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).

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Final Leg – Port Underwood to Lyttelton (21-22 March)

My plan was to head back to Lyttelton by Easter and the best opportunity appeared to be to catch the north east that was forecast to pick up this afternoon (Thursday). I was unsure about when to leave – Thursday afternoon with a forecast of NE 15 knots, or Friday morning when the winds were predicted to increase to 20-25 knots. I opted for leaving on Thursday afternoon – this should give me a nice sail down the coast with minimal swell and have me into Lyttelton Harbour before the rough seas kicked in. It also meant that I would likely be passing Kaikoura in the early morning, with the potential for seeing some whales. My plan was to arrive into Lyttelton at around midnight on Friday and stay the night on the club mooring in Little Port Cooper so I could arrive into the harbour in the daylight, hopefully with timing to coincide with the departure of the flotilla bound for Pigeon Bay. Having spent the morning resting up and getting ready to leave (I wasn't expecting much rest on this leg as it is a reasonably busy shipping route), I motored out of Oyster Bay at 2pm and headed out of Port Underwood, taking a peak into the eastern side of the port on the way. This was my first time into Port Underwood, and I had not really seen it arriving at dusk the night before. Port Underwood is very similar to the Marlborough Sounds, only it has a more “scraggy” appearance – it is almost completely covered in pine plantations with the naked areas that come with harvesting, there are many lines of mussel buoys and a number of pylons circle the harbour, presumably feeding power to the HVDC link. There look to be a number of small communities, most of which appear to be made up of fishermen and mussel harvesters.

Oyster Bay, Port Underwood
Outside Port Underwood with a light easterly blowing, I raised the main and unfurled the headsail and sailed towards Cape Campbell at about 4 knots. As I neared Cape Campbell, I furled up the headsail and turned into the wind to be sure I gave the nasty rocks around the cape a good clear berth. I got a message from Mum that her and Kai had been down to the end of the road in the Awatere Valley and had managed to spot me using field glasses! Rounding Cape Campbell, with the headsail unfurled and the light easterly still blowing, I moved along at 3.5 – 4.5 knots for a few miles until the sun set and the wind eased and I was barely making 2.5 knots. I started the motor and motor sailed, waiting for the forecast north easterly to kick in. A couple of times it looked like it was starting and I'd drop the revs back on the motor, only to find I was doing no more than 2.5 knots. By about 11pm, a light land breeze picked up instead, although again this sent me along at no more than 2.5 knots. So I resigned myself to motor sailing, and I carried on motor sailing for the rest of the night. A large ship passed me one mile to seaward heading north at about 4.30am – I figured this was the ship I had seen on the Lyttelton Port departures which left at 8.40pm, one that I made a mental note to look out for. Car and truck lights were clearly visible running up and down the Kaikoura coast through the night, at odd times there were a reasonably large number presumably linking with the ferry departures from Picton. Motor sailing meant I made very good timing, the small amount of wind meaning Honey was moving along at about 6 knots, which had us at Kaikoura by 6am while it was still dark – too early to be able to spot any whales. I slowed Honey down to an idle and we slowly motored down the coast at about 4 miles out to sea where the continental shelf rises from more than 1000 metres to about 100-200 metres, and where I hoped to spot a whale. It was glassy calm as the sun rose, with the first rays glinting on the snow on the Kaikoura mountains – very beautiful, but no whales. At 7.20am having given up my hopes of whale spotting, I carried on motoring down the coast hoping the wind would pick up sometime soon. I'd had no rest to speak of that night – its not so easy to take naps when the engine is continually whirring, and I'm also not able to hear my alarm or the sound of an approaching boat.
Sunrise over the Kaikoura Range
I was off the coast from Point Gibson, roughly where the Hurunui River meets the sea, when the north east wind finally picked up, and at 12.30pm I unfurled the headsail and turned off the engine. So good to finally have some peace, and moving along at 4 knots, I retreated into the cabin for a short nap. Twenty minutes later and now sailing along at 5 knots and with no other boats in view, I took another short nap. The wind continued to pick up and soon I was doing 6 knots and then 7 knots across Pegasus Bay, with the winds finally reaching about 20 knots. I reefed down, so that the little autohelm could easily handle the small swell that had developed, and settled in to a nice afternoon of sailing at about 6 knots. It was warm and sunny with not a cloud in the sky and no other boats visible at all in the bay, the only sound apart from the wind and the waves were planes passing high overhead. Haze covered most of Banks Peninsula and the sun was setting as Christchurch came into view – the twinkling lights of Sumner and the Port Hills and the sillouettes of the few tall buildings left in central Christchurch. It was an absolutely beautiful evening, and the approach to Lyttelton from Pegasus Bay was so lovely – I felt a huge sense of accomplishment as I passed back into waters I know well. As I approached Godley Head, the wind reduced and I shook out the reef in the main and sailed between two large ships moored off Sumner Beach. Little Port Cooper is just inside Lyttelton Harbour, and I was already at Adderley Head when I quickly furled in the headsail and dropped the main and motored to pick up the mooring. It was after 10.30pm and I would have struggled to locate the mooring in the dark if it wasn't for the GPS coordinates in the club handbook. Securely moored, with a view of the lights of Lyttelton Port, I settled in for a light dinner and a good night sleep before I would sail the final few miles down the harbour in the morning.

