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In Greenland

Iron Bark

Iron Bark
Under full sail


At Russell Boating Club's Tall Ships Regatta

Blue Water Medal

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Books By Annie Hill

  • Brazil and Beyond
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27 February, 2012

A Christmas Cruise

It was a lovely summer’s day and after all my hard work, there was a feeling of intense relief and relaxation as I headed out of the harbour. The plan was to get to Pelorus Sound for Christmas. There was a very light NE breeze, but after negotiating the narrows out of Motueka’s artificial harbour, I could turn off the engine and sail down the lagoon towards the entrance. But with the light wind and a strong tide, I started the motor to get out over the bar. The tide set me into very shallow water out of the channel – an act of carelessness on a falling tide that I felt very bad about. But the gods were kind and I realised what was happening before it was too late.

Fantail in her new livery

To get from Tasman Bay to the Marlborough Sounds there are two choices: around the top of D’Urville I (and thus into the Cook Strait) or to sneak between the island and the mainland through a very narrow passage called French Pass. I’ve described this in a previous blog, but I can’t say that it was much more appealing the second time around. I was certainly inclined to deal with it very cautiously. I’m pleased to say that  so was David.
My usual view of Tystie

As was to be come the norm, David left after me and before long all I could see was his stern. But Tystie is 9 ft longer than Fantail. By four o’clock the wind was dying away and we had at least 15 miles to go to the anchorage we had hoped for. I was sincerely hoping that David would decide to go into Croisilles harbour. He had lost his VHF aerial and for some reason his cell phone wasn’t working, so we couldn’t discuss the matter.

An hour later, I had to start the engine to clear Cape Soucis. It was with a great sigh of relief that I saw David let fly the sheets so that he could ‘heave to’ and wait for me. When I caught up we had a brief discussion and without too much debate bore away for Croisilles and brought to in a very pretty and mercifully shallow harbour in Whangarae Bay. We’d put in 32 miles, essentially under sail and felt we’d done quite well. Over dinner on Fantail, we discussed the tides for the morrow and congratulated ourselves – well me, I suppose – on getting away in good time.

One of the things I love about coastal sailing is the beautiful calm nights; one of the things I dislike about sailing around mountainous coastlines is the prevalence of ‘katabatic’ winds. They may not fit the true meteorological definition of this phenomenon, but the net result is that same: you are sleeping like a log and suddenly the boat swings and heels to her anchor as a heavy gust falls down the hillside on to her. This happened tonight and even though I was sure I was well anchored, I defy any sailor to sleep through this sort of event. So, although it was a wonderfully secure anchorage, I didn’t get much of a night’s sleep.

Because we needed to catch the tide through French Pass, Tystie and Fantail were underway not long after 7 o’clock. A little breeze blew us out of the anchorage but then died away. Further on, we had more than enough wind, as the local topography took over again and a strong gust chased us down the harbour. I considered reefing, but it looked pretty flat out at sea and sure enough, a couple of hours after leaving I was almost becalmed of Pahakorea Pt. At the time I was happy, because it meant that I'd arrive at French Pass on the tail of the ebb. However, when the anticipated sea breeze failed to materialise, I started to worry. David seemed to be sailing well, so I started the engine and went to find his wind, after which, although we had to beat, we made good progress.

Tystie apparently sailed through French Pass (although David later admitted to starting his engine and using it for a few minutes) but I bottled out at the last minute and put on the donk to get through the narrows. We picked up a lovely NE breeze to take us up Admiralty Bay. Admittedly a SW would have been nicer – but beggars can’t be choosers and any breeze is better than none!

Fantail has no windlass, but has a superb chain pawl – a copy of Iron Bark’s.
Tystie at Waihinau Bay

For all that, I had been concerned about anchoring in 20m and we had agreed to try and find shallower places wherever possible. As we turned into Waihinau Bay, I saw Tystie casting about, obviously looking for a good berth. My heart sank a bit as I approached and saw David launch his dinghy and take a stern line to a tree, but I need not have worried: a 26ft boat needs less room than one of 35 ft and there was space for me to squeeze in between a local launch and a fishing boat. I dropping the hook in 9m, feeling rather close to shore, but when I rowed over to Tystie, I realised I was well off. You would think that after so many years, I’d be able to judge these distances better, but lots of experienced sailors admit that they often feel too close to another boat, or to the shore, only to realise, when they row away, that there situation is perfectly satisfactory. 
 For the first time, I assembled and launched my new folding dinghy. It went
Waihinau Bay
together in a few seconds. I had thought about the launching process for some time. Katie and Maurice used to launch Nanook’s dinghy by lifting the guard rails from their sockets and dropping them on deck, which allowed the dinghy to go directly over the rail. I can’t do that, but when I fitted the self-steering, I removed the ‘gate’ at the stern, which led to a little boarding platform. This gate was secured with pelican hooks and I used these to replace the lashings on the port lifeline. Casting them off, I made sure the wires were over the side and easily slid the dinghy into the water. When I came to haul her back up, it was equally easy. A success.
For the moment, Peawaka has to be carried along the guard rails, but I will 
For the moment, Peawaka has to be carried along the guard rails
fit chocks so that I can secure her on deck for offshore conditions. I would hate to lose both dinghy and guard rails to a large wave!

