Finally Honey and I are ready enough to make the short hop up from Lyttelton to the Marlborough Sounds. There are still several things not done, but they can wait until we are safely moored in Kenepuru Sound.
It's Wednesday 28th December. The final provisions are stowed, and Tim and Brett (Tim's dad, my father-in-law) are at the floater at Dampier Bay in Lyttelton to see me off. It has been such a busy time to get ready that I'm not in the head space for sailing. There is a north east blowing down the harbour, and Tim suggests I motor out to Little Port Cooper and get myself sorted there – great idea! Little Port Cooper is where I spent my last night aboard Honey when I completed the South Island. As I wave good bye at the floater, I find out that Colin Lock on Legacy II is also heading up to the Sounds today, so I should have company on the water.
A short motor out to Little Port Cooper, tucked in behind Adderley Head at the entrance to Lyttelton Harbour, and then I got busy with checking over the boat. Passage plan completed and main sail raised I was ready to leave. Then I noted my house battery was almost flat – I had left the fridge on with the engine off, and with my solar panel not yet installed and a proper catch missing on the fridge, it had drained the house battery in a very short time. First note to attend to after this shakedown trip.
Honey and I headed out of the harbour, past Godley Head, motoring with the mainsail up into the NE wind. I could see no sign of Legacy II, perhaps she passed me while I was moored up at Little Port Cooper. As Banks Peninsula receded behind me, the winds veered east and south east, and soon the headsail was out and motor off and we were underway. It felt great to be with Honey back on the open water!
Sailing close to the solstice meant for long days and short nights. By 11pm it was pitch dark and I decided to head down for a 20 minute sleep – I know its best to catch sleep when you can. I had been running the engine (to recharge the house battery and keep the fridge cool),so I turned off the engine and flicked off the fridge circuit breaker. But the fridge circuit breaker is right next to the DC mains, and I accidentally flicked this off too. Whilst I flicked it straight back on, the auto pilot didn't seem happy about it and stopped holding its course. I was using my lighter weather ST1000, and the winds had moved more to the east – perhaps it was struggling with this, so I pulled in the headsail and started motoring.
It was now a very black night and with the auto pilot down, I was at the tiller – no sleep for me. The light on Honey's bulkhead compass wasn't working – it hadn't worked since Stewart Island, I hadn't had time to yet install the wind direction vane and it was too dark to see the woolies that Tim had tied to the side stays as an interim measure to get me to the Sounds (and I had broken my head torch earlier that evening). I was also having issues with the GPS chart plotter that was restarting approximately every 15-20 minutes, taking about 5 minutes each time to refind our position. So I steered using the Point Gibson light that flashes every 10 seconds.
About midnight and the rain set in – this meant that very quickly I lost sight of the Point Gibson light, and the black wet night closed in around me. I glanced at the chart plotter when it was going, but in the end needed to rely on the easterly rain driving on my right cheek and the feel of the motion of the boat to keep myself on course. Everytime I went down below, to check my position or grab something to eat, Honey would turn in a large circle, and it would take a minute or so to get back on track. Whilst wet, the winds weren't that strong and I was a long way out to sea so there was no land to hit. But what about ships? The phosphorescence that night was amazing – Honey's wake left a green glow and every wave that hit the deck was green and glowed for a second or two after it had landed. And when I looked around the boat it was glowing in every direction – was there a ship out there or was it phosphorescence? I turned on the radar to check, but with the scatter from the rain it would have been difficult to pick out a ship.
It felt like a grim long miserable night – I was pleased that it was actually a short night and at 4am the first hint of dawn was showing. But by then I was wet through and cold to the bone. I didn't want another night of hand steering and was thinking of making for Port Underwood. It was at this stage I thought to myself, “that's enough, someone else can take over from here” and “is there anything else that can go wrong?” Ah, no, I am 12 miles out to sea, sailing solo – it is just me, dig deep and keep going. That's one of the great things of sailing solo, no point in feeling sorry for yourself, you just need to get on with it. And there was plenty that was going right – the engine had not skipped a beat, there were no wild winds, and the modification to the drainage on the bath was working well. (Yes, Honey has a bath under the cockpit floor – great for storage but on my South Island trip it would invariably fill up with water, adding a lot of weight to the stern and my boots were constantly awash with water). With the dawn breaking, my spirits lifted and I unfurled the genoa and cut the engine. I tried the autohelm again and it was now working, great! But I did not want to move too far from the helm just in case. At this rate I would stick with my original plan to head for Pelorus Sound rather than stopping in at Port Underwood.
All of a sudden a large gust of wind hit – the southerly front, I hadn't seen it approaching. It was too much for the autohelm and Honey gibed whilst I dived for the tiller. All ok, but then I heard a tearing sound and looked dumbly at the genoa that was flapping wildly whilst still sheeted in. A split second later and I realised I had blown out the genoa. I did my best to furl it up, but it kept flapping. I hoisted up the storm gib and turned into the wind attempting to get the genoa down, but it was stuck and I couldn't get it to budge. With the front now past, Honey was very underpowered with just the storm gib and main, but I couldn't do much about that with the genoa stuck. So I started the engine and thought again about heading into Port Underwood for the night.
Finally the rain eased and then stopped, and the clouds lifted so I could see the Kaikoura coast from Cape Campbell to the Clarence. I could get out of my very wet wet-weather gear, and clamber into my sleeping bag to try and warm up. With the sun out and my bones drying out, and what looked like a fine evening and night ahead, I made the decision to push on. As I headed into Cook Strait with favourable currents I was getting on at a fair speed, up to 7 knots, even without the genoa. It was about 10.30pm when I passed the entrance to Tory Channel. All the navigation lights in Cook Strait were clearly visible, as were the red lights on the wind turbines on the coast of the North Island. I motor sailed past Wellington, and then past the Brothers and took the long route around Cape Jackson, passing outside of Walkers Rock. I now had the tide against me and was tired – no sleep since the night before I left Lyttelton, but as I was now sailing close to land I needed to stay vigilant.
The last two and a half hours from Cape Jackson to Alligator Head seemed to take forever. I kept having to push out the voices in my head telling me to lie down and have a sleep, that someone else would take over. When the Ninepin Rock light disappeared from view, I knew it was being obscured by Titi Island and I was almost there. I came around Alligator Head, dropped the sails and noting that all moorings were occupied I dropped anchor just off the beach of the Punt Rails. It was just after 4.30am and finally I could allow myself to fall asleep.
I slept for three hours and woke to an unusual sound – ah, it was the flapping genoa, but Honey was all ok so I slept for a further one and a half hours and woke feeling refreshed. The lady from the yacht that was moored close by came by to check if all was ok, and if they could help with getting my genoa down – she said they would have been happy if I had rafted up next to them and they would have even helped getting the genoa down at 4.30am! Being keen to get through Allen Strait as the tide had just changed I decided to carry on with the mainsail up, genoa flapping and motoring, on to Kenepuru Sound. Late afternoon I pulled up in the bay outside the family holiday bach. Shakedown trip over, and now a lot of things to attend to!