#TBT - Stewart Island, New Zealand

Way at the bottom of New Zealand's South Island lies Stewart Island, about 18nm across the Foveaux Strait from the mainland. We had just spent over a month in rugged, isolated Fjordland National Park and rounded Southeast Cape, #2 of our great southern cape adventures. We were looking forward to all we'd heard about the magic of Stewart Island and we weren't disappointed. This blog was written before JALF was ever conceived, so I'm sharing an old SailBlog with you. stewart island map

Feb 2011 – Chased by lion!

Waterlily Bay, Port Pegasus, Stewart Island

We spent the morning chatting with the folks on "Dingo" while David & Jim fixed their outboard motor. It was an absolutely beautiful day with bright sunshine and a clear blue sky. In the afternoon, we decided we'd move Cups to the North Arm of Pegasus Bay and chose Waterlily Bay as our destination...an all-weather anchorage with a cool name. This little anchorage is absolutely stunning. Once again, we lucked out and a sturdy hawser was strung across the head of the bay to be used as a stern tie-up. A lot of kelp here, but no waterlilies in Waterlily Bay that we could find.

Exploring by dinghy, we scooted across the bay to Smuggler's Cove. A fissure in granite slightly wider than the dinghy led back about 50 feet to a tiny sand-beach grotto. The entrance is so narrow that the waves built up coming in and we had to fend ourselves off the rocky sides with our oars and then got a big push up onto the beach. Not much inside...dark and very cool out of the sunshine and most unusual...quite eerie in fact. The thick rain forest had formed a canopy overhead so it seemed more like a cave. Getting back out was a bit of challenge to overcome the incoming waves, but we managed and headed out around a small point up into Basin Creek. Since it was low tide, we made it about half way before it became too shallow. We tied up the dinghy to an exposed rock and immediately began digging for clams. It was thick with them buried in the low-tide sand and we had a bucket in no time.

TBT-Stewart Island bull

As we dug, we could hear roaring. Really, it sounded like a pride of lions at the head of the creek, but we could see nothing. Clam digging complete, we walked further up the creek, the rocky sides now exposed by the low tide. Lolling on the beach before us were about eight large fur seals. Some were sleeping; some rolling in the sand; others apparently at play. A huge bull spotted us and took his responsibility to protect the harem very seriously. With an ear-shattering roar, he charged in our direction, moving amazingly fast for such a large creature. David raised his arms and began clapping, a trick we learned in Antarctica to keep the sea lions at bay. This worked for about a minute. Actually the bull looked somewhat confused (maybe a-mused), then he resumed his charge. David repeated the clapping and the bull stopped once again. We weren't that close actually and didn't feel all that threatened since we thought we could probably outrun a half-ton seal on land...even at our age. As we slowly backed away, the bull would charge, David would clap and finally we evidently passed an invisible territorial border. The bull gave another roar and a snort and pretty much swaggered, as best as fur seals can, back to his women, shouting his own praises all the way. He's probably still regaling them with his brave acts of courage this morning over breakfast.

TBT_Stewart Island bull1

Read more about Stewart Island and New Zealand on our website.

Gentry is encouraging me to complete my e-book about our New Zealand sailing adventures. Look for it late this year or early 2017. Really!