Sunday, January 29, 2012

Milford and George Sound

Hello from George Sound in Fiordland. We departed Milford yesterday after a short but memorable visit.

Our entry to Milford was an auspicious one as we ducked into the sound just before a front crossed from south to north. Fronts in the higher latitudes of the South Pacific typically come from the NW with rain, and turn to the SW, with clearing. It blows from the west for a time as it backs to the SW, and this is where our entry became interesting.

For sailors who come behind us, it should be noted that there is a constriction in the fiord 1/4 of the way into the sound, at Dale Point, where the fiord takes a dog-leg left from north to east. The glacial cliffs also rise abruptly at this point - and we were just through this westerly constriction as the front passed. While we expected some protection from the strong north-westerlies we experienced outside, Turgen, a local tourboat skipper, told us that the narrow middle portion will accelerate strong westerlies as a front passes, and we were both in the zone as that occurred; he was captaining a large 200 passenger sightseeing vessel. I will refrain from "fish tales", but suffice it to say that there were powerful gusts and rain that obscured the cliffs to port and starboard. Turgen was forced to make an unscheduled stop at a mid sound mooring in Harrison Cove as windshield wipers blew off his windows, and passengers were panicking. His maximum gust recorded was 93 knots.

We were fortunate to have a strong crew and an even stronger boat - we fared well. We have truly enjoyed Bruce and Alene's presence aboard, but never more as the five of us kept our course, navigated, and communicated with fisherman and port control to gain some local knowledge. We were told that the Deepwater Basin remained still and calm, and Kim, a skipper of one of the small passenger ferries, offered to lead us through the pass into the basin. By the time we entered, it too was rather frothy. Kim led us to a mooring in the very south east corner of the basin - by the Pilot boat, but the strong gusts made pick up difficult. We then tried the "anchorage" in the south west corner. This was tricky as it was hard to nail the right spot to drop, allowing proper depth and location. We tried once and let 390' of chain down. We finally went back, waited for the right moment, and picked up the large and safe mooring. Bliss. We were swinging only a boat length from shore, and confirmed 60' depth with our hand held sounder.

As for communication, tour boats and port control monitor VHF ch 14, and fisherman typically use ch 66 and (primarily) 67. Our third contact was Ash (and partner Katy) at the Fiordland Lobster Company. Ash facilitated communication with Kim and monitors ch 62. Wharfage (rough) is available, as is diesel.

Once comfortably moored, we marveled at the scenery. We were literally surrounded by waterfalls, and counted over 200 sightings on the way in. Rimmed by 1600 meter sheer granite cliffs, magical and misty are the sounds in the rain. Fortuitously, the following day was dry and sunny, and after making the boat shipshape, we explored "downtown" Milford Sound, and walked to the massive Bowens Falls. Rain returned the next day. We accomplished many indoor projects, and went ashore to thank Ash and Katy. They reciprocated in kind with tasty gifts, a Fiordland book, and a dozen frozen barracuda heads to use as crayfish bait. We were later joined by Bruce and Alene's friend Kirsty who works at Mitre Peak Lodge. Kirsty comes from a family of cruisers, and arrived with gifts of fresh fruit and breads. Clearly experienced!

Although another day or two in Milford would have been ideal ((to do more exploring and tramp the end of the famed Milford Track) , weather windows dictated yesterdays departure. We had a 25 nautical mile upwind motor (mainsail up for roll control) and had a calm entry into George Sound. The fiords are all different. Milford was remarkable for it's sheer granite cliffs and incredible falls. George is not quite as steep, but is more forested (bush in Kiwi speak). Equally beautiful, although perhaps not quite as dramatic.

Today should be pleasant, but another front is coming tonight and we have chosen to lie in the Alice Falls Anchorage at the end of the south east arm. We are situated in a 1/4 mile basin with 300 degrees protection. There are shore tie-ups available, and we have a 6 point tie including bow anchor, 2 bow breast lines, two stern quarter lines, and a stern line. This anchorage has bouys astern to bring ships lines to, and polypro shore lines hung on trees for bow lines. We dropped the dinghy and B&A first checked out the situation and then ran lines ashore. Stern line goes aft to a set of triple of bouys, and quarter lines tie to rings midway down the lines as they go ashore. We chose to tie our port stern line directly to a tree on the bank, and brought our own port bowline to shore as well, as the shore line looked worn.

We are well set up in our hurricane hole for potential 40 knot winds tomorrow. Mean while, Alice Falls descends directly into our basin, there is not a ship for 25 miles, and we have our crayfish pot out while B&A scavenge for mussels and fish for blue cod. We will hike (tramp) the falls later.

All is well.