Pegasus Bay and my daily view of the blue seas

Around to Port Underwood (20 March)

Tim had an early start and was on the road back to Lyttelton soon after 6.30am. I planned to head around to Port Underwood, south of Queen Charlotte Sound - my plan was to catch the start of the out-going tide through Tory Channel which meant I didn't need to leave Waikawa before about 1pm. So back to sleep for me for a couple of hours. It was a lovely sunny day and still a bit breezy, perfect for drying out everything that had got damp over the last couple of days. Then with Honey readied to go, I left Waikawa at 1.45pm. It was a relatively quick trip out to the heads, motor sailing in the still gusty conditions to Dieffenbach Point at the start of Tory Channel and through Tory Channel where the wind was a bit more steady and a bit lighter, dodging a couple of ferries along the way. It was a beautiful trip, seeing the sunlight cast shadows in the creases of Arapawa Island slide by. I had hoped that leaving a little after 1pm would mean I had some assistance from the current through Tory Channel, but it seemed I was a bit early and Honey barely went faster than her usual motoring cruising speed of 5 knots. There was a light south easterly breeze of about 10-15 knots in the strait, and I raised the mainsail and turned Honey towards the south in the direction of Port Underwood. It was a nice sail, a tight reach and Honey was moving along at about 4 knots. But the day was drawing in and I was aiming for Oyster Bay which I had been told had quite a large number of moorings – I would prefer to get there in the light if possible. So I motor sailed at 6 knots, passing Fighting Bay where the Cook Strait HVDC cable leaves the South Island, and rounded into Port Underwood just before 7.30pm with the last light of the day. It was just getting dark when I entered into Oyster Bay and I could just make out the moorings. Dodging them and a couple of barges and several boats moored in the bay, I found a nice sheltered spot and dropped the anchor for the night.
Arapawa Island and Tory Channel

Queen Charlotte Sound, with Sandra and Tim! (16-19 March)

I rang Tim when I woke up in the morning to see if he would make it up to the Sounds for the weekend, and he was already past Kaikoura – fantastic! I better get a move on if I am going to get to Waikawa no later than he does. I had a quick breakfast, pulled up anchor and waved goodbye to Mike (Vicky was still enjoying a sleep in), and headed towards Waikawa. It was flat calm until I passed Luke Rock where a light wind picked up and I unfurled the headsail and motor sailed towards Waikawa. Rounding into Waikawa with a little time to spare, I cut the motor and slowly sailed or drifted into the bay. As Tim arrived into Waikawa he watched Honey slowly approach – he had just rowed out to Treasure by the time I picked up a spare mooring a few metres inshore of Treasure. Sands' ferry arrived soon after and I took Tim's car to meet her, it was wonderful to see her and great that she'd hopped on the ferry for an overnight trip. All three of us headed out to Treasure for a late lunch and a good catch-up. With the afternoon quickly passing, we headed for Double Cove – Tim on Treasure and me and Sands on Honey. There was a little wind and we sailed under the headsail, until it petered out and we rounded up and motored into the east end of Double Cove. Tim was ahead of us and picked up a mooring and stern line in one of his favourite spots and we rafted alongside. It was a lovely evening, with a yummy steak dinner and lots of chat, before we turned in for the night.

Honey and Treasure in Double Cove
A late start the next day – Sands got to sit in bed reading magazines, a luxury she's not used to with two young children at home! We had a late breakfast and before we knew it, it was time to head back to Picton to drop Sands off at the ferry. Sands and I headed off on Honey and I returned less than an hour later, rafting back up next to Treasure. With a light southerly forecast for that night, we decided to stay put in Double Cove for the rest of the day and night.

