Our Current Position

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Mussels, Driftwood and Williwaws

It’s been a quiet week on X-Pat. We have spent the week cruising around Pelorus and then Kenepuru Sounds, anchoring in secluded bays and basically chilling out.

A quiet moment

We have visited Cissy and Fairy Bays in Pelorus Sound and then around to Double Bay and St Omer Bay in Kenepuru Sound. Many of the bays are filled with mussel farms producing green-lipped mussels. This is a major industry in the area, producing thousands of tonnes of mussels a year, which are exported to over 50 countries.

Driftwood and Mussel Farms
Forestry is another key industry in the area and many of the steep slopes around the sounds are planted with trees. This has been a contentious issue as there is significant sediment run off from the slopes, which impacts the marine environment.

The bays which we have visited have generally had a sparse scattering of houses, many of which seem to be holiday homes or guest houses. This is a beautiful area to have a very quiet holiday, looking out over the sounds and doing not very much.

We have had a few nice walks when we have been able to get ashore. Many of the beaches are covered in driftwood, presumably the remains from trees which have escaped the chain saw and slid down into the sea. The sea and sand has smoothed them into beautiful shapes and the temptation is to collect a few, but we have resisted.

A view from the top across Cissy Bay
Bushfire control 

Debi has been keeping fit with her 45 minute swimming routine, albeit in a wetsuit as the water is about 19 degrees celcius. Pat has been fishing regularly and so far has caught absolutely nothing. Something is different about fishing in these sounds and we’re not sure what it is! Pat did manage to harvest some mussels from an old mooring line and so we had those one evening in a white wine and garlic sauce. Culinary standards remain high on X-Pat.

The weather here is variable and very localised. Finding a sheltered anchorage has proved to be a challenge as the wind seems to rarely come from the direction stated in the forecast. One minute it is completely still and the next minute a williwaw (blast of wind) comes rushing down a nearby mountain and out across the water, causing X-Pat to strain at the anchor. After our experience of dragging last week we are a little nervous, but are confident we have found a good spot here in St Omer Bay, to shelter from the gale force southerly which is forecasted for tomorrow.

Stormy Sky
Double Bay, Kenepuru Sound

The wreck of the Amokura, St Omer Bay

Once the winds die down we plan to leave Kenepuru and Pelorus Sounds early next week and head around Cape Jackson and into Queen Charlotte Sound.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

A very busy week

It’s been a busy week. We left our Adele Island anchorage last Saturday and headed across Tasman Bay in very little wind to Nelson. We should have had good views of the mountains to the south but these were completely obscured by the smoke from the bushfires, which have enveloped Pigeon Valley, just south of Nelson.

We arrived into the marina around 1330 and headed off into the city (20 mins walk) to explore. Nelson really is a nice place, with lots of good food, craft beer and arts and crafts shops. We explored the shops, had a nice meal and sampled some very good craft beer at the Free House pub, which is in an old church. There were many beers on offer and it took considerable self-control to leave and not stay there all afternoon!

All tied up in Nelson Marina

Street dining, Nelson style

On Sunday we had lazy start and then headed into Nelson for more exploration. We visited a Sunday market full of bric-a-brac and books. There’s certainly plenty of recycling going on in Nelson. We watched one young lad buy a pan for gold panning, off to make his fortune no doubt. We then headed up to the cathedral, which was built in the 19th century and sits on a hilltop looking back over the main street. The cathedral grounds are filled with some very impressive old trees, some of which are as old as the cathedral. Then we headed down to the museum to find out more about the history of Nelson and read some of the stories about previous inhabitants and also walked around an impressive exhibition on Permian monsters, the predecessors to the dinosaurs.

Nelson Cathedral

Back on board X-Pat, we had Mike and Karen (SV True Companions) and Fleur who is a local yachtswoman and member of the “Women who Sail” group, which Debi and Karen also belong to.  As is often the case, the wine and beer just slipped down and before we knew it Karen was throwing bubbly all over the boat as if we were doing a relaunch!

Feeling slightly subdued the next morning, Pat borrowed a bike from Mike and Debi hired one and we set off to, would you believe it, go wine tasting. Debi chose some distant winery and off we went along wonderful coastal cycle paths to the Seifried winery. Cycling along the side of the mudflats here gave a real appreciation of the wonderful estuarine habitat that exists here. In places it was flanked by some industrial development including a big wood processing factory and a recycling centre and yet the environment was pristine.

On yer bike!

Having sampled seven of Seifried’s best and discovered that they no longer did lunch we headed back towards Nelson feeling hungry, sore and a bit tipsy. We eventually got back to a country pub, which goes by the dubious name of “The Honest Lawyer”. Food and beer were both sampled and both good! We left to find our next stretch of the coastal cycle route was heading into a strong northerly wind, which slowed progress but we eventually arrived at our next stop, “The Boat Shed” for cocktails! Sitting out over the water and watching the yachts sail by we contemplated whether we would be able to walk the next day having cycled 52km. It was a quiet evening.

