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Circumnavigating NZ.

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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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