The southerly was forecast to strengthen to gale force on Monday and we headed back into Waikawa in good time. Tim was in the midst of buying a mooring for Treasure and he wanted to check the state of the mooring before the wind picked up. Finding the top rope partly worn through, he returned to his previous mooring and Brent Cameron, a friend of Tim's from Vinings, found a berth for Honey in the marina. We were in a good spot – the wind howled that night, and it bucketed down with much-needed rain – Honey nestled in the inner marina. It was a wet and windy day on Tuesday, not as wet and windy as the night before but not a good day for sailing. With the weather not suited to hauling out boats in Lyttelton, Tim could stay another day. This ended up being a good opportunity for sorting out the mooring he was buying, and I could catch up on some odds and ends on Honey. We started the day with a brunch of pancakes and bacon on Honey – I had taken the pancake syrup all around the South Island, it needed to be used up! And we finished the day with a much needed walk to stretch the legs.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

From Kenepuru to Queen Charlotte Sound (14-15 March)

It was soon after midday when Honey and I headed away from Chunda Cove, with all clothes and perishables stowed back on board. A breeze had just started to come up and we sailed under the headsail out of the bay and across to Schnapper Point, where the wind reduced to a very gentle puff and Honey drifted to the start of the Kenepuru Sound. Rounding into Hikapu Reach and the start of the Pelorus Sound, the wind picked up to about 20-25 knots head on, and I started motoring. The wind turbine started whirring – it was obviously generating, although something wasn't quite right – it wasn't feeding any charge into the battery and I couldn't lock it (which I do when the wind gets too strong). Also the revs on the engine weren't steady – they kept dropping and sounding as if the engine would cut out. The engine obviously wasn't getting enough fuel. I turned back into the Kenepuru, where it was calmer and I could reach Tim on the mobile, and we talked through the engine problem. This was the first good run of the engine I had done since we serviced her and there was an air blockage stopping the fuel to the engine. I cracked one of the bleed screws and got rid of the air, and she sounded much better. I motored Honey up and down part of Kenepuru Sound, and happy that her engine was running well, I turned to head back up into Pelorus. And then the revs dropped again. I hadn't got rid of all the air and again turned the lift pump over until only fuel was being pumped through the line. And then finally I headed into Pelorus Sound, motoring through Hikapu Reach. Honey's engine didn't sound fantastic, but she was running ok, I hoped if there was just a little air left that it might clear itself. Rounding Turn Point, I unfurled the headsail and motor sailed almost to Tawero Point where the wind picked up and I cut the motor. When Honey's engine restarted, it still didn't sound right, so I headed for a mooring in Bulwer, one of the outer bays in Pelorus, where I would take a better look in the morning.

In the morning, I changed the wiring on the wind turbine, removing the regulator which we had installed, hoping that would solve the problem. But there was no wind to check if it worked. And then I looked at Honey's engine. I found that there was air leaking through the O-ring between the primary fuel filter and the bulb. A quick discussion with Tim, and he said I really should remove the bulb to deal with the leak, and if necessary replace the fuel filter if that was causing the problem. This would mean bleeding the fuel lines, and I was rather loathe to do this as it had been very difficult to do the other day and I didn't want to be stranded out in Bulwer if I had no success. I drained and removed the fuel bulb, the filter looked fine but there was muck on the O-ring. Replacing the fuel bulb with a new O-ring, it proved to be a quick and easy job to fill the primary filter with fuel using the lift pump (perhaps we'd had so much difficulty previously because of the air leak). With all the air out of the fuel lines, the engine started with no problem and ran well when I motored Honey out of the bay (and I have had no problems with it since). Feeling quite pleased with myself that I had managed to diagnose and solve the problem, I headed out of Bulwer bound for Queen Charlotte Sound at 11am.