On Tuesday we hired a car with Mike and Karen and headed off to Collingwood, about two hours west of Nelson. We stopped at Te Waikoropupu Springs on the way. These springs discharge an amazing 14,000 litres of crystal clear water per second, making them the largest natural springs in the southern hemisphere. The flow rate apparently fluctuates twice daily with the tides, even though they are 50m above sea level. It was all we could do to stop Mike going for a swim.

The beautiful clear waters at Te Waikoropupu Springs
Once in Collingwood we checked into our motel and then did a quick trip to Wharariki Beach for some very windy sundowners. Thank you Fleur for the recommendation! This all took a bit longer than expected and it was 8pm before we wandered into a local restaurant called MAD which was all about sustainable living.  The d├ęcor and food were very interesting and, even though the place was supposed to have stopped serving, the very kind proprietor said they’d feed us.  It was a delicious meal.

A windy Wharariki Beach

We stayed overnight in Collingwood and the next morning, were up early for a tour of Farewell Spit. The natural sand spit is around 30km long and forms the northern shore of Golden Bay. We were driven in a 4WD bus mainly on the north shore of the spit, which comprises sand dunes exposed to the Tasman sea. The material that forms the spit is apparently eroded from the southern highlands and is swept up the west coast by the current. We headed out to the lighthouse, which we had used as reference on our approach into Tasman Bay a week ago. When it was built in 1897 the lighthouse was at the end of the spit, but the spit has now extended more than 8 km to the east of the lighthouse.

Farewell Spit Lighthouse

As the tide turned we headed back to the west and stopped to climb the sand dunes. This gave us a great opportunity to look south and see the very different environment on the south side of the spit. The very shallow nature of Golden Bay combined with a tidal range of over 4m means that when the tide goes out it really goes out. At times it can recede 7km and exposes around 80 square kilometres of mud flats. This is a fantastic feeding ground for wading birds including thousands of Godwits. However it also creates a trap and whale strandings are a common occurrence here.

80 square kilometres of feeding grounds for waders

Some mad people up a dune
Cape Farewell, the most northerly point on South Island

Back in Nelson, Thursday was spent doing provisioning and cleaning ready for our departure once again. We set off on Friday morning and headed north-east through French’s Pass between D’Urville Island and the mainland and anchored in Deep Bay for the night. The bay lived up to its name but we managed to anchor in about 17m of water in the northern corner of the bay.

Heading through French's Pass

Unfortunately a wind change occurred overnight and we were woken at 0400hrs by our anchor alarm. A quick check of the instruments indicated that were had dragged our anchor and were close to the shore. The depth now read 3.5m! We started the engine and headed back into the middle of the bay in the pitch dark and reset the anchor. We then sat for an hour and watched nervously as the boat swung around the bay in the gusts. When we swung back towards the beach and the depth again dropped to below 4m we decided it was time to leave so we picked our way out the bay between the marine farms and headed for Pelorus Sound in some very gusty (35kts) conditions.

We are now safely anchored in a very nice sheltered area called Ketu Bay and just chilling out. Dragging anchor was a first for us and we don’t want to repeat it!

Friday, 8 February 2019

Tasman Bay at Last

Well after what feels like multiple attempts we have finally made it to South Island. We departed early last Saturday from the Bay of Islands Marina, but as we motored out into the bay we realised that the alternator was not charging at all. So after some debate we pulled into a sheltered bay and dropped anchor to investigate. 

There was nothing obvious, but having just changed the regulator and having spent an hour on Whatsapp chatting to one of Ash’s friends, Cam, who is a whiz on all things electrical, we became convinced it was the alternator that was the problem. 

The offending alternator

We contemplated giving up on heading to South Island and instead heading down the east coast to Marsden Cove, where we knew there was a good electrician who we trusted. But, that all seemed a bit defeatist and so, not without some trepidation, Pat decided to change out the alternator for the spare one. It took about three hours and some mildly blue language, but by midday it was done and seemed to work. So at 1230 we hauled anchor and set off north for Cape Reinga.

We had good winds to start with and sailed out of the Bay of Islands beautifully. However, it soon died off and we ended up motoring until about 0400. As we rounded the Cape the winds started to pick up in true Tasman Sea style. 

Harry the Hydrovane steering us down the west coast of New Zealand

We headed down the west coast and were able to maintain a direct course all of the way to Tasman Bay, with the wind on our beam or just behind the beam for much of the way. After two days we ran into the centre of a high and very light winds which meant that the engine came on for about 24 hours. It’s annoying being on the engine but does give us a rest from living at an angle.

