Friday, April 24, 2015

Fiordy Wonderland part 3; Dusky Sound to Stewart Island

We had been having a lovely time in Doubtful Sound and with plenty left to do and explore, it was a wrench to move on. But time was ticking and the weather was getting commensurately cooler. The forecast suggested light Northerlies so we ventured out to hop round to Breaksea Sound which opens into Dusky. We started out like so often within the Sounds; with not a single breath of wind. Peering out towards where we were headed we made our choice. It's very difficult in Fiordland to know whether to trust your instinct or the weather forecast... both have been wrong a lot!


The forecast had it and once out of the sound we were able to sail. Then when we entered Breaksea Sound we were once more plummeted into shelter. The first spot to anchor was seized upon and I had a nice chat with a sports fishing captain over the radio. They wished to use our chosen spot for the night as it had water available so we moved out of their way (tenuously #5 challenge complete, they WERE a fishing boat and I MOSTLY understood what she said... and got some weather information too...). The next morning we were delighted to hear some breeze stirring so we were up and out to make as much headway as we could. We were starting to be concerned about our diesel supplies. We were walking a tightrope between wanting to leave our tanks empty when we store Impetuous and using more than we'd expected here.

As we teased the last little puffs out of the breeze along the Acheron passage we were surprised to see a cruise ship coming up behind us. As it passed it became clear that really it was just the tidal flow wafting us through. This fur seal was just basking round in circles as we passed.

As we drifted ever nearer to Dusky Sound we felt the occasional breeze pushing from the other way. It strengthened so we started to tack and once we made it out into Dusky we were hard against the wind which was howling inland. The nearest good anchorage spot was only 4 miles away. Two hours of tacking in the pelting rain against shifting strength wind got us there.

The seaward entrance to Dusky Sound is a wide opening and within the first eight miles of the Fiord are many islands and good anchorages. We decided not to venture into the inner reaches fearing a nasty beat or worse a long motor out and forewent the opportunity of visiting various walks and department of conservation huts.

Despite it's large size and abundance of marine life there has never been a permanent human settlement in Dusky. The Māori would visit occasionally as part of wider hunting trips originally for Moa. Weighing up to 250kg these were wingless birds that were hunted to extinction in the 15th Century. Captain Cook stayed for two months in 1774 fitting his enormous ship HMS Resolution through two different channels that we were hesitant to chance in Impetuous. He tied up at Pickersgill Harbour and established a workshop and observatory, where we found copious mussels.

It was great to have so many nice anchorages so near to each other.  The seals lived at Luncheon Cove where there were many walking tracks all over Anchorage Island. Sadly a quick (very cold) dive retrieved none of the crayfish Captain Cook had dined upon whilst there but just a lot of broken beer bottles presumably left by the fishermen.

Pickersgill Harbour and the Mussels found there

Luncheon Cove, sorry for blurry photos of the seals again, a new camera is at the top of the list of things to buy whilst we're working.

This is the Kidney Fern or Raurenga which is a common sight in New Zealand bush growing in damp places about 5cm high.

Be careful what you wish for; whilst at Dusky two jobs ideal to tackle on a rainy day cropped up. The toilet blocked due to limescale on the duck valve and the starter motor played up. The toilet was relatively easily fixed, if a little unpleasant. The starter was in the end remedied on two different occasions by lighting a candle under it (don't ask what made us try that) and has been well behaved since. # 6 Task complete; find a boat job to do on a rainy day or when it's too windy to leave the boat unattended.

We had an eventful sail between Dusky Sound and Stewart Island. The first time we set out we decided to turn back such was the wind howling against us. The second attempt would have been more slick had we had the wind which was forecast. With none to speak of for two days, we were still out in the Foveaux Strait when a big blow came through. We heaved to off Invercargil then romped across treated to a tremendous display of acrobatics by an enormous pod of what we think must have been Dusky Dolphins. Their leaps, tail slapping and multiple somersaults had us laughing for over an hour until they finally decided to go a different way. They must have been intentionally following along with us since we were sailing on a close reach against the wind and the waves; I imagine them seeing our underwater shape struggling along and them mistaking us to be an elderly whale, swimming alongside us offering encouragement.

We'd played a game of 'When we get to Stewart Island we're going to...' the memory game whilst walking on Anchorage Island. We came up with quite a list as we hadn't seen a shop since leaving the Bay of Islands over six weeks earlier. It was mainly vegetables and beer that we were excited to find. We'd been heavily rationed for weeks and totally run out in the end. We had a heady few days.

This is how an Albatross looks like up close, all the flying photos were blurry.