The wind picked up and I found that my re-wiring of the wind turbine hadn't worked, something to sort later. When I was out of Bulwer and had turned towards the end of Forsyth Island, I raised the main and unfurled the headsail. The wind was gusty, typical Sounds wind, calm one moment and 20-30 knots the next moment. I had my first round-up as I passed the West Entry Point outside Port Ligar, one of many I had that day – I was over-powered with the amount of sail up. I reefed the main and carried on at a sedate pace of 4 knots, rounding Culdaff Point at the end of Forsyth Island. With Honey's speed dropping to around 3 knots, it was back up to full sail and I carried on passing a few metres from Titi Island, close enough to hear the birds chirping on the island – it was beautiful. The coastal shipping report gave a speed of 15 knots at Stephens Island and 32 knots at Brothers Island in Cook Strait, and with a line of wind approaching beyond Titi, I reefed again. The wind picked up to about 25 knots and it was lovely sailing – nice winds, no swell, and Honey's speed quickly picked up to 6 knots, then to 7 and 8 knots. This was the Marlborough Sounds, what could go wrong? I had to remind myself not to be complacent. I covered the ground in no time past Cape Lambert and onto Cape Jackson. With the wind picking up to 30 knots and another round-up, I thought it best to put a second reef in the main and partly furl in the headsail, particularly as I didn't want any round-ups while I negotiated the gap between Cape Jackson and the old lighthouse, and the tidal currents around the headland. Around Cape Jackson, with a fantastic view of Cook Strait and the North Island, the wind appeared to drop and Honey was back up to full sail. And then a 35 knot gust hit and another good round-up. I chuckled to myself about being complacent as I reefed the main back in and partly furled the headsail. The gusts kept coming, up to 40 knots with willy-walls (with the wind turbine without its 'lock' working, whirring so I thought it was going to fly off). Down to 2 reefs in the main and the headsail fully furled away and I was still rounding-up. When I had replaced some of the sail slides for the main, I had mistakenly looped the third reefing line around one of the sail slides – I wasn't going to be able to get the third reef in easily. But I got it eventually and sailed into the outer Queen Charlotte Sound with 3 reefs in the main, no headsail and at 7 knots. Until I was between Ship Cove and Motuara Island, when my speed quickly dropped to about 2 knots. The wind was coming in gusts – nothing then about 25 knots – back to 2 reefs and partially unfurling the headsail, and as I passed the southern end of Ship Cove it was back to full sail. Sailing in the Sounds sure keeps you on your toes! The wind died as I passed Resolution Bay and I motored a short distance, until it picked up outside Endeavour Inlet, and then died again off Kurakura Point. I pulled the sails down and motored into Cuttle Cove, a lovely little cove in the north eastern corner of Bay of Many Coves. There was another yacht in the bay, tied to the club mooring. I dropped anchor and pulled Honey's stern in, tying it to a tree on the western side of the cove. The couple on the yacht, Mike and Vicky, were impressed and when they saw I was on my own invited me over for a drink and then dinner. They were in Queen Charlotte Sound on their honeymoon, having sailed over from Mana earlier in the week – they were just coming up to their 1 week anniversary and had a number of useful tips on getting married. With a good catch of blue cod on board, they were eager to eat it all so they could catch their quota again the next day – I was only too happy to help – it was a yummy meal, the blue cod crumbed with corn on the cob. Then it was farewells and I went back for a good sleep on Honey after another very good day on the water.
Beautiful Titi Island
View from Cape Jackson across Cook Strait (between gusts)

Boat maintenance in the Kenepuru (11-13 March)

It was another warm and sunny day in the Sounds, and we had a nice relaxed start on Treasure, leaving her to head into the Kenepuru and back to Honey early in the afternoon. I was lucky to have Tim there, and we spent a full day on Tuesday working on Honey. We serviced the engine, replacing the oil in both the engine and the gearbox, and replacing the fuel filters. The set up with Honey's engine makes her quite difficult to bleed, but we got the engine fired up and running well while she was tied up on the floater and I gave her a quick turn around the bay to check all was well. We reconnected the head of the autohelm unit and connected the new battery. I had lost the sleeve that went between the wind turbine and the post it sits on when I had removed the turbine a few days previously. With the very low spring tide, I got lucky in finding it on the sea bed and we reinstalled and wired in the wind turbine (being unable to test it as it was hot and sunny with absolutely no wind). Tim jumped into the water and checked out the prop and shaft and was quite comfortable that not too much damage had been done with my mooring-line-around-the-prop incident. Having looked over the engine, he also felt that there was a reasonable chance that the gearbox seal would hold out if I wanted to continue with my circuit around the North Island.

Servicing Honey on the floater
I hadn't given up hope completely that I would complete a sail of the whole of New Zealand before I came back to Lyttelton. If I did continue and sail around the North Island, it would take 6 weeks, if the good weather held up. And if the weather turned, it may be well into May before I arrived back. I had planned to be back in Lyttelton by the end of March/beginning of April. With time running short, and with the days drawing in (the wonderful highs we have been enjoying would likely move further north as winter approaches so I may face more unsettled weather), I made the call that I would return to Lyttelton, spending a couple of weeks around the Marlborough Sounds. This would mean that I arrive back in Lyttelton by the end of March as per my original plan. It has still been an absolutely fantastic trip, one of the most amazing things (if not the most amazing thing) I have done, and I have learnt so much about the sea, handling Honey in all sorts of conditions, seen incredible places, met wonderful people along the way, had a blast, and not to mention being able to share a good part of it with Tim, and also with Dad and Mum. The North Island isn't going anywhere, I can sail around there another day.

