Not the beginning of the end but the end of the beginning

Published: December 7th 2008
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Cook Strait back again

Saturday, 6 December 2008

It was time to leave the Sounds. Our plan is to be in Auckland for Christmas and after the excitement of the last couple of weeks it was good to have the boat in working order, everything shipshape, Captain and No 1 both on board and the weather promising a good sailing across Cook Strait on Friday.

We needed to fuel up before leaving Waikawa Bay Marina, and of course the wind got up just as we were ready, so while it did not go exactly to plan we managed extremely well working as a team. No tears from the Captain, and no words from No 1. We were back on an even keel.

The Captain decided to move to the outer Sounds on Thursday afternoon in readiness for an early start on Friday. We motored out to the entrance of Tory Channel (where we came in) marveling all over again at the sheer beauty of it all. The Captain chose a small bay to anchor where he had stayed when he bought his kids across earlier in the year for a weekend. It is a pretty spot with habitations just onshore, and some moorings which are mostly taken by fishing boats, so he felt anchoring was the best option.

Once the anchor was down we got to some of the chores we are still trying to get through, polishing all the stainless steel being top of the list. Engrossed in the task at hand, No 1 looked up at one stage and commented that she thought we were drifting. The Captain said no, we were alright. Half an hour later, stainless steel gleaming, No 1 commented that she really did think we were drifting. This time the Captain checked and agreed. He let out up to 30 meters of chain (we were in 2 meters of water) saying that that would hold us for sure.

Dinner was prepared, and a get up time of 5.30am agreed to, reluctantly by The Captain, as we needed to be going through the entrance at around 7am. Then we settled down to watch a DVD - an old black and white comedy which was very enjoyable. Half way through the movie I checked out the window, and said to the Captain that I thought we were still drifting. He managed to keep from raising his eyes skyward, told me not to worry, and reassured me that we were just fine and would not be moving. Having faith, I settled down to watch the rest of the movie with him.

The movie ended while daylight was fading. I climbed out into the cockpit to have a stretch (and yes, I admit it, to have a quick look at where we were). ”Er, Captain, I am sure we have moved”. And this time he did agree with me. Mind you it was fairly obvious by then because we were drifting towards the centre of the Channel and would have been ferry fodder during the night had we not moved.

All hands on deck. Weigh the anchor. He found the green kelp that was growing thickly in the water had wrapped itself round the anchor and chain which had prevented the anchor from working. It took ages to clear it - and the light continued to fade. During this process there was a splash to the side of the boat. A fish? No. It was a fur seal on its way past, the first we had seen, but sadly it was too dark for a picture.

On went the motor and in the rapidly fading light we headed for a mooring buoy we had seen in the next little bay around an outcrop of rocks. Out came the most powerful torch we have on board (Captains note: need to get decent spotlight) and by its light and shouted instructions - the arm signals we have worked out just weren’t working in the dark … actually they don’t often work in the daylight either because His Captainship keeps forgetting them - we found and attached ourselves to the said buoy. Nothing like a little bit of excitement to settle you for the night.

So, sheltered from the wind and everything except the waves created by the passing ferries, we settled down for the night and the anticipation of our Strait crossing in the morning.

I am pleased to report there are no problems with the alarm. It went off exactly as it should have. 5.30am on the nose. I would like to say we leapt up with alacrity and were quickly ready to move, but the truth is it had been one of those nights when you anticipate the early start so don’t sleep because you don’t want to miss it. By the time the alarm actually went off, I was having the deepest sleep I had had all night and the last time I had looked at my watch it had been 5am! The Captain is not an up and at em type of guy. His style is more, “Am I up yet? My eyes won’t open! What time did you say it was? Am I up yet?” This is repeated until you put a cup of hot tea near his bed and the smell drives him to open his eyes in order to locate it.

I digress. We were up, breakfasted, everything stowed and shipshape, the sail up and motoring towards the entrance to the channel at about 7am. The morning was glorious and the water very flat. (No wind! But it was early). The Captain kept me at the helm and I took Hakura through the entrance. Wow!

