Foveaux and Guinness

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I reluctantly left Steward Island (again due to a short weather window and the need to get to Christchurch by the weekend) but couldn’t resist a swing by the cage diving shark guys – they were none too friendly (the guys and the sharks) however so I moved on quickly.

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Foveaux Strait is another one of those places with a fearsome reputation, but once again I avoided the worst with a good weather forecast. There were some strong currents and a few magnetic anomalies that needed to be managed though.
P1020408After a day and a half, I motored up the dredged channel to Dunedin in the rain and cold. In contrast to the weather though, it is a warm and welcoming city.
I rafted up on the outside of Chris – a friendly local who is readying his boat for trips hunting and fishing to Fiordland and Stewart Island. Chris drove me for a surf and plied me with beer at every opportunity and offered the use of his truck if I needed it.
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All too soon it was time to leave but only after a last minute spotting of a Luke 5 tonner – the same make and vintage as my old Sea Serenade. Obviously she had been sailed out here from the UK – could SS have made it all the way here?
Wind and tide were against me for the three hours getting down the channel, and a crawl into an anchorage up the coast in the dark meant early to bed on a rolly boat that night.
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I left at dawn the next day and arrived in Akaroa a couple of days later having to leap-frog Oamaru due to the head winds. In saying that, I had a good sail into the wind for about 30 hours and I sailed all the way up the sound until I got t0 the anchorage.
Akaroa Yacht club proved to be extremely friendly offering free showers, wi-fi, washing and a mooring for a small fee for when Tigs is here.
There is Guinness on tap in the local pub too – what more could a man need?

Surf’s Up and Kiwi spotting

After Dusky Sound I thought that was it – all the terror, beauty, serenity and nature a person could take! But I was wrong, New Zealand keeps on delivering the goods..

I have had another stunning week. As I write this I am gliding across a glassy sea past rafts of penguins and beautiful sand islands with granite outcrops (very like Donegal actually) on my way to try to spot the illusive Great Whites that seem to congregate here.

P1020191After enduring 38kn and sleet in Oban (again, not unlike the other Oban in winter), I had a hairy motor round into Paterson Inlet. There was a fair bit of tide running and the wind was onshore which made for a nerve racking 1.5kn journey round Native Island. Once inside however, the world became friendly again.

P1020236I anchored beside a Othello, a sunken Norwegian whaler and explored the ruins of a Whalers Camp. The temperature got down to 3 degrees and the hail did not melt overnight.

I pottered about into Sawdust Bay sailing between sandbanks for fun and testing my new upwind performance. I then squeezed into Sailors Rest, actually managing to make Sirens’ Song go backwards in an almost straight line to pick up a line from shore.

I spent the most excellent evening with Alan and Annie who have a wealth of experience and stories to tell about their travels. They are about to start a (nother) circumnavigation and between them probably have about 4 times the milage already.

A&A took we on a walk the next day to Ocean beach and it had beautiful little 3ft peelers. I couldn’t resist – even though there is Great White cage diving only 5 miles away, I couldn’t pass up these great little waves or the chance to surf at 46 degrees south.

P10203125 mm wetsuit and booties on and away I went on my we 5″8 four fin – it’s a flying machine and perfect for these conditions. After a nervous couple of waves I headed for shore looking over my shoulder the whole way.

After a beautiful meal of Blue Cod (thank you Alan), I headed out to see if I could see some Kiwi in the wild. I joined a group that arrived by boat and we all traipsed across to the same beach. Low and behold, 6 gorgeous, dumpy, strange flightless birds – what a treat. I’ll process the pictures, but I didn’t want to scare the birds so no flash.

What a day – great company, oysters, a surf, blue cod and Kiwi in the wild – does it get any better?

I’m heading north now hoping to get a little surfing in whilst on my way to Christchurch. Tigs is coming across which is a special treat…

Commitment and round the bottom

I had no signal last week so apologies for not getting anything out…

What a couple of weeks I have had: I am now on Stewart Island well and truly in the Roaring Forties.

The run south on the west coast of NZ is truly committing: all the guide books say it is too dangerous to attempt to go over the bars at Westport and Greymouth and other than that there are no other places where it is possible to hide from bad weather. That means fully committing to a 500 nm passage. My weather window held, but I burned a lot of fuel due to the relatively light head winds. Because it was settled I pulled into Westport and crossed the bar through 6ft swell with a cross current of 4 knots without much difficulty. I stayed only long enough to fill up with fuel. Another two days down the coast I got headed by 30 kn winds and needed to hide. Just when I needed it, Cape Jackson appeared and I spent a rough night anchored in the lee of a small headland.

POOH429746 hours later I was sailing down Milford Sound with 30 knots of wind piled up behind me. The weather gods were kind and I had SPECTACULAR views.

P1020047Ivor and Jess joined me there for a quick sail down to Dusky Sound. The fact that we couldn’t get back to the boat because of very strong winds and had to take a room at the a local lodge really brought it home to me what a hostile place this is when things go wrong. Sirens’ Song coped without us for the night and we high tailed it out of there in light winds the next morning.

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A bumpy but windless passage for about 20 hours brought us to Dusky Sound. This is without doubt the most beautiful place I have ever sailed with tonnes of fish, beautiful valleys, fantastic mountains and hundreds of islets in this 40km deep system I really want to come back and sea kayak here.

I got my weather window too soon and left Ivor and Jess to take the 5 day walk out.

P1020177The weather wasn’t really as promised, but I got past Cape Providence and round the corner despite the 4m confused sea (described as ‘Very Rough’ in the forecast) and 25 knot head wind (almost as good as it gets down here I imagine). I arrived on Stewart Island about 36 hours later happy and relieved, if a little tired.

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