After a relaxed morning on Wednesday, Tim headed back to Lyttelton in the afternoon and I got ready to carry on my adventure the following day. I had spoken with my best friend Sandra (Sands), and she was keen to visit me in Queen Charlotte Sound, particularly as I no longer planned to stop into Wellington on my travels – she was looking to arrive on the ferry from Wellington in the middle of the day on Saturday and return the following day. Tim also said he would try to come up for the weekend – this would give him an opportunity to have the weekend on Treasure, meet Sands and catch up with me! I just needed to get myself around to Queen Charlotte by Saturday. The weather forecast was good, not so good on the west coast of the North Island thanks to Tropical Cyclone Sandra, I had obviously made the right decision.

Back to Lyttelton (7-10 March)

Its getting light a lot later in the mornings, and it was 7am before it was light enough for me to shift Honey onto Dad's mooring. It was high tide, the mooring clearly hadn't been used for some time and it was covered in muscles and sea growth – it was rather heavy work and took me longer than planned to get Honey safely on the mooring and all the sea growth removed, so I was still rowing back to the shore when Jill arrived to pick me up. A quick change – I was mucky – and then in to Blenheim, with wind turbine, autohelm and gas bottle to refill. Mum met me and Jill and I was left with Mum's car while she went back to work for the day. It was quite a nice day spent in Blenheim, mostly nosing around the bookshops, (a real change from being by myself on a boat) before we headed down to Christchurch and Lyttelton. As we approached Christchurch, Banks Peninsula was shrouded in cloud – I had imagined that the next time I would see Banks Peninsula would be approaching by sea from the north, so I was quite pleased that it was hidden. I kept a low profile while back in Lyttelton – Dad arranged for the wind turbine to be fixed, Tim gave me a charged battery to replace my house battery, there was not much that could be done with the autohelm but we did find out that changing the orientation of the compass could solve the problem. The trip down also gave us an opportunity to share with family our exciting news – Tim and I are getting married! (We had been keeping this quiet since Tim visited me in Fiordland). Having visited various family members so we could let them know in person, I headed back up to the Sounds with Tim who had managed to take a couple of days off work. We stayed on Tim's yacht “Treasure” in Waikawa on Sunday evening, my first chance to see her since he bought her at the start of the summer.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Into the Marlborough Sounds (5-6 March)

With the large high still lingering over New Zealand, it was another beautiful sunny and calm day. I had a slow start to the day – the best window to pass through French Pass was around 2-2.30pm – so I spent the morning doing a tidy up in the cabin and reading my book. At midday I pulled up anchor and noticed the other yacht in the bay had dropped their mooring, they obviously had the same plan as me to take this window through French Pass. The tidal flows run at great speeds through French Pass and generate eddies and whirl pools so its recommended that yachts pass through at the turn of the tide when these are least strong, particularly as yachts generally do not have high powered engines to counter the tides and eddies. Today is a neap tide day, so I would have a slightly longer tide window. The wind was blowing lightly from the north east, in the direction I was travelling, so I motored up to French Pass at 5 knots. The yacht that had moored in the same bay as me the night before passed through the gap between Channel Point and the rock in the middle of the pass a few minutes ahead of me, and then I came through at 7 knots thanks to a bit of assistance from the tidal current. There were no whirl pools, but there were a line of white caps at the other side of French Pass, presumably generated from the tide moving against the wind. I had arrived into the Marlborough Sounds! With the wind still light and on the nose, I motored across Admiralty Bay towards Clay Point, back into territory that I know well. Rounding Clay Point, with Trio Islands and Rangitoto Islands off my port side, I unfurled the headsail, although this provided very little assistance if any with the very light winds. As I passed Chetwode Islands and rounded into Pelorus Sound, it was a strange feeling to be arriving from sea into the Marlborough Sounds – a strange mix of satisfaction and also sadness, not because my plans to also circumnavigate the North Island were unlikely to be fulfilled at this time, but because I was seeing the Sounds through fresh eyes and it seemed touched to such a great extent by humans. I had always seen the Pelorus Sound as such a beautiful and remote place, but what I saw when I arrived today were hillsides that had been stripped of their natural bush for farming and for forestry plantations, with great naked areas of hillside where the trees had been harvested, lines and lines of mussel buoys in each bay and large gaudy houses sticking out like pimples on prominent headlands. There were also a number of lovely baches nestled into the bays, but the large houses were certainly the ones that stuck out! I had to remind myself that I have spent most of the last 8 weeks in some of the most pristine national parkland in the world, with Stewart Island, Fiordland and then Abel Tasman, and very little of the Marlborough Sounds is park land. Still, it was an emotion I had not expected, and it was disappointing for me that a place I loved so much didn't seem to cut-it in my eyes against the other places I had visited. I motor sailed down through Waitata Reach, a barge passing close by me. It was stacked high with logs that I doubt it could see me until we were passing abreast. I passed Maud Island and all the bays I know well. The forecast was for northerly 15 knots, and as the sun set and it started to get dark I pulled into Fairy Bay and dropped anchor. I was still working to set the anchor when some locals arrived in their speed boat and kindly suggested I pick up one of the moorings in the bay, which I did and settled in for the evening.