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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Likely last cell reception

Off fox glacier

Our last evening falls and we are also seeing the likely end of cell reception for a month. We will stll be posting my say phone but unlikely to add any pictures till we get back to civilization. Seas are staring to build from the southern ocean low which has slowed us a bit. Hopefully the wind will clock to the west soon and we can make some miles under sail as opposed to the upwind motoring we have been dooming for 2 days.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Heading south along the west side of South Island day 2

42 22 54S/170 47 70 E
South Pacific Ocean
Off Greymouth, NZ
Winds 10 - 13 knots SW
Course 189 Mag
Speed 7.7 knots

There is no shelter along this rugged coast, and once you pass Farewell Cape, the passage is 320 miles to Milford Sound. We left Tasman Bay with a reasonable weather window, but also with the knowledge that we wanted to be in the sound by Thursday evening, 60 hours after departure (late Wednesday nite for you east coasters) , as a low would pass from the south. After a pleasant motor up Tasman Bay, our encounter with Farewell Spit and Cape was again quite memorable for winds and waves in excess of the forecast. Lumpy 4-6 foot and close spaced square waves provided over 24 hours of rock and roll until we got far away enough from the South Island's north face to leave land effects behind. Crew remained happy and quite comfortable though, as Bruce, Aline and rest of the crew enjoyed the wonders of the pilot house. Johanna was prepared, and had made dinner earlier in the day - so we were able to feast on a baked pasta dinner with white cheese sauce and smoked chicken - devoured in deep offshore bowls of course.

Today has seen the wind and seas settle. Wind is still by the bow, so do we continue to motor sail in order to make good time and keep on schedule. Winds will clock around to the west and NW late tonite, and we should have speedy sailing and a timely arrival in 24 - 26 hours or so. We will send next update tomorrow morning.


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A bit Grey

18 miles off. Greymouth

A bit grey but getting a nice lift off Greymouth as we hug the coast on our way south. More from Bill soon.

Wind finally as forecast

41 15.0 s 171 25.3 e

We have finally gotten away from the significantly higher than forecast wind we saw around farewell spit. Effectively back on schedule and motoring into 8 to 10 knots as planned. Not ideal conditions but not too bad by any means.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fish on

Farewell spit

Just caught a beautiful albacore tuna. Grilled tuna for lunch. Yum!

Our supercrew

Joining us and spoiling us completely are Bruce and Alene from Migration (http:\\

Bound for Fjordland

We have just left Abel Tasman bound for Milford Sound. Weather this morning is beautiful once again. A few more clouds in the sky today but still crisp a bit cool and very sunny. Weather looks reasonably good for the trip though we will have to motor most of the way there. Hopefully the winds will stay as light as forecast and it will be an easy trip. Should be in Thursday evening. We do now have satellite Internet so we will be posting updates as we go.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A crazy last few hours

Abel Tasman. South island. New Zealand

Bill and I were having a fabulous afternoon hand steering the boat in 20 to 25 doing 10 to 12 knots and loving it. All was well and good till we got to to farewell spit and suddenly had 40 knots. The boat rounded up and the rudder stalled and there wasn't anything I could do about it so we started the engine and quickly reduced sail from full main, jib, and staysail to quad reefer main and just the staysail. It want pretty but all was ok. We then sailed across golden bay under these handkerchiefs still doing 10 knots in 35 knots of wind.

Got into the anchorage just as the last of the light was fading at about 9:30 and had 25 knots till we really tucked in behind a big cliff. Good news is we are safe and comfortable with just 5 knots of breeze in the anchorage. Staying up to help out friends Paikea Mist come into the anchorage in the dark as they were a few hours behind us.

Tomorrow we pick up Bruce and Ailene from migrations who will be joining us for a few weeks as we head to Milford and doubtful sounds.

Coming into Abel Tasman

15 miles north of Farewell Spit

Great passage. Mostly quite calm though this afternoon it has been a spirited ride downwind in 25-30 knots with some higher gusts. Hit 12.4 knots at one point. Hand steering as the autopilots are having trouble with how much sail area we have up but we are trying to get anchored before it gets dark.

First night out

35 38.9s 172 19.4e
03:00 18 January 2012

First night offshore in quite a while and all is well. We got around cape Rienga with favorable current though that did mean wind against tide and some fairly steep seas. Current is now a bit on the nose though not too strong and of course our destination is dead upwind. We are motor sailing in the light head breezes hoping the wind backs as forecast and we can start sailing for real soon. Pikea mist has been about 7 miles off our stbd bow for hours now so it is nice to have some company out here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

En route to Abel Tasman

Cape Rienga, New Zealand

Just departed north end of the north island bound for golden bay in the Abel Tasman area which is in the north east corner of the south island. We will be without Internet till we arrive but will post when safe and sound. We do have 2 other boats within short range we are talking to by radio heading the same way. Weather window looks quite good and the boat is fully stocked and ready for the trip. Once there we will get our sat phone working before we head into the civilization abyss of Fjordland. Should arrive late Thursday local time.