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Published: February 5th 2010
She slipped into the bay with a minimum of fuss, as the skipper awaited instructions from onshore as to which buoy he should tie up to. A dark blue hull, she looked comfortable - not racy in that all hands on deck kind of way, but comfortable in that short-handed, cruising kind of way. The kind of yacht that looked as though it would quietly eat up the miles across say, the Pacific. Later I learned she had done just that.
After a few minutes , a couple stepped into an inflatable dinghy and came ashore. They asked for beers at the bar and soon we were chatting about sailing and cycling.
A Summer Cruising Holiday
Ron and Alison had sailed their 40 ft boat, Blue Heron 2000, from Wellington, across Cook Strait. Now they were at Catherine Cove, on D’Urville Island and looking to go on further yet.
Very Nearly d'Urville's Undoing
I was on D’Urville having cycled from Pelorous Bridge to French Pass, a 70 kilometre ride that began well but gradually became worse. The road grew steeper and on one long hill I was forced to get off and walk.
Skipper at the Helm
It was obvious Ron Lovell had a wealth of sailing knowledge and experience. And he had a calm manner which made the day aboard wonderfully pleasant.
Then with about 20 kilometres to go, the seal turned to gravel, and a long descent began to French Pass - a narrow gap of water that seperates the top of the South Island from D’Urville Island and is described in one cruising guide as the most dangerous stretch of water in New Zealand. It’s here that the French explorer d’Urville went aground twice - his ship Astrolabe eventually being swept over a reef to safety.
An Alternative Way Out
I had explained to Ron and Alison that the road from French Pass was pretty tough, and was delighted when over dinner, they suggested I might like to join them on Blue Heron. The Beast could go in the dinghy and be hoisted up on the davitts on the back of the boat - well away from harmful sea spray.
It sounded like a plan, and the next morning we towed The Beast out in a borrowed dinghy and hoisted him up. We motored out towards French Pass. There wasn’t a breath of wind, but the pass is no place to try to sail anyway. Tidal flows of eight knots have been recorded here, as the
A Frenzy of Activity
On the beach at The Anchorage, Abel Tasman National Park.
water surges between Tasman Bay and Cook Strait. Even though our passage through went smoothly, Ron was constantly working the boat’s wheel as the currents pushed Blue Heron off her course.
Safely through, we motored until gradually a sea breeze filled in. One sail after another went up, until we had the yankee, staysail and full main unfurled and Blue Heron was beating across Tasman Bay on a sparkling, sunny afternoon. The hours ticked by, and so did the miles in a perfectly comfortable way. It was cruising at its best.
The Beast is Banned
Safely in Torrent Bay, we reversed the process with The Beast and before long I was ashore and looking for a place to camp at the Anchorage, Abel Tasman National Park. The DoC ranger was very understanding when I explained why I had a mountain bike in the park, even though they are banned. I promised I wouldn’t ride it, but would get a water taxi out of the park the next morning.
The ride to Nelson the next day was hot and uneventful - apart from one very pleasant encounter. As I panted my
A Sister Ship to the Boat Judy and I used to Own.
It's a John Welford designed "Navigator". This one is called Talena, and it was anchored in the shallows at The Anchorage. It's owner/builder was Richard, from Motueka, who was sailing and camping aboard her on his own. It was a sunny morning and he looked throughly content as he prepared for a day's sailing.
way up a hill, a man stood on the side of the road by his car, blocking my way. My first response was one of irritation, then it suddenly dawned on me that I knew him. It was Alan Brace, a retired taxi driver who had moved from Auckland to a place he wants me to keep secret.
Secret's Safe With Me ... But...
“You should come and live here,” he said. “But don’t tell all those other Aucklanders about M…. We don’t want it over run.”
I’d met Alan at French Pass where he was holidaying with his wife and friends and we’d both taken an instant liking to each other. He was chatty, quick and amusing. I’d promised I would try to look him up, but time was running against me. Quite by coincidence, he’d spotted me from his car and so we chatted on the side of the road and I suggested he and his wife might enjoy taking their boat across to D’Urville Island to stay at the Wilderness Resort, where I’d camped for a night.
As we waved goodbye, I promised his new town was safe from an influx of
Aucklanders. But here are some clues anyway. It begins with M. It’s on the water and it’s not too far from Nelson.
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