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Circumnavigating NZ.

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Well that was not a restful night. The wind was like a fearsome beast prowling around the boat all night. It howled and screamed in the rigging, it shook the mast and banged the halyards, it shoved and rocked the boat and tried it’s best to pluck us from our mooring. I was worried the line might chafe through and break at which point we would be flung off into raging black night. To that end I prepared as best I could. I had the anchor cock-a-bill, ready to drop and the radar on all night to give me eyes in the dark. The plotter cannot be relied on. When entering the bay in daylight yesterday it showed me tracking along the rocky shore. The charts are at least one hundred meters out here and this cove is only two hundred meters wide. (If you switch to the satellite option on the tracking page you can zoom in and see the location).

I slept (badly) in my clothes, boots and coat ready. I figured in ten seconds I could be up the campanionway, starting the engine on the way, and get control of the boat if we broke adrift. Hopefully I would have enough power to turn against the wind and then feel my way ib the pitch dark with the radar and sonar (which gives me a lovely 3D rendition of the seabed around me) and anchor in a spot I had already marked on the radar. I would then run out almost all my 85 meters of chain and hope the anchor would hold.
Thankfully I didn’t need to do any of that and the mooring line, although showing signs of chafe, is still holding. I eased the line to “freshen the nip” as the saying goes and declared a hut day. The Sound outside the narrow entrance of this horseshoe cove is still a churning mass of white water and I have no inclination to go out there until it calms down.

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1 hour ago, 1paulg said:

I love his writing style and the way he deals with everything thrown at him...a great read

Agree. Which is why I think he should write a book. It would need minimal editing and be a great mini-story.

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One tuff sailor and one tuff boat.

A dash to shelter

Tue Sep 22 2020

By three o’clock I had had enough of the incessant wind and decided to look for a more sheltered position. The best option was Blanket Bay down the end of Thompson Sound and at confluence of Doubtful and Bradshaw Sounds. It looked protected from these winds by the 1200 meter Mt Grono and had a series of little coves with established stern lines for mooring to.
So I slipped my overworked headline and motored out into the Sound. Of course it hadn’t calmed down at all from yesterday. In fact the wind was even stronger, but being under motor it was much easier to control the boat. For once I could enjoy the raw power of the wind as it came ripping down the long reach, a white wall of spray leading each gust, the meter high waves turn into long foaming streaks as we surged down them . For interest’s sake I slipped the propeller to neutral and we continued on under bare poles at 5 knots.
The wind gusted to 60 knots and everything went white as the air filled with spray. Waterfalls were ripped sideways and an unfortunate gull went tumbling past, beak over tail, unable to fly any longer.
Close round Common Head and we came into the lee of Mt Grono, or at least some sort of lee compared to the madness back in Thompson Sound. There are gusts coming from every direction and water spouts dancing crazy jigs across the water. Looking ahead I could see a number of crayfishing boats rafted up in Blanket Bay, all no doubt watching my approach with interest and wondering what sort of a hash I was going to make of mooring up. Well I didn’t disappoint them. Mooring in these gusty conditions, when you are on your own, involves a lot of running - or rather clambering over sheets, preventers, load binders and the inflatable on the foredeck - to get to the bow just in time to realise you have been blown off the buoy and are rapidly approaching the rocks. Reverse sequence and gun the engine to get out of danger and have another go. Repeat. Repeat. And for maximum entertainment value finally get hold of the buoy and find yourself locked in a tug of war with the wind against five tons of boat and you, your face pressed against the rail in a contorted grimace as you summon your last reserves of strength to heave the slimy line on board and make fast. I could hear the applause through multiple wheelhouse windows as my audience graded my performance out of 10 and then returned to their beers and card games.
Repeat collapse down companionway, cup of tea and large slice of fruitcake.

Talking of Van de Stadt designs I like the Forna 37.


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Making a break for Breaksea

Wed Sep 23 2020

It poured with rain last night but that meant a blissful sleep as it heralded the end of the relentless wind. I was woken by the sound of a helicopter landing at the Blanket Bay “Hotel”. This is the name given to a rudimentary shack on a little island about 200 meters out from where I am moored. The crayfishing boats moor up there and transfer their catch to the helicopter. When I finally poke my head up through the hatch the half dozen boats have all gone and I am once again alone. I motor over to the “Hotel” and tie up. There is a permanently running hose on the dock, sourced from a stream on Secretary Island and I fill my tank with what is reputably “the best drinking water in New Zealand”.
Watered up I am on my way out through The Gut to the open sea. I am taking advantage of another short weather window to get down to Breaksea Sound.
Behind me the steep walls of Doubtful Sound, wrapped in fleecy white clouds, recede into the distance in ever darkening hues of purple grey until they are lost in the mist.