It was another fine morning, with just a little cloud that quickly dissipated. I left Fairy Bay just after 9am, keen to get into Dad's place in Kenepuru Sound – I knew there was quite a lot that I needed to do before I got a ride down to Christchurch with Mum the next day. There was a little wind and I sailed across to Turn Point at the start of Hikapu Reach, and then motor sailed to the start of Kenepuru Sound. Turning into Kenepuru Sound, it was beautiful, touched by humans but still lovely and I was definitely pleased to be here! I motor sailed until Schnapper Point where I cut the motor and sailed at 5 knots under the headsail towards “Chunda Cove”, as Dad's place is known as. Passing Te Mahia, the wind speed reduced and I headed into Chunda Cove at 2-3 knots. By the time I got close to the beach I was sailing/drifting at 1-2 knots, and rounded up and drifted onto the floater at the end of the jetty. I was here! Rather strange to arrive from the sea to a house that is fully shut up. I tied Honey to the floater and headed up to fetch the keys from Brian Clark at the top of the driveway. The rest of the day was one of busyness – I did four loads of laundry (with it being sunny, calm and 29 degrees, the previous load was dry before each of the following loads were hung up), moved all my perishable food into the house fridge, cleaned up Honey, removed the wind turbine, autohelm and my gas bottle that had run out the night before, replaced some of the sail slides that had broken on the main sail and a few other jobs. I had forgotten about the census forms the night before, so I filled these out retrospectively – my address being “Yacht Honey, Fairy Bay, Pelorus Sound, Marlborough”, and then completing the dwelling form for Honey. A kitchen, living room and bedroom countered as one room each, even if there were in a studio unit, so Honey now officially has 4 rooms – 2 bedrooms, a galley and a living space – I thought this was quite funny! Jill Edwards, who lived a few bays away, was heading into Blenheim the next morning, and offered to give me a ride – fantastic! After dinner and the luxury of a shower, I headed back down to Honey on the floater, ready for an early start into Blenheim the next day.

Sailing across Tasman Bay (4 March)

I woke up feeling content with my decision that a sail around the North Island was not likely to happen at this stage. I had decided that I would make a quick trip back to Lyttelton with Mum who was travelling down from Blenheim to Christchurch on Thursday afternoon for the weekend – this would give me an opportunity to catch up with Tim and see what could be done to repair the wind turbine and the autohelm. I thought I would head into Nelson the next day, and catch a bus from there through to Blenheim, but it was rather pricey to moor in Nelson Marina and Honey would potentially be there for almost a week. I spoke to Dad, and he suggested I leave Honey on his mooring in Kenepuru Sound, and catch a ride into Blenheim from there. This sounded a much better plan, and with the wind blowing SW 15 knots and forecast to continue for the rest of the day, it would be a lovely sail across Tasman Bay. I pulled up anchor at midday and was heading out from Adele Island when the harbour master came alongside – “did I have my census forms?”, he was handing them out to boaties who may not have access to them. I had heard that there was a census when I was in Fiordland – Meri Leask had put out a message on the VHF to fishermen who may not be able to pick up the census forms – but that was a few weeks back and with no other means of keeping up with the news I had completely forgotten about the census. I took some forms and headed on my way. With the main fully raised and the headsail unfurled, it was a lovely sail for the first hour of the trip, and then the wind petered out and Honey was wallowing in the small slop that remained. I guessed that the day breeze from the north was exactly countering the SW winds, hopefully the day breeze would pick up more later in the afternoon. I furled up the headsail, pulled the mainsail in tight and motored for a bit over an hour. By this stage the day breeze had picked up sufficiently that I could just make 4 knots. Back out with the headsail and I sailed across to Croiselles Harbour – I had thought about heading through French Pass and anchoring in Elmslie Bay, but I wouldn't make the tidal flow window. With the winds picking up, our speed increased and by the time Honey and I reached Croiselles we were moving at 6 knots. Turning into the harbour, the wind eased off and I dropped sails and motored the last mile into Whangarae Bay (next to Okiwi Bay). I anchored close to a sandy beach – it was a little after 7pm by this stage. It was a lovely warm and sunny evening, time to do a little handwashing (enough to keep me going until I found a washing machine) and dinner and bed.

