Well we have just returned from an 8day trip. It wasn't going to be 8 days, only 4-5. You see, I was supposed to be yacht racing
on an offshore race
, but the boat I was supposed to crew on pulled out at the last mo. Good thing too, as I fouind out later that they were all hit with a good storm. Several had to be rescued, a catamaran
was capsized and a good portion of the fleet turned and ran home again.
So our holiday was extended which was great, as we decided to take a tour of an area we hadn't ventured. It's a notoriouse piece of NZ and an area to take with great respect. However, it comes with a great set of views as a reward. The tidel ripes, depth
, rocks in the middle of nowhere all make it a very challenging piece of coast. It's the very top end of the South Island of NZ. The water depth
rises from over 300ft to rocks that remain just below the surface to small islands jutting up a couple of feet to larger islands that are 600ft up. The tidal flows range from 2knts to 6knts in the worst area's with massive volumes of water
being moved. Basically, the Tasman sea is trying to flow in to the Pacific Ocean
(and back) through a small gap between the two main islands, called the Cook straight.
We circumnavigated a large island in this area, called D'Urville Island. Many other islands in the area are used as reserves for many of NZ's endangered animal species. One right at the tip called Stevens Island, is the last natural habitat for a large native lizard called the Tuatara. The passage
between Stevens and D'Urville, is the scariest. It is wide but scattered by many underwater hazzards and careful navagation is required. It is unpassable when a wind
and sea is against the tide. Large wirpools and eddies flow all around and it is stunning , yet very sobbering.
The first day was meet with calm conditions. We had a huge high over the country. In fact it was the biggest I had ever seen. We did get meet with varying sea breezes as the day wore on ahnd got in some nice sailing. The second day was also calm. A real pain and we motored for some distance. We eventually tired to anchor
, but I ran into a problem with the anchor
and jammed it up. I needed a mooriong and had to motor
back to the sound for the night. By the time I got back, it was pitch
black. I mean, like ink black. Could see nothing and it was nerve racking trying to navigate in the confined sound wtih maussle floats everywhere. We eventually got onto a block for the nigh and I made repairs
the next day. We set off again and this time had a lovely sail round the top of D'Urville, through Stevens Passage
and into a mooring
for the night.
Next day we headed out on the next leg. A good offshore
distance and lovely 10knt breeze. Slow going for our boat, but we had all the time in the world. However, the day ended with crossing a bar fo boulders, simply called the boulder bank. The channel is only 100ft wide and 6ft at low tide. The tide can flow at 6knts, so care must be taken. This bank is believed to have been created by a tidal wave of over 100ft about 6000yrs ago. The by then continued for some miles inland to a stunning mooring
. We lay over here for a day as it was just beautiful, before carrying on to the next leg. This one was the leg that worried me the most. We were about to navagate the trickiest piece of ground in NZ. Many ships have come to grief in this area. he sea was sloppy, only about 4ft on average with the odd 7ft, but it was a tide against wind
and short and steep and the boat just would not settle in to anything comfortable. The wind was picking up and the greatest event of my sailing life happend. Two Royal Albatross came up along side of us. It looked like a moum and here chick she was training up. These birds are huge and it was a huge privilage and thrill to get to see them. They followed us for some time and I mean floowed. I don't know why. When we turned, they turned and followed for hours. Eventually I think we got back to close to land and theyleft us to negotiate the passage. This passage is called "French Pass". It is a narrow cutting with an enormouse tidal rip and one to be navigated with exteme caution. Or so the Pilot book said. Well actually, after a fantastic sail at 9knts and the boat fair humming, we reached this passage at slack water and I reckon I could have sailed right through. The warnings were on no occasion to ever try such, but turned out to be a none event for us. The other side was flat with a good breeze that slowly increased strength to 23knts. We had the best sail witht eh boat healing hard over to the rail and we were off like a pocket rocket. I was impressed with it's turn of speed, although everything starts vibrating from 9knts. I guess I have reached hull speed
under sail, although a mate reckons I can coach more out of her yet.
We sailed back into the shetlter of the sounds and spent the last few days just relaxing. That's what boating
is all about now ain't it.