How about cruising Fiordland in your sailing yacht? Sure thing!
Paul and his crew on Vendetta did just that, starting their adventure with the race to Nelson on the 19th Jan. The four of them – Paul, Bridget, Owen and John – completed the race late Saturday afternoon and picked up a fifth crew in Nelson – me – before heading off and leaving choppy Tasman Bay. A note from the helmsman at the time mentioned that the cheesecake served after dinner was excellent. The 2 hour shifts were started and every crew had 8 hours off in between watches to relax, sleep, eat and be merry.
On Sunday morning we approached Farewell Spit and shortly after passing the Cape the first dolphins of the trip greeted us. With excellent weather but not a lot of breeze progress was made under motor or motorsailing and whenever possible under sail alone. Needless to say, the motor got a good workout along the coast, and so did our limited supply on T-Shirts and shorts – most of our thermals and warm layers stayed tucked away in our bags for the whole trip.
The trip down the West Coast was spent looking out for wildlife such as whales (seen one group in the distance), dolphins which joined us every now and then, Albatrosses and other birds as well as sun bathing, sailing, motoring, motor-sailing, contemplating lunch and dinner options and solving crosswords. And oh yes, repairing the toilet – thanks Paul and John! The mostly calm sea, great weather and entertaining company made for a very relaxing trip. Sitting on the bow, overlooking the endless, dark blue waters under a perfectly blue sky was an experience I won’t forget.
Around lunchtime on Thursday, 4.5 days after leaving Nelson, we entered Doubtful Sounds in pouring rain, just to ensure all the waterfall were on display in full glory for us. By the time we reached Blanket Bay the sun was out again and dolphins were playing around in the water. Soon after we anchored a local fishing boat approached us and dropped off five crays. Together with the tuna caught offshore on the same day, dinner was sorted. It was a perfect welcome to stunning Fiordland and the start of an even more amazing part of our trip. While Milford Sound is certainly impressive and beautiful, I wasn’t prepared for the beauty, abundance of big and small islands, coves, bays and the massive scale awaiting us in Doubtful, Breaksea and Dusky Sound.
Next day we made our way to Breaksea Sound, where we stayed for a night in Second Cove followed by Sunday Cove (on Sunday) before heading to Pickersgill Harbour. Sailing through Acheron Passage on the way there with a great breeze on the nose was an awesome experience and Paul was pleased to save some diesel. Once we anchored up and put our sand-fly defense system up, Owen caught us a massive cray (next to Crayfish Island) for dinner. It was also the first time on the trip we went ashore – what a funny feeling! A short stroll to Astronomer’s Point allowed us to stretch our legs for a bit. And while we haven’t seen many other humans or boats, the three kayaks from Wellington visited us aboard Vendetta this evening and picked up some goodies Paul brought along for them.
With the weather forecast not looking very flash due to cyclone Fehi we picked Shark Cove as the place to be until the the worst was over. A short detour via Luncheon Cove (for lunch) with another on-shore getting-lost experience and seal watching set us up for some more great sailing along Long Island and Cooper Island before heading into Shark Cove for a three-night stint. Needless to say, the weather turned foul and the wind gusts together with the heavy rain kept us awake during the night. Good that we had a varied selection of movies to choose from and after some rearranging of TV and speaker systems everyone was happy with their point of view. Luckily the weather improved and we moved Vendetta to Cooper Bay for the next two nights, which were also the last ones (aboard) for this crew. On Saturday the 3rd the new crew (Chris, Brenda and Sherwin) arrived with fresh supplies by chopper in Supper Cove and the four of us got picked up. The 20min flight back to Te Anau was just another incredible highlight on top of two amazing weeks spent on Vendetta.
People ask me ‘So, what did you do all day long?”. Well, it was one of the most relaxing trips I ever made. Moving the boat from one anchorage to another and setting the stern-lines etc did take most of the day, but then we also went snorkeling, fishing and kayaking. Lots of reading was done, we played cards, watched some movies, chatted, had a drink, cooked… You forget about shorelife very quickly as you take in the beauty of the surrounding, the vastness of the ocean or the majestic mountains rising above the tanned water in the Sounds, the sound of the waves, breeze and occasional bird song. Hands down a truly amazing experience – with a bit of planning this might be your next holiday trip?
Check out some more photos here.
More will follow from the second and third part of the trip (Dusky to Milford, Milford to Wellington) later on. In the meantime you can check out where Vendetta currently is using the tracker below: http://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Vendetta