There to Here – New Zealand's South Island

 Nine of Cups NZ Circumnavigation Route - 2011

Nine of Cups NZ Circumnavigation Route - 2011

 

Spending another year in New Zealand was certainly not a hardship. David’s two big projects, deck repair and mast refurb, were accomplished and with a new mainsail and yankee, we were looking for an extensive celebratory adventure. Our brief time on New Zealand’s South Island the previous year had only whet our imaginations and appetites for more. A circumnavigation of the whole country seemed like a great idea.

 

 

 

 Remnants of Cyclones Vania & Zelia

Remnants of Cyclones Vania & Zelia

 

 

Propelled by not one, but the remnants of two cyclones that dipped further south than forecast, we made our way down the North Island’s west coast across the Cook Strait and into the calm, protected waters of Milford Sound.

 

 

 

 

After one overnight stop to repair the alternator, two days of no wind, two days of light winds in the wrong direction and heaving-to for 15 hours to ride out a gale, we managed to arrive in Milford Sound, Fiordland , in less than record time of one week. But...here we were, happy to have arrived and no worse for the wear.

 A fishing boat at the entrance to Milford Sound

A fishing boat at the entrance to Milford Sound

Milford Sound is known for hikers and lobster. We were able to tie up to a mooring and spent several days enjoying outstanding weather, short hikes and gifts from the local lobstermen, then moved on into New Zealand’s pristine Fiordland. 

Click on the thumbnails below to make them bigger.

 Our Fiordland route

Our Fiordland route

Fiordland, a World Heritage area, is an isolated, desolate and mostly untouched wilderness and as such, it’s absolutely wonderful. We plied the channels and canals of the sounds and fiords. We holed up when the weather went bad … and it did for several days to the tune of 60 knots and several inches of rain. Then we moved on … exploring and appreciating the uniqueness of this primeval hinterland that few have the opportunity to experience. Doubtful Sound, Blanket Bay, Breaksea Sound, Dusky Sound, Wet Jacket Arm … just the names themselves elicit appeal.

 

With our trusty Fiordland Boatie's Guide to provide insight and direction, we continued south, finally arriving in Preservation Inlet, the southernmost fiord. We found refuge from a storm in Isthmus Bay. While there, we had a memorable encounter at anchor on a stormy, foggy night with the local fairy prions, a member of the petrel family.

 We heard knocking on the ports and activity in the cockpit. Several fairy prions had been attracted to our anchor light and then become confused when they landed.

We heard knocking on the ports and activity in the cockpit. Several fairy prions had been attracted to our anchor light and then become confused when they landed.

 David had to wrap each prion in a towel and turn them loose overboard. We watched to see them fly off once they became acclimated to their surroundings and got their bearings.

David had to wrap each prion in a towel and turn them loose overboard. We watched to see them fly off once they became acclimated to their surroundings and got their bearings.

More Fiordland ... check out our Fiordland web page.

 With a clear weather window, we rounded South West Cape at dawn.

With a clear weather window, we rounded South West Cape at dawn.

 Solander Island heading for Stewart Island

Solander Island heading for Stewart Island

Heading for the shelter and protected anchorages of glorious Stewart Island, we made out way into Port Pegasus which is not actually a port or a town, just a named entrance. We worked our way from one beautiful anchorage to another gorgeous anchorage, exploring, fishing, eating local shellfish and just enjoying ourselves in such a pristine, interesting environment. We did have a few encounters with the local sea lions, however.

 This fellow wanted to play, but became a bit too aggressive for our comfort level.

This fellow wanted to play, but became a bit too aggressive for our comfort level.

 This bull charged and roared when we approached just a little too closely to his harem.

This bull charged and roared when we approached just a little too closely to his harem.

 Glorious Golden Bay - Stewart Island, NZ

Glorious Golden Bay - Stewart Island, NZ

The local waters teemed with fish. We also collected mussels and a few scallops. Though isolated, there are several hiking trails in the area and we enjoyed wandering around. There were whaling stations located here in the past and remnants of the stations still remained.

It was late February and we hadn’t been in a town, supermarket, store nor restaurant since early January, so arriving in Stewart Island’s only town of Oban (and a tiny town it is) was quite the occasion. We stocked up on provisions, ate out for lunch, walked along the foreshore and visited the tiny museum. It was a pleasure being back in “civilization” for a few days.

 The harbour in Oban, Stewart Island

The harbour in Oban, Stewart Island

We weren’t quite prepared for our arrival in Dunedin, however, a lovely, but very large city on the South Island mainland. It took us a day or two to get back into the swing of things with much socializing and frequent visitors.

There was lots to do in this university town dubbed the “Edinburgh of the South”. We visited museums, took train rides, walked, explored. We gave presentations to the local yacht club and were interviewed by the local newspaper. Wow … who would have figured that an American boat in Dunedin would be so popular and welcome?

Renting a car for a week in Dunedin allowed us to visit the local area including Invercargill and Bluff in the far south … home of Henry, the tuatara and “the world’s fastest Indian”.

 

By the way, if you've never seen The World's Fastest Indian, it's a great flick.

 

 

 

 

Our land travels also included the Catlins to the south and a fun visit with cruising friends in Oamaru to the north of Dunedin. Betsy is an American physician and she practiced a year as a “locum tenens” doc in New Zealand and we had the opportunity to visit with her and Richard and enjoy their hospitality.

As usual, the season was progressing much too quickly for us and autumn had already begun. The original plan was to hop along the South Island coast and then head north and back to Opua for the winter. On impulse, we opted for a sidetrip to the Chatham Islands, about 500nm east of Christchurch in the South Pacific.

 Our route to the windy Chatham Islands

Our route to the windy Chatham Islands

Oh, my … what a trip and what a visit. Windy is an understatement … we were nearly blown away, but what we did have the opportunity to see and experience was outstanding. Like many other isolated islands we’ve visited, the Chatham Islanders are welcoming, self-reliant and independent. We enjoyed interacting with the islanders and taking advantage of their warm hospitality.

Getting back to the mainland North Island was easier said than done. We encountered adverse winds and currents and a storm off the infamous East Cape during which we suffered our one and only knock-down, sustaining some minor damage to Cups and roughing up the crew a bit. We were grateful to finally head back into the calm and protection of Opua Bay to make repairs. After 18 months in New Zealand, it was time to prepare for our departure.

Next up? Come with us to Fiji!