Abel Tasman, with Mum! (1-3 March)

I slept well for the rest of the night, until 4am when I woke up hungry and got up to heat the remains of the stew that I didn't finish yesterday. With a full belly, I went back to bed and slept until about 8am. Then it was up, a shower on the deck and on my way to Marahau in Sandy Bay to meet Mum and Kai. It was another stunning morning, warm and calm with wall to wall blue skies. I motored south towards Sandy Bay, calling Mum on the way. Unfortunately Kai was not coming, he had got tied up with work, so it was just Mum – she was passing through Richmond and we decided it would be easier to meet up in Kaiteriteri. Mum had just pulled into Kaiteri when I motored into the bay and dropped anchor. She sat on the beach while I pumped up the inflatable dinghy to go and pick her up. There was entertainment on the water while she waited – a rather strange looking contraption – a person was being propelled out of the sea to a height of quite a few metres via jets of water from below their feet and hands, powered by a jet-ski/wet-bike! I presume a new product of Kiwi ingenuity that neither of us had seen before! I got a massive hug from Mum when I got to shore, a hug from her and several others that had asked to pass on a hug. Then we made our way out in the dinghy back to Honey, with a big load of mostly food for the weekend. This included a large and very heavy chillibin, which proved to be a little challenge to get on board – we used the pulley for the dinghy outboard to hoist it aboard. A light lunch and we headed out with a plan to anchor at Adele Island, a close distance in case Kai was able to join us tomorrow. We headed out of Kaiteri and were met by a nice sea breeze, blowing 15-20 knots, perfect for a sail up to Adele Island. We hoisted the main and unfurled the headsail and headed out on a port tack to almost 5 miles into Tasman Bay. The wind picked up a little and Mum was slightly alarmed when I suggested she take control while I go down for a little sleep in the cabin! Mum wasn't sure what it meant to hove to when I took a sleep on the way up the west coast, so we hove to in the middle of Tasman Bay. We tacked back towards Adele Island and it was a fast beam reach to between Adele Island and Fisherman Island, where we turned up into the wind and dropped the pick in the anchorage tucked beside Adele Island. It proved to be a very popular spot, later on that evening it was a little town of anchor lights, with about 15 yachts anchored in the bay – it was a lovely sheltered spot with a sandy beach, and probably easy to access for those who had taken to their boats for the weekend from Nelson.

A nice and relaxing start to the day, unfortunately Kai was still tied up with work and unable to join us, so we decided to head further north into the Abel Tasman, up to Bark Bay about 4 miles north. It was another lovely day, sunny with just a few clouds and calm – we motored up to Bark Bay and unfurled the headsail as the day breeze kicked in as we rounded into Bark Bay. We dropped anchor in the middle of the bay, very idyllic with only one other boat there when we arrived and a number of kayakers sitting on the long white sandy beach. Tiredness from my trip up the west coast was catching up on me, so I had an afternoon snooze and Mum sat in the cockpit reading her book. We rowed ashore for a walk. DOC have created a rather flash campsite at Bark Bay – a shelter with sinks and running water, flush toilets and camping and BBQ spots (although there is a fire ban so no BBQs could be lit), plus a small solar array across the lagoon presumably for water pumping. Mum and I walked a section of the Abel Tasman track, to Tonga Bay, a lovely walk over the hill. When we were there I pointed out to Mum where I had anchored two nights previously, the evening I had arrived into Tasman Bay, and we briefly chatted to a Belguim couple – they had 3 young children, one who was still a baby, and had been travelling around New Zealand as a family on a tandem bike for the last few months – how awesome is that! With the day drawing in, we headed back to Bark Bay and Honey and a yummy steak dinner.

