Captain’s Log: Week 2
Week 2 sees our intrepid voyagers venturing across Cook Strait to the South Island. Known for being dangerous and unpredictable, the strait was named for British explorer Captain James Cook. Read on to find how our Captain Cook got on.
Day 1: Taranaki to Nelson
After three days and nights of continuous 25- to 40-knot winds and lashings of horizontal rain, a more favorable forecast for Saturday prompted John and Robin to finally leave Port Taranaki.
Weighing anchor before dawn in howling winds was not easy: “I had both engines in drive to unload the anchor and we were standing still. Normally, I would be doing 5 knots!” They hauled up their 50 meters of chain, radioed their report, and headed for Nelson.
“The sea was calm and we cruised at 15 knots, knowing that we would soon be crawling in big seas and needed to cover some ground. As soon as we rounded the point towards Opunake, we were exposed: first to 2-meter seas, then 3, and ultimately 4.” An outgoing tide, 2 knots of current, and 30 knots of wind in the opposite direction made things even tougher. While taking the sea on their port quarter was rough on the brothers, it was easy for the boat.
“Horizon III handled the conditions beautifully and predictably, a credit to the design of Alan Warwick. At no time did we feel at risk.” Enduring six hours of making 8 knots and the occasional closed throttle, they dropped off the back of waves, thinking it would never end. “We were burying our nose up to the handrail in what was a very short sea (waves close together). Every time I lifted the speed, I found I had to slow again, with rogue sets coming through. I pushed as hard as I reasonably could and eventually found we were doing 10, then 12, and finally 18 knots for the last 60 nautical miles of our crossing.”
John describes their Cook Strait passage as "one hell of a crossing"
Arriving 12 and a half hours later, they washed the boat to “remove all evidence of a challenging crossing of Cook Strait that lived up to its reputation.” After a late dinner, both were ready for an uninterrupted night’s sleep in the calm of Nelson Marina.
Day 2: Nelson to Marlborough
“Robin and I awoke to the sound of fizz boats being launched one after another while the locals took advantage of a beautiful day and the last day of the weekend.” Prepping for the next leg, they filled the water tanks and tidied up the boat’s interior.
John’s partner, Jo, arrived on a flight from Hamilton, bringing the sunshine with her. “Jo will spend a fortnight in Marlborough with us, which will ensure we get the kayaks—and ourselves—wet. Water temperature was 19 degrees today.” After stocking up at the supermarket, they headed out in nothing short of perfect conditions. “What a difference a day makes!”
Marlborough is paradise!
Cruising to French Pass at 15 knots, they passed many work-ups: “fish chasing bait fish and birds chasing bait fish from above.” Nearing French Pass, they decided to stop and fish for dinner and found quick success. Jo’s rod had been in for “a nanosecond” before she hauled up two large blue cod. While John and Robin were busy getting them into the tank, Jo grabbed John's already-baited line and promptly repeated the feat. “Sadly, I never got to fish today as, six cod later, that was our fishing done for the day. Writing about it has taken longer than catching the fish!”
Upon arriving at Catherine Cove, they anchored up and enjoyed “some very fresh blue cod with a fresh salad. This place is truly paradise. We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world.”
Day 3: D’Urville Island
The day began with a swim around the bay. “Joanne left me in her wake, but we are making it a daily routine for the next fortnight. I'm sure I will get better!” After breakfast, the group went exploring ashore, where they met the proprietor of the D’Urville Island Wilderness Resort and his skipper.
“He shared local knowledge of the walks we could take, so we naturally chose to do them all. The views were rewarding, and we found ourselves creating our own way back via a steep embankment until we decided it might be too ambitious. We had a fantail follow us all the way up and down and saw recent deer signs everywhere.”
D’Urville Island hike: the halfway point
Emerging in the valley below, they found the resort’s hen house, which was also home to a couple of weka, or woodhens.
“Jo checked the nesting boxes and, yes, there were fresh eggs, waiting for collection. On returning to the resort, we decided to reward ourselves with a lovely Marlborough pinot noir and chatted with visitors including a large group of women kayakers who had just cruised in unannounced to stay at the camp site. We then returned to the boat to have dinner and relax for the evening.”
Good wine and good company at the D’Urville Island Wilderness Resort
Day 4: Wilson Bay
Waking at dawn to the sound of wind and waves rolling into Catherine Cove, John and Robin decided to cruise to Pelorus Sound while Jo relaxed in bed. Once in Pelorus, they were again sheltered by land and flat water, heading deeper into the sound to escape the wind in Wilson Bay. A small resort with a restaurant sparked hopes of a nice coffee ashore but, sadly, it was not to be. “It was their day off, and Carolina [the barista] was very apologetic that they were closed due to the owners heading into Blenheim for a well-earned break.”
But they were able to get directions toward a scenic walk. Forty-five minutes in, “we looked at the hilltop towering above us and wondered how much better the view would be up there. Soon, we were breathing hard and I was running at 129 BPM, according to the Fitbit. It felt much harder! We scaled the top, climbing on all fours for part of the 30 to 40 meters, but when we reached the top and looked at the panorama around us, it was all worthwhile.”
