Thursday, February 28, 2019

Oban (Stewart Island)

[Kyle]The howling wind stopped just before sunrise, so we upped anchor and headed to Golden Bay, the anchorage on the backside of Stewart Island’s only town of Oban.

We had planned to base ourselves there for the whole time we were in Paterson Inlet, but the previous two days’ winds had conspired against us, so we had to settle for the one day. We wanted to see the town and all, but we were really hoping to meet up with Dave and Ken before the Round New Zealand race set off again the next day. When Dave first told us about the race, we had assumed we would be tucked up in some cove in Fiordland while the fleet sailed by thirty miles away. We were so thrilled to discover that we were both converging on Oban and would be there at the same time.

It was good that we only spent one day in Golden Bay. It turned out to not be the best of anchorages. The holding is not so good and there is only room outside of the mooring field for one boat. As usual, we were the only one around, so it was us. Golden Bay is where the water taxis to Ulva Island pickup and drop off and the wake situation as a result is pretty horrible. One guy in particular seemed to make a point of speeding by unnecessarily close and fast each time. I don’t know if he was trying to send us some kind of message or if he was just an oblivious idiot, probably a little of each, but in the short time that we were aboard that day, I decided the thing I wanted most in the world was a live torpedo. If we ever need a water taxi to get from Oban to Ulva, we won't take the blue guy, he’s a menace.

After we’d managed to somehow get ashore in the dinghy without being flipped, we did our best to walk the long way into town along as many of the trails as we could manage. We were moseying along, listening to the Tuis doing their one-bird orchestra and looking for some of the other endemic species when I noticed something large headed straight at Maryanne. It was flying through the tunnel cleared through the thick undergrowth by the path. When it passed half a wingspan over her head, I realized it was a Kaka, one of the local parrot species! By the time I lifted my phone to take a photo, it was whooshing over my head. I spun around and it had disappeared into the foliage, leaving behind a wake of screeches and whistles. It was a brief encounter, but that made my day. I’ve been hoping to see a New Zealand parrot since we left the North Island, but it has been too thick, rainy and buggy to find any. Later on, we found another one climbing around in a tree in the distance.

We huffed our way to the top of the ridge separating Golden Bay from Oban, where it curved around Halfmoon Bay. From up there, we could see the tiny town and a long way beyond. The bay was filled with fishing boats on mooring balls as well as a few local sail and tour boats. After we walked down to the water, we were able to spot the boats in the Round New Zealand fleet.

We got hold of Dave, who was busy on his boat, and we agreed to meet for drinks later. That gave us time for more hiking, the museum, lunch at the pub and even a movie, narrated by the local dog/movie star, who sounds suspiciously Australian. One of the nice local touches at the theater was a pile of crocheted blankets on a seat at the entrance for those who get a little cold.

We met up with Dave, and he kindly took a picture of the two of us together (a rare event)
The dog is Lola, who rings the bell at the local cinema (Bunkhouse Theatre) once the movie is ready to show.

We met up with Dave and Ken after all of that and got caught up with all of the news since we last saw each other at Kawau Island. Dave was surprisingly upbeat about his experience with the Round New Zealand race. Unlike the race participants, we’ve been able to pick our weather windows and stop for sightseeing. Begonia is also better appointed with creature comforts than the spartan race boats, yet he had a smile on his face as he talked about trying to sleep in a storm during his off watch while cold sea water dripped on him. The race organizers (including Ken, hence his Favorite Son status on Dave’s race application – Ken penciled it in between ‘my’ and ‘son’) had done a good job of setting up the participants with local host families during their stop. They all had warm beds, hot showers, laundry machines and home cooking to fortify them for the next leg while shore crews tended to the boats.

Dave and Ken had race stuff to attend to, so we set off to hike the rest of the town’s trails on the meandering trip back to Golden Bay. One last pass by the blue guy convinced me to leave to anchor for the night in Sydney Bay off Ulva Island.

On leaving Golden Bay, we lifted anchor to find this seahorse attached to our chain.
He wasn't happy about being removed, but we gently unpeeled him and returned him to the water
(fingers crossed he's doing fine)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Whaler’s Base – Paterson Inlet (Stewart Island)

[Kyle]After our adventure in Adventure, we sailed the short distance up Stewart Island’s east coast to Paterson Inlet, near the main (and only) town of Oban.

It was a bit on the cool side, but other than that, we had a very pleasant sail the whole way, threading our way among the islands in between. When we got to Paterson, we skipped the anchorage near the town and headed for Whaler’s Base. Another big blow was on its way and it offered better protection than Golden Bay, by Oban.

We find a flock of Royal Spoonbills roosting nearby

The wind was already increasing when we arrived, but it was still mild enough that we decided to venture out and do some sightseeing before it arrived in earnest.

We landed on the beach near the remains of the old whaling station. It had a few foundations, a slipway, an old boiler and several big propellers which had been swapped out when they were damaged by Antarctic ice.

A well marked and well tended path ran up into the woods. We joined it and had a nice walk through the forest to a beach on the other side. It had a raised walkway to an island, the far end of which had a pier for offloading day trippers. They then follow the trail to the base on our end.