Sunday was another relaxed start and another lovely day with just a few more clouds. I had been buzzing from my trip up the coast over the weekend, and although the lack of sleep was still catching up on me, I was dead keen to carry on around the North Island. I had decided that I would wait until I had safely arrived in Tasman Bay and until after the weekend, to determine whether I would now head further north or return to Lyttelton via the Marlborough Sounds. I plotted the route from Tasman Bay to New Plymouth and then from New Plymouth to Houhora Harbour, which is the first main harbour after rounding North Cape. The longest stretch from New Plymouth to Houhora was 320 miles, about 40 miles less than the stretch I had just completed from Milford Sound to Tasman Bay. With good weather, it was certainly doable! Although there were a few issues with Honey – the main autohelm was still not working properly, the wind turbine was not working, my one house battery was on its last legs, the “bath” in the cockpit continually filled with water weighing down the stern, but most troubling was an oil leak from the gear box that I had discovered the morning after I had arrived in Tasman Bay. Putting aside the passage planning, we had a stretch of our legs in Bark Bay and decided with it now being early afternoon it was time to head back to Kaiteri. Mum was keen to see what it was like to pull up the anchor, and got it half way up before she needed a rest and asked me to pull up the remainder – she was impressed that I had done this day in and day out, and said no wonder I had developed strong arms! With the day breeze picking up, we cruised down under the headsail at 4-5 knots. Mum cooked up a yummy late lunch of lamb, and getting a little concerned at the speed that the tide was heading out and not wanting to get stranded, I hurriedly dropped her off into the beach in the dinghy. We had quick good-byes after a lovely and relaxing weekend, with lots of catch up time, and I headed out in Honey back to Adele Island. Being a Sunday evening, there were only a few boats in the anchorage. I had a long discussion with Tim on Honey and the work that would be required to sail her safely around the North Island. Our biggest concern was the gear box (we think my mishap with wrapping the mooring line around the prop in George Sound was the cause of the oil leak). As Tim had led the work on Honey's engine I knew he would know what needed to be be done. There was a chance that the gearbox would hold out for my circuit of the North Island if I kept an eye on the oil levels and topped it up when needed, but there was also a chance of the seal giving way completely and being stuck in Auckland with major and expensive repairs, or worse still on the west coast in worsening weather and no engine. It was clear that a new gearbox seal would be required if I was to continue around the North Island, which meant removing the engine to access the gearbox, potentially an expensive exercise up in Nelson, particularly if we found other problems when the gearbox was out. I made the difficult decision, or perhaps more the reluctant decision, that a circuit around the North Island was probably not going to happen on this trip, and went to sleep a little despondent as I had been so excited about completing my New Zealand circumference.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Arrival into Abel Tasman (28 February)

Very light, almost no winds continued up to Cape Farewell, so it was motor sailing all the way, with a beautiful sunrise to greet me as I rounded the cape.

Just before sunrise a rather large ship approached Honey from behind, passing about ¾ of a mile inshore. I hadn't been expecting to see anything other than fishing boats on this leg, and had only been concerned about potentially running into a fishing boat with its sea anchor out while I was taking a nap during the night. (Up until then I had only seen three fishing boats on the west coast, one that was 10 miles inshore from me and I only spotted on the radar. All the other yachties I had spoken to had encountered no ships and only the odd one or two fishing boats on this leg). It was a lovely morning, very calm easy conditions for the final part of this leg, with the odd seal basking on the surface of the still and warm water. I had been told that Farewell Spit was a very very long stretch of sand, and it certainly was, taking the rest of the morning to round. Ro (from Pacific Flyer) had given me a waypoint for the spit, and it seemed I had to travel miles further than the end of spit before I turned into Tasman Bay. Farewell Spit continues beneath the water surface with the depth only gradually deepening sufficient for a deep draught boat to clear a few miles out – I can see how many unsuspecting boaties have been caught out and ended up high and dry on the sand seemingly miles from land.

I made good timing with rounding the spit, soon after midday, heaps of time to find an anchorage in Tasman Bay, so I headed south towards Tonga Island in the Abel Tasman area. It was still really calm, and with my headsail flapping I furled it in and continued motoring with my mainsail. It was only when I was approaching Tonga Island and was pulling in the mainsail that the sea breeze picked up, too late for me as I was almost there. I pulled into a small bay close to Onetahuti Bay with a small sandy beach and dropped the anchor at about 4pm. I wasn't really sure how much chain to put out – the anchorages are very shallow in Abel Tasman and with a large tidal range of about 4m. It is usual to put at least 3 times the length of chain down as the depth of the water, but if I put out 3 times the the depth at high water, with the bay being so small I would probably swing onto the rocks at low water! As it was close to low water and with high water being at night when the sea breeze would have died off completely, I settled for a little less chain than usual, and as I was rather tired turned in for a good sleep. I woke up at 8pm, and got up to check out how far from land I was, the course I was sailing and that there were no boats about, and then saw rocks only a few metres from Honey. Jumping into the cockpit I saw the bay surrounding Honey and the beach and it all came back to me – Honey was safely anchored, I could relax and go back to sleep!

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.