To enter the channel from the Strait the ferries line up from a long way out. On our trip over from Wellington the southern angle we were approaching from gave them the appearance of just disappearing into a solid wall. This is because the entrance is so small in contrast with the land that unless you are straight on to it, you can’t really see it.

The Tory Channel runs almost parallel to the coastline, so to go out through the entrance requires a right turn. The safe route is marked by what looks like two small white pyramids on the side of a hill. When you have them in a straight line, you are in the channel and it is safe to proceed. There is land to the left of you, land to the front of you, land to the right of you, and the entrance. Having gotten everything lined up the boat was turned and out we went.

It was awesome. And then we were out in the Cook Strait. There was only a slight wind. The Captain thought a Force 4 breeze coming from the south. We could only go in an easterly direction, so with headsail and mainsail up, he cut the motor and we were sailing.

If you have never done any sailing, it would be hard to imagine the experience of sheer exhilaration you get when the motor is cut, the wind fills the sails and the boat surges forward under its own power. With only the sound of the sea and the wind you can really become one with the natural environment you are in. As I get more and more used to the motion of the boat, I am becoming more and more enchanted with this feeling. I begin to understand the pull the sea has for some people.

We made relatively good time in spite of the fact we were not heading in the south easterly direction we wanted. At one stage we could see three ferries at the same time. They really do make an imposing sight, especially on a day like this when the water was calm, much calmer than it had been when we had sailed across with John. The Captain, as always, was interested in the bird life we saw and was particularly interested an albatross which in flight is a very graceful bird. We also had a beautifully marked juvenile black back gull taking advantage of the headsail and gliding along just behind the cockpit.

We took it in hour shifts on the helm, and slowly the South Island with its imposing cliffs faded into the back ground and the hilly shoreline of the North Island came into view. In time, a tack was needed to push us further south, and it did accomplish about three nautical miles. But then the wind died away and the motor had to go on off Oteranga Head.

We proceeded to motor along the coast line and through the Karori Rip. Now there is an experience to miss unless it is a very calm windless day like we had. Even in such calm conditions this is like a devils cauldron and you get the impression it is trying to spit you out. The waves come from every which way with no seaming reason. The Captain says it caused by the interplay between the subsurface reefs and the strong northwest/southeast tidal flow. Luckily it was his shift, so I could sit, hang on, and watch the shoreline which is pretty rugged and exposed.

The lighthouse on Tongue Point is quite fascinating. I had used it as a guide from quite a way out to keep my bearings while on the helm. As you get closer to it and pass it, it takes on many hues, and at one stage it looked like a statue of a seal with a ball perched on its nose. It is really interesting seeing the land from the aspect of the sea. I think we were both relieved to be out of the rip, exciting though it was.

Now, I think, is a good time to mention the devious way the Captain builds ones skills and confidence. I think the basic principal behind his carefully devised educational program is that when he thinks you are ready, not necessarily when you do, he ‘throws you in the deep end’ - cunningly simple and VERY effective. Having been at the helm through the Karori Rip, he disappeared downstairs (I presumed to check the charts and our position), and did not reappear. On investigation he was found to be curled up fast asleep on a bunk with not a care in the world. While I, on the helm, was learning to handle the boat in a significant swell which we were taking on the beam. I can now balance as the boat rolls, swear under my breath (not loud enough to wake the Captain) and handle the helm for several hours at a time confident that it is going to stay upright. I know I have told you before that I am not a seafaring lass by life experience - this is all new to me. His response to my, “you are late for your shift”, was “Yes. And what did you learn?”

We motored into Wellington Harbour, rang Faye and waved as we passed Seatoun Wharf, and are now back in Chaffer’s Marina. Thanks to Jenny and Roy Dunn for a night off the boat, cards, a real bed and hot showers. It was lovely way to end the first leg of our journey.

We hope to begin our northward voyage on Wednesday.


7th December 2008

Magic Adventures
Great to have you back on the north side guys..look forward to seeing you soon..loads of love and hugs and safe sailing wishes

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