It was a lovely calm night and after all my work of the previous week, I slept like a log. We had decided not to leave until a bit of a breeze filled in, so Christmas Eve started in leisurely fashion. David came over and we discussed possible anchorages. Looking out of the harbour, I noticed a sea breeze was filling in. For the fun of it, David offered to tow me out to the wind to save my diesel and to see how well Tystie functions as a tug.

Tystie gives us a tow
I hauled the anchor up without much difficulty – the chain pawl really seems to take most of the effort out to it. Tystie has the same size chain, with a 20k anchor at the end (as distinct from my 10k) and David reckons it’s hard work to haul by hand. As he was apparently awe-struck at Annie the Amazon, I didn’t tell him how easy it actually was!

The boats at Ngawhakawhiti Bay
Once out in the Sound we had a lovely sail. We poked our noses into one potential anchorage, but the sailing was too nice for us to wish to stop, and we continued to sail down Tennyson Inlet, passing the wonderfully named World's End to bring to in Ngawhakawhiti Bay, which looked like a lovely Christmas anchorage. At 1630 I dropped the hook in a civilised 7m, and sat back to admire the beautiful bush that surrounded us. It had been a most enjoyable 15-mile sail and I was feeling quite besotted with my little ship.

On Christmas Day, I loafed around while David resolutely took himself into the bush to find the Nydia Track that we were intending to tramp on Boxing Day. It took him very little time as it passes right by the anchorage! Later in the afternoon, we had the obligatory Christmas feast on Tystie, and quaffed a good bottle of wine.

Peawaka and Little Auk
Well fed and contented, I rowed back to Fantail, churlishly leaving David to wash up. This sailing in company has its advantages!

The glorious weather continued and we had a perfect day for our tramp. It was a lovely bush trail, with the odd gorgeous view. I love bush walks, being in among all the trees and ferns and trying (usually unsuccessfully) to identify what it is I am looking at. The occasional view only adds to the interest; sometimes we could look back to the anchorage where the
two boats lay quietly looking at their own reflections. The path passes over a spur and from the top we could see down into Nydia Bay, which looked delightful, with a couple of Platonic islands placed tastefully in it. (Later, at low water, one of these pretty little islands turned out to be the end of a
View from the Nydia Track
peninsula.) We stopped for lunch in Nydia Bay, sitting on a posh wharf belonging to an unoccupied bach. We were amazed that anyone could resist the temptation to spend Christmas there. David took the opportunity to go for a swim, but it looked too cold for me.

I was looking for some Matai (trees) to show to David who wasn’t sure if he’d seen one before, and found a couple of lovely young ones by a pool that had a pet eel in it - a huge black, blue-eyed beast about a metre long. David seemed less inclined to swim here! When we got back, it was low water, but I found I could carry my dinghy on my back down the beach. It was surprisingly easy, but would be impossible in much wind, in which case the easiest thing would be simply to collapse it and carry it down.

The next morning, I went to fill up with water from the stream. I didn’t need to go far up: the fresh water lens was several inches thick and if I just dipped the necks below the surface and didn’t stir the water up, I could easily fill my bottles.

At about 1030, I hauled up my anchor and set off in pursuit of Tystie. The wind in the anchorage was a little gusty, and I set the sail first to try and sail the anchor out. We sailed over it, but I managed to retrieve that situation and then Fantail did the job very nicely. It’s interesting experimenting; it seems the best way of sailing out the anchor is with about 5 panels up, pulling the final three up once I’m under way. On this occasion, the anchor got hung up at the roller, while we sailed inexorably towards the beach, so I had to dash back and tack before catting it properly.

Toshitinui Reach
The wind was all over the place. I plugged away for about an hour and a half, but David, as usual, was almost out of sight. Tystie was sailing nicely, so I ran the motor for half an hour to catch him up and enjoy some decent sailing, too. We had a snoring sail down Towhitinui Reach. Fantail was a bit over-pressed and tearing along at 7 knots, but with Tystie around to help if anything went wrong, I thought it worth pushing things a bit, to see what she can handle.