In Stewart Island we were pleased to meet up with our friend Jérôme who stayed with us for a bit. He too was delighted by the joys of the yellow mac whilst we went out for a sail and a fish.  But he's a tough Belgian so he wasn't wearing any shoes!

We were told that the island was a good place to view the shy Kiwi at dusk and dawn but they remained sadly elusive.

We found out that this is a Paua, which is a kind of snail with really beautiful shells. We were taught what to do by some campers by a fire (#7 and #8) and tasted them. They're said to be steak like, though we found them to be pretty tough despite bashing as instructed.

We really knew we'd reached 46 degrees South on Stewart Island; the weather was bitter and in the end we had to admit defeat. The long walks we'd hoped for just wouldn't be pleasurable as it would not be safe to leave the boat overnight. We weren't getting much done since we have no heating except the warmth and comensurate dampness created by our cooking.  We were spending more time snuggled in bed and tackling too much condensation. In the end we called it a day and in between hail storms left to find some warmth by sailing North.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fjordy wonderland part 2... Doubtful Sound

Doubtful sound covers a very large area with three arms off the main sound and connecting with both Thompson and Bradshaw sounds so we thought it deserved it's own post.  It has also been one of our favourite with it's high peaks, interesting walks, friendly few people and large wildlife population. As is often the case we ended up staying longer than anticipated.

We entered through Thompson sound and dropped anchor in Deas' cove as darkness fell.  Our next days walk was very hurried due to the huge population of sandflies we encountered.  In such circumstances you really have to move fast, or even better go for a sail which solved the problem perfectly.

There was a mounting onshore land breeze such that when we arrived in Deep Cove, the terminus at the inland end, we did not like the look of the recommended 'all weather' anchorage.  We sailed around finding only very deep water.  We furled our jib and motored another time around right up close to the steep sides and were hailed by the captain of a big motor boat.  He suggested we take a buoy over by the hostel and invited us for coffee the following morning before his tourist trips.  The buoy looked so near the shore that we'd discounted it as for a dinghy!

It was really interesting talking to Paul and his crew about their lives there.  They worked 7 days on, 7 off and lived together in a house provided by the company whilst at work since the only access to Doubtful sound is either by sea (a long way) or as the tourists do; a ferry ride across lake Manapouri followed by a 21km coach ride on the unsealed road.  They need to have the boat ready before the day trippers arrive.  He was filling up with fuel.  This boat uses 300 litres of Diesel per hour (about what we've used since Bora Bora) and so he fills up 3,000 every other day!  One of the reasons the tourist day package is a pricey one.

Paul was really helpful in suggesting where we might be able to anchor in each arm and what we might hope to see.  He was originally a fellow Brit but now lives in Te Anau with his family on his weeks off and has had sailing boats himself.

Once their passengers arrived we went over to meet the hostel manager Billy and also the relief manager as it was his fortnight off and he was preparing to go tuna fishing.  They were both really friendly and helpful.  We were able to buy internet time and hot showers then find out about all the local trails.

The short walks from deep cove were some of the most fun of our whole trip.  The pouring rain wasn't able to dampen our spirits since it just made the waterfalls better!

Our comedy yellow mac has come in very handy over the last few weeks.  Not so suitable for the more demanding walks but it's great as a wind and rain stopper whilst we're sailing.  The walk just above Deep cove hostel really stood out for us both.  It was a rugged track that though well marked really kept you on your toes and ended at the steep rock face of the hanging falls.

See the orange triangle?  The waterfall IS the track!  The temperate rainforest bush of this whole area is beautiful, peaceful and full of life going about it's quiet or sometimes quite noisy way.

Yes indeedy, a photo of something other than a mountain or waterfall! *1 task completed...

After some heavy socialising with Billy and his friends we sailed up Hall arm, reported to be the most spectacular.  It may well be, we couldn't see much... so when the wind died completely we had to motor most of the way to the end of crooked arm.

From the end of Crooked arm at Haulashore cove there is a trail (of sorts) across to Dagg sound (Dy'a like Daggs? 'Snatch')

We lost the track for a bit so got pretty wet and seed covered on this 'tramp' *2 Task complete, walk between two sounds...

Then we ran away from the sandflies that were chasing us to Snug cove in First arm where we awoke to a beautiful sunrise.

There are several islands in the wide entrance to Doubtful sound so on our way out we decided to stop and try our *3 task and dive into the icy depths.... I can tell you that we weren't disappointed, the variety and amount of life in the rocky steep sides of the Fjord were amazing, however, we didn't linger.  We stayed just long enough for Duncan to snag this guy, a huge spiny rock lobster.  He was so big he needed a new cooking method and fed us for three meals. * 4 tasks complete... 7 more to go...