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

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