Owl & Pussycat / Sonsie of Victoria BC

The adventures of Jim and Isabel aboard S/V Sonsie of Victoria

28 February 2019
27 February 2019 | Ketu Bay, NZ
25 February 2019 | Waitata Reach, Pelorus Sound NZ
24 February 2019 | Mary’s Bay NZ
23 February 2019 | Mary’s Bay NZ
22 February 2019 | Jacob’s Bay, NZ
21 February 2019 | Raetihi Lodge, Kenepuru Sound NZ
20 February 2019
19 February 2019 | Long Bay, Kenepuru Sound NZ
18 February 2019 | Putanui Pt, NZ
17 February 2019 | Mahau Sound, NZ
17 February 2019 | Havelock NZ
16 February 2019 | Havelock NZ
15 February 2019 | Havelock, NZ
14 February 2019 | Ketu Bay, NZ
13 February 2019 | Waterfall Bay, NZ
12 February 2019 | Māori Bay, NZ
12 February 2019

Through French Pass, swooshy sail with dolphin escort, arrive Nelson

02 March 2019
Isabel Bliss
Motor in windless conditions, approach French Pass bang on slack, thanks to Jim’s expert planning. It’s still a little nerve-wracking but we throttle up and squeeze through, very exciting! Immediately past the squeeze bobbing in the swirly currents is a small fishing boat. It’s the blokes staying at the wilderness resort, so all smiles and waves!

By noon we have wind, so shhh the engine and run up all our white sails. We swoosh along gloriously. Eat lunch accompanied by the lullaby of peaceful gurgling of waves.

Dolphins! Mainly full grown but a few young’uns too. Such a marvellous greeting and joyous sight! Hard to capture the magic with a single photo but here’s one to give you a glimpse.

The waves steepen over the course of the afternoon until the sea is quite lumpy and the sails are flopping about. Engine on. Furl in the foresails and turn into wind to lower the main. Pwoof!! The bow plows in deeply to a steep incoming wave. More throttle and round about, hobbyhorsing into Nelson harbour.

The entrance to the harbour is a dredged channel. There are two sequential sets of range marks to line up and carefully follow in. In addition to the sea state being at its worst, the wind is also at its peak of afternoon intensity. Kinda the most challenging time of the day to arrive!

Jim docks perfectly but the process is not without some drama as the spring dock line was looped around the genoa sheet making things a little tricky! Plus the dock has no cleats, only fore and aft rings which are meddlesome to use.

After we are hooked up to wifi we get an email advising us that a local photographer perched on a hill overlooking the harbour took photos of us (tagging our MMSI 316 014 991) while we were inward bound! https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/photos/picture/ships/3402120/shipid:381924

A perfect sailing day

28 February 2019
Isabel Bliss
Feb 28

The southerly blew in just after midnight and sputtered for 4 hours - not half the beast that was forecasted so in the end we'd have been better off mooring for the actual conditions that prevailed - the nor'westesterly. Hindsight is 20-20! Jim's choice of where to anchor stood up in the changing conditions and Sonsie remained safe regardless of how we swung between the two sailboats on mooring balls.

Glorious morning! We set off by 11 and sail in 15 knots of SE wind on a most pleasant point of sail - a starboard beam reach - across smoother seas over to d'Urville Península. This is what we signed up for! Not yesterday's gnarly gale!

Eventually we furl the genoa and coast along with the 2nd reefed main only, gliding into Catherine Cove silently, peacefully. Drop the sail and motor to a mooring off a wilderness resort. We've been told they have a small restaurant but turns out it's closed this week. Our provisions are getting low so it would have been nice to eat out.

It is a really pretty cove full of birdsong and boasting a grand view. As the lodge is closed this week it's pretty deserted. The caretakers for the week are the owner's parents who tell us they admired Sonsie gracefully sailing into the bay. There is something quite dreamy about a sail full of wind drifting along!

We go on a short walk to a waterfall tucked away in the woods. A few fantails follow us, flitting along, snatching tiny insects out of the air. A darling plump New Zealand robin greets us and hops very close - it's obviously been taught that morsels are on offer when humans are to be found, but we don't proffer any. Four or five sharp whistling calls of disapproval or disappointment and it's off, to its natural sources of grub!

Back at the dock a fizz boat arrives with the lodge's only guests this week - a few blokes and their sons who've been out catching their own supper. As usual Jim gets chatting with them. One of them kindly offers us two hungry robins a couple of chunks of blue cod for our supper. Bonanza! Just what we needed to augment our now skimpy provisions!!

