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).

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Absolutely Beautiful – Dusky Sound (3-5 February)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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