At a place called Tawero Point, we had to turn back on ourselves to go down Popoure Reach. The fresh breeze was funnelled into some quite nasty gusts and when I saw Tystie heeling right over I dropped 2 and then 3 reefs in the sail. We had to beat up the Reach in these gusty conditions, but Fantail seemed to relish it. I shook the reefs out again, but further on, a valley was sending down strong gusts. It was so localised that it didn’t seem worth reefing: instead I feathered the sail, while we worked our way through. It’s wonderful to have a sail that doesn’t flog. There was a narrow stretch where the current was running at about 2 knots against us. Every now and then we would come to a hole in the wind and I was interested to see that while Tystie's weight kept her moving through these calm patches, Fantail just stopped. After a while I got fed up of going backwards and forwards past the same bit of scenery, so motored for 5 minutes to get through.

Tystie had disappeared so I swept down in pursuit and found her tucked well up in Yncyna Bay. A few minutes later I was anchored alongside. It had been an interesting and occasionally fast 19 miles, but I was really quite tired and more than a little hungry, as I had had no lunch. In spite of having both electric and wind vane self-steering, I had been unable to leave the helm for more than a minute at a time. The wind was so fluky and the pilotage so demanding that actually sailing the boat took my whole attention. David also complained that he hadn’t managed to have his lunch!
As so often happens in the Sounds, some heavy gusts tumbled down the mountainsides during the night.

After lying in bed doing sums, I decided the easiest thing was to get up and let out the rest of the chain and some rope until I was sure I had plenty of scope out.

I feel very confident of my ground tackle. Tystie carries more chain than Fantail, but it’s the same size as mine. Her anchor is 20kg while mine is10kg, but she is almost three times as heavy as Fantail and, being so much bigger, has heaps more windage. Tystie rarely drags her anchor, which makes me feel that my ground tackle is more than adequate.

We left just after 0900 the following morning. David seemed to get a better wind all the way, while I ran into a big hole, just as I had got going, and it took me ages to get out of it. So I had my usual view of Tystie's stern. It was handy, in a way, because it was easy to see where to go next. I still took care with my pilotage which was not difficult, although very satisfying, but again the sailing was full on, with the fluky wind and constant course alterations.

Coming into Havelock was also a bit full on, with the channel less well-marked than it might be in places. Towards the end, it runs right alongside a cliff. The markers are on the land, but there are none offshore, where in my humble opinion, they would be a lot more useful: a thundering great cliff is pretty hard to miss. To add insult to injury, there were zillions of speeding fizz boats, coming the other way. As we had to pass port to port, they effectively forced us into the shallows. I found it pretty stressful and David admitted he’d felt likewise. I suppose you probably get used to it after a while. When I came into the marina, there was lots of activity. David had already tied up in a berth and while I drifted around, wondering where to go (in a small boat, I tend to feel I should be in a small berth), he called to me that he was asking the marina supervisor to allocate us berths. Good lad. So I carried on drifting round for another quarter of an hour, until he came back with a berth number for me.

After we’d both tied up, I took David to the Slip Inn for cold beer and, as we hadn’t had lunch he bought us pizza to share. Beer was shockingly expensive at $7.50 a handle – about 500 ml – but it was worth a celebration: after all, this was the inaugural NZ Junk Rig Association rally! It was a shame no-one else was here to share it with us.

After lunch, we ambled up to town to do a bit of shopping and I bought the dinghy a more appropriate painter. I’d been using a 14mm mooring line, which was a bit over the top. We had dinner on board Fantail, after which we both settled down on our respective craft with a good book. The forecast was for lots of rain, and as David wanted to stock up for his trip south, we decided to stay over the next day, which lived up to the forecast.

The 30th came in overcast and drizzling, but we decided to take the ebb after lunch and push on. I topped up with fuel and water and cast off about 1300. I motored down the channel, a bit worried as I negotiated a dog-leg between the cliff and the first green marker. When I was almost there I realised that there were actually leading marks, which weren’t shown on my chart. I had been paying so much attention to the echo sounder and course that I hadn’t realised what they were, assuming they were markers showing an alternative channel.

My less usual view of Tystie
We motored doggedly on, the wind on the nose, until out of the channel. After faffing about for a while in light and baffling winds, to coin a phrase, we got a sudden shift and were suddenly running up the reach. Tystie, who had been struggling to keep up with me, now walked away as usual. I had to put my washboards in to keep the rain out, which made pilotage more awkward than it might have been, as I was worried the chart might blow away if I put it down in the cockpit. At Four Fathom Bay, where we planned to anchor, we just about ran out of wind and I drifted in and dropped the hook in a blessedly tranquil anchorage.