We feast like royals on fresh sautéed fish and salad accompanied by a little Marlborough Pinot Gris in our cosy sun-drenched cockpit serenaded by evening birdsong. Afterwards we row back to shore and go give our last bottle of Bentley's WildSide Pinot Noir that our Tasmanian mates produce and gave us in 2016, to the generous fish provider. He's a vintner himself. We will keep a look out for his wine, Weka River, next time we get to a shop.

Kiwis are great, so easy to chat with, so forthright in their thinking, so unencumbered by considerations of status and rank, and so entertaining with their fun slang and. quirky phrases!

A challenging day!

27 February 2019 | Ketu Bay, NZ
Isabel Bliss
We untie before 10 and motor out with high hopes to sail over to the renowned French Pass by d'Urville Island to get there for the 20 min period of slack water at 3pm. French Pass is notoriously tight and current-filled so we have spent a good deal of mental energy on getting the timing right. Jim is mentioning sailing on to Nelson too, if we get favourable winds!

Upon leaving Ketu Bay we encounter challenging conditions with changeable winds. We get the 3rd reef main and staysail up right away and have a short burst of nice sailing, then in the lee of a point it's necessary to motor to find the winds again. We resume sailing in 15 knots - a fresh wind - and decide we need more sail as Sonsie is not moving along too quickly, and in fact is rather slopping around in water that is like a washing machine. We unfurl to 2nd reef in the main and also add genoa. We pick up speed and cut through the water better.

Instead of the beam reach we were expecting we are close reaching which makes for a much more tiring ride. We make a few tacks over the course of an hour but the wind is increasing and the seas getting short and steep. The sea is all white caps, choppy and nasty - a developing gale.

By this time we had already reduced sail but the ride was increasingly unpleasant. It was becoming unbearable with the steep waves coming in close together.

We turned to a starboard broad reach thereby running with the wind and seas - a much pleasanter point of sail - and scurried back towards where we started. We rounded the point, started the engine, and dropped the main quickly as we could see from the sea state ahead that this would be our last chance in the lee of the point. We decided to furl the staysail as well as it was flogging in the lee.

As we left the lee, gale force wind and waves hit us starboard broadside. The seas were building and relentless. We were in a dilemma about where to go because while it was a northwesterly gale slamming down, the forecast called for a 180 change in wind direction and a southeasterly gale later in the day!

We chugged and rolled in a most uncomfortable manner through the sharp gale seas back to the large Ketu Bay. It didn't feel safe entering the bay because we were going with the seas towards a lee shore, but Ketu boosts 4 club moorings in different areas and inlets, thereby offering a chance of a safe haven.

However, as we pulled in far enough to look around we could see that all balls were in use. It was doubtful we would have tried to pick up a mooring anyhow with the sea in such a state. Worse, in the existing winds, no area really offered good protection. In addition to escaping the nor'easter we wanted to set ourselves in a safe location for the forecast southerly.

All I can say is that I married and choose to go sailing with a amazingly capable guy! Tossing and buffeted by both relentless waves and 25-30 knot gusts of wind Jim managed to manoeuvre Sonsie into anchoring position in between two moored boats - not an easy feat as he had to account for scope (amount of line to be let out considering the depth) and swing room (considering that boats on mooring balls swing differently than boats at anchor).

I went forward when he had Sonsie where he wanted her and sent our 25kg Rocna into the depths with an initial 50' of chain. As soon as we started to slowly back up I dropped 50' more. In total we used 175' in 16m of water. To test our anchor's holding Jim reversed at 2000rpm.

We hold fast!

it was 2:30 pm and time for lunch! For the remainder of the day the wind whipped in strong gusts curving round the headland and slamming Sonsie sideways. Jim stayed in the cockpit on anchor watch, at some point chatting on VHF ch.6 with the sailor on the sailboat to the east of us who said he was happy to see we have a Rocna. They're great anchors! A particularly vicious gust bypasses us but whips salt water over the sailboat to the west of us and sends the dinghy that's tied to their stern up into the air and flips it.

Dusk at 8:30 and the wind finally eases. The gusts cease altogether by 9:30. All is still....but dutiful Jim remains in the cockpit....

Great walk over to Penzance and back in native bush

26 February 2019 | Ketu Bay NZ
Isabel Bliss
Over morning coffee admiring the calm, still cosy nook of a bay we have all to ourselves, Jim muses, "I wonder what it would be like to moor when it's calm?"

