Written by Gabby Storey
Considered one of the most dangerous and unpredictable waters in the world (at least according to Google), I was pretty nervous to embark on my first offshore sailing adventure across the Cook Strait. But the experienced crew’s reassuring presence put me at ease. I always find their knowledge and expertise really impressive, especially that of the other young wāhine crew that joined us on this trip.
It turned out to be a stunning set of days with light winds and blinding sun. This did make it hard to get out of the harbour at the start as we all became sitting ducks at the will of the wind near the harbour mouth for a good 20 minutes. As we sat there watching a tug boat shift a container ship anchored mid-harbour, all of a sudden, a pod of playful dolphins burst through the water’s surface. I was spellbound, watching them in awe as they swam alongside the boat. But they didn’t stick with us for long since we weren’t making headway.
Once we were out of the harbour and next to Wellington’s South coast the real sailing began. Granted, it was pretty chill even compared to some of the in-harbour rum races and gin series races I had experienced in stormier conditions. The winds were mostly Easterly around 15 knots which made for pretty cruisy cruising with the spinnaker up.
Truthfully, the experienced crew let me tackle a few fun tasks, but when the serious race business started I was able to chill out and watch the pro crew in action as they expertly trimmed the head and main sails to get the most speed. The wind was just strong enough to give us steady speed between 6-12 knots. The real enjoyment began when we caught the waves that propelled us towards our destination, Port Underwood, at about 17 knots. A couple hours in, in the middle of the Cook Strait, we were overtaken by Rascal Racing. We followed them closely for a while, but when the catastrophe of a broken spinnaker hit them, we managed to overtake by a decent margin and be first over the line.
All in all it was an elating experience being out in the open ocean, even if New Zealand’s North and South islands were within view for the entire duration. The backlit mountainous skyline was a sight to see and we had some great music courtesy of Phil’s waterproof speakers. We had some great banter and I gained some awesome experience and learnings I’ll always appreciate. Rafting up with the other boats, sharing stories over dinner and drinks, and watching the sun rise as we voyaged back towards Wellington were also highlights.
As we approached the return shore, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of sadness that the adventure was coming to an end. But I also really wanted to shower and change clothes! I know this was a pretty cruisy introduction to sailing the Cook Strait, but I know that the memories and experiences of this journey will stay with me forever. Plus I have good dolphin stories to share!