I made myself a hot whisky to thaw out. One of Fantail’s failings is that there is no place for oilies and although the boat was initially warm and dry, it got steadily more dank as the night progressed and they dripped sullenly, from hooks by the companionway. It was still raining when I turned in.

I got up at dawn on New Year’s Eve to see heavy rain and a falling barometer. The best idea was to go back to bed until I woke up properly. A rainy day isn’t all bad. I had a nice lazy time reading and David rowed over after lunch so that we could discuss what to do. Stay put, was the final conclusion. It was so damp and cool, that after David left I lit the fire – a good move – and I felt a lot better once Fantail was warm and dry. Fine, summer weather! I was missing our usual sunshine.
I made some tapenade and dug out a bottle of bubbly to celebrate New Year’s Eve on Tystie. We must be getting old – neither of us wanted to stay up to see the New Year in. We couldn’t even say, ‘well, it’s already New Year in ...’ and call it quits, because NZ is the first to greet it, but I’m sure the New Year didn’t mind.

I started 2012 with several New Year’s Resolutions. They have a monotonous repetitiveness about them: maybe I should make a resolution to make no more resolutions. Our sober New Year’s Eve meant that not only did I not wake up with a hangover, but I was off sailing by 0700. There was the threat of rain and heavy overcast, but it cleared up a bit and, in spite of the barometer continuing to fall, we had a pretty nice sail to Ketu Bay. The wind was light and generally fair and for once, Tystie simply could not catch us. We got into Ketu about 1130, so had plenty of time to go ashore. David anchored in 17m and invited me to raft alongside, which, chain pawl or no chain pawl, sounded a lot better than pulling all my chain up from that sort of depth in the morning.

Ketu Bay
After lunch, we went for a walk, after a rather unpleasant, muddy and slippery scramble up a steep slope. There was a surprisingly flash road that looked to have been graded very recently, although for the life of me I can’t think who would use it. It doesn’t seem to go anywhere and there was no sign of wheel ruts or tyre tracks. One of life’s little mysteries. We wandered along one way and then walked back in the other direction, but it wasn’t that stimulating a walk and after a couple of hours or so, we went back and slithered and scrambled back to the beach, covered in mud.
Dinner was on Fantail and for once it was warm enough to have drinks in the cockpit. It’s cold on the water in this part of the world. I was tired again – sailing in the Sounds is not ideal for the single-hander and I can see why people like launches here.

Tystie and Fantail rafted together.
Strong gusts tumbling down the hillside woke me in the small hours; I was worried that we’d drag Tystie’s anchor – the main reason I really don’t like rafting up. I cast off from Tystie about 0900. David was planning to go east and south, I was on my way to Nelson, to catch up with friends – it was the parting of the ways. We plan to rendezvous near the end of March at a Junk Rig Rally to be held in Mahurangi.

Because of the gusts, I motored out for a little while and then raised some sail. We headed towards D’Urville, shaking out reefs as we went. We made good progress, though the wind, at first, was up and down and all over the place. Supposedly SE it was redirected every which way by the surrounding land. For most of the day I was sailing in company with a sloop of about 32ft. It made a pleasant change to sail at the same speed as somebody instead of simply staring at his stern for the duration. I was rather impressed that, close-hauled as we were, Fantail had no problems keeping the lead!

We went through French Pass with no problems and carried on down towards Croisilles Harbour. As we approached the wind increased until it was gusting F6. I dropped a couple of reefs and then a couple more. From a lovely, sunny afternoon it had changed to being really unpleasant – and cold, to boot. I had to be very firm with myself that the anchorage would be sheltered, because the wind seemed almost to be blowing along the harbour, but the closer I got, the less wind there was and even the gusts became more tolerable. I was tired, but pleased with how the rig had performed in this, our first blow. I dropped the hook in a grateful 4 or 5m, much better than scrabbling around for somewhere sufficiently shallow in the Sounds. It was heaven after the wind in the outer harbour. In here the gusts were much less strong and I had my good anchor down with plenty of scope out. .

I relaxed with a glass of wine and then cooked a good meal. The gusts died away and it was calm by the time I turned in. I slept like a log.

Fantail in the Sounds
The next morning, I left about 0800, sailing the anchor out. There was just enough wind for full sail: Fantail tacked herself nicely and headed out on the right tack. As usual when I do something right, there was no one to see! A land breeze took us out to sea, but once outside, the wind went light and fluky. I motored a couple of times when it went dead calm but found a breeze about half way across to Adele Island, where I anchored for the night. The following day I sailed over to Nelson, where I stayed for a couple of days before heading back for my home port of Motueka.

1 comment:

Hollister said...

This is my first time i visit here. I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog, especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the leisure here! Keep up the good work.