Three ladies zoom by us in a strong plastic fizzboat. It's always fun watching other boaties. They set a stern anchor, tie up then go ashore. Are they heading to the batch (cabin) up the hill a ways?

One of them jumps back in the boat and leaves. She comes over to say Hello and explain that the other two ladies have gone to place the wasp poison Fipronil in the traps nailed to the trees along the paths. Wasps are invasive and good for nothing. They take over areas and kill the young of the native birds. They will take the bait back to their hives and all will die. The local people are working hard to eradicate all invasive species like wasps, rats, possums and stoats which intrude on and kill native birds. She was proud of the birdsong returning to their area of Tawhitinui Reach of Pelorus Sounds.

After she zooms off, we row to shore again in the dinghy, this time to walk in the other direction, to Penzance. We are following the conservation ladies and notice bait in the traps and wasps swooping in, going, "Yeehaw! Look at we found!" and imagining they'll be the heroes when they get back to their hives and swagger in with such delicious food!

Penzance is 3-1/2 miles away through beautiful native bush. Lots of pongas, nikau palms, cabbage trees, manuka, and black-trucked beeches to name a few. Lots of singsongy bell birds and grey warblers and the odd tui can be heard. Penzance itself is really charming with a cosy harbour, jetty, and attractive picnic area in the shade of a huge macrocarpa tree with swings hung on various limbs.

We munch our picnic in the shade watching two oystercatchers sun themselves on a swim float in the bay. We wonder why absolutely no one is about. It's deserted! And like Elaine Bay, there's no shop, cafe or ice cream stand.

Before we leave to trek back, there are signs of life: 2 cars pull up, one of them towing a boat. We get chatting with the boaties and find out their son now lives near us in BC. He was part of a kiwi team of rowers in last June's ocean rowing race held in Sidney!

A quick dip in the sea before we untie the mooring ball and sail on a beam reach north 10nm to Ketu Bay and moor for the night.

Another day, another bay and a nice change of pace!

25 February 2019 | Waitata Reach, Pelorus Sound NZ
Isabel Bliss
Untie from Mary's Bay after Hans on Velero departs for Ketu/ d'Urville.

We motorsail on account of the capriciousness of the winds over to the western reach of Pelorus Sound. Moor in cosy Deep Bay by 1pm in wind and chop. Row the dinghy in the chop to shore. I wonder if we will manage to row back?

Go on a great 6 mile walk along a former farm roadbed to Elaine Bay. Great to stretch our legs again!! Nice native bush with small silver eye birds, then about two-thirds of the way along, dense pine forest. Pines are from North America, planted for harvest, but the birds and insects don't care much for them and they are invasive. There are noticeably fewer cicadas crzzzing as the cooler temps have started to kill them off.

Disappointingly there is no shop or ice cream stand or cafe at Elaine Bay. There's a small camper van area for visitors so we chat with a few Kiwis on tiki tours - van touring holidays.

The tide is out when we return to the dinghy so we have to carry it 50m over rocky beach to the water's edge, then take our shoes and socks off and wade out until it is deep enough for us to get in. The chop is easing as the sun goes down behind the hills.

At dusk, the now still water starts rippling with fish swimming near the surface. There's a short burst of excitement as we hear one or two little blue penguins, but they go past us into a neighbouring bay.

Rainy day in Mary’s Bay

24 February 2019 | Mary’s Bay NZ
Isabel Bliss
Mary's Bay . Southerly gale with cold winds from Antarctica and steady pouring rain. The mussel nets dampen down the waves for us but it's gusty, gusty, gusty. I stay inside all day. Jim strips off a couple of times in order to go outside. Brr! but that way there are no wet clothes to dry! After ensuring the port side deck is clean. He sets a clean washcloth before the water tank fill holes and we fill both tanks.

We have a fun cosy day inside. Jim tests the bilge high water alarm. and I do some sewing repairs. We watch a short video from Viking life rafts about our life raft.

(Photo taken before the rain!)
Vessel Name: Sonsie of Victoria
Vessel Make/Model: Southern Cross 39'
Hailing Port: Piers Island BC
Crew: Jim Merritt & Isabel Bliss
Retired from aviation, Isabel and Jim enjoy sailing in the South Pacific when not busy in the Northern Hemisphere with home & garden, family & friends. Jim is a former member of the Yellowknife NWT's Great Slave Cruising Club, Isabel of White Rock BC's Lower Mainland Yacht Club. They thank all [...]
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