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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1 comment:

April Halprin Wayland said...

Yay, Team GramAndFriendAndBruceAndAlene! Love, April