Enjoying a trip ashore (The bird is the New Zealand Tui - very common and with lovely vocalizations

On the beach, we found several very fresh deer prints, but never saw an actual animal. There was a shelter there, where tour groups ostensibly meet, that had a big tree swing out front. Well, I had to give that a go!

On the return walk, we took our time enjoying all of the little sights and sounds of the forest. There were lots of Tuis around. I just can’t get enough of them. They are all of the noises of the forest in one bird! I have no idea how they manage to make multiple noises at once. They each sound like three R2-D2s having a heated discussion.

While we were having fun trying to spot the source of the Tui noises, we passed through a grove of trees that was home to dozens of little Fantails all flitting about. They are wonderfully animated and gregarious little birds. We decided to sit for a while and were soon surrounded by lots of chattering showoffs vying for our attention. They zip around like hummingbirds, without any of the helpful hovering, which makes them really hard to photograph! They seem to delight in frustrating us and making us chase them around.

The wind still wasn’t too bad, so when we got back to the beach, we did a little tour of the rocky bay in the dinghy, inspecting its geology. At the end, as we curved toward Begonia, Maryanne got a closer look at some of the white specks on tiny Blue Gum Island. We thought they were either cormorants or gulls, but they turned out to be a flock of eighteen spoonbills. We later found out they are pretty rare, so we felt lucky to have seen them.

We made it back home just in time for the weather to start. It rained and blew like crazy for two days afterwards. On the first of them, the second leg of the Shorthanded Round New Zealand Race was racing into Oban for a scheduled stop. Our friend Dave, from Parera was out in it, co-skippering on Arbitaire with its owner, Murray. Dave’s favorite son, Ken was skippering one of the other boats as well. We followed the race’s tracking page as they made the miserable trip across the Foveax Strait toward the first port they had seen since setting off counter-clockwise from Opua, way up north. The reports sounded pretty bad. One skipper had reached seventeen knots boat speed in a forty-seven knot gust. Sustained winds out there were in the mid thirties. It was looking like it was going to be a neck and neck race between Arbitaire and the terminator – Earth’s day/night line. We were on the edge of our seats, refreshing the tracking page and watching them inch closer and closer. It was a great relief that we finally saw they had arrived safely in the last hint of daylight. Well Done Dave, Murray, Ken and everybody else who was out there in it!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Port Adventure (Stewart Island)

[Kyle]After a long, sloppy sail in the messy waves left over from the previous day’s storm, we finally arrived at Oyster Cove in Port Adventure. The narrow cove was just wide enough to allow us to swing on a single anchor and allowed us perfect protection from the winds outside.

Between Pegasus and Adventure - we even caught a fish - a very little one!

We had time for an extra day there, so we started early to make the most of it. While I downloaded the day’s weather forecasts, Maryanne went out in the dinghy to have a look around. She returned with lunch (for her). The floor of the dinghy had a good portion of freshly harvested mussels.

I joined her in the dinghy. We had a little poke around the shallows in the cove and then Maryanne made a couple of comments about trying to find a DOC hut a mile or so to the south. I initially was game to try. As soon as we left Oyster Cove and its protection, I found that I had to struggle hard to make any headway at all against the wind. This pretty quickly eroded my enthusiasm for the endeavor. I waffled between wanting to achieve the goal and just wanting to give up. I kept rowing (and complaining about going to all of that trouble to see some beat-up old hut) while waffling, though, and eventually I decided we had come too far for me to stop and go home empty-handed.

After we pulled the boat up on the beach, I calmed down. I was glad we had made it after all. The hut was actually the nicest one we have seen so far. Best of all, it was set above a beautiful golden beach.

Visiting the trail and hunters cabin at Kelly Beach - pretty beaches

Maryanne was keen to find a trail across the peninsula to a beach to the south, so we both dove into the bushes and poked around for a while until we finally spotted a series of trail markers that seemed to be going the right way.

We lost the trail several times. We quickly learned to retrace our steps to a last known position anytime we hadn’t seen a marker for a while. There were lots of places where the trail didn’t look like one and where things that weren’t looked like a trail.

We eventually made it to the beach. It was exposed to the wind and lingering seemed less than appealing, especially during the occasional brief rainstorms. It was pretty, though, and we achieved our goal, so we felt satisfied.

We didn’t lose the trail at all on the way back, which made it seem so much shorter. The dinghy ride was also easier as the wind did most of the work for me.

I then dropped Maryanne off to stink up the boat with her lunch, while I went for a solo tour of the stuff I had missed while getting the weather. I saw two cool things.

The first was a kiwi. It was rustling in the grass above me. I initially thought it was a rat or a possum, but then it looked up at me and I was able to spot the distinctive beak. I reached for my camera and it darted into the underbrush.

Around our anchorage - can you spot the octopus in the last picture?

The best thing I saw was when I noticed what looked like a light-colored rock under the water’s surface. It mysteriously disappeared a couple of seconds later, which sparked my curiosity. As I approached, a new, dark rock seemed to appear. Oh, could it be? Yes! I found an octopus! It was a big one, too. As it saw me approach, it tried changing all different kinds of colors as it slithered its way from rock to rock trying to avoid the big, scary, yellow thing looming over it. I sooo wished Maryanne was there to see it. When I got done with my little tour, I returned, hoping it was still there, but it had gone.