, Precipice Cove, Bradshaw Sound, Fiordland NZ
The time had come. The weather window was finally opening long enough for us to get down to Fiordland. With a bit of trepidation we tossed off the dock lines in Nelson Marina at 1440 on February 1. Next stop: Milford Sound. Sailing around the South Island of New Zealand is considered a crazy thing to do by many yachties including Kiwis. Why leave the idyllic Bay of Islands or the balmy and beautiful Golden Bay and Nelson area for that part of the country which receives more than seven meters of rain annually, has horrendous winds at times and massive hoards of vicious sandflies? Well, because the sounds, which are actually fiords, are positively breathtakingly beautiful.
Aside from 18-32 knot winds in the Cook Strait we motorsailed the entire way to Milford Sound. Often we had winds in the single digits. That was fine with us. We refueled at Milford, the only sound accessible by car. The people, tour boats and kayakers could not deter from the spectacular rugged, raw, glacially gouged, verdant landscape.
Four bottlenose dolphins at the head of George Sound were as curious about us as we were about them. As I cooed from the bow they repeatedly turned on their sides to eye me directly. The youngest one kept rubbing its white belly against the hull and rolling over on its back. When I reached my hand down toward the water they arched higher and came closer. These affectionate creatures stayed for half an hour and only left when the surface of the water began to ripple. We've never had an encounter like it.
Jim hooked a hefty albacore between George and Thompson Sounds. So far we've eaten it raw, seared and wrapped in hand rolls with sticky rice, spicy guacamole and cabbage, and there is a lot more in the fridge. We found blue mussels at two anchorages that Jim wokked with onions, garlic, ginger and a little soy sauce.
Last night we were startled by bright lights and the roar of an engine. What looked like an enormous ship looming above us was tying to the mooring line strung across the cove on which our sternline was attached. This morning we awoke to a thump as the owner of the launch tossed a bag containing two live crayfish (spiny lobster) onto our back deck.
Each day we kayak through the reflections of the majestic peaks and vertical walls towering above us. Only the songs of the birds and the dipping of our paddles break the silence. Mostly we are very much alone with no other boats in the area. Our contact with others is by SSB on the Bluff Fisherman's Net each evening at 8:30. Today we will finally unload the dinghy from the foredeck to explore the nearby Gaer Arm. At high water it is possible to navigate two kilometers up the Camelot River at its head. We are having a fabulous time in Fiordland!
01/31/2012, Nelson, New Zealand
Anchorage Bay is a beautiful, safe spot to lie at anchor for a while. Located in Torrent Bay at the southern end of the Abel Tasman National Park, there is a campsite for hikers doing the Coast Track and kayakers that paddle in. Water taxis zip in and out all day long but cannot put a damper on this idyllic place. A narrow beach of fine sand gives way to dense bush and verdant mountains veined with trails.
Our new inflatable Sea Eagle kayak had been tied above the dinghy on the foredeck for the daysail down from Tarahoke Marina. We easily lowered it over the side and used it as our sole transport. Each day we explored the shores of the bay. On either side of the long sandy beach are steep walls of granite and lots of trees. There is a 4 meter tide range so most of the small sandy beaches disappear at high water and many rocks appear at low water. We love our new kayak! It's even possible to stand up and use it as a paddleboard although that is a quite a thigh burner. Perhaps with some more experience I'll relax a little and the muscles will get a break.
Paikea Mist and Jackster were already anchored there when we arrived. The following day we joined them on a hike to a waterfall. We walked through the forest until we reached Falls River. Over and around giant boulders and slabs we scrambled until I reached a point where I didn't have a good hand hold and the pitch was too steep. So there we stayed. The warm granite slabs baking in the sunshine seemed like a great place to wait for the others. When Gloria returned she immediately went for a dip in one of the pools. Great idea! I was right behind her. Aaahhh... Jim doesn't share my enthusiasm to jump into any body of clear water so he happily stayed perched on his rock.
After several days of working fine, the watermaker had a problem. Of course it was a weekend. Jim did everything he could think of to fix it but couldn't. So into Nelson Marina we came looking for a technician and hoping for some insight from Spectra in California. We figured we'd buy some water jugs and a funnel in case we needed to make some sort of water catchment system. Well, sure enough, it seems to have fixed itself. Jim's not sure why and that's not a perfect solution. But at least it's working again.
A high will settle over the South Island tomorrow for several days so it is the window we've been waiting for. In a few hours we will head off to Milford Sound. We should be there in 4-5 days.
01/22/2012, Tarakohe Marina, Golden Bay
Yep, that's what we remember about the South Island of New Zealand - the beautiful scenery, the really, really nice people, and Mother Nature's fury. It was blowing a hoolie as a low passed over, and another bigger one was fast on its heels, so we headed into Golden Bay at the northwestern tip of the South Island for refuge rather than continuing down the west coast to Milford Sound.
From the churning sea a vibrant panorama lay before us. Folded green mountains rise quickly from the shore with interesting limestone outcroppings scattered about among the stands of pine trees and dense bush. Above us billowy clouds tumbled along beneath a brilliantly blue sky.
Perhaps it was the wind or perhaps it was my American accent that prompted Alan, the harbourmaster at Tarakohe Marina in Golden Bay, to meet us at the berth and help tie us up. On the phone he'd said space was very limited but he could put us on a pile mooring so we were happily surprised when he ushered us into a berth.
As we were settling in we met Darrel who assured us he could fix our tattered headsail. Up to the yacht club he and Jim went with the big jumble of jib. D set up a dozen banquet tables, pulled out his sewing machine and got to work. He sewed while Jim taped. A couple of hours later Tenaya was ready to go again.
Daniel, on the wonderful wooden boat next door with his young family, offered us the use of his car on Saturday. We drove into Takaka, a town we'd discovered and loved last year on our land tour. (See Gerty Goes Round New Zealand on our Tenaya Travels website). It's an artsy, bohemian town with fabulous cafes, healthy food and unique shops. A county fair was on complete with farm animals, equestrian events, rides and a wood chopping contest. Local flavor at its best.
Today the sun is shining and the wind has calmed. We're fueling up now and are headed off to explore some anchorages along the Abel Tasman Park. It looks like we might be in the area for a week or so. Time to play!