AYC Goes Kiwi

A selfie of Linda Saar, Dennis Lynde and Joyce Seale in NZ.

A selfie of Linda Saar, Dennis Lynde and Joyce Seale in NZ.

Dennis Lynde sent this picture to us upside down, which is probably what happens when you take a picture in New Zealand and then send it to the northern hemisphere. Joyce Seale is a former AYC Commodore now living in New Zealand.

But we have another story from New Zealand, sent via Victor Felice. The story arrived right-side-up. Here it is, long, chatty and entertaining:

Thanks to the Arizona Yacht Club and Victor Felice for allowing me to fly the club burgee. We have enjoyed taking it on trips with us and confusing all the locals who have no idea which sailing club it represents.

First, a little about myself.

My name is Andy Baldwin and I live at the top of New Zealand’s south island. Many Americans have never heard of us, which is strange given how good we are at sailing.  Damn that America’s Cup! We’ll get it back next time.

We are a country comprised of two main islands – the north island or Te ika a Maui (the fish of Maui), and the south island or Te Wai Pounamu (the waters of greenstone). All told, however, we have over 700 islands, many of them in the region where I live. My occupation is making cider for a local company. In the winters I enjoy skiing as well as sailing. I am married and have a small dog. We live on a lifestyle block of about 10acres with some sheep and chickens for company.

I have been involved in boating and water activities like kayaking and diving all my life, but only bought a keel boat about 6 years ago. I was looking for a launch but fell in love with a sailboat! Gypsea is a 27 foot ¾ keeler built of triple skin kauri, glassed over. She has teak decks, a beautiful kauri interior, a ¾ fractional rig and was built in 1987. She is quite narrow and has a 5 foot draft. Her auxiliary is a Yanmar 1gm10 engine fitted new in 2014. She sleeps up to four, and for two of us plus the dog is comfortable for 7-10 days at a time.

We sail in the Marlborough Sounds with our boat based in Waikawa Bay near Picton.  This is a complex geographical area of flooded valleys which have connected to the sea.  It has about 1500km or 10% of all New Zealand’s coastline. The area is internationally renowned as one of the best cruising grounds in the world. We have a saying here, “If you can sail in the sounds you can sail anywhere.” The complex and high (over 600m) landforms make the sounds very difficult at times, with winds that blow from all points of the compass at varying strengths. It’s not uncommon to see williwaws off many of the bays and some bays are well known as “wind factories.” Add to this mix, the fact that the sounds faces into Cook Strait and you have some exciting sailing guaranteed!

Cook Strait is the body of water separating the north and south islands. New Zealand lies roughly southwest to northeast, within the latitudes known as the “roaring forties.” The spine of both islands is high alpine and this channels the predominant westerly flow which can only move east through Cook Strait. High winds and huge seas are common as the strait is only 30-40km wide. In 2004 a 12metre sailboat sent a mayday from Cape Jackson, experiencing 80-90 knot winds and 12-15 metre breaking seas. Three of the four crew were rescued by an inter-island ferry. One died and the yacht broke and sank. Powerful tidal flows are also the norm in this area. Sounds daunting for a sailor? More like fun!

In February we had a week off work as it is our summer here and had a sailing holiday in the sounds. The idea was to sail out of Queen Charlotte sound where our boat Gypsea is moored, through Cape Jackson, into Cook Strait and round to Pelorus Sound for a few days exploring. The plan was to take a few days to sail to the outer sounds so as to get favorable tides for the passage through the cape and round to Pelorus. This is important as tidal streams through this area average 4-5 knots. We hoisted sail on a Saturday as it is bad luck to begin a voyage on a Friday and headed for bay of Many Coves. This is beautiful and quite deep, which lives up to its name with lots of great spots to drop anchor. The weather was warm with very little breeze so motor sailing was the order of the day. Bay of Many coves marks the beginning of the “outer Queen Charlotte sound” and gets a mix of cook strait weather and Picton weather.