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Puysegur Point to port

Fri Sep 25 2020

A change of plan.
I was going to spend the night at Otago Retreat, the shallow channel between Coal Island and the Puysegur Point lighthouse depot landing. The idea was to have civilized night at anchor and then catch the NW wind in the morning.
So the wind filled in early after dying from the South. With such a good breeze behind me I wanted to get a jump on the next weather system and use it to slingshot me round through Foveaux Strait, up the Catlins coast and on towards the Otago Peninsula. The big advantage is that the wind will be blowing off the land so I shouldn’t have anything like the horrendous seas I had to deal with off the West Coast.
So I have resisted the Siren Song of the safe anchorage and am heading off into the night.
I have just passed Puysegur Point, reputably the windiest place in NZ. There is 25 knots behind me and it should be a fast run tonight.

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Another change of plan

Sat Sep 26 2020

It was a slow nights run.
The wind died about two hours after passing Puysegur Point. It stayed light all night and we slowly trickled along, sails slatting on the bigger rolls.
Dawn brings Centre Island two miles off the port beam and Stewart Island 10 miles to starboard. Up ahead The Bluff, the conical hill that gives Bluff its name, rises above the horizon. Astern the snow capped peaks of Fiordland recede into the distance.
The weather map is indicating that a kink in the isobars will bring strong Northerly headwinds against me for a period of twelve hours coming round Nugget Point tonight. My best option is to stay in Bluff overnight and let the isobars iron themselves out. I can refuel and see if I can hunt down something green. I haven’t seen a fresh vegetable in weeks.

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Bluff - " The Start of State Highway One"

Sat Sep 26 2020

I made it into Bluff. Not without some difficulty I might add. The harbour has a very fast tidal stream running up to 7knts at times and with wind against tide I have seen two metre standing waves in the channel. Today was about average so I was motoring at 5 knots against a 4 knt outgoing tide. If you do the maths you can see I wasn’t going very fast. It took me two hours to get from the entrance to the fuel wharf - a distance of three miles.
Bluff is also very industrial around the wharves. This area is the preserve of the fishing fleet, the oyster boats, tugs, log carriers and the odd container ship. Across the channel a giant bauxite ship is unloading at the Tiwai smelter. Suffice to say there are no namby pamby floating pontoons with soft white cushions around them. This is where real boats live, southern boats at that.
All the docks have tyres hanging down - giant mining truck tyres and with a 2.7 meter tide if you get your gunwhale caught under one of those it will sink you as the tide rises. There a giant piles of woodchips, ready for export, and on a windy night they rain sawdust and grit down on your boat. On a really windy night the stacks of empty containers blow over and you think the world is coming to an end.
Fortunately I know Bluff well and it was with a certain elan and insouciance that I navigated this hellhole of a post apocalyptic port. I called up Harbour Control and organized a berth by the Syncrolift which at least has piles which my lines can slide up and down on with the tide. I filled up with diesel and water and now I am ready to brave downtown Bluff. It can be a bit of a dodgy place, what with drunken fishermen and the like, but it’s only two hundred meters long, so a quick sprint gets you through it pretty quickly.

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Heading for the Catlins coast

Sun Sep 27 2020

Its 0430 and I left the wharf at Bluff an hour ago. It was a clear starry night with a half moon and I made my way out of the harbour using the plotter, radar and the leading lights. This time I had the tide with me and in no time at all it seemed I was clear of the channel and heading across the shallow shoal that guards the entrance on a course to Waipapa Point.
Now it may seem inadvisable to leave a safe port with a gale warning in force but there is a method to my madness.
The wind is blowing from the North, straight off the land, so the sea is flat and I am enjoying a fast beam reach. The wind will switch rapidly to the SW in about five hours and blow up to 30 knts. By that time I will be round the southernmost tip of NZ and starting to head North of East. This means I will have the wind behind me. Running before 30knts is fine. Also I will have cleared Foveaux Strait which is really shallow and has strong tidal streams all of which combine to make it extremely rough in a blow. In the deeper water it will take longer for the seas to build behind me and by the time they do I should be round Nugget Point and the wind will start to shift back to the NW - blowing off the land again.
Well that’s my plan. Let’s see how it works out in practice.

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