Cook Strait has always been in the back of my mind as somewhere that needs to be sailed. Stories from friends returning from holidays to New Zealand always talked of being sea sick and blown off their feet on the way from the North Island to the South Island. Naturally this would peak anyones interest.
Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t want to see Cook Strait at its worst, I didn’t even want to see it when its bad (at least not whilst I’m in a small boat). After consulting the Tidal Atlas, Tide tables, Mana Cruising Club Guide and The Cook Strait Mariner’s Weather Handbook for a few hours I had a plan. I then asked a few locals who felt that the real tidal gate wasn’t Tory Channel (the narrow entrance on the South Island side), but the bubbly bits at Cape Sinclair, I changed the plan to leave an hour later (bonus). There were two other boats attempting the 7 hour crossing on the same day and we’d all be leaving at a similar time.
In the end, the wind was light, the waves small, and the sun shone most of the way across. After putting in a TR (Transit Report) to ‘All ships’ 10 minutes from the entrance to Tory Channel, I had to wait for two passenger ferries to exit before I could go in. This was a little nerve wracking as the tide can run at 7 knots and my engine can only push Sirens’ Song at 5 knots. Theoretically I could have been pushed away until the next tide change. In reality there was plenty of room to eddy hop inside the passage and all was well.
I motored on to Missionary Bay to try to escape the forecast 30 knot Southerly winds that were due for the next couple of days. The next morning Henri and Max (who were in a junk rigged boat crossing at the same time as me) arrived and picked up a club mooring in the bay.
The wind and weather did come in (the tail end of Hurricane Pam), but all was well in the fairly snug bay.
The next day I sailed with Henri and Max to Picton (about 3 hours away) so that Max could get the ferry back home to Windy Welli. Sailing a junk rig was certainly an eye opener, with reefing being very simple, but sailing to windward being a bit tricky. We had gusts of what I thought at the time were 30 knots, but I’m tempted to think they were more now. The hills create a huge funnelling effect and there is quite a bit of current through the sounds.
Over the next few weeks I’ll have a play around here and see what the crack is – I’ve already been anchoring CLOSE to shore to keep out of the wind, with a tight line from the back of the boat tied round a tree whilst the wind hits the water not 10 m in front of the boat. There are tonnes of mussels to eat, and I caught 6 fish last night in 1/2 an hour – happy days.