Chaucer Bay in New Zealand

Chaucer Bay in New Zealand

We anchored in Chaucer Bay which is a tiny bay at the far end of Bay of Many Coves. There is a stunning beach and great view of the ferries as they turn out of Tory Channel and into Queen Charlotte sound, part of the regular service between Wellington (capital of NZ) in the north island and Picton in the south island. There are around 18 ferry crossings per day, each taking about 3½ hours. Once on the anchor we launched the new kayak which Murphy (our dog) immediately jumped onto. He found the cargo well at the front quite comfortable and demanded to be paddled around the bay while he selected a suitable spot to relieve himself. The afternoon was spent swimming and kayaking around the bay.  In the evening a BBQ dinner was accompanied by wine and cider. We have a BBQ on the stern of the yacht and find this the preferred method of cooking in the summer.  You can cook while having a beer and chatting to guest on board while still admiring the view.

Next day dawned with the sea like a mirror, stunning to sit out and have breakfast but crap for sailing. We motor sailed north again to Resolution Bay. This large bay is named after one of Captain Cook’s ships when he visited this area. Cook spent more time in the Marlborough sounds than anywhere else in the Pacific. This time we grabbed a mooring and claimed reciprocal rights under the Arizona Sailing club flag! Not that anyone was there to see it as we had the bay to ourselves. The afternoon and evening were again filled with kayaking and BBQ’s, beer and wine. It’s a hard life but someone has to do it.

Monday was planned as a sleep in followed by a short hop to Ship Cove. This is where Cook spent most of his time in the sounds. As a salute to him we flew the Arizona burgee all night long.  There is a large monument to Cook adjacent to a stunning picnic area. At least we had some wind and a pleasant sail past Blumine Island and alongside Motuara island was duly enjoyed by Captain and crew until the heavens opened and rain poured down. Oh well, at least it was warm and the rain saved having a shower. Speaking of which, we use showers on board. These are left in the sun to heat up and then hoisted in the rigging in the evening for a shower on deck with view – and a view if anyone happens to be looking at my bare bum! The rain stopped early evening and the sky cleared so a picnic and bottle of wine on shore was duly organized along with nibbles. A cheeky Weka (flightless native bird similar to a Kiwi) joined us and didn’t even show any fear of the dog; he just wanted a feed. It’s hard to imagine a more pleasant evening as a pod of 8 dusky dolphins swam into the bay fishing and frolicking with the sun splashing on their backs. We have four species of dolphins in the sounds, from the large and playful bottlenose, speedy dusky dolphins, common dolphins and the tiny, endangered Hector’s dolphins. I have seen a baby Hector’s dolphin, about the size of a rugby ball, but adults can reach 1 metre in length.

Tuesday dawned with a light breeze in ship cove which meant good wind out toward Cape Jackson. Our mission for the day was to sail down to Cape Jackson (7 Nm) and make the passage between the Cape and the lighthouse at slackwater on high tide then sail across Port Gore and past Cape Lambert (5Nm) then on past Waitui Bay to Alligator Head. From there we were to tuck in behind Alligator Head in an area known locally as “the Punt Rails”, about another 5Nm of sailing. This is all in open water with outlying hazards and shoals off the headlands.

Cape Jackson is an interesting area, a long finger of land projects out into the Cook Strait. The land used to be farmed but this wasn’t really viable and now it is being restored to bush and is a wilderness park that can be visited.  About 500 metres out from the cape, an old lighthouse stands on a sunken rock and a very dangerous reef projects about 2km further out into the strait. The pinnacle of this reef is Walker rock which breaks even at high tide.

The passage between the cape and the light house is about 10m deep and the tide really rips through here at about 5-6knots. With the shallow depth and wind against tide there are often overfalls and whirlpools, exciting stuff but it pays to get the tides correct or don’t sail through there.  A few years ago a large liner, the Mikhail Lermontov was wrecked trying to pass through here.  She now lies in 30m of water in Port Gore and is a haven for fish and divers.  Several other large wrecks litter the coast around Cape Jackson, testament to the wild waters in this area. As expected the wind piped up on the way to the Cape and a great sail under double reefed main and genoa furled to about 40% was had in 40knots of breeze.  Being under the lee of the land meant that while the breeze was up, at least the water was flat.  I got the tides correct and a great passage was made through the Cape and out into the open waters of Cook Strait facing the Tasman Sea. Although close hauled we made good time and in two and in three and a half hours were round Alligator head into the protected but chilly (16 degrees C) waters of the Punt rails. The water was very clear with visibility over 50feet.