Pelorus Sound, looking north to Waitata Reach
Meter-high bushes provided a kind of safety net as they made the steep descent. “We were looking down on a small group of woolly sheep who were staring at us as if to say, ‘What the hell are you doing up there? Don’t eat any of our bloody grass!’”
Upon returning to the boat, they again fished for their dinner, thinking it would be like their first day. No such luck. But just as they were about to give up—John had even taken some beef out of the freezer—Robin saved the day, landing a catch large enough to feed them all.
Day 5: Horseshoe Bay
John and Jo went for an early-morning swim around some mooring buoys. “Jo set off first, and I dived in to follow. Breathing was good and swimming seemed effortless as I settled into a rhythm. Next thing, I get a whack on the back from Jo, who had come to an abrupt stop when she realized we were swimming among a heap of jellyfish, some of which were of the stinging variety; all were quite large.” They about-turned and swam swiftly back to the boat. “Apparently, they are prolific down here, but a lot depends on the bay you’re in and the tidal movements at the time.”
After breakfast, they pulled in to Horseshoe Bay for a spot of fishing. Robin went for plastic baits and caught a 500-milimeter gurnard after just 15 minutes. After trying bait on hooks for what seemed like an eternity, John gave in to plastic baits as well. “Robin had by now pulled in another nice gurnard and we started pulling up barracuda. We set a 12:30pm stopping time, and with two minutes to spare, Robin pulled in another gurnard. We were all set for a big feed tonight!”
Returning to the little cafe for lunch, they saw barista Carolina, who had welcomed them the day before. “We were impressed with the coffee (had a second round) and got caught up among a party of 12 or so who had arrived on the Marlborough ferry for lunch. One young fellow sat down at the piano and played classical music for us. It was all so perfect, looking out on the bay.”
When the ferry skipper arrived, he told them about his killer whale encounter about 2 nautical miles away. Earlier, at Pelorous Sound, they had seen a pod of 20 or so dolphins, which surprised the skipper, as dolphins typically flee when these whales are around.
“We suspect they were already escaping from them, which is why they ignored us as we passed.” They decided to run with the dolphins and see what they would do. “Sure enough, in they came, and we gave them a ride in our wake at 12 knots for a couple of nautical miles. They loved riding our wake and swam within touching distance of our boarding platform.”
Close encounters of the dolphin kind
“After lunch, we are headed back to Ligar Bay for some kayaking and a trek to discover the waterfall marked on the map. We don’t think it will be as impressive as Catherine Cove, but who knows?”
John at the waterfall at Catherine Cove, D'Urville Island
Day 6: Port Ligar
A windy night in Wilson Bay meant spotty sleep and a slow start. Deciding to fish for gurnard again, Robin tried his luck at the mussel farm in Maori Bay with limited success while John and Jo went for a swim. Then it was north to Port Ligar, Waterfall Bay, where they anchored next to a couple of yachts and enjoyed a quiet night. Waking to yet another fine day, Robin reconnoitered the area by drone before he and John kayaked ashore to find the waterfall.
A drone's-eye view of Port Ligar
“We tied up to the jetty; nobody was around at all.” After discovering a room full of sea kayaks, a digger in the yard, and four-wheel-drive under the portico, they paddled around the shoreline, where they found something else: “heaps of stingray mooching around in the water. They were about 600 millimeters in span, unlike the ones at Te Rawa Bay, which were at least 2 meters across!”
Day 7: Tennyson Inlet and Nydia Bay
Taking a slow cruise to Tennyson Inlet via Waihinau Bay, they passed a large salmon farm, the first they’d seen and a nice change from the many mussel farms they’d been encountering daily.
At Horseshoe Bay, they tried for more gurnard, without success. “It seems you don’t catch gurnard; they catch themselves when they’re good and ready! They don’t hit the bait like a snapper would.” Using soft bait on light gear, John says they’re “having lots of fun, as fish are nibbling all the time, chasing the bait up.”
Next, they headed to Penzance Bay, where they anchored for yet another windy night. But fitful sleep didn’t keep John and Jo from going on a 13-kilometer hike to Nydia Saddle and back. Traversing natural forest with glimpses of inlets below, they climbed to 430 meters above sea level, passing a group of eight and a couple gamely riding mountain bikes.
The Nydia Track to the saddle ridge took John and Jo 430 meters above sea level
On their return to the jetty, they chatted with a couple of fisherman. “I was hoping they would give us some local knowledge but, as is so often typical of fishermen, they gave nothing away.” But no matter; Robin had caught a nice-sized gurnard in their absence.
Robin reels in another beauty at Horseshoe Bay
After a delicious late lunch, they decided to fish at Horseshoe Bay—“Gurnard Bay to us”—taking some chicken out of the freezer as insurance. But they wouldn’t need it. Robin hooked up a beauty, and after a beer and what seemed a lifetime, John finally hooked a gurnard that had been playing him for a good 15 minutes. “At last, a fish I could proudly bring on board.”
Making their way into Nydia Bay and anchoring in calm waters, they anticipated a quiet night but were hit with 30-knot winds and waves within half an hour. “The binoculars identified a better spot, so we cruised over and reanchored in flat water and 15 knots. We enjoyed our fresh gurnard and salad and settled in to watch a movie.” Next stop: Havelock.