As we crossed over the 40 degree latitude the roaring forties lived up to their reputation and the wind built from force 2 to force 6 gusting force 7. We furled away the headsail and had one reef in the new mainsail which performed very well in these conditions, driving us along at 7 knots although this was not really what we needed on our final night at sea! 

We arrived in Tasman Bay at around midnight and once in the shelter of Farewell Spit the sea state improved and eventually the wind eased. We headed into our anchorage in Torrent Bay extremely carefully as it was very dark and it was hard to work out all the lights. With Pat on the bow with the searchlight and Debi helming we managed to avoid  a number of unlit buoys and dropped anchor at 0400, 3 days and 16 hours after departing from the Bay of Islands. The champagne came out and we celebrated our arrival. On reflection the trip went well and the weather was pretty much as forecast, except for the last 12 hours!

At 0730 we were delay awakened to the sound of someone shouting “ X-Pat, X-Pat”. It turned out that Torrent Bay is a very popular tourist destination, with water taxis and commercial tour operators bringing people into the bay daily to walk and kayak. We were anchored in the middle of the main channel for these vessels! It was no big deal and we just hauled anchor and moved a few hundred meters out of the way and then went back to bed!

Having recovered over the rest of Wednesday and had a good nights sleep, on Thursday we inflated the dinghy and went off to explore Abel Tasman National Park. This a beautiful coastal park with lots of native bush and wildlife. We had a nice walk to Pitt Head and then across to Pukatea Bay. We walked along the beach here and to our amazement found a completely plastic free beach! Despite some fairly close inspection along the tideline there was no plastic to be found. Our experience over the last two years has shown that this is almost unheard of, but was nice to see. 

A plastic free beach at Pukatea Bay

We continued our walk heading for Watering Cove and then back to Torrent Bay. We managed to identify a few birds including the Western Weka, the Silvereye and a very friendly Pied Fantail. As we have seen in much of New Zealand, the authorities are waging war against what are regarded as non native species and the bush was littered with traps aimed at killing invasive rodents. There was even a stand of pine trees which had been killed as they are regarded as invasive.

Intrepid explorer and a view over Torrent Bay, Abel Tasman

The Anchorage at Torrent Bay is a busy beach during the day
Returning to the busy beach where we had left our dinghy we headed across Torrent Bay to the Torrent Bay hamlet which sits on a lovely sheltered inlet. Motoring over the shallow water here we saw two huge rays swimming below us.

Exploring the sheltered Inlet in Torrent Bay

This morning (Friday) we left Torrent Bay and had a short motor around to Adele Island. This is a conservation island where they have managed to kill off all the rats and re-introduced a number of rare birds. We had planned to investigate in the dinghy but the wind has been blowing 28 knots in our so called “sheltered anchorage “ so we’ve given up on that idea.

Thankfully the wind has died down now, just in time for sundowners!

Friday, 1 February 2019

Return to Base

Well that didn’t go according to plan at all. Basically we left on Monday and got about three hours north of Waitepipi Bay when we managed to catch the headsail sheet in the forward hatch and ripped the handle off also breaking the Perspex. It would appear that the hatch wasn’t properly closed and Pat didn’t notice that the lazy sheet was tight as he cranked on the active sheet. Hey ho!

The Broken Hatch

We decided it was unwise to head off around the west coast of North Island with no way of sealing the forward cabin and so we turned around and headed back to Waitepipi Bay for the night. There was an air of disappointment onboard and the mood really tested our ability to stick with dry January, but we managed to remain controlled.

On Tuesday we headed back down to Opua and back into the marina. We had to motor the whole way as there was negligible wind, but Pat did catch a 4kg tuna on the way, so that was a positive. However, on the negative side we had a return of our alternator woes on the way back.

After arriving at around 2pm we had a frantic rush around to try to get the various trades people lined up to help us. We were grateful to friends who advised us to use Graeme Rigden at Opua Boatbuilders to repair the hatch. He did a very efficient job and the hatch is now reinstalled and looking good. We also managed to get an awkward puncture in our dinghy floor repaired. Pat had tried twice to fix it but it was on a seam and kept leaking.

The new hatch
On the not so positive side, Pat spent a large part of the week trying to diagnose electrical problems. After much reading of the Balmar manuals, countless voltage and continuity readings and discussions with local electricians, who weren’t actually available to come and look, we concluded that the regulator was at fault. A new one was ordered and arrived today and Pat duly fitted it. It made no difference  at all! So we still have intermittent charging from the engine but we have alternative means of charging and so will live with the problem for now whilst we wait on some suggestions from Balmar.

Our stay here has at least allowed us to stock up on provisions, do some laundry and have a few showers. Debi has also been for a few runs to keep the fitness up. We plan to set off again tomorrow for Tasman Bay. The winds look slightly better than on Monday and so hopefully we will have an uneventful trip this time. The other piece of good news is that it’s the 1st February so dry January is over!!!!! Cheers

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