We picked up the mooring and leaving the burgee fluttering in the now easing breeze set off for a walk up the hills in the afternoon heat.  A one hour climb saw us at the top of alligator head, about 500metres elevation with commanding views over the Cook Strait toward D’urville Island, Allen strait between the mainland and Forsyth Island, and back towards Cape Jackson.

After time to survey the area, a quick forty minute trot back down the hills lead two sweaty humans and one hot dog back to the beach. The only answer was to strip off and go for a skinny dip. After refreshing our bodies in the cool water it was back to the boat for liquid refreshments, in the summer heat it is important to keep one’s fluids topped up so I spent a couple of hours topping up my cider levels before cooking dinner and a bottle of wine. A breathless evening saw us sitting on deck with glass of wine as the full moon rose over the hills and illuminated the black waters around us−just stunning to sit and listen to the bird calls the fish jumping in the moonlight.

Next morning it was up early for breakfast at 0630 hoursand an unintentional swim. I was getting ready to make passage back to Queen Charlotte Sound and was moving the kayak ready to lift it on board. The painter slipped out of my fingers and dropped in the water! The kayak obediently bobbed a few metres behind the boat so I reached for the boat hook. As I did so a breeze sprang up, I cursed fluently in four languages as I hastily peeled my clothes off and dove into the cold water – 16 degrees C at 6:30 AM remember? At this point Neptune began to toy with me and the breeze freshened. Now, being on a mooring the boat of course faces the wind wherever it is coming from, so the kayak skated quickly away from me toward land somewhere in the distance. At least it didn’t head out into Cook Strait! It took me about 250 metres of hard swimming to catch up with it and that’s saying something about its rate of drift as I was a professional lifeguard a few years ago. I hauled myself on board the errant vessel and headed back to the merriment of the crew.

Destination was back to Ship Cove. It was a flat run across Waitui Bay and Port Gore so Genoa only was hoisted as the sea state was sloppy, no crash Gybes please. As Cape Jackson was reached the wind freshened a little and backed to the north so the double reefed main was again pressed into service. This put us on a broad reach and a spectacular passage was had close to the lighthouse at about 7 knots of boat speed plus a little tide under us.  On the Queen Charlotte side of the cape, the wind died so a full main was hoisted but near Ship Cove was dropped again as the wind became gusty and fickle in direction, typical of the sounds. In to Ship Cove and as I picked up the mooring line a huge gust blew in bringing a large swell with it. Bugger this! Off to the other side of the bay, where we picked up a mooring in front of a lovely sandy beach. Again reciprocal rights claimed under the Arizona Sailing Club banner!

A wind change later in the day however sent us scuttling round to Resolution Bay where better shelter was found.   Another hill to climbed, this time part of the Queen Charlotte track.  Elevation around 750 metres with a nice steady walk through some gorgeous native bush with giant tree ferns and palms sharing the canopy with sweet smelling beech trees. Views to die for at the lookout and back to the beach for a paddle to cool off hot feet.

Thursday saw the REAL adventure begin.

We sailed out of Resolution Bay on Friday morning just under Genoa, not much wind but chance to have a relaxing cruise to Endeavour Inlet. Here’s a nice idea I thought “Let’s go to Furneaux Lodge and I’ll take you out for dinner.”  As we passed the heads and back into Queen Charlotte sound the wind filled in a little so up went the main. Sailing is fun; sailing fast is funner. Then It happened. I should have known. A huge squall gust, with embedded williwaws, came screaming down the hillside and across the water at us. I called to Kirsty to drop the main and attempted to round up. To her credit, she got the main part way down before it hit. I estimate the wind at close to 60 knots. Poor little Gypsea was laid on her side and we were pushed sideways through the water at around 5 knots. I reached for the mainsheet, fearful of the sail going in the water and filling, thus holding her down even more. Happily I didn’t have to worry about it as the mainsail blew out near the leech clew, pressure on the sail thus released we came upright and finished dropping the now damaged main. On with the iron topsail and we continued with about half the jib furled. An hour later we picked up a mooring at Furneaux Lodge, flat clam, not a breath of wind.

A quick radio call to Furneaux and they came out in the tender and picked us up for a cup of tea and a cake at the café. This was followed by a nice bushwalk and then beers and steak for dinner!!

Friday we slept in a little before a thankfully quiet and uneventful sail home.

The mainsail has since been repaired and we are ready for our next adventure week sailing in March, destination unknown.

Andy